I’ve mentioned before just how much I love funny, female writers, so of course I’m a big fan of Caitlin Moran. Seeing her speak at the Southbank Centre was a perfect way to celebrate International Women’s Day. I absolutely loved it.
I always get so much out of hearing from my heroes so I wanted to write down the top four lessons I took away from last night because – who knows – you might find them useful too:
1. You don’t have to know everything about a subject to be able to talk about it; and 2. It’s OK – you can be serious and funny at the same time
Well, thank goodness for that. Caitlin came to talk about her new book Moranifesto in which she talks about the state of the world. She says she didn’t used to think she was allowed to talk about politics – that it was a subject reserved for grown ups and that you had to be an expert to justify having a say. But then she realised that was simply not true.
I can relate to this feeling. A friend told me a few years ago that every time I’d start to say something at work, I would open with a few qualifying sentences – to make it clear that I wasn’t an expert on the subject or that I may be wrong or that somebody else could easily have already thought of what I was about to say. And it was totally true – I just wasn’t confident that I had the right to have a voice. I really try not to do that now. You have to believe that you are worth hearing.
Caitlin also discussed how it’s OK to talk about politics in both a serious and funny way. If you want to throw a joke in, do it. She spoke about how she had to give herself permission to do just that, and that we mustn’t let people tell us how to talk about it. We all have something to offer.
I was very pleased to hear this as no matter what I’m writing or chatting about, I cannot help but chuck a bit of humour in. I like to talk about serious things, to put out there how I feel about something or someone, but then I also like to make jokes too because it’s simply who I am. It’s nice to know from somebody so successful that doing that is OK, that our points are still valid. I am officially giving myself permission to make crap jokes forever now. Hurrah!
3. Look how you want to look
If you’re familiar with Caitlin Moran, you’ll know she’s a big fan of pulling what she calls her ‘muppet face’. But she told us last night that she gets a lot of stick for it. That people write in to say she should make a more sensible expression in pictures. Well, I disagree. And thankfully so does she. She says she makes those faces because it makes her happy, and because when a woman tries to look attractive in photographs, she is immediately compared to every other woman doing the same thing, and she doesn’t want to take part in that ridiculous competition.
I am totally with her on this. I have spent an embarrassing amount of my time worrying about how I look compared to other people. And by the time you get to 30, you actually have a pretty good idea. I know what to do with my face to look how I want to look in a photograph and that if I’m caught doing anything else, I will look either miserable, mad or a perfect combination of the two. I too have made a decision about my photo faces and whether you like it or not, they’re the ones I’m going with.
And FYI, for those in pursuit of a good time, I’d recommend a muppet face over a pout any day of the week.
4. We need more honest depictions of what it’s actually like to be a woman
Caitlin spoke about watching TV and reading magazines when she was younger and just not seeing herself represented. Not seeing words and stories about women which she could look at and say – yes, that’s me. And I know exactly what she means. It is a rare treat to come across a book or an article that really feels like an honest reflection of what it’s like to be a woman. It’s why work by Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bridget Christie, Caitlin Moran and co. are all so important – because they have all found ways to speak about what it really feels like to be women and to reassure us that it’s totally normal to find it hard.
I try to do this with the things I write too. I love writing about the trivialities of being a woman, the immense humour in it, the precious relationships we have with one another, and the difference between what we think we’re supposed to be versus what we actually are. I am more inspired than ever to keep doing just that.
There was so much more to last night but in the interests of word count, I will stop now. I am so very excited to read Moranifesto and all the hundreds of other lessons I’m sure are waiting for me in there.
Thanks Caitlin Moran, Women of the World Festival and the Southbank Centre for a great evening. If only it could be International Women’s Day every day…