If you move in feminist circles, there’s really no choice this summer – you have to read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman: otherwise, you won’t be able to keep up with the conversations. And it’s not hard to see why it has made a splash – it covers all of the usual issues: body image, harassment, and the general difficulties of being a female teenager in an in-your-face, often laugh-out-loud funny, manner – how an all-women friendship group is likely to talk down the pub just before closing time.
And broadly I’d agree with the hype – if you’ve got a 15-year-old daughter, or know one, I’d want to make sure she read it. Given the nature of 15-year-olds, you probably can’t just give it to her – hide it on the back row of the top shelf of books beside The Joy of Sex; she’s sure to find it. Although if she’s already read Puberty Blues she’s going to recognise the genre.
There were bits of the book that really left me thinking yes, you’ve nailed it – really exposed something not much recognised. Particularly on eating disorders. “Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction, and self-obliteration. You get all the temporary release of drinking, fucking or taking drugs, but without – and I think this is the important bit – ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent. In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug – sugar highs, or the deep, soporific calm of carbs, the Valium of the working classes – you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum and then stay up all night with an ill five-year-old – something that isn’t an option if you’re caning off a gigantic bag of skunk, or regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of Scotch. Over-eating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions.”
Moran's also very solid and sensible on plastic surgery - even "good" plastic surgery, that makes the operee look just amazingly well-preserved for their age, not rictus ("women living in fear of aging, and pulling painful and expensive tricks to hide it from the wold") is still not defensible; on abortion and the need for honestness and openness (she's had an abortion, and a miscarriage, and says there's a similarity in both - her body or her mind "had decided this baby was not to be"; and the fact that women still find it hard to say they don't want to have children (because of social reactions), even though many don't want to, and those who have had will, when honest, admit that they regret it. And on the ludicrousness of the continuing existence of high heels.