Book Club: It's About Damn Time I Learned How To Be a Woman

About Christina

First things first: I know what we're reading for our next Book Club...

My caption can't beat that one, so I won't even try.

Second things second, How To Be a Woman! Let's talk about it! Here's how this is gonna go down (snort): I'm going to write a few of my thoughts down, and then you do the same in the comments section. I know this isn't the ideal format for discussion, but we can make it work. I mean, shit, if Caitlin Moran's heavily pregnant mom can hold a sleeping one-year-old while peeing, sorting a basket of whites, and avoiding properly explaining menstruation to her teenaged daughter, then we can make this discussion work in spite of procedural awkwardness. WE CAN DO IT! So, on with the show.


Frida be you and me.

1. On Page 10 Caitlin Moran writes about wanting a manual for learning how to become a woman and cites examples of "pioneering hero[es] - Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Frida Kahlo, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc," all of whom were "eventually crushed." In my 35 years, I have fawningly dressed as Frida Kahlo and Cleopatra for Halloween, gotten bangs and worn mohair twinsets to feed a fantasy of being a Plathian Smith girl, and kept a poster of Amelia Earhart on my childhood bedroom wall from elementary school through adulthood. Clearly, I know a thing or two about choosing my own doomed heroines. Who were your heroines as children, and what were there ends? Is it more possible now to find heroines for our children who don't meet tragic ends under patriarchal burdens? Are you all about to tell me to Lean Forward? And, if so, is it just to look down my shirt? Because that leads me to

2. The "Broken Windows" theory of feminism! On pages 12 and 13 Moran likens a "Zero Tolerance policy" for sexist bullshit, no matter how petty, to the "Broken Windows" theory wherein tolerated indications of neglect, like a broken window in an abandoned building, lead quickly to chaos, crime, and general degradation of the whole, like Detroit. So, to belabor a metaphor, what if we are in the larger project of Leaning Forward ("Hey, Hilary! Run for president!") and during that process we're ogled ("But you have to lose some weight and stop wearing those pantsuits and don't laugh like that and be more likeable but still be tough and fix your hair and, WHAT DO YOU MEAN you didn't wear makeup today?"), is it necessary to address the petty bullshit, or is it better to take the higher-minded road and keep pursuing the goal regardless of the distraction? Does the Broken Windows theory apply to feminism? If so, does simply laughing at it, as Moran suggests, address it sufficiently? Or does addressing the small stuff distract women from reaching larger goals?

Chapter 1: I Start Bleeding!

1. I've written about this chapter before, as well as my optimistic proposed methods of countering the objectifying effects the alleged pornification of our culture might have on my daughters. So, I'm wondering whether you think this pornification exists? Haven't we always lived in a sexually objectifying culture, or has overt performative sexuality really taken over our culture? If you do think it exists, what, if anything, can we do to prevent its negative influence, if there is one, on our girls and boys?

2. Between Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Little Neddy Niederlander Martin Short, whom do you find to be the sexiest amigo? There is only one right answer. Hint:

Banjo players do it with fingerpicks.

Chapter 2: I Become Furry!

1. Oh, jumping Jesus on a Pogo stick, the story about Rachel's grooming strategy made me weep with frustration. Not for me, of course. I'm married. As David Bazan sings, "Husbands in winter, they know the truth, but what can they do?" Answer: NOT A DAMN THING. But, DAY-UMN, is that what it's like "out there" now? Is that what it's like "down there" now? I can't imagine the investment of time and money that's required to "normalize" one's bush. Imagine what we ladies as a collective could be doing with that time and money instead? What if we all spent that time writing to our congresspersons or, shoot, BECOMING our congresspersons, and what if some of that money found its way into the coffers of any number of pro-women organizations? Oh, what a world that would be!

Clearly, my position on this particular grooming practice is one of incredulous ignorance. But, I wonder which grooming practices do you engage in, and do you consider the opportunity costs of the time and effort you put into engaging in those practices? For example, for a lady who proudly posts pictures of herself as Frida Kahlo, I spend a lot of time and money making sure my eyebrows are gorgeous. And, for a blog billing itself as Smarty Mommies, our most popular posts have all been about shopping or grooming. These are practices that are important to us, and we're willing to sacrifice time and money to engage in them. So, how do we reconcile our participation in the beauty industry with the idea of consciously choosing to fight against patriarchal norms? (Or should I just reread The Beauty Myth?)

Chapter 3: I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!

1. Of course you're curious, and of course I'll tell you. Pancho and Lefty. Duh. Now you share, you sick bastards.