During the closing chapter of Caitlin Moran’s first book – How to be a Woman – the writer, journalist and self-professed “strident feminist” reflects that “If all the stories in this book add up to one single revelation, it is this – to just not really give a shit…to not care about all those supposed problems of being a woman, to refuse to see them as problems at all.” Her work is unequivocally the antidote to a culture which on a daily basis provokes fear, shame and embarrassment in women for the way they look, think, feel and behave. If her sole achievement were striking a hefty Dr. Martin shaped blow for the rights of the so-called fairer sex, I dare say that would be more than enough to be going on with. But Moran is so much more than an outspoken, sweary, indomitable icon. Her first foray into print is full of smart insights delivered with a sincerity that challenged my own interpretation of what it means to be a feminist. So when the Scottish leg of her ‘How to Build a Girl’ (the title of her latest book) tour rolled around, I was eager to hear more.
Moran’s views of feminism are pretty cut and dry. Piles of tea-towels sitting atop the merchandise table boasted the ‘Five rules of Feminism’ wryly stating that; 1. Woman are equal to men, 2. Don’t be a dick and 3. That’s it. She welcomes all-comers and rejects the idea that these rules only apply to intellectuals, academics and opinionated lefties. Moran also reserves special respect for the male feminist, (she took particular pleasure in applauding the thirty-nine men who attended the Edinburgh show) regarding them as honorary soldiers in the daily war against Patriarchy.
Her anger towards social injustice of any kind is infectious, and on many occasions during her presentation she was forced to pause whilst the audience cheered and whooped their approval. As the lights went up, my companion for the evening made the astute observation that such passionate indignation reminded her of the late Bill Hicks. High praise indeed! What really impressed me however was Moran’s ability to balance this with warmth, charm and good humour. She is about as far from a pious battleaxe as it’s possible to get; a dated image that contemporary feminists such as myself are eager to escape from. She identifies a modern world stripped of its joy and aims to be part of a revolution which delights in the the goodness and positivity that humans – male and female alike – are capable of producing.
But what of the practicalities of bringing about social change; is it enough to produce articles, essays and blogs – however well intentioned and written – and hope for the best? Of course not. And Moran herself recognises this, assessing that the key to insurgency lies in the hands of those who contribute to popular culture. Although trends in music, film and television can often be fleeting, even capricious, the speed at which new ideas can be transmitted means that creative material has a higher chance of penetrating social consciousness than ever before. Using Russell T. Davis’ Torchwood as an example, Moran championed the influence of Jack Harkness – a bisexual science-fiction character – on impressionable school boys. I myself had the incomparable Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files to look up to during the nineties and although I was ribbed mercilessly by my classmates for such nerdy aspirations she taught me everything I needed to know about the virtues of intelligence, bravery and integrity.
As modern day icons go, Caitlin Moran herself cuts a striking figure. Although her new publication is a work of fiction as opposed to the autobiographical account she offers in How to be a Woman, Moran continues to be the main selling point. As the epitome of the self-made woman she encourages her readers in turn to create their own meaning and to forge their own crooked path towards empowerment and fulfilment.