In Defence of Caitlin Moran, kind of.

Caitlin Moran’s particular brand of feminism has been a little hard to swallow for some people in the year or so since she’s become like the super-megastar face of women’s lib or something. She is – quite rightly – accused of only catering towards a certain “acceptable” brand of feminism, wherein she is a feminine, white, able-bodied, middle-class woman in a heterosexual monogamous marriage with children, who cares about how she looks and what she wears etc. And yes, this excludes the many different demographics of feminism, but it is important to remember that she is only relating her own experiences of being a woman, and for her, that experience is, in a lot of ways, one of privilege. It is also one, I believe, which has been influenced by the pressure society has exerted on her as a white woman, to look an act a certain way, even if she might deny that. Clearly she is a woman who cares about how she looks, and those cares do conform, if somewhat loosely, to the stereotype of beauty we see in the media.
But at least what she’s distributing is indisputably feminist, regardless of who it alienates, and we need to appreciate that someone, somewhere, is writing about what it means to be a (white, hetero, middle-class) woman today, and is reaching an audience of people who wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise identified themselves as feminists. I think she has turned a lot of women to feminism, which is nice. So cheers.

And I do believe that her writings include at least some anecdotes or advice that all feminists can relate to. For me, her retelling of her dorky, fat, cheese-eating childhood resonated deeply, but as I’m still pretty much there, when How To Be A Woman jumps to her life as a writer living in London being all jazzy and cool, I felt a bit disconnected. Luckily though, it’s not my life she’s writing about, so it doesn’t really have to mirror my own, it simply serves to show me that there are other women, who also have experiences, who aren’t page 3 models who don’t like cheese.

I think most would also find it pretty offensive if Moran was, as the hetero, middle class, white woman, to write about what she perceives the problems of working class women of colour to be? As a white working class woman of dubious sexuality, I would scoff to kingdom come if Moran tried to talk of my day-to-day experiences and struggles, even though our life experiences are relatively close together on the spectrum of women everywhere.
So I think what the critics have to bear in mind is that we, as feminists, are weakest when we’re attacking each other. Nothing’s going to be worse for our image than a bunch of women squabbling with each other, which is undeniably what the patriarchy would say if they could see us now. At this point in time we really just need any brand of feminism, and we need to get it to reach as many people as possible. Feminism lite, if you will. If Moran’s version of feminism is acceptable now, then surely her books, as popular as they are, can only be paving the way for more radical and more inclusive feminist texts to reach popularity in the future? Regardless of how big-headed she might be, how wonderful she might think she is, and how ridiculously ignorant and regrettable some of her comments may have been, I really don’t believe she means any harm to anybody who is also fighting the patriarchy. She’s just a celebrity, and this is how celebrities behave. Unfortunately, she’s the celebrity who is representing a lot of us to the wider public, but I do think we could be doing a lot worse on that front, as far as white, middle class feminists go.


(I would really like to talk about being a white feminist right now, but I feel like that would deserve a whole other blog post, and talking about my experiences in the same post as Caitlin Moran’s would draw unintended parallels between the two, which I really don’t want. Let’s save it for another entry, eh?)


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