Louise Mensch and misogyny: Time to call the A-Team!

So, what’s Louise Mensch ever done for me? Lots of things, actually. She has:

  • made me feel more strongly that ever that people who’ve been hugely privileged should shut up about the ‘choices’ others don’t in fact have
  • confirmed my belief that Glamour haven’t a clue what they’re doing in appointing “advice” columnists
  • forced me to compare the surnames Bagshawe and Mensch (Bagshawe is the better of the two)

That’s the thing about Louise. She makes me think. Unlike, say, George Osborne and Michael Gove.  All I’m capable of uttering in response to them is one long “noooooooooooooooo!”, rather like Luke Skywalker discovering the truth about his parentage. But with Louise, it’s more like ‘hmm. You’re talking bollocks but I feel obliged to engage.’

And now there’s the whole Louise Mensch #feminism/misogyny Twitterstorm. Louise has “favourited” the most hateful, sexist comments hurled at her, using the hashtag #feminism. I’m not going to reproduce any here. I haven’t even read that many because they don’t deserve anyone’s time of day. For Mensch, the whole thing must be extremely upsetting and frightening. It’s just words but hell, I’d feel scared. She’s right to feel outraged, and right to draw attention to what people are doing to her. And yet I also feel a bit cross with her. Is that wrong of me?

It’s the use of the #feminism hashtag. I mean, why shouldn’t she use it? It’s not like anyone owns the word. But I don’t quite understand what she means by it. Is it an accusation? Hey, feminists, you say you believe in equality but you’re not doing anything for me! Is it a call for help? This is where feminism comes in! Please shut these bastards up! Is it derision? Look how far “feminism”‘s got us, eh? We didn’t have this when Maggie was PM! Is it validation? This is why feminism matters so much. Thank you, Germaine Greer. See, I just don’t get it. She needs to say more. While she’s since conducted interviews calling out the misogyny and acknowledging its wider application, where and why she’s co-opting feminism still doesn’t seem clear to me. At worst, it reminds me of American right-wingers such as Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, ever keen to use the sexism of others to place liberals in a double-bind: Hey, suckers! Stop criticizing my anti-choice agenda and get on with defending me against the people I usually spend all my time defending. Otherwise that makes you a hypocrite! See, this irritates the hell out of me, and I think there’s more than a little of this in Mensch’s approach.

Of course, I may be being unfair. Luckily I have in my hand a copy of June’s edition of Glamour, which will of course allow me to check out Mensch’s usual position on feminism. Hey, let’s all take a look!

Fit is a feminist issue

Ooh, reworking Susie Orbach! Albeit in a slightly puzzling way. Let’s get in a bit closer:

As women achieve more in their professional lives, we are not receiving any breaks from the traditional duties of caring, motherhood and housework. The Institute for Public Policy Research found recently that 77% of wives do more household chores than their husbands.

Crikey, that’s not good! Thanks for pointing it out! So what do you propose, Louise? Changes in gender stereotyping in education? Extended childcare provision? Further advancement for women in the workplace to allow them to become the breadwinners? Yes? Yes?

What does this mean for our stress levels?

That we’re, um, stressed?

Twitter is full of ‘wine o’clock’ Tweets, and while a glass a day won’t harm you, more than that will. Alcoholism levels in women have soared.

Um… Hang on. Have I read this correctly? You’ve just highlighted some major inequalities between men and women, and your solution is that women drink less? Have I really got this straight?

But other stress-busters are out there.

Phew – I’m presuming by this you mean kicking the patriarchy in the balls?

Taking time to read can be hugely relaxing, as can connecting with friends, in person (and not in a pub). A walk outside, ideally in a green space, is known to significantly relieve stress.

Christ on a bike. So this is Louise Mensch, the “feminist”? Advising us to basically chill out a bit? Jeez, Louise, you really do need our help, don’t you?

Now look, I don’t mean to be cruel here. And I accept that by saying all this I’m falling into precisely the trap that Caitlin Moran explores so well in How to Be a Woman, namely, expecting something of a woman that I’d never expect of a man. Why should Louise Mensch have to prove her feminist credentials in order to call on feminism for help? That’s not fair, is it? But the trouble is, misogyny isn’t “fair”; we don’t have “fairness” as a starting point. So frankly, we need to kick back any way we can.

In essence I’m thinking of feminism as a bit like the A-Team. We feminists, we’re in our hideout, soldiers of fortune just tryin’ to do some good. And along comes Louise, our arch nemesis, representative of The Man, but hey, times have changed and she needs our help! And how do we respond?

“Yeah,” I say, puffing on my cigar (for I am Hannibal), “we can help you out, Mensch, but it’ll cost ya. At least one article in Glamour covering the Ched Evans scandal, plus a PMQs in which the words “feminist”, “chauvinist” and “misogynist” all get used at least three times. Plus you need to change your name back to Bagshawe. Got that, Mensch/Bagshawe? If so, then I’ll get the plane ready while you drug BA (aka Julie Bindel). Let’s see how you make it in this task. You do well, and there’s a place for you on the team, now that the Face (Naomi Wolf) has gone feral”

THAT’s how we should be working. THAT’s how we become strong. So how’s about it, Louise? Are you in trouble? Can you find us? Are you one of our team?

If not, of course, there’s always the Harry Hill option:

I like challenging misogynists. I like challenging Louise Mensch. But which of these do I like most? There’s only one way to find out … FIGHT!

4 thoughts on “Louise Mensch and misogyny: Time to call the A-Team!

  1. Food for thought – and a refreshing change from the other articles on this topic. Plus you made me laugh.

    However, in my view the most important issue here is that this case has brought to light and opened up debate on what is and isn’t acceptable. Dozens if not hundreds of women, including, unsurprisingly, vocal feminists have been abused in this way on Twitter. It is not treated in the same way as racial slurs, and now I’m starting to see people question, for the first time, why that is.

    I do see your point re: the hashtag, but in my view deciding whether Mensch is allowed membership to that particular club is a tangent. Caring about the wellbeing of women is broader and more important than that. And in my view holding this type of abuse up as unacceptable, regardless of the individual’s track record, feels like a more pressing issue.

    1. holding this type of abuse up as unacceptable, regardless of the individual’s track record, feels like a more pressing issue.

      I think you are right about that. But I do worry there is a kind of exploitation going on. And yes, turning to Louise Mensch and going “but where were you when…?” hardly seems fair…
      To be honest, I don’t know quite where I’m going with this response! But, um, yes. I guess it’s important that the issue remains broadened out now that attention has been focussed on it (not that I’ve done that by writing this … hmm. I’ll just get me coat…)

  2. Thanks for your response – and you certainly made me think! The whole issue of whether we have a right to call upon feminists to help us if we haven’t fed into (or have acted against) the struggle is really interesting. I couldn’t guarantee to challenge someone who called Margaret Thatcher a ‘bitch’, for example. Anyway I’ve glad that your link brought me to this site – interesting stuff

    1. It’s interesting you mention Thatcher – as a child I couldn’t stand all the sexist criticism directed at her because I just saw her as a woman in power. I was however very politically ignorant – I actually believed she and Michael Foot were married, which says a lot…

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