Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 5: Cat Holes and Knockers

I've decided that Caitlin Moran is my new hero.  And not just because she pronounces her name "Catlin."  In truth, I never need another role model, now that I have her.  I have also discovered that Sonja over at Porch Philosophy is even more fabulous than I thought - she beat me to the punch on reviewing Moran's book, How to Be a Woman (which I haven't even finished, but am now inspired to write about anyway).  Marie Claire once compared Moran to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler and Lena Dunham.  I've enjoyed the work of all these women, but my mindset is a lot closer to what I gather Moran's is, from what I've read thus far.

Right from the start, Moran gives you some pretty harsh truths, not just about the "patriarchal bullshit" that women are faced with day to day, but about the massive insecurities that most girls face the moment they hit puberty and how much that impacts us as we age.  For most of us who suddenly needed a bra (and not just a training one) the moment we became teenagers,  we could have used lessons in how to deal with predatory behavior to make that change far less traumatizing.  It should be noted that predators don't always inflict harm by making physical contact.  They can easily make the unprepared feel scared and even violated by invading space or attacking verbally and it isn't always immediately clear what they're doing.  At 15, already wearing a larger cup size than my mom, I had several older men attempting to charm and frighten me simultaneously.  I wish I had possessed half of the (faked, but still) confidence and plain out ballsiness (forgive the term) that Moran had as a young woman.
The coping tactics of grown women in the 19th century give me little to work on, and so--without any better role models--I simply regress into the coping methods of my childhood.  As the eldest of eight children who regularly punch each other, my just to go a bit...gonzo.  I require the guy from the art department with his "wipe-clean dress" comments  to buy me a double, for "injury to feelings."  The writer who defamed me in the gossip column is told to stand on a chair in front of the whole office and apologize to me...
And when the section editor asks me to sit on his lap, in order to discuss my "promotion," I think, merely, more fool you, dude, and plonk down on him, heavily, then light a fag.
"Lost your circulation yet?" I ask cheerfully, as he sweats and coughs.
Being able to share those experiences with your female friends or feel comfortable enough to tell a family member would be wonderful, but we are largely discouraged from being open (which then keeps us from getting the assistance we need).  It is unfortunate that so many of us grow up not in wonder and excitement about turning into women, but horrified at all the changes and taught to hide them (out of shame) as much as possible.  Just as most of us were told that how we presented ourselves and behaved would decide whether or not we were victimized, as opposed to (a) people not attacking us, (b) a witness actually trying to help us, (c) as a group of girls, protecting and looking out for each other, or possibly even (d) knowing how to use a kitten heel to take out your attacker's eyeball (thanks, Mom!).

What Moran has written about her teen years made me uncomfortable because it resonated with me (which you can probably tell from the last two paragraphs).  And even if she didn't handle every situation with the grace and ease that people seem to expect us to be programmed with (ah ha ha ha), having a friend like her around would have absolutely been beneficial for someone who was as sweet and naive as I once was.  Having women around who stood up for themselves and weren't afraid to speak their minds has certainly made me a much stronger woman today, unfortunately I didn't have a lot of female friends until my late teens (which is certainly when I really started to come into my own).

I especially admire the fact that Moran doesn't shy away from virtually any topic.  She points out that even those of us who are pro-choice sometimes still judge women for using that choice and how amazingly backward that is.  In fact, despite the choices she's made, she seems ever-supportive of whatever the heck other women want to do with their lives, as long as we're not harming ourselves.  If I ever have children, they're going to be required to read this.  If I don't, I'm giving it to everyone else's kids, so consider yourselves warned.  I'll wait until they hit puberty.

Moran also talks about the painful fact that many of the women who have been famous for their strength and intellect in the last century have been pitiable in one aspect or another by the end of their careers.  Dorothy Parker was one of my first literary heroes (and I'm not the only one) and though, unlike Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, none of her suicide attempts succeeded, her story is filled with just as much frustration and suffocation despite her achievements.  These are things that would break most people.   These women deserve credit for what they achieved, for being the foremothers of female writers who tell it like it is without making themselves suffer or putting up with the kind of bullshit that was lord-only-knows-how-many-times-worse in their day.  Judging them for the way they dealt with the worst that life threw at them or the way they chose to die, while ignoring everything that they overcame, would be our loss.  At the same time, Moran is absolutely right that it's high time we had more female role models who maintain badassery without so much suffering.  And, though she isn't famous, I feel quite fortunate to have a mother who fits that description, not to mention knowing other women in her generation that truly amaze me.
Dorothy Parker is monumentally important because, it seems to me at the time, she is the first woman who has ever been capable of being funny: an evolutionary step for women as major as the development of the opposable thumb or the invention of the wheel.  Parker is funny in the 1920s and then--I am led to believe--no other women are funny until the eighties.  Parker is the Eve of female humor.
From her hilarious take on female pubic hair (especially her description of what a bikini wax feels like--which deserves mad applause and loud whooping), to the gut wrenching description of her abortion, Moran has had me transfixed.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good read, regardless of which genre you prefer. 
...I now believe that there are only four things a grown, modern woman should have: a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything), a friend who will come and post bail at 4 a.m., a fail-safe pie recipe, and a proper muff.  A big, hairy minge.  A lovely furry moof that looks--when she sits, naked--as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap.  A tame marmoset, that she can send off to pickpocket things, should she so need it--like that trained monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
To end on a lighter (but possibly no less discomfitting for you) note:  One of my favorite sections of How to Be a Woman is all about the word "vagina" and the various names people have for theirs.  I'm not a fan of "minge" for myself, but I do like "fouf" and "meowmeow."  I did like "lady garden" until Urban Dictionary ruined it for me.  I am not bothered by the word "vagina," but I only use "cat hole" to gross my friends out.  It's part of one of my favorite phrases: "Shut yer cat hole!"  I only use when it's entirely appropriate to do so.  Which is more often than you'd think.  If you're not sure what to call yours, make sure to check Love Your Vagina for ideas.
Thinking of you, Kath, Jenn and Meg!

And one more time, in case you forgot to read Sonja's post: Go to Porch Philosophy.  You won't regret it.

1 comment:

  1. i want to read this so bad. i need a library card. do libraries still exist?


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