Friday, September 7, 2012

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

This book, while clearly assuming its readership will be predominantly female, also has a lot to say to any men brave enough to read it.  I say brave because the first three chapters do a lot of talking in a very frank way about subjects that most men I know visibly squirm away from.

But beyond the autobiographical descriptions of female adolescence and development, puberty, sexuality and anatomy, there are many social issues addressed here that men really should be made to see from the perspective of women.  If everyone could be on the same page, we would have a better chance of fixing many societal ills stemming from how different sexes treat each other.

The book is very funny, very revealing, and maybe too explicit for some, but in the spirit of the previous paragraph, it offers a lot to any book club discussion.  It would be especially interesting to see how different people react to the book, and if any preconceived notions about the issues discussed are challenged or affirmed.

Discussion Questions 
  1. Did you read this book in its entirety?  If not, why did you stop?
  2. Moran identifies feminist behaviour in a nutshell as:  “Any action a woman engages in from a spirit of joy, and within a similarly safe and joyous environment, falls within the city walls of feminism.”  Is this what feminism means to you?  Are you a feminist by any of her definitions?
  3. How can you tell if something is sexist?  Moran suggests asking “are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well?”  Can you think of any situations where these questions can be asked? 
  4. She states that the most important humanity guideline is to be polite, and so sexist comments should be addressed as instances of bad manners - not as a conflict between man vs woman.  How readily can this suggestion be applied?
  5. This book spends a lot of time discussing how women have begun to emerge from under the historical shadow of men.  How accurate do you think her assessments are?  Is the creative output of women beginning to emerge as Moran suggests?
  6. Do you notice any societal pressures on women regarding having children?
  7. “However liberal a society is, it assumes that, at it's absolute core, abortion is wrong.”  How do you feel about this statement?
  8. How much emphasis does our society place on the sanctity of life (beyond the abortion debate)?
  9. Is belief in an afterlife damaging?  Does it affect how we view the world and our current existence?
  10. Is there any value to celebrity gossip?
  11. Why is there so much importance placed on the physical appearance and age of women?


  1. My wife bought this book while we were on vacation. After finishing the novel I was reading, I picked it up because I had heard a lot about it, and I had a morbid curiosity about what the author would say.

    1. It is my feminist opinion that more men should read about subjects that you describe them "visibly squirm[ing] away from". I always wonder why men cower and change the subject whenever an intimate women's health issue comes up in conversation. An education in women's health and anatomy is a edifying act of love a man could show his female partner

  2. This is a great book! Caitlin Moran does a great job of bringing the humorous side to some serious topics, while still maintaining their gravity. She is hilarious and I you should absolutely ready it.

  3. These are great questions. I'm taking them to my personal book group. Thanks!