I reviewed Caitlin Moran’s incredible book ‘How to be a Woman’ for The High Tea Cast last year and thought it worth sharing because it continues to be a wholly relevant book.
It is scary being a man. I have been both condemned and thanked for opening doors for people and offering seats on the tube. I have occasionally been scowled at for apparently seeming to suggest that someone was not capable of opening a door for themselves and I have been thanked for my tube seat by people who have very obviously had a much more strenuous day than myself. It’s nice to be nice after all.
The confusion about feminism is that no one has ever explained it to me in language that I can actually compute, until now.
I come from an area where there is no discrepancy in pay. The biggest employers in Grimsby are a temporary job agency who provides staff to factories where frozen fish is packed. The agency offer a flat rate for anybody who so chooses to apply and that is that. In the supermarket where I used to work, everyone was paid the same low wage for doing their job.
My career so far has not scaled the dizzy heights to the level where some are paid more than others for doing the same job and therefore the arguments about men getting paid more than women fell on slightly sticky out deaf ears.
Since I graduated I have worked for four bosses, three women and one man. All of these managers have been employed by the NHS and so as far as I am aware, they are on the same rigid banded wage structure that I still find myself languishing at the bottom of. Wage increases in the NHS, at the levels that I know of, occur through length of service and promotion. I have never witnessed somebody being discriminated against because of their sex.
To me sexism is like racism and homophobia – foreign concepts that I cannot quite get my head around. It should never ever be justified to discriminate because of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation and that is why I loathe filling out those forms where I have to list all of that information so that employers can ensure that they recruit a cross section of society. As far as I am concerned every job should be recruited for on merit and I fully suspect that if it was, then there would be a much wider variety of people employed by all employers.
Those are my thoughts and a bit about where I come from. I hope that you don’t think I am a raging sexist for opening a door for someone and I hope you don’t think I am a sap for offering my seat to a tired/old/pregnant/disabled person on the tube.
When I picked up Caitlin Moran’s book, ‘How to be a woman’, I expected a lot but only because I had previously read some of her work and enjoyed it. She writes with the elegance that both people with a similar background to her can understand and comprehend, and those who perceive themselves to be above her, are in awe of.
I look upon her as one of ‘my’ people. We come from some of the less exciting places in the country but it doesn’t mean that we have nothing to say, nor does it mean we do not have the skill to say what we want to say.
The first thing that struck me was the honesty. She was fat, she wore her mothers underwear and she used to (may still do) masturbate with an extraordinary reverence to library books. She has a very clear idea throughout the book of the issues she wants to address and does it in some of the most delicious language that a blank page has ever been blessed with.
Men often want to know what is going on inside a woman’s head. We want to know because sometimes we just have no idea. Books like The Female Eunuch have led men to believe that all feminists drink their menstrual blood, burn their bra’s and try to kick men into the gutter. Though inspired by Germaine Greer, Caitlin is very keen to stay away from the ball breaking stereotype of a feminist whilst still making sure that everyone knows that feminism is their responsibility. It is up to women to pursue the life that they want and for men to pursue the life that they want and all that she is really advocating is to be nice to each other and realise that neither party are the enemy.
At this juncture I don’t quite know what you, the reader, will think of me. Maybe I am a simplistic and idealistic fool but despite my unadulterated enjoyment of the book as a piece of writing, I wish there was no need for it ever to have been written.
Arguments against a fifth wave of feminism, as Caitlin puts it, are very weak. Yes women have the vote, they have the right to education, employment and the like but that isn’t enough. The more I read the more I understand how the playing field isn’t really level. It is a perception because the majority now are not in the position where they will bear witness to prejudice. As I previously said, I have not witnessed sex discrimination over wages but I know it must be happening. You only have to listen to how some people talk to know that given the opportunity, they would begrudge a woman a fair shot at the top.
I do believe that although my generation didn’t create all of this, it is our role to end all of this. Men and women must stand up for what they want, learn from each other and most of all, be nice.
When I am older, I don’t want my children to be throwing stones at a girl in the park because she is fat and I don’t want them to expect sexual gratification by threatening to tell everybody that a girl is frigid is she doesn’t offer it. I want them to be nice.
Five things men think:
1. That the woman they love can look incredibly sexy wearing big knickers. There is NO need to force string around your crotch to persuade us of anything. Although as Caitlin correctly points out, a nice bra can distract from the parts of a woman that they may have the biggest complexes about;
2. We don’t like watching porn where a faked titted woman produced shrill squeals that only dogs can truly pick up. We (don’t tell anyone) actually like it when women enjoy themselves too;
3. Women make better bosses and we would quite like to see them shoot up the career ladder because it makes work a much more enjoyable experience;
4. A lot of the time, we do just think of everyone as ‘the guys’. We don’t mentally separate men from women;
5. We wish there wasn’t a need for feminism, we weren’t the generations past that created the need for it and we will fight as hard as anybody to ensure that feminism, racism, sexism, homophobia and the like are things read in history books, not things that occur in our society.
‘How to be a woman’ is a book that everybody should read, firstly because it is a bloody good book, but secondly, because you might learn something. I thought of myself a liberal sort but the further into the world of Caitlin Moran I get, the more I am self-reflecting and realising what an utter idiot I have been in the past. I was selfish beyond belief, arrogant beyond imagination and all this whilst moaning that I was hard done by.
We must fight the good fight for equality together.
On a final note, I will end with a twitter anecdote:
@dom_stevenson “Man on tube gave me funny look for reading @caitlinmoran so I mouthed ‘I am a feminist’ at him and he looked scared”
@caitlinmoran “@dom_stevenson I love you. Very sincerely”
I hope I can keep it up.