Caitlin Moran: 'There are 3.3 billion women in the world, so potentially 3.3 billion different forms of feminism'
The author and columnist talks to us about Tina Fey, Lena Dunham and How to Build a Girl
3.3 billion feminists – that’s what journalist and author Caitlin Moran would like to see, and she’s continuing her crusade in Edinburgh as part of a comedy tour promoting her debut novel. Claire Sawers talked to her about hangovers, Marxism and Tina Fey
'Options for teenage girls can be limited when it comes to role models,’ Caitlin Moran is explaining, while battling a hangover that she says is threatening to bring on a ‘tiny ladylike vomit’ any minute. A female journalist came to Moran’s house the night before to interview her for Dutch Elle and they ended up draining a few bottles of wine. ‘I need a crisp sandwich – that usually helps,’ she adds, bulldozing on with her chatter – which, like her prolific writing and tweeting, has the ebullience of an agitated can of lager. And perhaps the same potential for fun, or carnage.
Moran is smart, insta-matey (‘Let’s suffer through our hangovers together, darling!’) and never far from an anecdote about crotches / trade unions / feminism / her heroes.
‘Options for teen girls seem to be: “Be sexy”, or “Be a bit stupid”, or “Be a lesbian”,’ she eyerolls. ‘I need way more options than that. Come on!’
Moran’s clearly given it a lot of thought – not only is she mother of 11- and 13-year-old girls, but she’s also just published her first novel, How to Build a Girl, written from the point of view of a 14-year-old ‘fat girl in a council house’. Moran’s author’s note states: ‘Like Johanna I came from a large family, in a council house in Wolverhampton and started my career as a music journalist as a teenager. But Johanna is not me. [...] It is all fictitious.’
Moran’s synopsis of the book goes a bit like this: ‘You know that awkward and uncomfortable feeling when you’re a teenage girl? You think it’s all about your thighs? It’s not about your thighs. You need to change the world.’ (The last bit would probably get caps lock if she was tweeting.)
Moran’s on a literary tour just now. The first half of her show covers the book (‘Perfect hobbies for Johanna, besides masturbation and listening to rock ’n’ roll, are fermenting a revolution,’ she soundbites). Part two is Moran’s ‘raucous, dirty comedy’ and childhood memories – for example, the time teen Moran wrote a regular column for The Observer. When they failed to publish a column for four weeks, she faxed The Times, who took it, and have published her ever since. ‘I love The Observer but you expect to read about Marxism and feminism there. It feels more naughty writing about them in The Times.’
Moran is bringing her feminist politics to Edinburgh, with accompanying merch, displaying the Rules of Feminism. ‘Rule No 1: Women = Men. No 2: Don’t Be a Dick. That’s It.’ (Proceeds go to a women’s refuge, of course – she’s not a dick.)
Speaking of heroes, she still can’t get over that Girls creator Lena Dunham is a huge Moran fan. Dunham halted filming in Brooklyn when they met to announce to the crew, ‘This is a very important feminist from the UK!’
Tina Fey is another comedy and feminist role model for Moran. ‘Who’d have believed ten years ago she’d be debating massive feminist issues on Saturday Night Live, making it incredibly funny, while getting huge ratings? Good on you fucking Fey. I love you, man!’
Now it’s Moran’s turns to rally the troops. It’s been fairly effective so far, apparently. ‘People have got married, and started up feminist societies after meeting at my book signings,’ she beams.
‘There are 3.3 billion women in the world,’ she continues. ‘So potentially 3.3 billion different forms of feminism. Some want to campaign against genital mutilation, others to talk about relationships and pants. I see it as a big patchwork quilt – we all need to take a little square and contribute a small bit in making things better for women. Feminism isn’t something you read about. You take part in it. Come along and be a feminist with me! Admittedly in a very drunken environment …’
Caitlin Moran appears at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 11 Jul. How to Build A Girl is out now, published by Ebury Press.