For the most part, I found the book relatable, hilarious, and endearing. She tells stories about growing up female and navigating the world as a young woman that weren’t universal, per se, but still engaging and accessible. And she’s an astute observer of pop culture.
However, there were several sections that actually enraged me. I didn’t just disagree with her views, I wanted to punch her in the face for expressing those views in the ways that she did: She stated that the reason men view women as inferior is that we haven’t really done anything notable yet as a gender – in science, art, politics, or humanitarianism. She had some preposterously backwards views on body image that bordered on fat-phobia. She made statements about evolution and sociology that she’d clearly extracted from her own butt without consulting any research or getting any expert input. And she’s touted as “a feminist heroine for our times,” looked up to by countless impressionable young women, setting a sloppy example for the generations coming up behind her.
BUT. I still enjoyed the book, and I’d still totally take her out for a cheeseburger if I had the chance. And perhaps more importantly, I would never say that she’s not a feminist. Or not a good feminist. Or that her views – which occasionally clash with my own – will ruin feminism.
And you may be saying to yourself, “So what? That just makes you a reasonable human being.” But here’s the thing, friends: It also puts me in the minority, especially amongst my fellow feminists. The feminist blogs I read are clogged with call-outs and overrun with in-fighting. One of them seems to have created an editorial calendar that revolves around pointing out all of the things feminists and allies are doing wrong. You are expected to be completely perfect, or turn in your feminist badge and go home.
“All or nothing” works beautifully in many realms, but it is unwise to take it on as a universal life philosophy. If a designer you love releases a collection you loathe, you don’t need to write them off forever. If a family member you respect says something boneheaded, you don’t need to cut them out of your life. If a prominent figure makes a statement that enrages you, you don’t need to decide that they’re a minion of Satan. Discarding mere disagreement in favor of outright hatred turns people into closed-minded robots focused on false binaries.
There are may ways to be a Christian, many ways to be a woman, many ways to be a teacher, many ways to be a mom, many ways to be a leader, and – of course – many ways to be beautiful, and many ways to be stylish. We may want a simple, easy, black-and-white world, but we just can’t have one. Instead, we have the one in which Caitlin Moran thinks women are historical underachievers and still gets to be a feminist. We have the one in which hypocrisy is part of human nature. We have the one in which we could all stand to get a little more comfortable with the gray areas.
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