I’ve recently devoured Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, which I am now wholeheartedly pressing upon any woman I’ve ever met who doesn’t agree with me about being a strident feminist. It’s a delight of laughing memoir combines with impetuous and logical deductions about not only the role of women in society, but also the role of women in society alongside men.
To coin a new phrase, Moran’s approach to feminism is to ask
Are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this is taking up the men’s time?
That’s a brilliant approach to take. Once you query whether the men are indeed doing, worrying or wasting time on “it”, you see the striking difference between the sexes in our current society.
Moran uses the example of the Burkha to illustrate her point. Personally I’m liberal enough to believe that you should be able to wear whatever you want and not be criticised for it. Men are not criticised for what they wear, whether in a religious or social context. The issue was wearing a Burkha is not that men aren’t doing it, but that men are not being criticised for doing it.
However, Moran appears to be less inconsistent when applying this rule. For example she waxes lyrical over the joys of women’s underwear, as long as it’s not uncomfortable. However, I would argue that if the men are not worrying about wearing sexy underwear for their day, if the men are not worrying about purchasing the right type, material, or fit of underwear, then why should women? Ultimately, the only person it should matter to is yourself, and potentially if you’re in a relationship, to your relationship with that person.
I don’t ask my spouse to prance around in the cheese wire thong, nor is it expected of him to wear one in order that he should not get that terrible “VPL” that so ruins the lines of his trousers. Nor does he require the same of me. The pressure applied to women around underwear, and it isn’t just knickers, is ludicrous. Not only are they implicitly criticised for being incorrect, they have to straddle the fine boundaries between trashy and sexy, obvious and subtle, intentionally and unintentionally visible. Essentially, when it comes to underwear, it seems that women are damnedest they deal in band if they don’t. No one ever apply the same logic to a man and whether he chose to wear jersey boxer shorts or jockey shorts.
I don’t believe you can pick and choose your arguments with feminism. I think the “are the boys doing it?” is a genius way of addressing misogyny in society, but you can’t pick your arguments when you choose. Part and parcel of the “doing it” is the “being criticised for it”, and people should be entitled, whether male or female, to act within liberal boundaries of society (not breaking any laws) without being criticised, pressurised or unduly influenced.
That is not to say that liberalism is without morality.
In spite of my pedantry, I genuinely found Moran’s book enjoyable, passionate and vociferous on a lot of issues I strongly agree with. With rapidly increasing grassroots feminist groups apparently sprouting out of social media, a backlash against one-dimensional reality TV stars, glamour models and indeed social constructions of glamour, this is just the sort of thing we need to be hitting bookshelves. I will be buying a copy for my 12 year old sister tomorrow.