Caitlin Moran is a prodigious writer, broadcaster, TV Critic, columnist and feminist. Self-mocking, quick-witted, at times horrifying but mostly hilarious, Moran’s confessional style is both hard-hitting and very entertaining. Following the success of How to be a Woman, her latest novel How to Build a Girl is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about Johanna Morrigan, a working class girl trying to work out exactly who she wants to be. Dubbed a ‘rock and roll literary tour’, with How to Build a Girl 2 Moran is back with lots more talk of vaginas, ridiculousness and celebrity filled anecdotes. As she puts it; ‘50/50 revolution/filth’.
You’re bringing the How to Build a Girl 2 tour to Cardiff on April 16th. What can we expect from the show?
The main thing is JOY. I’m attempting to undo what most of current culture does, which is make women feel like a problem. You know – we wake up in the morning and immediately worry that this is a ‘fat’ day, that we don’t have the right clothes for who we need to be today, that we haven’t done our pelvic floor exercises, that we still haven’t put that curtain pole up, that our faces look tired, that we haven’t come up with a brilliant idea for our kids’ birthday party. Men just get up, put their trousers on and go downstairs. So this show is me dragging out into the light all the things women worry about – feel ashamed about – spend their time and money on trying to hide – and we point at it and laugh at it and set fire to it. We discuss ‘thigh gaps’ and floppy bellies and the voices in your head, and how you can pick a nice one, and how you meet other people like you, and how you can change the world, and need never feel lonely or powerless again. But interspersed with stories from my life, like the time I accidentally tried to break into Kate Moss’s house, or the time I got drunk at Benedict Cumberbatch’s house and ruined his sofa due to menstrual terror, and some pretty specific advice on how to deal with having sex with a man who has a medically inadvisably large penis. It’s 50/50 revolution/filth.
A criticism I have read is that the title How To Be A Woman suggests a kind of universality of experience. How do you feel about this? Is it a case of you show me yours if I show you mine?
Well, I’m a fairly confident person, but even I didn’t think I could speak to the experience of 3.3b women. I just kinda riffed around all the stuff I know and made as many jokes as possible. My dream would be that as many people as possible rip the format off – it’s a pretty easy book to write, really. The story of your life, breaking off for little rants and bits of analysis when things happens that derailed you, hurt you, injured you, scared you, made you think, or were palpably unfair, and seemed like a sign things need to change. There needs to be a How To Be A Pakistani Girl, How To Be A Trans Girl, How To Be A Gay Boy, How To Be A Lesbian. Take the format! Tell your stories! I’ll Tweet the fuck out of them! Increase the lexicon!
What has inspired or represented your experience as a woman?
Mainly Bugs Bunny in a dress. He is a sexy lady rabbit. Also, funny.
Do you also write with men in mind as a potential audience?
The audience is usually a third male. For starters, men kinda know women – we all live quite near each other, really, and are in regular contact, what with the marrying, and the giving birth to each other, and the brothers and so on – so it’s not like what I’m talking about makes them go, ‘But this is like you are describing life forms from another planet.’ And secondly, as my dear friend, the novelist and murderer John Niven put it, ‘What man wouldn’t want to go to a CaitMo gig? It’s stuffed with poon.’ He is a wise man.
Do you think that comedy or comedic writing is a way of making a point without being challenging or confronting? What do you say to those who claim that your book would not have been published if it were more ‘serious’?
I definitely subscribe to that saying that humour is intelligence speeded up. The amount of times I’ve written 3000 serious words on something, done a funny one-line kicker at the end, then realized I’ve summed the whole thing up in the joke and don’t need the preceding 3000 words. Funny is the truth, but fast.
You say that ‘being a feminist does not mean you’re a Buddhist’ – is criticism within the sisterhood a valuable tool or playing into the hands of nay sayers/anti-feminists?
My rule of thumb is ‘Are the boys doing it?’ That’s how you can tell some sexism is happening. If boys have to deal with the same problem. And men most certainly aren’t being told that they should never disagree with other men, and that all 3.3b men should all be on the same side and never disagree with each other. I mean, how would that even work? Of course you can bitch about other women. Just do it quietly, in the toilets. That’s manners. That’s civilization.
If you could be any person in popular culture today who would it be and why?
I’d love to be Guy Garvey in Elbow, and to be able to sing those very precise and beautiful words in his huge, bear/bell voice. That band make me weep. Imagine being in them. Imagine being part of that music. Plus they all drink like bastards.
How would you feel about being a man for the day?
Pretty sure I’d miss my tits.
With the election hauling itself around the corner, do you know which way you will be voting?
Raised by Wolves is semi-autobiographical. How do you feel about seeing a representation of your younger self? Do you feel a strong urge to shout sage advice at Helen Monks (who plays Germaine)?
Helen is so me. She got the role because she came bowling up to me after a gig I’d done, and I said ‘Oh my god, I don’t know if you take this as an insult or not, but you look so Moran. You could be in our family.’ And she told me she was an actress, and that if I ever did a film or show about myself that she reckoned she could give good me, so I took her number, and that was how – two years later – she got the part. It’s exactly what I would have done at her age. Gone trotting up to someone and said ‘I would like a job please!’ I adore her.
You have written a lot about holidays in Aberystwyth and say that you often go now with your family, likewise with Brighton, where you were born. Would you say that you are a nostalgic person?
I tend to live roughly eighteen months in the future most of the time. It’s ace here. I’ve finished all the work I was doing back in April 2015 and I’ve finally learned French. Tres bien!
Who would you next most like to spend the weekend with Gaga style and why?
I’d like to be able to tap into the Deeper Magic from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, and spend it with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, during that weekend in Wales where she’d just bought the world’s biggest diamond ring, and her and Burton went down the pub and let every woman in the village try the ring on. I’d borrow her fur coat and we’d smoke fags and drink vermouth and we’d play ‘catch’ with the ring, and I’d perv her husband a bit while she told amazing stories about Hollywood and we cackled like witches. Yeah. That.
Caitlin Moran will be appearing at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on Thursday April 16th
Caitlin Moran original illustration by Dean Lewis