More Than A Woman is a follow-up book to the wildly successful How To Be A Woman, the wildly successful feminist sort-of memoir by Caitlin Moran. I loved that book (click here for my review) and when I reread it a few months ago, it stood up really well. Caitlin is now ten years older (and theoretically wiser) and is back to discuss everything she has learned in the intervening decade.
Summary of More Than A Woman:
A decade ago, Caitlin Moran burst onto the scene with her instant bestseller, ‘How to Be a Woman’, a hilarious and resonant take on feminism, the patriarchy, and all things womanhood. Moran’s seminal book followed her from her terrible 13th birthday through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, and beyond – and is considered the inaugural work of the irreverent confessional feminist memoir genre that continues to occupy a major place in the cultural landscape.
Since that publication, it’s been a glorious ten years for young women: Barack Obama loves Fleabag, and Dior make “FEMINIST” t-shirts. However, middle-aged women still have some nagging unanswered questions: Can feminists have Botox? Why isn’t there such a thing as “Mum Bod”? Why do hangovers suddenly hurt so much? Is the camel-toe the new erogenous zone? Why do all your clothes suddenly hate you? Has feminism gone too far? Will your To-Do-List ever end? And who’s looking after the children?
As timely as it is hysterically funny, this memoir/manifesto will have listeners/readers laughing out loud, blinking back tears, and redefining their views on feminism and the patriarchy. ‘MORE THAN A WOMAN’ is brutally honest, scathingly funny, and absolutely necessary take on the life of the modern woman.
Star Rating for More Than A Woman: * * * * (four stars)
The premise for this book is that, at the time of writing How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran thought she had all this ‘woman-ing’ figured out. Unfortunately ten years later, she has now realised that this was very much not the case. Women today are expected to be more than a woman – not just comfortable in her body and status as a woman, but also carer to three different generations of people (children, partner and parents), emotional support for her friends and successful at a career.
It’s formatted in the style of a very lengthy schedule. Each hour of the day is given a different appointment/topic. For example, 8am is ‘The Hour of Married Sex,’ and 2pm is ‘The Hour of Working Parenting.’ Each hour then has it’s own chapter discussing that topic. I’m not really sure why this was necessary – her last book worked just fine without a topic and it can be slightly jarring when an abrupt change of topic takes place.
There is a very distinct tone shift roughly two thirds into the book or so. The first half is just as funny as How To Be A Woman. Caitlin discusses her recent smear test, the difficulties of having sex around a puppy, her ever-growing to-do list, etc. Typical Moran fashion. Some of the exercepts were so funny I had to send quotes to my friends, who then faithfully swore they were definitely going to run out and buy their own copies.
Although she doesn’t know it, Mrs Adams, the nurse at the sexual health clinic, is my mortal enemy. I don’t know which Sorting Hat gave her the job of ‘sexual health nurse,’ but it appears to have been faulty – as she has a weird vibe around vaginas. Every time I’ve had to offer mine up to her, for medical inspection – AS REQUESTED IN A VERY FORMAL-LOOKING LETTER FROM THE NHS – her reaction is as if I’ve just rocked up and randomly whacked it out, for no reason. There’s a slight wince, a raising of the eyebrows – and then a sigh, as she polite tries to make the best of a bad situation. As if she’s generally an Elbow Nurse – but she will humour my mad genital scheme today, as part of her Hippocratic Oath.
Shortly after the midway mark, there is a sudden tone shift and the author explains how she and her husband gradually came to realise that one of their daughters was suffering from an eating disorder. Obviously this is not a funny chapter. It is, however, heart-breaking, emotional, eye-opening and very humanising. It brings Caitlin Moran down to earth as someone who, despite her fame and her success, still cannot control the world around her.
After that, More Than A Woman becomes a bit more abstract; more introspective. There are fewer funny anecdotes and more just general discussion. The writing remains informal and chatty, but it’s more akin to a call to arms than her work has been previously. This is understandable though, given her daughter has essentially been massively failed by the system to such a dramatic extent. I have to admit to being less interested in these chapters. They were written well, it just wasn’t why I’d picked up the book.
Caitlin Moran seems like a person you would want to have a glass of wine with. She doesn’t seem like she would ever be pompous or uppity, and just genuinely seems to want to world to be better… but without being preachy about it. I appreciated how she admits the mistakes she has made (including when attempting to communicate with her daughter) and has changed her mind on some things since her first book. I liked that she owned that – ‘I wrote this before, but I think that’s wrong and I think this instead….’
“If you want to see what a teenage girl is, look at her bedroom wall. That’s what she is, or what she will be. These are the tools which she has found, with which she is building herself. What she sees, then, in the mirror is a curator of beauty – not the beauty itself. She is constructing her own judgments and standards. Her own laws.”
My only somewhat negative thought about How To Be A Woman is that it feels slightly stretched out at points. There are chapters that I felt didn’t really add anything; that were neither funny nor poignant nor important. For example, there’s a very short chapter on how Caitlin hadn’t seen the point in yoga, but now she does and it helps her. It’s just a short of… nothing chapter.
It doesn’t help that the yoga chapter immediately follows the emotional section about her daughter and her awful struggles. It’s very jarring and isn’t the only occasion of jumping from important topic to page filler, or hilarity to indifference. It’s a downside of the day-in-the-life format, I suppose.
I did very much enjoy More Than A Woman. I loved the premise that women are constantly changing into new people within themselves, and that Caitlin herself has changed and evolved within the last decade. There are some hilarious parts that made me laugh out loud, and some moving sections that made my heart hurt for today’s teenagers. I did lose energy going towards the end somewhat, but overall I had a good time and learned something.