Neil Wallis: Voice of the common woman (and her tits)

As a white, university-educated, middle-class feminist, there are many things about which I don’t give a toss. My children’s health and earning enough money to pay the bills, for instance. When it comes to those things, I really couldn’t give a monkeys. I prefer to let the “real women” worry about such mundane trifles. Meanwhile, my children starve / die of cholera (I pay so little attention I can’t remember which it is), which gives me time to ponder bigger issues, providing they’re not too big. Page 3, Special K, the pay gap – that sort of shit I can handle. I think about these things all day long (there’s nothing else to do except mooch around the coffee machine in my imaginary Bridget Jones office).  As for the real things – FGM, forced marriage, slavery – now that I can’t cope with. Thank heavens, then, for people like Neil Wallis.

Neil Wallis has written a glorious piece for the Huffington Post  explaining why No More Page Three is a rubbish campaign run by “self-serving wimmin” (indeed, I discovered the piece via one such wommin’s excellent yet self-serving blog post on it). Such wimmin – “overwhelmingly white, middle-class, aged late 20s-late 30s, university educated” blah blah blah – don’t understand the concerns of real (aka Sun-reading) women:

[Sun-reading women] worry about their kids’ health, the rent, putting food on the table, work, their relationship, benefits scroungers, immigration, the telly, and a drink at the weekend.

Yeah! Go them! Such women don’t trouble themselves with critical thinking or having an imagination, like, ever! (Although to be honest, Neil, I think you missed “running out of loo roll” and “getting a decent shag”. My finger may not be resting, patronizingly, on the common woman’s pulse, but I’m pretty sure she worries about those things, too. And possibly not as much about being a racist twat). But anyhow, the posho wimmin don’t ever think about these things. They’re too busy reading the Guardian and watching Channel 4. And all the while, “there’s something in the world of sexual issues that really does need addressing”:

Why aren’t those [No More Page 3] petition signatories putting their energy into campaigning against, say, female genital mutilation? White slavery? Sexual stereotyping in the workplace? Forced marriages? Under-age sex and pregnancy? TxtSexploitation in schools? The list is endless – in my view, all these are far more important… but silence.

Indeed. That’s it, just total silence. No feminist has ever spoken out on these issues, ever. No one who’s bothered about Page 3 could possibly give a toss about “sexual stereotyping in the workplace”. Signing one single petition takes so much time and effort that there is no possibility at all that these self-serving wimmin might have signed other petitions. It’s a relief that Wallis has bravely done his research, otherwise how would we ever get to hear of these things? What’s more, Wallis not only understands real women and real issues, he’s bloody furious at the “patronizing way” in which the self-serving wimmin misrepresent the needs of their “real” counterparts. After all, if anyone’s going to patronize poor little thicko working class women, it’s gotta be a nice white man:

And why shouldn’t a girl stuck behind the bread counter at Tesco, an office girl down the local council, the unemployed, find a new glamorous life via Page Three? Who are the 32,358 to deny them that? What arrogance.

Yeah, what arrogance. What total arrogance, to fail to hide behind imaginary downtrodden women when contesting something you know to be wrong.

Wallis’s piece actually reminds me of an argument I had with my dad when I was in my teens (yeah, I know. Feminists and their “daddy issues”). His line was that feminists were wrong to assume all women were like them in wanting choices, since some women might choose not to have choice at all. He’s a lawyer and said this really smugly, as if he’d scored a point, even though it made sod all sense then and even less now (I never forget the details of an argument, me). I couldn’t help thinking – and still think it now – that in order to actively reject choice, you need first of all to have had it. And even rejecting choice is a kind of choice (admittedly it’s the weedy type of choice someone like Mavis off Coronation Street would make, but it’s a choice all the same). Feminists don’t claim to know what all women think and want (that’s something for men like Neil Wallis to do). Feminists believe women’s choices should not be limited on spurious gender-based grounds. And if some women – and I’d include myself amongst them – see Page 3 as having a damaging effect on the way women as a whole are perceived (and on the wider choices that are thereby available to them) then they bloody well have the right to say so. Just as Sun-reading woman should have the right to argue her case, too. Only she’s not doing so. Neil Wallis is, because he’s the one who invented her.

Neil Wallis isn’t alone in being a white, wealthy, arrogant man who claims to speak for the little people whenever one of the not-so-little people challenges him with ideas he can’t tackle head-on. Rod Liddle’s a dab hand at doing this too, whinging about how “everyone” (i.e. liberals) “hates the white working-class male” (i.e. someone who is not me, but whom I can hide behind whenever I feel threatened in my privilege). In attacking a liberal elite – or middle-class, university-educated feminists – men such as Wallis and Liddle aren’t attacking privilege. They’re attacking those who are closest to them in terms of privilege – those who don’t yet have quite as much, but who stand the best chance of undermining those who have most due to an unfairness that life’s current “winners” clearly wish to perpetuate.

Neil Wallis, please grant me a turn at being the patronizing tosser when I put it to you that you do not care about your imaginary downtrodden Sun-reading woman. You do not care about FGM and sex trafficking and slavery. You care about yourself and you care about tits. And that is okay. I understand. I, too, care about myself and care about tits. And ironically, that’s one of the many reasons why I’ve signed the No More Page Three petition. And if you’ll excuse me, I must go and berate my imaginary, working-class, Sun-reading cleaner.

9 thoughts on “Neil Wallis: Voice of the common woman (and her tits)

  1. Another excellent blog. :o)

    I wonder if I fit the profile:
    – white: I’ll give you that one.
    – middle-class: I guess so.
    – aged late 20s-late 30s: Only for another year-and-a-half
    – university educated: And how!
    – work in academia: Nope.
    – meejah: Don’t know what that means. Google was no help.
    – public services: likes them? knows what they are? agrees with them? what, exactly, about ‘public services’?
    – know what macrobiotic means: Mais bien sur! I wouldn’t wear one, though.
    – how to use a fondue set: I might be able to work it out.
    – don’t watch X Factor: Check! [Well, not since I won the first series and then fell out with Simon Cowell.]
    – go to Greece on their holidays: Turkey. Close enough.
    – read the Guardian: Nope.
    watch Channel 4 News: Nope.
    – suffer serious sense of humour loss at certain times: What did you fuckin say?

    So…maybe about a 50% strike rate? I’m not a wommin, though. [Are you sure that ‘wommin’ is the singular of ‘wimmin’?]

    1. Are you sure that ‘wommin’ is the singular of ‘wimmin’?

      No. If I was a parody of a 1970s feminist, I’d know, but since I’m not I, um, made it up.

  2. Just because this is bizarrely entertaining:
    — (mostly) white, overall appearance tends towards the Irish (although thanks to my dark eyes and my “black Irish” coloring I can also be Latina if that’s what you want to see!)
    — was once middle class (before the economy went to hell); now lower income
    — mid-20s (also American; does this change anything?)
    — university educated: yep
    — employed in academia: I’m a TA for a major research institution in the Midwest so… yes. For now.
    — meejah: ¿¿qué demonios??
    — public services: ummm… they’re great? If done well?
    — know what macrobiotic is — I just looked it up, that’s what dictionaries are for
    — how to use a fondue set: I’m not even sure what fondue is.
    — don’t watch X Factor: no I do not.
    — go to Greece: I’ve been to Canada. Also to Wisconsin, most of the Old South, and the Northeast. Also been around other Midwestern states, including mine
    — read the Guardian: sometimes I’ll read a link or two, but I’m American so…

    (from this I can’t tell where I fall in Wallis’ sliding scale of evil, but I’m guessing I’m doing pretty well.)

    Anywayyy. Neil Wallis’ article is spectacularly sexist and also very ignorant. I think things like Page 3 are pretty disgusting — for example, if it is to continue there should be a, say, Page 2 with a nude man — fair’s fair. I don’t even have kids yet, but I still obsess over how I will eventually send Hypothetical Kids to college. Also obsess over paying off my student loans, taking care of my parents as they age, and looking out for my younger brothers (as well as having a life, which as a grad student sometimes feels like a pipe dream — I’m way too tired to live right now).

    I’ll never understand how people like this guy don’t realize everything is connected (how Marxist/Gramsci-eque of me). The boobs on Page 3 are actually related to sexism in the workforce, in the public schools, wherever. Sexism in the workplace is in turn related to the constant irritant of students who insist on calling me “señora” (Mrs.), even though I am NOT. (Apparently when one is small and soft and feminine, one is automatically señora. This drives me insane.) It’s all a part of the larger totality….

    1. I particularly hate the “university educated”. That’s a marker of privilege, yes, but this also smacks of “women who’ve been offered too much learning and stopped worrying about the things they ought to prioritise (as defined by men)”.
      My partner used to be a university lecturer and the sexism of some students really shocked him. One history student even proudly presented an essay on how things are much better for women “because we now allow them to help us in the workplace” (and seriously couldn’t get what was wrong with that viewpoint!). My partner also office shared with a female academic, which meant all the students assumed they were married (and that when she wasn’t around, it had to be because she was at home caring for our baby).

      1. I don’t even know if “university educated” is necessarily a marker of privilege anymore. Here in the U.S., even auto techs have to go to like two years of college, and most get continuing ed to help them keep up with increasingly computerized cars. It definitely does point to us leaving the kitchen, so’s to speak, so I guess we’re forgetting what’s really important? And yeah the sexism I see on a day to day basis, among students/professors/colleagues, is really pretty shocking. (Still remembering the evil comparisons activity, which prompted all sorts of rotten answers.) I’m not helping in the workplace, I’m teaching 100 students….

        This semester more than ever before, I’ve noticed how most students will call a male instructor what he asks to be called (Jorge rather than Señor Gómez, for example), but are not so likely to do so with a female instructor. So I might ask them to call me Caitlin or, barring that, Señorita Surname-Surname, but they STILL call me Señora. And they can’t/won’t even get my last name right. It’s incredibly frustrating. Like I said, a small part of the puzzle — but all those pieces form the totality, and right now the totality really needs to change.

  3. omg this blog is f*cking hysterical.
    am also a 70s feminist ie an oldfart/baby boomer.
    (which means im a sloth in cougar’s-gear)
    or hot/perimenopausal,whichever comes first.

    have to say the current feminist blogs have total blinders on when it comes to anyone in a different demographic.
    this pissed me off no end:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/04/16/im-tired-of-having-sex/

    (ya know,some people WANT to ‘hang it up’.
    half the time i do myself…..)

    but the only thing good about these blogs is that they are “hubs”
    for other blogs, via promotion and links.
    you should advertise there…..
    otherwise the whole “blogosphere” will be taken up with articles about talking vaginas.
    cheers

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/23/shameless-self-promotion-sunday-258/

  4. Ugh, Wallis wheeled out on Newsnight. Same old nonsense, perhaps if anything even more stuck on one note. “Why aren’t you out solving problems we hereby designate as ‘more important’ (that we’re not doing anything about ourselves, naturally), as opposed to the ones we’re insisting on creating?”

    I thought it was especially bizarre that he was so repeatedly fixated on some unstated proportion of the signatories being women. (I’d better not say “petitioners”, though that’s a large aspect of what deters me from signing.) How exactly does that amount to a line of defence, rather than an exercise in digging oneself in deeper? “Ho ho, it’s only a bit of fun, and it’s only women that are opposed to it, thereby making it Not Sexist At All.”)

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