Earlier today I removed a post from this blog for the first time ever. Oh, okay, not the first time ever. There was another post. But that was early on and I’m not saying what that was about. Anyone who’s read it will know but mustn’t tell (damn, I must keep this “trying to look mysterious” impulse under control when I’m actually trying to keep something a secret). Anyhow, the post I deleted today wasn’t the earlier post. It was one I wrote two days ago, on a men’s pregnancy guide called Goodbye Pert Breasts (…).
Like the author of the aforementioned work, I’ve had a book published under my own name. It’s on Amazon and in various university libraries and anyone who wants to criticise it is perfectly within their rights to do so. There have been a few journal reviews, and one or two academics have got a bit sniffy about certain points. Still, no one has accused the book of being actively offensive, which is nice, because I wouldn’t want to be the author of an offensive book (tip for the willfully ignorant: offensive books make people sad). All the same, it’s early days. Perhaps one day my arch nemesis will go onto Amazon in a fit of rage and write reams and reams about how useless it all is. There’s the odd dodgy area where I’d back them up, but as long as no one else has noticed yet, I’m saying nothing. I wouldn’t take any criticism personally, largely because I’ve not made myself the hero of my own book.
I feel very uncomfortable about having deleted what I wrote about Goodbye Pert Breasts for the simple reason that I meant every word of it (even down to me owning a breast pump that plays the theme tune to Byker Grove). I am genuinely bothered by what a book like this suggests about women and pregnancy, and believe there needs to be some corrective to fawning reviews from the Good Men Project. I only deleted the post because it upset one of the people mentioned in the book. Which on the face of it seems a crap reason. Am I saying it’s legitimate not to challenge an expression of misogyny on the basis that hey, misogynists have feelings too?
It’s a difficult one. While I have strong opinions about pregnancy, I’d never write a pregnancy guide as there are plenty of people far more knowledgeable than I. And even if I were an expert who identified a genuine need to write such a guide, I wouldn’t base it on my own partner and children, since then any criticism would necessarily be, or at least feel, highly personal. And is personal criticism legitimate? Surely if you have made your personal narrative the basis for a contentious argument it has to be? If not, isn’t inserting your partner and children into the story essentially using a human shield? A cowardly way of getting to say what you like about humankind, and women in particular, before announcing, primly, “hush! think of the children!” the minute anyone questions you? Or, when that doesn’t work, “jeez, doesn’t anyone know how to take a joke” (while maintaining the same “hurt” face you used during the previous argument)? (Hell, I thought the thing about the breast pump was funny! Humourless sexists!)
So to be honest (in this rather self-obsessed-but-posing-as-thoughtful post) I am a bit pissed off about having censored myself. And a bit pissed off about responding to ad hominem attacks with genuine responses only to be told I’m the one who doesn’t take criticism. And even more pissed off at passive-aggressive suggestions that the person who cries loudest deserves the last word, even when they’re the person seeking to make money from hateful literature and pushing whatever positive reviews they can find. But I’m not saying any more about it. Because that, of course, would be personal and that’s not allowed.
Anyhow, in place of a post that calls out nasty, misogynist writing about pregnancy with the use of genuine examples, I’ll have to make do with one that includes the essential points I’d like to make:
- it’s not nice to talk about a pregnant partner’s breasts as if they belong to you and will, in future, be defective
- it’s rather offensive to pretend that doing the tiniest bit of housework makes a man a hero
- it’s misogynist crap to claim that pregnant women become nasty, violent hormone-fuelled monsters
- it’s sadistic to take delight in women feeling uncomfortable in their own bodies as they change size
- it’s pathetic to assume women about to be ousted from the workplace don’t care about finances because they’re too busy worrying about mere fripperies such as buying more maternity clothes
All of this is nasty, bullying, misogynist crap. That, in essence, is what I wanted to say. But ideally with the use of evidence. Lest anyone think that we humourless feminists just make this shit up.
PS Any offensive responses will be collected and put on Twitter with the #feminism hashtag. Then I’ll set Louise Mensch onto you.