I’m not especially surprised by the report that only 18% of UK television presenters over the age of 50 are women. Like most people, I occasionally watch TV and see a world in which craggy, authoritative men lead conversations on serious matters, ably assisted in this by smoother-skinned, brightly dressed women who “add a bit of colour”. Of course, such women are capable of doing far more; even so, the discrepancy between them and their male counterparts is distracting. You know at first glance where the priorities lie. Pretty woman may be just as eloquent as craggy man, but how can you believe her, knowing that in five years’ time she’ll be on the scrapheap, replaced by a younger model? The face you can trust can’t be a female one; she won’t be around long enough. Women curdle when they’re placed in the spotlight for too long. (more…)
May 16, 2013
May 9, 2013
Another day, another clever clogs arrives to tell the feminist masses why they’re fucking up. This time it’s the turn of Martha Gill. Like Charlotte Raven before her, Gill offers a rare insight into the feminist mindset. This is due to the fact that not only is she a feminist herself, but she’s amazingly clever and totally ace at writing. Most feminists are, as Gill so cleverly notes, thick as pigshit and rubbish with words. Thus we should all thank her for her guidance (come on, sheep-like feminist masses! Bleat in gratitude!).
In a piece that is ostensibly on “the perils of Groupthink” Gill makes two timely observations. The first is that every single “online feminist” (i.e. those feminists who are several classes down from a “print feminist”) writes in exactly the same style. And that style is … Well, let’s be honest, it’s the style in which Vagenda write. And Vagenda write in that style deliberately, perhaps because they’re writing about the very magazines whose approach they mimic. It doesn’t take a genius to notice this – Vagenda spell it out for you - but still. Well done, Gill. That’s probably a good few young feminists you’ve embarrassed out of writing on the things they care about, simply because they happen to adopt what you consider to be an overly stylized voice. Sod ‘em, though. It’s all very well finding a voice in this sexist world, but make sure it doesn’t sound too jarring to the more sophisticated feminist ear. (more…)
May 8, 2013
Recently The Guardian has published a number of articles on the relaunch of feminist magazine Spare Rib. I have read these and, in the interests of being charitable and open-minded, tried not to find them annoying. I’ve tried really hard. Really, really, really hard. After all, this is feminism! It’s hardly the Daily Mail! But then I read this and I just gave up.
What could be wrong with a magazine that goes against the values of Grazia, Glamour et al? What indeed? Not much, I’d like to think, and yet this whole thing really winds me up and the sodding thing’s not even published. I guess it’s the presumptuousness of it. The idea that Spare Rib is somehow “needed” because common-or-garden feminists have ballsed it all up with their intersectional in-fighting, obsession with Pussy Riot and/or misguided belief that Cosmo remains the Holy Grail for women’s liberation. Such an attitude feels a bit, well, patronizing. (more…)
April 30, 2013
This morning I was pissed off because my house is a tip, I’m behind at work and the kitchen ceiling is leaking because the sealant round the bath has gone. None of these constitute massive worries in the grand scheme of things, but they’re enough to make me think “I’m a bit rubbish at this whole ‘being an adult’ business”. In the grand hierarchy of privileged people, I’m not exactly what you’d call one of the alphas. Or so I thought …
This evening I discovered that I am in fact an Alpha XX female. Who’d have thought it? Go me! Watch that glass ceiling smash! (more…)
April 21, 2013
People, behold! For I have made a great discovery. I have in my hands this very minute the worst diet book EVER!
Now admittedly, I’ve not read all the other diet books available. In fact, I haven’t read very many at all. I’ve been on loads of diets but tend to go for kamikaze, self-devised ones (I might self-publish a book of them one day). However, I fail to believe that any other diet book can possibly be as bad as Dukan: Love Your Curves.
I started reading this book while waiting in a queue at the post office. My local post office happens to be inside WHSmiths so I decided to grab a random book I had no intention of purchasing to distract me during the wait. Rest assured I was under no illusions that Dukan: Love Your Curves would be a self-esteem boosting tome that would encourage me to adore my own arse. I’ve fallen for this crap before. I’m wise to it. Two years ago I bought Gary Taubes’ The Diet Delusion, thinking it would strengthen my resolve not to buy into this diet nonsense any longer. Turns out The Diet Delusion is merely the belief that any diet other than a low-carb one is the way forward. It’s rather like if Richard Dawkins were to stop midway through The God Delusion and go “aha! But as for fairies, you should totally believe in them! I do, don’t I, Tink?” (more…)
April 18, 2013
This morning I took down a post I’d written the night before. No one asked me to and I didn’t feel particularly bullied or intimidated into doing so. I took it down because I tried really hard to achieve a particular objective and I failed, badly. I know writing stuff isn’t magic and most of it makes no difference anyhow but sometimes, the feeling that you rarely, if ever, have genuine exchanges with people who see things differently – and that all that really happens is you gain the approval of people who would have agreed with you anyhow – is just a bit grim.
I don’t think there is anything at all I can add to debates on feminism, twitter, intersectionality, privilege and bullying – other than that I think no one else can add much, either. It has reached a point where, in essence, in order to try and defend people I like without appearing to be “one of them” or “taking sides” I feel the only option is to defend them badly, with so many qualifications and ifs and buts that what I’m writing becomes impenetrable (or rather, it becomes terribly nuanced, so nuanced that anyone who so wishes can see a “hidden message” – and such a message can mean different things to different people). Hence there’s no point. If every single argument you make has no value because it’s just the kind of argument you would make – because your argument itself demonstrates your bias, hence invalidating itself – then there is absolutely no point in making an effort to connect. You might as well just patronize people by pretending to agree with them all the time or shut up. (more…)
April 12, 2013
Over the past few days I’ve been deciding what I think of Femen (this has involved a lot bra unfastening and re-fastening while I make my mind up). On the one hand I’m quite drawn to the idea of knocking down great oligarchs with a rebellious, well-aimed tit swing. And on the other I don’t want to impose boob-centric values on others. Argh! Will it be okay if I expose just one breast? Come to think of it, should I just dig out one of my old nursing bras for ease of selective flashing? Finally, I’ve come down on the side of covering up (even though I’m writing this in the bath, so I’m not actually wearing anything. Just saying). What others choose to do with their bodies is their business – or rather it isn’t, but self-aggrandising, racist rhetoric isn’t going to change this. (more…)
April 9, 2013
Sexism: it’s wrong, right? But what if it’s in the name of a greater good? I find myself pondering this, as I knew I would, following the death of Margaret Thatcher, knowing that each time her legacy is analysed some small part of me will be on the alert, waiting for all those little reminders that she was just a woman after all. I know it will make me angry but also that I’ll hate myself for feeling this way; after all, they’re just words. Sexism kills, sure, but so did Thatcherism, so isn’t this one scenario in which we’re allowed to call it quits?
Like many people of my generation I have a resentment of Thatcher that is at least in part manufactured. I didn’t feel it when it mattered. I was too young and besides, the north of England I grew up in was rural. We didn’t learn anger until BSE and foot and mouth crept up on us later. During the 1980s, I was blissfully unaware of politics, or rather I thought it was a kind of sitcom, genuinely believing that Thatcher and Michael Foot were married and hammily acting out their strife before a delighted audience. I can’t even remember when I stopped thinking this; disturbingly late, for sure. Once I did work out Thatcher was Prime Minister, I couldn’t help feeling it was at least a good thing that she was a woman, not because it made her a better person but because it ought to make everyone else less bothered about sex and gender. I thought a lot of stupid things when I was younger. (more…)
April 7, 2013
If you are a feminist it can be difficult to understand the position of any woman who isn’t. Gloria Steinem claimed “a woman has two choices: either she’s a feminist or a masochist” (what this says about the choices of feminists who are into BDSM I do not know). Julie Burchill, meanwhile, has argued that “there is a short and sharp way to deal with women who say they are not feminists”:
If a woman answers ‘no’ to the question ‘Are you a feminist?’, she should immediately be stripped of her voting rights, her right to institute divorce, her legal protection from domestic violence and marital rape – oh, and her pay should be cut to 19% less than that of her male colleagues. Then she could lead the carefree, non-ball-breaking life she so desires, and not be forced to take advantage of all those unpleasant and exhausting social gains which those nasty butch feminists in the 20th century forced on her.
To which one is tempted to respond “oh, sod off, you attention-seeking transphobe”. Yet could it be that in this one instance Burchill has a point? Shouldn’t those who refuse to acknowledge their oppression be made to experience its full force? After all, aren’t they complicit in every other woman’s oppression, too? (more…)
April 2, 2013
On the same day that the Guardian frets over whether feminism has been failing working class women, Joanna Moorhead produces a Comment is Free piece which, to my mind, epitomizes a lot of what feminists of all classes should seek to avoid. And yes, I realise how judgmental that sounds. But really, while feminism can touch upon many issues – from violence to body hair, from education to glossy magazines – if there’s one thing I don’t think it should be about, it’s enabling “big dreamers” to have “big lives”. This is a drive towards equality we’re dealing with, not an X-Factor trailer. Is that what, for some commentators, it boils down to? A “successful” life, one in which you’ve found the key to Sunday supplement-perfect living? One in which you’ve risen above all the little people with their piddly little dreams? The truth is, it all sounds a bit “strivers vs skivers” to me. Shouldn’t we be asking for more – and be demanding it for everyone?
Moorhead is worried about work-life balance. Well, aren’t we all. It’s a global issue. Most of us would rather be “living” than working, unless we’ve got an ace job – which most of us haven’t. Yet Moorhead still pushes that form of feminism which rests on the idea that without workplace gender discrimination, we’d all be choosing between a brilliant career or a brilliant “life” (understood in heteronormative terms as husband and kids). And what then? Well, then the only real “problem” would be that, ooh, it’d be so hard to choose which to focus on most! Ace career or ace husband? It’s worse than the classic Daddy or chips dilemma! So why not, says sage mother-of-four Moorhead, have a bit of both? Why not indeed! Here’s what she advises her daughters (“especially the university ones”):
Number one, plan your life (if the plans go wrong, you can always re-plan; but it’s the people without a plan who are most often unfulfilled). Number two, see your life in the round: happiness doesn’t come down to just one thing. It’s not just about a great job, or a great relationship, or a happy home, or a gaggle of kids; it’s about many of those things (and, incidentally, you’ll rarely have all your ducks lined up in a row, so don’t expect to be fulfilled on every front at every point in your life; you have to be adaptable, you have to keep striving). Number three, follow your dreams: don’t be afraid to dream big, in any part of your life. Big dreamers have big lives.
And yet, the trouble is, how much money, education and support will all this dreaming, striving, adapting, planning and re-planning cost? How easy is it to dream big when you’re nothing to fall back on? What if you don’t have any “ducks” to line up at all? It’s not that women are afraid to follow their dreams, it’s that they have low-paid jobs they can’t afford to leave, violent partners they can’t escape, children they can’t afford to send to nursery, pregnancies they don’t want and can’t choose to terminate …. Feminism does – or at least should – offer some route out of this, but it’s not by encouraging individuals to buck up and dream.
To my mind, feminism is about women having the same rights as men – over both mind and body – and enabling them to live with respect and without fear. Money plays a big part in this, of course. As long as the majority of low-paid and unpaid work is done by women our freedom to make decisions, change our environment and / or escape abuse will be limited. Nevertheless, this sits within a broader context of gross and growing financial inequality. The economic disadvantage experienced by women on a global scale overlaps and intersects with geographical, racial and class inequalities. If we’re asking why we’re locked out of the boardroom, shouldn’t we also be asking whether there should be a boardroom at all? If we’re asking why privileged women can’t have the options open to privileged men, shouldn’t it bother us that no one else has them, either?
I don’t think middle-class feminists are bad people – after all, I’m one and clearly I care about the issues which directly affect my life. When people offer a blanket apology for “middle-class feminism” I get suspicious. If you can’t be bothered to distinguish between valid and invalid criticism of the feminism for which women of your class have stood, how seriously are you taking the criticism in the first place? What matters most – saying sorry for everything because you want working-class feminists to like you or focussing on what it is you represent that really does cause them the greatest harm? It’s hard for me to tease all these things apart. After all, there are experiences I lack, privileges I don’t recognise and an ego I want to protect. But when I read Moorhead’s piece, I do think that’s the feminism I don’t want to stand for – and for which at times I most definitely, without even noticing it, still do.
April 1, 2013
I am writing this in my study, sat before front of a state-of-the-art computer, a cup of coffee in one hand, a cute, plump baby in the other, a phone cradled on my shoulder. You may therefore be wondering how I am capable of typing. Rest assured, I am. For I am a middle-class feminist and I am Living The Dream.
Unfortunately, this morning a shadow was cast over my perfect, glass-ceiling-shattering existence. According to a report in the Guardian, “feminism has let down working-class women”. And by “feminism” we are of course meant to understand the movement which has enabled women like me (see pic) to have it all while doing fuck all for anyone else. In response to this article, I have but one eloquent, apologetic, middle-class thing to say: fuck you, Guardian. If you cared at all about women – any women – you’d fuck right off with this pathetic attempt to use one group of woman to undermine another, without any regard for accuracy, nuance or constructive criticism. (more…)
March 26, 2013
Unless you are an MRA and therefore hate all feminists, you’re probably amendable to the idea that some of them are nice and some of them aren’t. But how can you tell who’s who? In a recent piece for the New Statesman, Sadie Smith offers some tips for amateur feminist spotters: the nice ones – those who represent “good, honest feminism in all its manifestations” – tend to be western women who were especially active in the latter half of the twentieth century, whereas the nasty ones are lurking on twitter right this very minute (shh! They might hear you!).
So, we know who’s who, but what’s the difference? The nice feminists are often of high status (e.g. Camille Paglia, Luce Irigaray) and while they might say some strange things, their familiarity breeds a patronising presumption of niceness (a sort of “oh, that’s just Camille having another of her funny turns…”). The nasty feminists, on the other hand, might not have the same status but they are mean. Mean, mean, mean. So it’s best not to provoke them (otherwise it’s “intersectional this” and “check your privilege that”. Honestly, they never stop!). (more…)
March 20, 2013
Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, even someone who believes in “rape shoes” and accuses Katie Price of being “Vichy France” can have moments of feminist glory. I thought this when reading Caitlin Moran’s latest Times column, which is on the subject of Seth MacFarlane’s 2013 Oscars misogyny-fest. In it, she looks at all the excuses that are trotted out for “ironic bigotry; faux misogyny; pretend racism; satirical homophobia” and calls bullshit on the claim that white, male, heterosexual comedians are merely “acknowledging the historical elephant in the room”:
Here’s the problem: in all these instances, the comedians were not acknowledging an elephant that wandered into the room – they brought it into the room. All artists start with an empty page, or a silence – and this is what they wanted to talk about. Over and over.
As Moran points out, there is no need for men to remind women that sexism used to exist and hey, just in case you’ve forgotten, this is what it looked and felt like. What’s so offensive about the whole thing isn’t just that these men are still being sexist, but that they’re using such a self-congratulatory argument to get themselves off the hook: “look, I was only parodying what people used to do to you for real”. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if one day some clever-clever rapist were to claim he was merely performing a slapstick satire of the days when men used to have sex with women without their consent (it’s hardly his fault if his victim was too unsophisticated to realise it was all a postmodern joke). (more…)
March 12, 2013
Every now and then, fashion-y types decide that the most fashionable thing ever is to pretend to be anti-fashion. Witness, for instance, the so-called “anti-fashion” movement of the 1990s (which, from what I can work out from Wikipedia, involved dressing as though you were either very poor or in a CK One advert, providing you were both thin and not actually poor). I’ve always thought this kind of thing was not just bollocks, but snobby bollocks, the kind of thing a manipulative playground bully would try on (“wear this! Ha-ha! Fooled ya! What we actually meant was wear the precise opposite! It’s un-fashion!”). But hey, what do I know? I’m properly unfashionable, as opposed to being fashionably unfashionable, which is something completely different. (more…)
March 1, 2013
When Google’s Sergey Brin suggested that using a smartphone was “kind of emasculating”, he no doubt didn’t mean it to sound as ridiculously sexist as it did. He probably just meant “it’s a bit silly” or “it makes you look a bit of a prat” (still not a great thing for a Google boss to say, but an improvement at the very least). Unfortunately, I and countless others can’t help reading his actual words and hearing them translated into the language of almost every boy we remember from primary school: “Urgh! Smartphones are for girls! Girls are rubbish and smartphones are too!” (to be fair, smartphones didn’t exist when I was at primary school, nor even your basic mobile. But they said this kind of thing about skipping ropes, so it’s plausible that they’d have said it about potentially outdated technology, too).
February 25, 2013
I have in my time been called a “humourless feminist”. Obviously this is something of which I’m very proud. I think if you’re not called humourless at least once – preferably by someone who’s also speculating on where you are in your menstrual cycle – then you’re doing feminism wrong (this rule applies regardless of whether or not you’re someone who actually menstruates. I’m pretty sure my partner’s been accused of having PMS in his time, although clearly not by me). (more…)
February 3, 2013
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In 2002, back when the world was fucked up in a slightly different way to how it’s fucked up now, Katharine Viner wrote a piece for the Guardian in response to George W Bush’s assertion that war in the Middle East would increase “respect for women”. It ended with this paragraph, which I’ve always remembered:
Feminism is used for everything these days, except the fight for true equality – to sell trainers, to justify body mutiliations, to make women make porn, to help men get off rape charges, to ensure women feel they have self-respect because they use a self-esteem-enhancing brand of shampoo. No wonder it’s being used as a reason for bombing women and children too.
While I’m unsure of a couple of specific examples, I can’t help thinking the general point is spot on, and as true now as it was 11 years ago. Feminism is a brilliant marketing tool, except for when it comes to marketing feminism itself.
This Sunday’s Observer features an article in which Nick Cohen explains “why leftists and ‘revolutionaries’ are not the best feminists”. Cohen doesn’t actually say who the best feminists are (presumably people who think a little more like Cohen himself, despite his own uncertain views on equal pay principles). As for the worst feminists – well, the impression you get is that the more Nick Cohen dislikes you, the worse you are for the welfare of womankind. That, it seems, is a basic rule of thumb. When you act in a misogynist manner – regardless of whether it’s in the specific context of the SWP covering up rape allegations or the Catholic Church denying access to contraception – the overall context is not one of institutionalised hatred of women. It’s one of not agreeing with Nick Cohen. (more…)
January 30, 2013
I am 37 years old and have thus been an adult for quite some time. Nevertheless, I have still managed to think some incredibly stupid things. Here are just a few of the things I have believed while being an actual grown-up:
- if you use too much bath oil, the oil sinks in through your pores and makes you fat
- if you inhale while standing too close to someone eating a sausage roll then you can’t be a proper vegetarian
- it is both possible and morally acceptable to achieve gender equality and sort out all the other “equalities” later
I will allow you a few moments of headdesk / facepalm despair. (more…)
January 27, 2013
Writing in Saturday’s Guardian, Deborah Orr is a bit mean about feminism, suggesting that its “influence [...] on contemporary society is overstated”. Obviously this upsets me. Feminism is my fwend. I don’t like people being mean about it. So there. She also proposes that when faced with misogyny “we need to say a great deal more than: ‘This is horrible. Poor us’”. Sod that. I just like saying “this is horrible. Poor us”. There’s nothing like undirected bitterness to fuel the feminist fire. (more…)