The Yorker Archives… (‘How To Be A Woman’, Book Review)

Not many books fall under both categories “Humour” and “Feminism”, but Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman certainly hits the spot for both genres.
The Times columnist takes us through key points in her womanhood; from discovering masturbation to handling evil boyfriends, with a brilliant deadpan humour and an infallible sense of logic throughout. She doesn’t flinch while discussing the horror and embarrassment of locating the first hairs “down there”, but instead provides a list of reasons why she stopped shaving them. It’s this trademark Moran charm that makes the book fresh and exciting, and makes feminists and feminism seem much more approachable.
Moran is undaunted by the controversial nature of some of her musings. She openly discusses her decision to have a termination, while bluntly refusing to be made to feel guilty by a society which she believes views abortions as inherently wrong. She expresses her outrage at statistics that infer women want to disassociate with feminism (“WERE YOU DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”) before lapsing back into her calmer mode, coolly reassuring herself and the readers that any female who disagrees with feminism because it “isn’t fashionable” is similar to a black person in the 1960’s who “isn’t into civil rights” (“Martin Luther, he just needs to chill out…”).
Caitlin’s debate on what we’re supposed to call our vaginas had me sniggering away on trains, her anecdotes had me reminiscing of my own similar experiences, and her reasoning had me convinced that feminism isn’t frightening or irrelevant. She does a wonderful job of showing that however serious we should take feminist issues, doesn’t mean we should be humourless, that we can’t find the hilarity in absurd situations. She recreates the stereotype of feminists as a dry political spinster, into a warm, clever, witty and relatable woman.
The book isn’t exclusive; in fact, it explains female experiences in way that is neither patronising nor dull to an audience of either gender. The descriptions of solely female enterprises, such as childbirth, or the difficult timing of body-hair removal in relation to socialising, are as equally detailed as they are comical.
“Feminism” has become a loaded word, associated with hypocritical and hysterical women, bra-burning men-haters, or the outdated movement that was solved when women gained the vote. But maybe it’s time to reclaim the word, and reclaim the movement altogether. Caitlin Moran exemplifies and explains, precisely, how to be a woman. And the conclusion seems to be, however you want.
(Originally published 19th October 2011, http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/culture/7631)
How To Be A Woman: Amazon
Caitlin Moran: Twitter or Columns

The Yorker Archives… (World of Work)

Gained a job or managed to scramble up some work experience rather than scavenging off parents over summer? Part-time jobs may be a blessing in the bank, but don’t count your lucky stars just yet…
You will get the awful tasks.
“Junior sales advisor” or “clerical assistant” may as well be renamed “Official tea bitch”. Worst thing is, you don’t even gain Brownie points for it. Running in and out of the office while trying to remember how many sugars Brian in Marketing takes and to only use the cup with the “special handle” for Lynn in Management might seem like a mammoth task to you on your first day, but chances are, you’ll only get a nod of appreciation. Take pleasure from the meaningless tasks to avoid death by boredom- create yourself a little world of The Filing Olympics, hiding out in the stockrooms to lengthen the walks to and from the office, and pretending the mannequins you’re dressing turn into real people when the shop’s empty…
Your boss will be terrifying.
No matter how nice they seemed in the interview; you take the wrong drinks to the wrong table, or forget to ask the customer if they want their purchase gift-wrapped, and they behave as though you’ve simultaneously committed all seven deadly sins. There aren’t any shortcuts to this one, I’m afraid. Whatever the problem, even if it’s entirely and clearly not your fault, suck it up. You’re late because the bus broke down? You should have flown to work, dammit.
You will have to suck up to everyone.
Even if you’re 100% sure that everyone in the office doesn’t know your name, never mind what you’re doing there, everyone has to be your best friend. It’s called networking, apparently. If you’re not smiling manically as you “offer” to clean the staffroom loo, you will never become genuinely liked by these people you resent…
Consider the worst shifts yours.
Working the night shift in what must be a haunted warehouse? Serving angry and vomiting drunks their fill of post-night out pizza and chips at 3am? Got to be at work by four in the morning, despite there being no known forms of public transport even stirring before 6am? I think it’s supposed to be character building, but in reality, it just makes you hate everything.
The people you work with will be the only people you ever see.
Whether you’re in a dated office with everyone at least forty years your senior, or working on a kids camp surrounded by giddy four year olds hyped up on fizzy drinks and Lazy Town; you’d better get used to it. Work tends to take up a whole bunch of time, meaning your plans of spending the entire summer lazing around in beer gardens drinking fruit cider with mates are restricted to weekends only. Make up for this by going to the “work do”. Helping carry your inebriated manager into a taxi will ease the pain of your next telling off, and hearing the guy from behind the bar attempt to rap along to Eminem during karaoke will make his awful jokes that bit more bearable.
There is, however, the major perk of pay days. Though it might seem a lifetime away when you’re wearily counting stock at 8am on a Monday morning, and even if you’re not sure it even reaches National Minimum Wage, there are people paying you to spend time here. Plus, seeing as you don’t have the time to spend any of it because you’re working all the time, it builds up into a nice little lump sum, ripe for freshers week. And who knows, you may find your dream job this way! You’re more likely to find a job that spurs you on to NEVER have to work in this field again, but you never know…

(Originally published 26th August 2011 http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/theknow/7521)


The Yorker Archives… (Movember.)

November brings a lot for us to celebrate; Bonfire night, the Halloween hangover, and premature Christmas adverts. We’re all cosying up in hats and scarves, and for the men amongst us, beards. No Shave November is puzzling. For one month a year, men globally embark on a bemusing mission to grow facial hair. Gilette must be terrified.
No female seems to fully comprehend this new and bizarrely cool trend. One friend of mine sincerely thought “Movember” stood for “not ‘Mowing the lawn on your face’-ovember”. Why November? Why can’t you just buy a scarf? What’s the point?
I’m told that this peculiar tradition, does in fact, have a good cause behind it. According to the official website, uk.movember.com, the millions of people who take part are all participating in one giant mission to raise money and awareness of mens health, and more specifically, prostate cancer.
So what are the repercussions of this hairy cause? Well, for a start, I’d block every male participant on any social network sites if you don’t want to receive millimetre by millimetre updates. But more importantly, I’d get behind the spirit of it all. While I’m not suggesting females all attempt to grow their own beard (by all means, go ahead if you can physically do it…), I am suggesting that you support the cause. Donate! Find your friend who you think will look the most ridiculous, and sponsor his facial fuzz.
The genius of this quirky fundraiser is that it gives lads everywhere an excuse to see what they look like with a fully grown beard, but it also requires no effort whatsoever, so all men can get involved. It raises awareness for a wonderful and often overlooked cause- so girls, I think we’re all morally obliged to deal with it. Stubble-rash from kissing your boyfriend, lengthy discussions about the almost imperceptible growth of your slightly less beardy friends, and the smugness of the friend that discovers that a tash really does genuinely suit him. It’s all for a good cause, ladies.
(Originally published November 10th 2011 http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/alphamale/7840