Of all the annoying-yet-relatively-minor sexist things my father-in-law does, this is one of the most frustrating: whenever I or any other women says something critical of a person who happens to be female, he mews. Like a cat. This is to indicate that we are being “catty”. Ha fucking ha (I generally respond to this with scratching and spitting, before stalking off into a corner to lick my own arse).
In terms of crap things women are meant to be good at, I’m not quite sure how bitchiness compares to cattiness. Which are we best at? Or are they the same thing, albeit using a different domestic animal metaphor (a “petaphor”, one might – but probably shouldn’t – say)? Moreover, is it bitchy to say that I really hate people going on about how bitchy / catty women in general, and feminists in particular, can be? Because this is something that has pissed me off since the beginning of time (that, and people who claim that feminists exaggerate for effect). Honestly, I have memories of being at school and hearing female classmates discuss how when they grew up and had children, they’d like to have boys rather than girls because “girls are bitchy”. And I used to want to yell “no! It’s not all girls who are bitchy – it’s just you who’s bitchy – bitchy about all girls!” Except I didn’t ever yell it, as I was worried it would make me sound like a bitch. It’s annoying though, isn’t it? I reckon one of the bitchiest things you can say is that all women are bitchy. It’s such a self-serving way of having a dig at other people, especially if you are a woman yourself (in which case you inadvertently single yourself out as less bitchy, or at least more self-aware, than all the others – about whom you are, nevertheless, bitching. You total bitch).
In the current issue of the Spectator, for instance, Tanya Gold is having a right old bitch about all those bitchy feminists who were bitchy about Naomi Wolf’s Vagina. The piece itself is called “Fight of the feminists: When it comes to sheer nastiness in public debate, women are more than the equal of men“. To be fair, I imagine Gold herself didn’t come up with this title (it will have been some mega-bitchy sub). Another person infused with the bitchiness gene will have designed the “humorous” cartoon that accompanies it, featuring classic blue-clad harridans scrapping with massive pens (from what I can make out – look, I read the piece while queuing to buy my sandwiches in M&S – I don’t actually buy the Spectator, so this is largely written / bitched about from memory). Anyhow, to summarise, the whole thing is one massively bitchy bitching-about-bitchiness fest.
It is true that many a feminst has written negative things about Wolf’s new book. Indeed, I myself have been rather disparaging (but Gold doesn’t quote me, on the entirely flimsy basis that I am not a well-known writer in the national press – how bitchy can you get?). I would however argue that the criticism itself is not down to bitchiness; it is because Wolf’s new book isn’t very convincing, although successful feminist writers don’t just write “this isn’t very convincing” – they try to write in a way that is lively and entertaining and hence probably doesn’t come across as very restrained. But that’s just the nature of writing criticism that people want to read – isn’t it? (Or at least criticism I want to read – but then I’m a bitch.) And yes, perhaps Wolf has been criticised in a way that men who write similarly essentialist rubbish aren’t. Even so, this can be – and has been – pointed out without broadening into some wider musings on why feminists are all such total cows (which isn’t, sad to say, a “petaphor”. Although actually, didn’t Roger Federer once have a pet cow? Anyhow, I digress).
To quote a bit of the article that you don’t have to pay to read, Gold sees Wolf’s book as “a catalyst for a swiftly assembled feminist lynch mob” (ooh, get her!). Thereafter she proceeds to lump together all prominent feminist attacks on Wolf as though they are bubbling up from the same bitchy core (when in actual fact, if the common thread means anything, perhaps it’s that all these fractious sisters have reached a consensus on something, despite the fact that they apparently all hate one another). And then – you’ll have to trust me on this, or take a quick peek in WH Smiths – all roads lead to Camille Paglia and Julie Burchill. But the fact is – and this is a fact, not an opinion – Paglia and Burchill are both very clever but equally unpleasant people. That’s all. They’re really quite mean to humankind. This isn’t a feminist or a female thing. It’s just them. But obviously I shouldn’t write that, since in singling them out as uniquely bitchy, I’m probably being bitchy too (or am I just catty?).
Gold ends by asserting that men just aren’t bitchy in the same way. This is, in some ways, true. They’re bitchy from a position of privilege. This is why when Brett Easton Ellis rants about David Foster Wallace in a manner far surpassing anything written by women writers about Wolf, or when Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens engage in an ostentatiously self-important scrap, or Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel spend years hating each other, or even Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow spend most of the noughties twatting around like everyone gives a shit about them not liking each other, to the extent that they’ve provided us with a song about them now being friends … well, it’s not really a man thing. It’s just “a thing”. And yeah, this might sound whiny – rather similar to how a dog or a cat might whine – but I don’t think that’s fair.
Well, that is all I have to say on the matter. If you’ll excuse me, I now have a particularly troublesome hairball to cough up.