Stylist Live

“Women's bodies are public property”: Caitlin Moran on womanhood, abortion and female-only quotas

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Harriet Hall
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Fearsomely funny feminist writer, Caitlin Moran, joined journalist, Sophie Heawood, today -  the first day of Stylist Live - to share her thoughts on femininity in the unique manner that has seen her amass a huge global fan base.

The author and journalist outlined the key problems facing women today, from the physical space they inhabit, to the issues surrounding abortion, saying that, ultimately, women’s bodies are ‘public property.’

"Women do not feel that they own their bodies,” said the author. 

“A woman's body is public property to a certain extent - we are constantly encouraged to rate our bodies and are constantly apologising for them - for being too smelly or too hairy.”

“If men's bodies were treated in the way that women's bodies are, there would be uproar,” said Caitlin.

She went on to explain that this was directly affecting the way women live - from minor day-to-day behaviours, like walking down the street, or taking a seat on the tube, to more impacting issues, such as abortion. 

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“We walk down the street trying to take up as little space as possible. You don't see women spreading out like men,” said Caitlin. 

 “We must take up our space.”

The author of no-holds-barred contemporary feminist manifesto, How to be a Woman, revealed that she is encouraging her two daughters to spread out ‘as men do’, saying:

“The one thing I've tried to teach my girls is take up your space. We are 52% of the population we should be taking 52% of the space.”

Caitlin said that this attitude of women’s bodies being public property leads women to approach major decisions and events in their own lives with added secrecy, in the belief that they are ‘protecting’ themselves.

However, the effect that this withheld behaviour has upon women can be catastrophic.

“When women keep secrets it works against us,” she said.

“We think that we are protecting ourselves - from self loathing to eating disorders- but what happens is that first, that exhausts us, and second, it conceals the reality of our lives. We have to get past the shame.”

The Times columnist argued that this secrecy approach is most problematic when it comes to the topic of abortion, and to counteract it, women must not be afraid to tell their stories - commending the most recent #ShoutMyAbortion campaign, which saw women worldwide, taking to social media to tell their stories. 

“With abortion people need to speak up about their experience”.

“When women aren't allowed control over their fertility their lives grind to a halt. Abortion exists whether it's legal or not, and the same amount of abortions happen legally and illegally every year.”

The author said that abortion is far from something they should be ashamed of, but “It's one of the wisest and most noble choices you could ever make.”

“If you look at all the awful things that happen in the world, it's because people have a terrible childhood. We need to make sure people can make that decision themselves,” she said.

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Turning the topic to how these issues can be tackled in the political world, the author said that, as a founding member of the new Women’s Equality Party, she believes that the only answer to the inequalities faced by women in society is to introduce female only quotas. 

“it’s a brilliant idea,” she said. “Clearly we need quotas.”

Defending her opinion against the idea that such quotas would be positive discrimination, Caitlin said:

“The argument against quotas is that would mean people who weren't good would get jobs and I would say we already have that system!”

Without such quotas, Caitlin said, there remain only pioneering women, which the writer argued are “very rarely the start of a huge vanguard of women,” because “they are kept isolated.”

“it’s the only way to break the cycle.”

“We weren't born like this - this isn't how it's supposed to be".

“This is just an idea that got enacted. So if we have an idea that's better than that- which we do- we can make change- and we are.”

Caitlin Moran was speaking on day one of Stylist Live, our four day urban festival of culture, catwalks and cocktails, from 15-18 October. Click here to buy your tickets - we can't wait to meet you.