My thoughtsI just read Tina Fey's Bossypants and Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman back to back. The funny thing is, they really are very similar. On the cover of Caitlin's book, someone has reviewed it as "the British Bossypants," and it's true! They both talk about the horrors of puberty, being a woman in a male-dominated workplace, their family, and their experiences as mothers.
The thing I like about both these books, besides being hilarious and easy to relate to, is that they're both gateway drugs into feminism. I mean that in the best way, of course. They are two individuals' experiences with feminism. Because it's so easy to understand, these books are a great introduction to feminism.
They aren't, however, the bottom line of feminism. Tina Fey has been criticized for this one line she has about how beauty standards have evolved to the point where one woman is expected to have body parts from all sorts of ethnicities. The way she comes across in the line is derogatory to women of color, or so I have read from women of color (I didn't find it offensive at first, but that could easily be my white privilege. It might also be that I read it differently than those critics did). I didn't like that both of them criticized other female celebrities, though the reasoning behind it made sense.
So while the books aren't hardcore feminism, or even inclusive, intersectional feminism, they are brilliant, funny, lighthearted, and have some great criticisms of everyday sexisms.
Your book club
Because these books are both very personal, your book club might get very personal too when talking about these books. It might just turn into story time. But that's okay! I think that's the point of both of these books, and that's what reading them encourages.
Here are some questions that will hopefully bring about awesome discussions in your feminist book club:
- Talk about your experiences with puberty. Did your parents give you "the talk"? What are some conversations you had about growing up with siblings or friends?
- In Caitlin's book, she talks about what we call our private body parts. Do you think the names we use for our breasts and vagina are important? What are some of the names you hear that you do or don't like?
- What are some of the beauty standards you come up against? How have you had to fight them and learn to accept your body? Do you still struggle with some of them?
- Both Tina and Caitlin have mentioned gay friends that they had. What do you think of their relationships with people who are homosexual? How do you think the gay community and feminism relate to each other? Can gay men understand some of the experiences of women in the patriarchy? (You could also talk about lesbian women in this discussion, but this is also a REALLY BIG discussion. You might have to try to reign it in.)
- Both Tina and Caitlin use humor to talk about feminism. Tina even uses humor to bring feminist issues to a national audience. How does using humor help feminist causes? You could use rape jokes as an example in this discussion.
- Both Tina and Caitlin have experienced sexism in the workplace. Both of them have had to fight for more female representation in male-dominated industries. How do you think things have changed for women as comedians and musicians? Are we making progress in those two fields? You might also want to share some experiences you have had in your own workplaces.
- Caitlin describes her first experience of being in love with Courtney. It's obviously an awful relationship, and Caitlin seems to know that, but she sticks with it. Why does she stay with Courtney for so long? Have you had a similar experience? Why was it so important for Caitlin to be in love?
- What do you think of Caitlin visiting a strip club? What are your personal feminist views on women working in the sex industry? Do you agree with Caitlin's conclusions?
- Caitlin describes her wedding and all the issues she has with the wedding industry. Do you agree with her? Did you have problems with your wedding, or have you been in a similar situation as her sister, Caz?
- Tina Fey tells a story about Amy Poehler saying to Jimmy Fallon "I don't care if you fucking like it." Talk about that. Talk about male privilege, too.
- Both Tina and Caitlin talk about motherhood, as well as how they bring their feminist outlook to motherhood. If you are a mother, talk about how you try to bring feminist ideals to raising your child. If you aren't, you can bring up goals you have for raising children in a feminist way. Is motherhood a feminist act? (Discuss Caitlin's chapter about giving birth for the first time. I absolutely loved that part. She made giving birth seem so empowering, like a she-warrior.)
- Talk about Caitlin's chapter on abortion. Do you want children? Do you think not having children is a feminist act?
- Both Tina and Caitlin are white, mostly middle-class feminists living in developed countries. Discuss some of the privilege that comes with that, and maybe some of the privilege you saw in Tina and Caitlin.
- Now that you've read both books ... which one did you like better and why?
So there's a lot in there. SORRY. You could probably talk an entire 24 hours if you went thoroughly through every one of those questions. So just pick and choose what you and your book club will probably like.
And I hope you enjoy the books!