Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, a standout hit when it was published in the United Kingdom last year, is a new kind of manifesto for modern women. No academic language or policy prescriptions here — instead, Moran uses hilarious tales from her own life to look at everyday lady issues, from Brazilian waxes and getting fat to pregnancy and abortion. MC spoke to Moran, 37, a raunchy, proud feminist with a husband and two children (and a new sitcom that will air on British TV this fall), as her book hits U.S. shelves this month.
Your book deals with topics we rarely read about — your first period, pubic hair, masturbation. Why do so few women write about these things?
I tried to come up with a plot as good as Star Wars. And then it occurred to me that of course I can't come up with a story like that. The story I've got to tell is what it's like being a woman, and what it's like being a girl. People are saying it's brave and groundbreaking to write about these completely normal things — that's how far behind we are. Normality is being a white, straight man.
You use the C word instead of "vagina." Why?
There's no room in my world for coyly using any of those horrible terms like "my honey pot." Chaucer used cunt — it's got literary antecedents. I love it for its strength, its antiquity, its ability to shock people. It sounds like a hungry thing and something that's in control and powerful as opposed to something that's just lying there, waiting for something to happen to it.
You talk a lot about feminism — how is it relevant today?
Clearly, it's still an unequal world. The battle isn't over. One of the big failures of feminism over the last 15 years wasn't just a failure of academic feminism, but a failure of feminism in popular culture. If you really want a feminist revolution, the key thing is to make blockbuster films and television shows full of brilliant, clever, real-feminist, kick-ass women. Having only Bridget Jones and Sex and the City representing modern women? I can't live in a world where there are only, like, four kinds of women. Or where every woman is obsessed with cake. The very least I ask is that we have one female character in the world who likes savory things! I don't have any role models who like cheese!
What do you think of Girls?
Oh, my God, I fucking love Lena Dunham! We're used to one-dimensional female characters. To have someone who's so complex and nuanced and confused, and sometimes is behaving like a dick and other times is just trying to be a good person, is so refreshing. It doesn't see women as massive makeover projects.
In the book, you write of waxing: "I can't believe we've got to a point where it's costing us money to have a vagina." You really hate Brazilians.
There are some women it suits, and it fits in with their lifestyle, and that's fine. But the fact that Brazilians are now seen as normal and something everyone should do — and I'm the freak for mentioning my hairy vagina — is the problem.
You write that women know clothes are important because they're judged by what they wear. What do your clothes say about you?
I try to exude an aura of being a very peaceable person who doesn't want any hassle, who just wants to get home to her kids in one piece ... I also want to project that if at any point someone said, "Would you like a drink?" I would reply, "Yes, I would."