How To Be A Woman

by Caitlin Moran

How to Be a Woman

Paperback, 320 pages, HarperCollins, List Price: $15.99 | purchase

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How To Be A Woman
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Caitlin Moran

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Book Summary

Piecing together common-sense observations with scenes from her own life, a major media personality in the U.K. sheds new light on feminism, discussing the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues for both women and society itself.

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Awards and Recognition

15 weeks on NPR Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List

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Critics' Lists: Summer 2012

Laughing Matters: Five Funny Books With Substance

"These days, sexism is a bit like Meryl Streep in a new film: Sometimes you don't recognize it straightaway," hyper-articulate London Times columnist Caitlin Moran quips in her hilarious neo-feminist manifesto, How to Be a Woman. Moran reinvigorates women's lib with her personal and political polemic, which has been called a British version of Tina Fey's Bossypants. Her tales of growing up with seven siblings in a tiny three-bedroom council house where towels,

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: How to Be a Woman

I have no idea what to wear to a strip club. It's one of the biggest wardrobe crises of my life.

"What are you wearing? " I ask Vicky on the phone.

"Skirt. Cardigan," Vicky says, lighting a fag.

"What shoes?"

"Boots. Low heel."

"Oh, I was going to wear boots, low heel, too," I say. "We can both wear boots, low heel. That's good. We'll be matchy."

Then a bad thought occurs to me. "Actually, maybe we shouldn't both wear boots, low heel," I say. "If we look too matchy, people might think we're an act. You know. Like a lesbian act. And try and touch us."

"No one would believe you're a lesbian," Vicky sighs. "You'd make a terrible lesbian."

"I wouldn't!" I say indignantly. This offends my can-do nature.

"If I wanted, I could be a great lesbian!"

"No, you couldn't," Vicky says. "You're offensively heterosexual. You fancy Father Christmas. By no stretch of the imagination could Father Christmas be construed to have Sapphic androgyny. He wears Wellington boots indoors."

I can't believe Vicky is doubting my ability to be a lesbian, if I really wanted to be. She's seen how versatile I can be on a night out. Once, when we went to Bournemouth, we blagged our way backstage of a theater and convinced the star of the show — a legendary sitcom actor — that we were prostitutes, just to see his reaction. He said, "Blimey!" in a very edifying manner. My capabilities are endless. She doesn't know what she's talking about.

"Maybe I'll wear sneakers, instead," I say.

Vicky has asked me if I want to join her for a night out at Spearmint Rhino, on Tottenham Court Road. It's the year 2000, and strip clubs — for so long regarded as the holding pen for the last few sad, sweaty fucks on earth — have become acceptable again.

In Britain, the mid-nineties have been all about the rediscovery of the British working class's monochrome tropes — pubs, greyhound racing, anoraks, football in the park, bacon sandwiches, "birds" — and strip clubs come under this heading. "Ladettes" now enjoy a night out in the classier strip clubs of the metropolis. Various Spice Girls have been pictured in strip clubs, smoking cigars and cheering the acts on. Titty-bars are being marketed as an exciting, marginally loucher version of the Groucho Club — just somewhere for anyone who liked to start a night out at 1 a.m.

Partly out of journalistic hunger to cover the phenomenon, and partly because newspaper editors are invariably excited by pictures of female hacks in a strip club, the Evening Standard has asked Vicky to go spend an evening in the Rhino in order to see what all the fuss is about.

"It's against every single one of my feminist principles. These are arenas of abuse," I said when she called.

"The manager is giving us complimentary champagne all night," Vicky said.

"I will meet you there at 9 p.m.," I said, with all the dignity I could muster.

From How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Copyright 2011 by Caitlin Moran. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial.

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