I will warn you now: I am writing this post in a bad mood. An exceptionally bad mood. In fact, it’s so bad I’m going to give it capitals: it is a full-on, in-your-face Bad Mood. And I wish I could say it was about something serious. World poverty and exploitation, for instance, while I’m sitting on a train to London writing on a netbook, meeting agenda before me and Pumpkin café cappuccino to the left. But no. I am in a Bad Mood but there is no moral authority behind it. On the contrary, today it’s All About Me.
That description of me I just gave – I’m not sure it’s set the scene fully. I’d also like to mention that I’m wearing a red Country Casuals dress – very “Special K woman gets a promotion” – and am rocking some serious black heels. The kids are in nursery and breakfast club, and Mummy’s off to do some serious business. But first she thought she’d read the Independent (seeing as we’re going for hard copies today and not the free stuff you can read any day online).
I was in the Bad Mood before I opened the newspaper. I have had a complete pig of a morning making sure everyone gets off to the right place, with no help from my partner because hey, he’s now got a job to go to (while my own job – still the main-earning one – is starting to feel like career woman posturing being kindly indulged by a benevolent world which has decided to grant me a moment’s “equality”). I feel put-upon and resentful. In fact, I am wondering if deep down, childish resentment is one of the main reasons why I blog. Not because I care about the world or anyone else. All this “wanting a voice” – it’s just wanting to complain when there’s nowhere else to go. Anyhow, I was in a Bad Mood before I even got to the following headline, from a piece by Laurie Penny: “Women “having it all” is a middle-class myth”. You don’t say, Laurie. Are we really still on about that?
Penny could really do better than this because this is the same sodding article we’ve been reading since 1978 (I possibly exaggerate – I was three at the time – but it’s probably not that far off). Here are some of the classic anti-feminism-as-real-feminsim boxes it ticks:
- presents feminism as having been put off-course by the concerns of women who are “independently wealthy, white and upper-middle class” (what, like those privileged morons in The Women’s Room? Yeah, they can fuck right off)
- plays off the suffering of “poorer women in domestic work” against the petty concerns of those in “high-salaried, full-time careers” – who might employ them! Crikey! (I hope Penny copy-edited this piece herself – otherwise that’s, like, exploitation)
- discusses proper feminism – with “serious campaigns for universal free childcare, for wages for housework, and for a welfare state that could allow everyone, not just women, to balance life and work” – as though no one now gives a shit. Especially not the wealthy women. Who are all feminists, except they aren’t. Or something.
Well. I was as pissed off as everyone else by the sense of privilege and entitlement pervading Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s Atlantic article, but can we give this a rest? All the sodding time, the same old false dichotomy. The one that trivialises the authority of women who gain positions of power (the patriarchal sell-outs) and does fuck all to help anyone else, beyond intimating that feminism is a bit crap really because some women have dared to be self-interested.
Penny writes scathingly about feminism being reduced to a fight for “the rights of a minority of women to be admitted into a sexist labour market whilst managing the school run on the side”. I think it’s this phrasing that gets to me the most. That’ll be women like me (and actually, managing the school run alongside early-morning meetings is a total pisser if you’re trying to “look professional” i.e. not get your throat cut in the next round of redundancies. Oh, but at least Penny would like me then).
I am white, but not independently wealthy nor upper-middle class. I don’t employ a cleaner (but I sodding well would if I fell into either of the previous categories, like a shot). I honestly do not get the impression that feminism is reduced to faffing around to cater for my needs. It would be highly inappropriate if it were, but it isn’t. I don’t earn enough to fall into the “success” category that Penny derides. I work not as an indulgence but because I need to. It’s got sod all to do with fulfillment or entitlement. Today I have put on heels to attend a meeting and thus by Penny’s standards I’m one of those “high-heeling their way up the corporate ladder”. What a way to ridicule just the simple act of a woman going to work.
Penny claims to only have the best interests of feminism at heart:
Without wishing to sound like a conspiracy theorist, if I had to invent a way to undermine feminism as a socially useful movement, I’d set up a ridiculous standard of personal and professional attainment, one that would be unachievable for the vast majority of women [...] After I’d set up this impossible standard, I’d be sure to make women feel like failures for not attaining it.
Well. That’s novel. Do you know what I would do, though? I’d set up ridiculous standard of moral authority, one that would be unachievable for the vast majority of human beings. After I’d set up this impossible standard, I’d create caricatures of all the women who didn’t measure up and claim that these days, they were the sole focus of feminism and its concerns. I reckon that would be pretty effective.
Anyhow, this caught me on a Bad Day, in a Bad Mood. Perhaps we should just blame a lack of sleep. Or failing that, Andy Murray.