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The Week in Books: Caitlin Moran tells me How to Be a Woman

First off, I had an article in The Digital Reader yesterday about NYPL and their Library Simplified project.  If you’re at all into libraries, ebooks, and innovation, they are a good group to be watching.

moranSo, this week in books.  I just finished Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, which I had initially purchased in paperback in a Waterstone’s sometime at the end of 2011, and had been sitting on my shelf for years until I realized that it was on Oyster, and I decided to get rid of the paperback and read it on my ipad.  By the way, if you’re into books and you don’t have Oyster, you are missing out.  It’s true that they don’t have a lot of stuff, just like Spotify doesn’t have everything I want.  But for the price of a paperback each month, you get access to hundreds of thousands of books.  And their curated lists are great – I’ve discovered so many great books through their lists.  And no, Oyster didn’t pay me to write that.  Well, they did give me a free whoopie pie and iced coffee at BEA in 2014, but my opinion takes a lot more than sugar and caffeine to sway.  I had a subscription to Oyster for 8 months before they gave me that whoopie pie.

So, now that I’m done plugging Oyster for free (hey Oyster, doesn’t this deserve at least a few free months?) let me tell you about Caitlin Moran.  She is a very funny woman who has given me hope for feminism.

I am on a mom’s board with all the babies who were born in August 2013.  I’m one of the older mom’s.  This is to be expected.  I had Hannah when I was 37.  It makes sense that I would be one of the older mom’s.  But I noticed something even during pregnancy.  When I was thinking about whether I was ever going to feel comfortable again, what kind of crocs to wear, and if I could get away with wearing a sundress and flip flops to the office, there were entire threads being posted on…how a woman was feeling embarrassed to go to her ObGyn appointments because…she had pubic hair.

Ok, so, aside from the fact that there are way more important things to be thinking about than how hairy you are or are not when you go to the doctor, when everyone seemed to be agreeing that yes, it was very embarrassing that you had to show your ladyparts to an obstetrician and he might – gasp – have to see your hair, ermagawd – I took issue.  I posted asking how many ladies were actually regularly shaving their bits.  And it seemed like I was, sadly, in the minority.

Look, I came of age during the time of The Vagina Monologues, where there is an entire monologue devoted to hair.  Let’s pause for a moment and watch it:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuxyXSF4dpA]

Well, there you go.  The hair is the lawn around the house.  There are so many ways to use this metaphor here.  For example, you can trim the lawn.  Definitely get out there and mow it weekly, especially when it’s humid outside and the weeds get out of control.  But don’t freaking get rid of the entire lawn.  I mean, that’s just a desert, right?  And birds don’t have anywhere to make a nest in a desert.  Just sayin’

So, yeah, I was blown away by how many women considered waxing their most sensitive bits a necessity of grooming, like washing your hair or putting on deodorant.   Also, the women on the board all agreed that it seemed to be age-related – which sounds like a disease…age-related hairiness – and that women over, say, 32 or 33 were might more likely to have hair than those who were below that age.  Hubby and I started talking about it, and we decided that it was all down to internet porn.  And Caitlin Moran expounds upon my theory – apparently it started so that directors could get better penetration shots.  Because, you know, the jungle down there makes viewing the penis entering the vagina difficult to see.  Hubby said that porn when he was a teenager/young adult is way different than porn now, where everyone is waxed.  Back in the day, when he was first checking out porn, apparently there was a lot more hair.

So let me get this straight:  because some directors want more graphic porn camera angles, and because a certain percentage of men (I don’t even have any idea how many) prefer this to hair, women all over the world are supposed to suddenly put hot wax on their most sensitive body parts, and then rip the hair out, and pay for the privilege, and do this more than once?  Like, regularly?




Right?  So I didn’t think much about it, and then I started talking with my girl friends, and we all agreed that waxing your ladyparts sounds awful, and no one in their right mind should do it.

Except it seems like everyone under the age of 30 is doing it.

Then Megan Trainor came along.  People much smarter than me have written volumes on the anti-feminist movement that Megan Trainor’s music (which is insidiously catchy) espouses, so I’m not going to get into that here.

But since having a baby, and going post-baby-crazy (I’m still on meds) and realizing that I would go fucking out of my mind insane if I couldn’t go out and work and feel productive and ambitious, and if I didn’t have control over how often I went through 9 months of discomfort and sickness plus 25 hours of near-death agony, I am more grateful than ever now for feminism, which gave me the choice to go back to work.  Which gave me the choice to go on the Pill.  Which gave me the vote.  Gave me equal protection in the workplace.  Yeah, we have a lot of work to do on it, but dammit, if I had lived a hundred years ago, I really truly would go hysterical, and they would need to lock me up for my own good.

So there’s this AntiFeminist movement going on right now – I won’t link to the Women Against Feminism page because I don’t want to increase their SEO – but they basically believe that the rights of American women are good enough, and if you choose to stay home with your babies and respect the opinion of your husband, that means that you don’t need to be a feminist.

Um…that is so messed up on so many levels.

First, the reason you have a choice to stay home is because of feminism, you idiot.  And of course I value the opinion of my husband.  Because I married him and he’s a person I care about and respect.  Whether he’s a man or a woman makes no difference.

Caitlin Moran has a two step quiz to see if you are a feminist.
1) You have a vagina
2) You want control over what it does.
If you answered yes to both questions, you are a feminist.

She also has a theory on how to tell if there’s some sexism going on.  Basically, you ask the question, “Are the guys doing this?  Is this affecting the men?  Is this keeping Jon Stewart up at night?”  If so, then it’s probably equal.  If not, then it’s probably some sexism.  I shared this with my hubby (who is one of the most feminist men I’ve ever met) and he said he agrees, but that different things affect men (ie, the need to “be a man”).  And that’s true.  But I’m a woman, and I’m talking about sexism against women here, so let’s bear with that.  So, pubic hair.  Is pubic hair at all on men’s radar?  Does the average man think about when he waxed his pubic hair last?  And when he might need to do so again?  Does he worry about his pubic hair before having sex with a new person?  Is he at all concerned with high maintenance of his pubic hair?   I think not.  Ergo, it’s some sexism happening.

It also was the litmus test that finally made her decide she was against burkas.  “Yes, the idea is that it protects your modesty and ensures that people regard you as a human being, rather than just a sexual object.  Fair enough.  But who are you being protected from?  Men.  And who – so long as you play by the rules and wear the correct clothes – is protecting you from the men?  Men.  And who is it that is regarding you as a sexual object, instead of another human being, in the first place?  Men.  Well this seems like quite a man-based problem, really.  I would put this under the heading, ‘100% stuff that men need to sort out.’  I don’t know why we’re suddenly having to put things on our head to make it better.”

I officially have a girl crush on Caitlin Moran.

And I’m going to quit looking at that stupid WAF tumblr.

Hannah is getting a copy of this book as soon as she’s old enough – maybe 13 or so.  Also, I just read that apparently there’s a whole backlash against the no-public-hair thing, so hopefully by the time she’s old enough to worry about it, it won’t be a thing anymore.