While reading “How to be a woman”

June 11th, 2013  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Personal Essays  |  1 Comment

Finally focused and made a dent in Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a woman. Moran’s memoir / feminist manifesto has been assigned reading for me, for over a month, as Wednesday is the 2nd annual “Meeting of Women Thinkers” a.k.a. an unofficial book club that started in April. During our first meeting, about 25 women (age 27 to 60), got together to discuss Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. (I discussed my experience at length in one of my “30 vlogs in 30 days.”) And it was so much fun we’re doing it again!

We decided to read Moran’s book this time, as it was described in our first meeting as a more realistic version of success, than what Mrs. Sandberg was steering women towards. Well, I am currently on chapter 15 of 18, and can I just tell you how much I love Caitlin Moran! In her sarcastic and very funny way, she made me remember things about myself I’ve never thought twice about. Things I never would have thought a British girl experienced too, a decade before me.

For one thing, good to know I’m not the only one that had such a complicated relationship with my pubic hair right from its inception. And that I’m not the only one that has had an imaginary relationship with a guy in my life, and then subconsciously held our awful-imaginary-breakup against him. And I loved all the ways she handled instances of “sexism” happening to her… and yes I do spend so much time thinking about “what I’m wearing” to mitigate “sexism” happening to me in my own life. I could go on, but I wont… as I’m not done, and she may say something that totally discounts all the affection I now have for her.

I do want to mention however, how totally horrified I was by her experience during her first pregnancy and labor. She handled it (probably) the exact same way I would… in denial the entire time, just to have ALL my worse fears come true. In her case that involved 3 failed attempts at receiving an epidural, 3 days in labor, and eventually praying to simply be put under and cut open. Of course this all happened in a chapter called “Why you should have children,” the irony wasn’t lost on me. Thank God her very next chapter, “Why you shouldn’t have children” confirmed that the desire to have a human come out of you may be fulfilling overall, but not a rational one. And guess what? It’s ok to be a woman whose identity is not summed up by her ability to reproduce.

Ok. Now for the huge pink elephant in the room (at least in my head)… in addition to everything I have mentioned, Caitlin Moran is also a girl who came from a very poor family, who partied hard- doing tons of drugs and booze, and who by her own admission, had a lot of sex. Would we know her name if she was a woman of color?

As I finish this book, and look forward to my discussion on Wednesday, I can’t help but ask: Is it realistic for me to expect to tackle “being a woman” as straight-forward as Moran has in her life? Or are the ways she is privileged, mean a lot of her experiences are non-transferable? No. Not looking for an oppression olympics between women of different races, but lets just say I can’t wait for Melissa Harris-Perry or Necole Bitchie to write their “How to be a woman” editions…

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