How To Be a Woman, By Caitlin Moran

A beginner's guide to the body

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The Independent Culture

If the personal is political, then Caitlin Moran's assessment of contemporary feminism and where it's going is the most political of the decade. Nothing is too personal in her memoir-manifesto: masturbation, periods, pubic hair, snogs, bras, childbirth and abortion all make it, and emphasise, of course, that being a woman means first and foremost, "the body".

Second-wave feminism attempted to get away from associating women solely with their bodies but in 21st century that isn't going to happen. So Moran goes for it full-throttle. Her observations are funny and revealing; she has a sisterly, almost cosy voice inviting fellow revelations and invoking the "consciousness-raising" epoch of that earlier generation. But is that all it means to be a woman?

Cheeringly, Moran takes on pornography (why can't we see a woman enjoying it?), lap-dancing (men "won't die if they don't have access to a local strip joint"), fashion that flatters only a size eight, but this too addresses only the body issues. She points out a lack of good names for parts of a woman's body, but doesn't examine the hierarchy in language that gives certain words their power over women. Those unused to feminism will have a fun introduction to it here. They just won't learn much.