Moran Mania: An Interlude with Caitlin Moran
Interview and Article By: Samantha Langsdale
We Geeked This Creator: Sofia Hericson
I had a hard time preparing for this interview. No, that’s not true, it wasn’t hard but I genuinely labored over a few really crucial aspects. One, Caitlin Moran was Interviewer of the Year in 2011; what do you ask the master of interviewing in an interview? Two, and this was only slightly less pressing, what was I going to wear? I weighed my options carefully–want to look like a woman, but probably not the occasion to ‘slag out’–and ended up wearing a finely tailored dress with two things I know Caitlin loves: tights and sturdy boots. I’m not sure my interview questions were quite as on point as my wardrobe, but I can say with absolute conviction that the 11 minutes and 27 seconds I spent with Caitlin Moran were some of the most thrilling and invigorating of my life.
Caitlin Moran (pronounced Cat-lin; no, really, check the website) is a high-octane, foul-mouthed, wish-she-was-your-big-sis type of woman and from the minute we entered the room, there was no holding her back.
‘Oooh! Great outfits! Wow’, she effused, first holding us at arm’s length to get a good look, and then folding us into warm hugs. ‘Great, you look great’, she concluded, planting full kisses on Sofia’s cheek and then mine.
I’ll admit that already at this stage, I was struggling to keep from levitating and was willing myself to concentrate on the pleas of the event organizer: ‘Just don’t surprise her with anything. You know, don’t like ask her for nail clippings or parts of her hair. Try to be… you know…’ he paused, trying to be delicate.
‘Professional?’ I answered helpfully.
‘Yes, that’s right! Be professional.’
Brilliant, so here I was being embraced by Caitlin Moran who had not yet stopped talking, who had kissed me on the cheek, gasped at my outfit choice (score one for me!), and I had to remember to ‘be professional’. Jeebus. I started to shake. Eyeing me closely, the event organizer asked if I wanted a glass of wine.
‘Yes, please,’ I said without my usual gusto when offered booze.
‘Yah!’ Caitlin chimed in, ‘look at all this! Snacks, booze… look, crisps! And biscuits, everybody loves those. Please help yourself! I didn’t even have to pay for all this, isn’t that marvelous? Eat something, seriously!’ She was rapidly snacking on fruit, cheese, crisps and white wine, occasionally toying with her ‘fake’ cigarette-substitute, insisting that it wasn’t the nicotine to which she was addicted, but rather the act of smoking.
Sofia shook her head, I could only respond by bringing my glass, trembling, to my lips and slurping half of it down in one go. All the while, Caitlin kept talking. Talking to the event organizer, talking to her agent, talking at Sofia, and talking to Peggy Orenstein, a journalist from the New York fricking Times. Oh god, oh god, oh god.
‘So!’ Caitlin said, turning her attention to me, Sof, and the bowl of crisps, ‘tell me about your project.’
I did the brave thing of course and immediately took advantage of the fact that Sofia Hericson, NOT ME, was the founder of We Geeked This and was therefore the only reasonable candidate to speak at that moment. And she busted it out of the park. Sofia told Caitlin how WGT had started, what our successes had been, where we had failed, and how we planned to reinvigorate our efforts with a new quarterly format, beginning with our principal printing in September (WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WE GEEKED THIS MAGAZINE!!!).
‘This is a magazine about women,’ Sofia concluded, ‘it will be for women, about women, and produced by women and men who identify themselves as feminists.’ Boom.
‘Excellent,’ said CatMo, taking a healthy gulp of wine, ‘So, ask me some fuckin’ questions! Let’s do this.’
Cue nervous rummaging in bag; awkward fumbling with my until-then unused voice memo app; and more terrified trembling made all the more obvious because of the juvenile looking piece of A4 upon which all of my questions were penned now fluttering in my hand. Shit.
‘Can I record this?’ I asked weakly.
‘God yes!’ Caitlin roared, ‘I never know why people ask. How the fuck would we get on with things otherwise?’
Yes, well quite. It’s just that in academia… well… I mean.. mumble, mumble, mumble.
‘Oh, of course. I suppose journalists are very different creatures in that way,’ she went on, ‘we just pull the recorders out of our pockets and crack on with it.’ A bite of cheese, more wine and a pull on the strange fake cigarette.
‘Absolutely,’ I said, trying to sound like part of the club, ‘more than anything, I hate the sound of my own voice so I would definitely want to be asked before being recorded!’
Ha, yes, that’s it Langsdale. Crack jokes. Make the funniest female writer in the UK pity your fledgling attempts at humor. But you know what? She laughed and it’s fan-fucking-tastic. It’s gravelly, like her speaking voice, but her laugh bounces and floats half an octave higher. Yessssssss.
And then I died.
No, I’m kidding. Obvi. But I did manage to finally get some momentum going and she answered all of my questions like a fucking champ. Of course she said exactly what you would expect her to say–my questions were geared towards the part of CatMo we all love best, her feminism–but every answer was delivered with astonishing verve and at a hundred miles a minute.
In our interview, and in the subsequent talk she gave to a gallery absolutely RAMMED with flocks of her feminist fans, Caitlin Moran gabbed and gushed and laughed with full force. When it came time to wrap up our interview, CatMo insisted that I be given a chance to ask my last question, (gently) mocked the event organizer when he became nervous about the time, and apologized to me by offering to answer any and all follow-up questions I might have. Did I mention the fact that she actually answered the last question anyway? This woman does nothing in halves. Though the story of her life is now as well-known as her feelings on Brazilians, Caitlin’s lack of a formal education matters only insofar as it offers hope to anyone with ambition and desire. Her wit is ever-present, it’s what she’s famous for, but the beautiful nuance of her intellect is understated and always dissolving before your eyes. It feels almost as if the minute she notices you admiring the individual stars in the galaxy of her thoughts, she throws the star ship CatMo into hyperdrive, and you are thrown back in a blast of sparkling sarcasm, polemic, and raucous humor. Interviewing her is a bit like trying to get a butterfly to sit for a portrait. The woman is absolutely manic.
The talk she gave, chaired by Times journalist Sophie Heawood, was similarly rambunctious but it nevertheless effectively delivered Moran’s own special brand of ‘Fuck-yah!’ feminism. One is sometimes tempted to call her an old-school feminist: body hair can be brilliant, feminism is about equality, Peter Stringfellow will never be able to say something which convinces that he is pro-woman, and vaginas are the miraculous Magic 8 Balls which lend women direction. To leave it at that however, would be to overlook Caitlin’s hunger for innovation, imagination, and bravery. Moran is unafraid to ‘invent some new shit’ when the old paradigms have failed and she genuinely believes that scrutinizing and judging everything women manage to do or experience helps absolutely no one. Her mission is undoubtedly female, feminine, and for women but she is interested in human rights, in universal politeness, and she will ardently insist that she really ‘quite likes her husband’.
The power Moran held over the gallery was palpable. The talk sold out in 20 minutes, before the organizers had a chance to hang posters to advertise. Word spread entirely through social media: the amorphous realm of which Caitlin Moran is undoubtedly empress. The women (and oh, about 7 men) who came to hear her speak filled every seat, stood in the corners, and camped on the floors. They literally came to kneel at the feet of this unlikely guru. There is no denying the juggernaut which is Caitlin Moran, or the mania she inspires amongst young women and men who are thoroughly unsatisfied with the way this world works. CatMo chalks her wisdom up to ‘common sense’, and during the talk, affirmed her belief that academic feminists were not the only ones who could claim the F-word. Instantly, you could see a vast majority of the crowd shifting uneasily in their seats, hoping their Gender Studies degrees weren’t poking out of their handbags. I should know, I was one of them. Even in spite of this assertion–that academia does not solely define the essence of feminism–Caitlin managed, in her characteristically cavalier way, to conclude the talk so that everyone belonged, so that everyone mattered in her grand scheme to change the world:
‘I’m a feminist because I have daughters’, she stated, ‘And because I can’t be with them always–mostly because they keep trying to get away from me–the only way I can protect them from the truly heinous is to completely change the world, just a little bit. And I will, I am out to change the world.’
To see the rest of this piece, and to read the transcript of Samantha’s interview with Caitlin Moran, check out the first printing of We Geeked This Magazine set to launch in September of 2012. More importantly, WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE DETAILS AND WAYS TO HELP THE WGT PROJECT!!!