As if there will ever be another Nora Ephron. But I did hear the comparison made earlier today during a review of British author Caitlin Moran’s new book, “How To Be A Woman,” a bestseller in her native UK described by The New York Times as “part memoir, part philosophical rant, part manifesto written with the lightest touch” that “aims to make women proud of being feminists.” The feminist vein of the book and comic tone of its author explains why an Ephron parallel has been made, though I hardly think Ephron would define feminism thusly:
Here is a quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. put your hand in your pants.
a) do you have a vagina? and
b) do you want to be in charge of it?
if you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! you’re a feminist.
That recent entry from Moran’s tumblr account (though its title is rather vulgar you can access it here) indicates the general tone of her writing. A longtime columnist for The Times of London, she apparently penned “How To Be A Woman” on a bit of a dare.
Lamenting the current state of raggedy old feminism, a group of women journalists were out to dinner when, as Peggy Orenstein describes on Slate.com, one of them had an idea:
Finally, someone—it’s unclear who—said that one of them needed to write a book: something raucous and real about why feminism still mattered. A taking-stock of womanhood in an age of unprecedented freedoms and nagging contradictions.
And Caitlin Moran responded: “OK, I’ll race you!”
Five months later, “How To Be A Woman” was released in the UK—and 16 other countries—and sold upwards of 400,000 copies. The American edition, released by Harper Perennial hit bookstores earlier this week and so far, reviews have been profuse and flattering. “It is pretty phenomenal,” declared The Atlantic’s Jen Doll.
Like Ephron, Moran focuses on female concerns—unfair beauty standards, sexism, menstruation and bikini waxes (“I can’t believe we’ve got to a point where it’s basically costing us money to have a vagina,” she writes). While Ephron avoided the pitfalls of “pubic deforestation,” as Orenstein wryly put it, she did write a famous essay about breasts—or her lack thereof: “I knew that no one would ever want to marry me. I had no breasts. I would never have breasts.” Moran gripes about 37-year-old beauty maintenance the way Ephron used to gripe about age. One hates Brazilians, the other felt bad about her neck. But whereas Ephron remembers her first bra-fitting at a Beverly Hills store, Moran grew up poor and obscure in a public housing development the eldest of eight children.
Where they differ socioeconomically, they converge philosophically. They might have mutually mourned, for instance, how few young women count themselves “feminists” nowadays, as if it connotes schoolmarm rather than savvy.
The word “feminism,” Moran said, has for some reason gone off the rails to connote, incorrectly, preachy humorlessness and grim separatism. “When I talk to girls, they go, ‘I’m not a feminist,’ ” she said. “And I say: ‘What? You don’t want to vote? Do you want to be owned by your husband? Do you want your money from your job to go into his bank account? If you were raped, do you still want that to be a crime? Congratulations: you are a feminist.’”
But while Moran is already fantasizing about her first Oscar (she told The Times she will wear the jumpsuit from “Ghostbusters”) Ephron is already in the Hollywood Hall of Fame.
Oh, and just for fun, this:
The Atlantic’s Jen Doll: What are the differences between the Americanized and British versions?
Moran: Mainly it’s just replacing the s in certain words with zed. It was funny, though, there are cultural differences in each country. It’s a very British thing to refer the Nazis, for example, but in the German edition whenever I jokingly did this, they were like, you need to make it very clear that the Nazis were a heinous regime. In America they wanted to remove all references to Nazis entirely. We didn’t.
Read the full Q-and-A here.