14/07/2011 08:55 BST | Updated 12/09/2011 06:12 BST

How to Be a Woman - Book Review

I often think to myself that it would have been so much simpler to have lived in a time when women didn't have as many choices as they do now. "Spoiled for choice" is not a phrase to take lightly.

"I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me." ~ Elizabeth Bennett

I often think to myself that it would have been so much simpler to have lived in a time when women didn't have as many choices as they do now. "Spoiled for choice" is not a phrase to take lightly.

To be honest I don't think attitudes have changed that much towards women since the 1800s -- there are some people who support our right to have choices, but there is still that air of expectation and that bitter aftertaste that comes with not being able to reduce us to body parts or fit us into gender-biased roles sometimes.

I hate the stigma attached to feminism. Some men flinch at the word, associating it with militant, aggressive man-hating women. Just like I for example dislike religious extremists or those who push their beliefs onto others. From vegan diets, VLCDs, political beliefs or those species of mothers who treat it like a competitive sport... I love passion but there are some levels of fervour which encourage a person to convert others and discriminate against those who hold steadfast in their own beliefs.

I recently read Caitlin Moran's amazing book How To Be A Woman and though I was not unfamiliar with her - I follow her on Twitter, I read her Lady Gaga interview... I am now definitely a huge fan.

She proposes that we be honest about those aspects of being a woman which we have through history become conditioned to repress, and even more refreshingly for a feminist she suggests that we "be polite".

Manners are a big thing with me. I have them and I respond well to others who use them. I think that those who have charming manners are pleasant to be around and that those who are respectful and courteous are far more powerful than those who rule with aggression and dominance. Humility is also an underrated quality. How often do we say "they're SO down to earth!" ? it's never used negatively.

Having manners does not detract attention from a person's power or make them look weak, in fact that degree of control and discipline suggests even greater strength. A first impression of someone with manners will always be good.

This approach can only be beneficial to women. In business men don't like us to be emotional or aggressive. We're not respected if we are - so in being polite will it encourage others to be polite in return? Perhaps.

When in a conversation with someone who uses measured tones, it's impossible to have a heated argument without sounding ridiculous. Respect is not given to the ridiculous. In fact controlling the tone of a discussion is an effective strategy during conflict resolution - something we advocate at QA in our Managing Conflict course.

I recently re-read The Female Eunuch and The Second sex, two books I read at the age of 12 when my thirst for knowledge and search for female role models began to set in. Germaine Greer is astoundingly intelligent. There is no question that she leaves no stone unturned in her research and continues to evolve to this day. But can you imagine having a laugh and confiding with her over a bottle of wine and a slice of chocolate cake?

Caitlin Moran's book is like discovering a new best friend and a Depeche Mode style personal Jesus that you wish to god you had as a teenager so you'd feel normal and not otherworldly.

Speaking of "the other" and Simone De Beauvoir... "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman" this is true. When I have a daughter I will buy her gender neutral toys and clothes but I will also teach her what it is to be feminine because whilst some argue that we're conditioned to be Women by society and this is A Bad Thing because of course we do tend to have to fit into or compete in a man's world... I think being a woman is something which is earned - literally with blood, sweat and tears.

Simone suggested that our greatest challenge was in not being "the other" in not being a mysterious second sex but in sharing what it is to be a woman, what our problem are and allowing other men and women to help us with them.

That is why women in the 1800s wanted a vote, that's why we want equal pay, that's why Caitlin Moran wants us to be honest about and celebrate being a woman. Every aspect of being a woman.

Ladies be honest with the world. Stand up, be counted and be proud. Qualify what you want - it helps you commit to achieving it and it helps others to support you if they know how you feel. Having choices is one thing, feeling like we can take them is another and sometimes we do need support or approval in order to take them.

And more importantly buy How To Be A Woman, it really is a rollocking good read!