Caitlin Moran takes Hay while the sun is hiding

by Stephanie Jones-Berry

“THE only way you could say you are not a feminist is if you’d gone to parliament and handed your vote back,” says Caitlin Moran, looking dismissive of any such nonsense as she grins out across a sodden Hay Festival. That is, me and hundreds of similarly bedraggled people squashed into a massive tent, all who have dutifully trotted through Sunday’s apocalyptic Welsh weather to get on gazing terms with this irreverent princess of lady business.

“I think you are a feminist by default in the western world.” She eyes the large crowd with no apparent nerves, bright green eyeshadow and big hair, and that trademark Cruella de Vil thing going on in her fringe.

She is the journalist responsible for dragging feminism back into the mainstream with her award-winning non-fiction/part bio/raucous comedy How to be a Woman. Even my mum has read it. Unscientifically at least, this proves the message within appeals across otherwise incongruous sections of lady land. I can tell you this – her audience at Hay ranges from ten-year-old girls to those on the gran-o-meter.

A lot of these people look like they enjoy listening to The Archers while they peel vegetables, which means I spend longer than I should trying to fathom what their expressions were when they read Moran’s musings on her minge – assuming the audience has actually read the book and is not just pretending. I especially hope the ten-year-olds have. Moran should be on the school curriculum. Please God, forsake The Merchant of Venice for this. The Times columnist indisputably has something the bard himself could not even fathom.

“The Daily Mail is the most woman-hating thing on the planet,” she declares – possibly a notion which has not yet occurred to Dacre’s many vagina-wearing readers, some of whom could well be in the Hay audience (perhaps she who stood up and asked Moran if feminism was incompatible with Conservatism? Answer: ”I don’t believe it is incompatible with being a feminist, but I do believe it is incompatible with being a decent human being).

“The side bar of hate – some women and how they screwed it up that day.” If you have ever idly browsed the Mail website, Moran is referring to the right hand feed of articles telling you about Rihanna’s latest beach trip or the fact Nicole Kidman wore no make-up to the shop.

Photos by Chris Floyd – http://www.chrisfloyd.com

“It is just this feeling – the thing I dislike – the idea that it is never enough, there is still further to go. So many choices women make are done because of not having money and having to spend money to feel good about being a woman. In order to feel normal – you remove hair from legs, underarms, dye hair once grey, [apply] a certain standard of make-up, already that is costing you money. There is a tax on being a woman – not to feel beautiful and sexy, this is to just feel normal.”

One of Moran’s most salient points lies in challenging the pornographic industry, instead arguing for a “free-range, organic” pornography, which shows women’s pleasure rather than the “mechanised, factory-farmed fucking: bloodless naked aerobics” she talks about in her book.

“I think pornography is really important, there is nothing wrong with it,” she said. ”Yes, the industry is horrible, but there is nothing wrong with looking at porn. As feminists, we need to tackle this and, I suspect, make it. We have to accept the fact that this is what kids are looking at now. For 99 per cent of teenagers, [internet porn]. I don’t want kids thinking that is what sex is.”

Speaking of robotic, manipulated, naked women making money for ruthless men, the subject turns to hit 90s band The Spice Girls – Moran’s bete noir. “I noticed around that time, we stopped using [the word] feminism because ‘girl power’ took over,” she says, talking about the decade she believes changed the landscape of feminism.

“The problem with girl power is feminism means something – you are talking about legislation, cultural change. A lot of work has been done, but girl power meant nothing more than being friends with our friends. That is what you are supposed to do with your friends, what else are you supposed to do – eat them?

Moran is unimpressed with the Spice Girls’ lack of clothing in the 1990s and the legacy this left for other female artists. “Alanis Morrisette was fully dressed, it was the time of grunge,” she says, despairingly. “PJ Harvey, Bjork – all had their clothes. I love Adele, she is the first woman for 17 years to wear sleeves and get to number one.”

This piece first appeared at The Broads’ Sheet.

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