August 2013


This week the Telegraph ran a piece that purported to ask the question “has motherhood ever been so political?” Beneath the obligatory “pregnant woman in boring, inexplicably tidy office” photo, Judith Woods outlined the hard choices faced by mothers in today’s deeply unequal society.

Few people realise, for instance, that when mothers choose to stay at home “it’s not about luxury”. Nor is it about not having a job, or only having one that’s too poorly paid to cover childcare expenses. According to Woods, for these mothers “it’s about replicating the secure, traditional upbringing they had”:

In the process, they forgo holidays abroad, avoid glossy magazines full of the latest fashions they can’t afford and drive battered cars worthy of Only Fools and Horses.

I know, I know, it’s heartbreaking. But don’t use up all the tissues — there’s worse to come: (more…)

I must be getting old. Finally I get round to watching the infamous Miley Cyrus VMAs “twerking” performance and all I can think about are the Two Ronnies and John Cleese.

I wouldn’t say Miley’s We Can’t Stop/Blurred Lines medley is exactly the same as the “I know my place” sketch. Still, if you overlook the complete lack of self-awareness in the former (and the entitled smugness in the latter), Miley’s twerkathon is to race and gender what the Cleese and Ronnies line-up is to class. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous foam finger, I could imagine it being used in teaching materials in years to come. This is how bad things were if you were black and/or female in 2013.These are the hierarchies. It’s simplistic, yes, but it seems we’re not yet ready for the nuances. This is how crude and unimaginative we are:

I’m a fully clothed white man. I look down on them.

I’m a barely clothed white woman. I look down on her.

I know my place (bending down in front of a rich white woman, having my arse slapped while wearing a massive teddy bear backpack).

I’m wondering what level of delusion it takes to choreograph this sort of thing, without at least, for one small moment, asking “hang on! Just what AM I thinking?”

(more…)

One of the perks of being a mother is being able to tell a woman expecting her first baby any old crap you like. After all, what’s she going to do about it? Facing the unknown,  she’s hardly going to contradict you. You’re a mum. You know stuff. As for her? Let’s face it, she hasn’t got a clue.

Of course, this is a mean thing to do and you should, ideally, refrain from it (unless said expectant mother is especially annoying). If you already know how much uncertainty and self-doubt motherhood can bring, it’s just vindictive to set about stoking it up in someone else before she’s even got started. That’s why I can’t see any excuse whatsoever for Virginia Ironside’s current “advice” column in the Independent.

First of all, allow me to present the dilemma:

I’m about to have my first baby, but I’ve just been head-hunted by a firm that wants me to start work as soon as possible. Friends say I should wait and see how I feel before I commit to a new job but my husband has said he’s keen to look after the baby and become a house-husband  – he works freelance and he’s going through a time when he doesn’t have very much work. Can you or any of your readers offer advice on what I should do? I’m at a loss and can’t make  a decision.

What should this woman do? Well, here’s my suggestion: don’t write to Virginia Ironside. She’s not interested in your life. She just wants to use it as a springboard for promoting her vision of Perfect Motherhood. (more…)

I’ve been away from twitter for most of the past fortnight. This is not, I hasten to add, because I’ve been off on some non-intersectional white feminist flounce. Chance would be a fine thing. I’ve been camping with two small children in rainy Wales, miles away from wifi, central heating and dry clothing. Would that I had the privilege of indulging in a modern-day cyber-sulk (I’ve had to settle for grumpily hogging most of the double sleeping bag while telling my partner, bitterly, that this was all his stupid idea).

Anyhow, I’m back and I see that people still aren’t playing nicely (to use the most condescending words possible to refer to others being genuinely upset). Don’t worry, though, I’m here to sort it out. Because I’m mega-privileged but I’m also apologetic, and that makes everything alright.

(more…)

Calling all B-list celebrity mental health monitors! Do you ever fear that when it comes to ex-Nickelodeon actress Amanda Bynes’ descent into her own personal hell, you might lose track of which entertainingly mad thing happened when? Then fear no more! For MTV has created Amanda Bynes: A Timeline of Her Troubles. Never again shall you fret over whether the being “kicked out of gymnastics class over talking to herself” came before the appearing in court “looking dishevelled in an ill-fitting blonde wig, sweatshirt and sweatpants”. At last someone’s taken the time to document it all, from the racist tweets to the involuntary psychiatric hold. Phew! Guess this means we can finally relax and get back to more serious tasks. Who’s up for placing bets on the next Z-list suicide attempt?

To be honest, I’ve never been much of a Bynes fan. It’s not that I’ve never seen any of her films; who needs to? My main gripe is that I wish she’d done a bit more lashing out before getting carted off to the institution. Or perhaps if she’d self-harmed in public, that’d have been fine (providing we got pictures). This, after all, is what modern celebrity-watching is like. Waiting and hoping for famous people to implode, and then wallowing in faux concern. After all, these people need our armchair diagnoses, delivered via the Sidebar of Shame. How else would they cope?
(more…)

I’m writing this post to dispel a few myths about depression and the use of medication. I should mention, however, that I’m none of the following: psychiatrist, psychologist, pharmacist, biologist, philosopher, renowned expert in happiness and the inner workings of every human soul. That said, neither is Giles Fraser, the Guardian’s Loose Canon, but he hasn’t let that stop him. Besides, unlike Fraser, I’m in a permanent fog of drug-induced pseudo-contentment, hence I’m even less likely to demonstrate any degree of restraint.

In a piece entitled Taking pills for unhappiness reinforces the idea that being sad is not human, Fraser rehashes many common stereotypes about depression, mental illness and SSRIs. To be fair, he doesn’t do it quite as nastily as some people. He’s no Julie Burchill, for instance (sorry, Giles!). Nonetheless, making tired, half-baked claims in a seemingly well-meant manner can be even more damaging than just being an out-and-out bully. (more…)

To misquote Ghandi, Robbie Williams and the great Mike Buchanan, “first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then you fight them, then – well, then you get told to get back in the kitchen, make them a sandwich and iron their shirt”. Sound familiar? It should do if you’re a feminist. “Get back in the kitchen” – a command that even my dad thought was a bit sexist in 1976 – is back in vogue. Got embroiled in a heated online debate? Getting a bit too uppity and clever for the likes of your designated mansplainer? Well, then, it’s “back in the kitchen” time for you, missy!

As argumentative techniques go, I have to say, this one’s a total bummer. Men only ever say it – or one of its many minor domestic servitude-related variants – to annoy you. No other reason for it. It’s not as though you can literally make your opponent a cup of tea and deliver it via a tweet, or iron his shirt and present it, crease-free, in your next CiF comment. They just want to make you cross in a really minor, low-level way that isn’t permitted to spill over into full-on rage because that would just be silly. I mean, seriously! “Make me a sandwich”? You want to install a twitter alarm button for that? (Actually, I do. The stupid domestic requests alert. Only it would be misused and you’d end up barred from all social media just for saying you fancied a custard cream, so it’s never going to happen.) Anyhow, people only say “get back in the kitchen” etc. to rile you but the trouble is, it works. Then you get extra-cross at yourself for feeling riled. Then you get even more cross with yourself for being meta-cross with yourself (or maybe that’s just me). Whatever, it’s really annoying.

(more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,713 other followers