Caitlin Moran on being a 21st Century woman – and Kim K’s buttocks
Zip it, everyone. Enough of the constant yap yap yapping about women, and women's bodies, and women's choices, and women's opinions, and women's clothes and women in the workplace, and women as mothers and especially – please, for the love of all that is holy, please – stop going on about Kim Kardashian's arse.
Just keep all of your thoughts on women to yourself. For the next five years.
This is Caitlin Moran's umbrella advice for humanity today, which is funny, because the woman who just about single-handedly reinvented modern feminism, to the grateful guffaws of a generation, never shuts up.
*Kim Kardashian makes second attempt at breaking the internet with nude pic
*Kim Kardashian doesn't care what you think about her nude selfies
*When even Miley Cyrus could make Kim Kardashian look stupid
*'Men are quite different...'
She is like a feminism tap, offering good-natured, sensible, pithy but constant opinions on everything from pay equality to bikini waxes. Her new book of essays, Moranifesto, is a laugh-aloud-and-nod-your-head read, sharper than her last book, Moranthology, but probably not destined to be a modern classic like her first, How to Be a Woman.
Moran files two newspaper columns a week, is writing a television series (the semi-autobiographical Raised by Wolves) and two films (one based on her novel How to Build a Girl), is finishing her second novel (How to Be Famous) and planning the book to come after that (How to Change the World).
She produces 20,000 words a week, or about one quarter of an average-sized book. Every seven days.
She is also a prolific user of social media, pointing out hypocrisy and sharing victories big and small while contributing to the debate on a daily basis. Multiple times a day. She is so well known for stoking the fires of public discourse that her Twitter feed is now an English A-Level set text.
How on earth can she keep this up? She drinks a lot of coffee, she says, so much that she "probably only has five days to live". Driving her to maintain this mad pace is the realisation that women's stories are still not being told. She wants to capture as much of the female experience as she can – hold it up to the light, shake it around a bit – before she dies. She is on a Moranission.
"So writing 20,000 words this week is a piece of piss," she declares. "There is so much to be written. All I need to do is describe things, all I need to do is talk about what my friends talk about, what's happening in my life. It's all unexplored territory."
On the phone, Moran is so chatty that she doesn't even notice when the line goes dead. "Oh, that's really funny," she says cheerily when we are reconnected, her standing outside her London home the night before her birthday, chilled champagne at the ready; me tucked inside my Auckland house in the early hours of the morning, coffee in hand.
"I was talking away for so long there. At what point in my brilliant psychological treatise did I get cut off?"
"Right at the beginning."
We are talking about body shaming, celebrity worship, public nudity, selfie culture and Kim Kardashian, the woman who so often brings these hot topics together into a clickable soup of agitated discourse.
A brief recap, in case you are not versed in Kardashian Kulture: Kim K keeps sharing rather beautiful naked pictures of herself on social media. People complain about the effect these selfies could have on her young fans – who might feel pressure to look like her, an impossibility for most – and question her assertion that she is empowering herself and other women by baring it all.
Because if she were really empowered, couldn't she "break the internet" with her clothes on?
Other people say Kardashian (and, critically, not some man) is in control of her image and manipulating it at will. She is turning our gaze in her direction, and showing women a new way to be, and is therefore some kind of feminist Jesus.
Opposing viewpoints are lobbed through cyberspace like spitballs through an unruly classroom, and people on both sides of the argument get very, very upset.
It is confusing for many smart and well-meaning people, but not for Moran,who is possibly the real feminist Jesus.
In Moran's view, the KK selfie debate misses the point, because the issue isn't about who's wrong and who's right, but about power, and who's got it. She maintains that women should be allowed to do whatever batshit crazy stuff they like, just as men do.
If Ryan Gosling were to share multiple naked selfies, would we make a fuss? Perhaps, but we wouldn't be calling him a slut or a bad role model. The day Kim Kardashian posts a naked selfie and nobody bats an eyelid, we will have achieved true equality.
"We're at the beginning of a process," says Moran. "We expect someone to turn up and be perfect, and say all the right things and do all the right things and empower everybody and kind of solve the problem of being a woman, because that's what it is at the moment – it's a problem to be a woman.
"The idea that men all around the world are waiting for one man to come along and have all the solutions and show us how to be a perfect father and son and husband and businessman and creative person and have an amazing body and to dress fantastically – we would never expect that.
"And yet we look at Kim Kardashian, a well-meaning but not particularly intellectually over-gifted girl with a really beautiful arse, and expect her to be the new role model for everybody?"
There was a similar debate about Katie Price, the glamour model turned reality TV star who was hailed in the United Kingdom as a new feminist icon around the time Moran was writing How to Be a Woman.
In that book, Moran recounted meeting Price, a stereotypically busty blonde with small clothes who had grown wealthy selling calendars, clothing, fragrance, books, haircare and bedazzled accessories.
"Throughout our time together she was never less than a charmless, basilisk-eyed tyrant, bossing her then-husband Peter Andre around as if he were a piddling puppy," Moran wrote.
"Her world consisted entirely of herself, her pink merchandise range and the constant semi-circle of paps minutely photographing this ongoing narrative of solipsism."
Reminded of her distaste, Moran now says, "I have really softened my view towards her. She's just trying to pay rent – the infallible rule of bitch gotta pay rent. She's got five kids."
That said, Price's porn-star aesthetic and car-bonnet poses still rankle, because they give the impression that "sex only happens to sexy blonde girls", which "does everybody a terrible disservice."
"If you are pandering to the patriarchy and to a system that has crushed women for so long, just because you are making money out of it does not make you a feminist role model," says Moran, continuing smoothly as cars audibly swoosh past her in the street.
"You can make money out of terrible things."
Moran spends a lot of time in schools, talking to the next generation about their views on love, life and the universe. She hears terrible stories of teenagers having sex for the first time while attempting to choke each other because that's what they have seen depicted on screen.
"It's the time-wasting bullshit of modern pornography," exclaims Moran. "Nobody actually is having sex like that, nobody wants sex like that."
Growing up on an estate in Wolverhampton, a stodgy homeschooled girl who loved books and music and was unfairly expected to help clean the house while her brothers put out the bins, Moran had a diverse range of feminist role models, starting with David Bowie.
"He ran around in a skirt, he was dressed as a gay spaceman," she says admiringly of the man she eulogised in The Times as a "joyful alien" not aligned to a particular gender.
"Frequently as a feminist I get asked, how can you wear makeup, and I just point at David Bowie and go, if David Bowie can wear makeup, I can wear makeup. I found him enormously freeing."
The eldest of eight children, with an astonishingly impractical father whose health issues prevented him from working and a mother who kept everyone alive, Moran also drew inspiration from Miss Piggy, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre and Judy Garland. Strong, awkward females who wanted more from life than anyone thought they should have – who had the gall to think they could be leading ladies too.
"Judy Garland in nearly every role she played was a weird working-class girl who was not conventionally pretty but was just cheerful and hardworking and got things done."
Moran's cosy, nurturing vision of feminism is of a global quilting project, with each woman sewing her little piece until a new world has been created.
Sometimes all it takes to be a brilliant feminist, she says, is something as simple as Lorde sharing untouched photos of her face after a magazine airbrushed out her acne for a cover. Sharing the honest truth with her bajillions of fans when she could have retained anaura of perfection was a rebellious, feminist act.
"The real luxury of being equal to men is that we have the same right to be as spotty, fat, deluded, ridiculous, unqualified as men and still be accorded some kind of respect," says Moran, who says she loves Lorde "insanely".
"This is what I really look like. David Bowie said I was the future of music and I have loads of spots on my chin and I am very happy for you to see the spots on my chin."
While Moran is worried about many things – diminishing welfare benefits, the housing market, violence against women – she is surprisingly optimistic about the future for her teen daughters Eavie and Dora, with husband Pete Paphides, a music critic.
"We need to relax our buttocks a bit and go, you know what, everything's going to be okay. We've got the vote, we've got the internet, we are half the world's population and if we just wait long enough we're going to get enough women come along and solve all these problems."
The important thing to remember as we work on our little pieces of the feminism quilt is to not tear down other women, which as we all know happens depressingly often, and in this social media age, incredibly swiftly too.
"It's better to smoke and put yourself at risk of lung cancer than to slag off other women in the 21st century," says Moran. "We do ourselves, our mental health and our daughters' mental health much more risk when we go around slagging off other women."
Which returns us full circle to Kim Kardashian and her "really f***ing amazing arse", which is evidently a thing to be celebrated, even if it is delivered to us, unwittingly, via Twitter through no directive of our own, while we are sleeping or thinking about breakfast.
"She looks absolutely incredible," says Moran. "She's not going to look like that forever. I would really like to think that she will continue taking selfies when her tits are down to her knees and her bum looks like a bag of cauliflower.
"The one thing that saddens me about Madonna, who I otherwise love, is that she hasn't gone hag. Over all these years the most empowering thing she could have done is to let her hair go grey and start moaning about her knees hurting a bit, and just turn into an old woman. That would have been amazing.
"Now I'm not going to criticise Madonna, because she has done so many things that have empowered me. She's kind of invented being a modern woman and that is fantastic, but that is the one thing she hasn't had the courage to do. Go full hag."
Moran picks up her piece of the quilt. "Maybe it will be me," she says. "I can have the bad knees and look shit on Madonna's behalf."
* Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran (Ebury Press, $37) is out now.
- Sunday Star Times