Friday, August 03, 2012

OMFG Caitlin Moran!

I adore Caitlin Moran and her new book which I just bought and devoured, "How to be a Woman." She is brilliant and so is her book.

But first let me get the bad part out of the way: she uses "balls" to mean courage, and at one point suggests that women need to "grow lady balls."

Well, she's not perfect. But she gets virtually everything else right, perfectly right, and so I will forgive her for it. But only her. Nobody else gets away with it.

And I learned so much British slang, half of which I still don't know what it means. But at least I now know that knickers are underwear and knackers are testicles, but to be knackered doesn't mean that you've been teabagged. It means your are worn out.

There were so many funny bits, but actually it's when she's at her most strident - and she is proud to be strident which is awesome - that she is the most brilliant:
In the 21st century, we don't need to march against zero-size models, risible pornography, lap-dancing clubs and Botox.  We don't need to riot or go on hunger strikes. There's no need to throw ourselves under a horse or even a donkey. We just need to look at it in the eye, squarely, for a minute, and then start laughing at it. We look hot when we laugh. People fancy us when they observe us giving out relaxed, earthy chuckles.

Perhaps they don't fancy us quite as much when we go to bang on the tables with our fists, gurgling "HARGH! HARGH! Yes that IS what it's like! SCREW YOU, patriarchy!" before choking on a mouthful of chips, but still.

I don't know if we can talk about "waves" of feminism any more - by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it's around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide.
Sublime. And she says gets high heels perfectly right:
"...there are only ten people in the world, tops, who should actually wear high heels. And six of them are drag queens. The rest of us just need to... give up. Surrender. Finally acquiesce to what nature is telling us. We can't walk in them. WE CANNOT WALK IN THE DAMN THINGS. We might just as well be stepping out in anti-gravity boots, or roller skates.
What I always say is that if high heels were so great, men would still be wearing them. And not counting the platform shoes period of the 1970s, they haven't since the days of the 18th century European aristocracy.

Moran applies the "do men do it" test to other things:
It was on the "are boys doing it?" basis that I finally decided I was against women wearing burkas. Yes, the idea is that it protects your modesty and ensures that people regard you as a human being rather than a sex object. Fair enough. But who are you being protected from? Men. And who - so long as you play by the rules and wear the correct clothes is protecting you from the men? Men. And who is it that is just regarding you as a sexual object, instead of another human being, in the first place? Men.
And talking about cosmetic surgery: can tell if some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring: "Are the men doing this, as well?"
If they aren't, chances are you're dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as "some total fucking bullshit."
This is some excellent sociology here:
Most sexism is down to men being accustomed to us being losers. That's what the problem is. We just have bad status. Men are accustomed to us being runners-up, or being disqualified entirely. For men born pre-feminism, this is what they were raised on: second-class citizen mothers; sisters who needed to be married off; female schoolmates going to secretarial school, then becoming housewives. Women who disengaged. Disappeared.

These men are the CEOs of our big companies, the big guys on the stock markets, the advisors to governments. They dictate working hours and maternity leave, economic priorities and social mores. And, of course, they don't feel equality in their bones - sexism runs deep in their generation, along with a liking for boiled puddings, and spanking and golf. Their automatic reaction is to regard women as "other." The entrenched bias against the working, liberated female will only die out when they do.
Yep. But she isn't just a trenchant commentator of social conditions, she's really funny. When she writes about her siblings, in particular, she reminds me very much of David Sedaris:
I was interested in absolutely everything to do with Buck. Just looking at his face was interesting. How he stood, near a door = interesting. The way he held the obviously lightweight and plastic gun as if it were heavy = interesting. The theme song takes on such an unbearable load of yearning and Buck Rogersness  that - 28 years later - I still feel stirred when I hear it.
Obviously these are all some big-assed feelings to be dealing with, and so I did what we always did when an event of some import was going on. I grabbed Caz - then five- and pulled her into an airing cupboard with me. Like the Mitfords used to - except theirs was probably much larger than ours and didn't smell of Bold, mouse droppings and farts.
"Caz" I said, pulling the door as shut as I could and assuming an expression of deep portent. "I have something incredible to tell you."
I pause, staring at her.
"I... am IN LOVE with Buck Rogers. Don't tell Mum. "
Caz nodded.
My burden lifted, I opened the door again and gestured for Caz to leave. I watched her cross the landing and go down the stairs. I heard her opening the front room door.
"Mum. Cate's in love with Buck Rogers," she said.
I learn then, in that moment - as mortification burns across me like hot ash - that love is agony, all crushes should remain secret, and Caz was an untrustworthy, fainthearted son of a bitch.
All these facts stood me in good stead, subsequently. I learned alot in the airing cupboard that day. Just 20 minutes later I was stuffing frozen peas into Caz's pillowcase while whispering, portentously, "And so the war begins."
Although she does often combine humor with incisiveness, as in her description of modern porn:
One thing that the Internet is stocked with, shelf after shelf, clip after clip, and none of them more than six minutes long - the average time it takes for a man to come. This is 21st century heterosexual porn:
Once upon a time a girl with long nails and a really bad outfit sat on a sofa, trying to look sexy but, but actually looking like she'd just remembered a vexing, unpaid parking fine. She might be slightly cross-eyed, due to how tight her bra is. 
A man comes in - a man who walks rather oddly as if he's carrying an invisible garden chair in front of him. This is because he's got a uselessly large penis, which is erect and appears to be scanning the room for the most sexually disinterested thing in it. 
Having rejected the window and the vase, the cock finally homes in on the girl on the sofa.
As she disinterestedly licks her lips, the man leans over and - inexplicably, weighs her left breast in his hand. This appears to be the crossing of some kind of sexual Rubicon because 30 seconds later she's being fucked at an uncomfortable angle, then bummed while looking quite pained.* There's usually a bit of arse-slapping here, or some hair-pulling there - whatever can ring in the variety in a straight-forward two-camera shoot in less than five minutes.
It all ends with him coming all over her face, messily - as if he's haphazardly icing a bun in one of the challenges on Minute to Win It.
The End.
...essentially the Internet vends a porn monoculture... this is the Microsoft Windows screw; crushing every other kind of sex out of the market.
Oh and so much more. Plus, she has epic eyebrows.

Emma Brockes of the NYTimes liked it too - I discovered Caitlin Moran thanks to this review.

Buy her book and read it and love it. And here she is on Youtube - enjoy.

She mentions Andrea Dworkin in this clip - fun fact - I was once related by marriage to Andrea Dworkin. Fairly distantly - her father was a cousin of my ex-husband's father. But still. I met her parents at a family wedding. They were very nice - and seemed quite proud of Andrea.

* If you found the phrase "she's being fucked at an uncomfortable angle, then bummed while looking quite pained" confusing, join the club. That's some of that British slang I was talking about. The author is not being ridiculously redundant here - I mean of course she's going to be bummed if she's  at an uncomfortable angle and pained, right? But no, to "be bummed" apparently means to have anal sex.