A female ‘expert’ writes …

So I’ve decided I want to sign up for The Women’s Room. After all, if there’s one thing the media needs even more than women’s voices, it’s my woman’s voice and the not-all-that-well-informed opinions it articulates. I mean, look at me: I am a woman and I feel totally under-represented in the media (and literature and religion – hell, even my own household consists of me and three males). Hence as a suitably self-absorbed, opinionated person I feel the need to do my part. The only trouble is I’m not really an expert in anything.

Okay, that’s not strictly true. I am an expert in one obscure aspect of one part of nineteenth-century German literature. I wrote a PhD and a whole bloody book on it. If ever the rest of humanity comes to realise how essential it is to know about what Goethe was doing on a Tuesday in March 1811, they’ll come and ask me. And I won’t know because my PhD wasn’t on Goethe and I didn’t even get through the first ten pages of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. But anyhow, I know some random stuff and have thought some original thoughts on a subject no one else has bothered with (alas, I tend to think there’s a reason for this. Everyone else, you were probably right).

So what else could I be an expert on? There’s my job, for instance, but there I tend to fall between two stools. In the office I am considered “the languages expert” because no one else does languages. Unfortunately, amongst actual languages experts I am considered “the one who is shit at accents and can never remember the gender of nouns”. Of course, such people might still assume I’m “the publishing expert” and I’ll sort of bluff this because I’ve tended to have job titles that sound way more important than they actually are (I once was a Managing Editor, which sounds ace, but I didn’t ever manage anyone. To be honest, I think the “managing” bit was a euphemism for “just about coping”).

But I still want to be an expert in something! It’s been suggested that I could class myself as an expert in blogging, which does rather highlight the fact that I don’t have specialist knowledge in anything but carry on ranting about it regardless. And to be fair, I’m not the only one who does this (but that only makes me even less of a specialist, given that it’s such a common activity). I have decided therefore to run through all the things I might have done which very few other people have, regardless of what they are and how relevant they are to anyone and/or anything. So here is my “expertise” list:

  • giving birth outdoors, in a car park next to a portakabin (to be honest, I’ve only done this once, but I’d do it again. Perhaps in the meantime I could train as a car park doula)
  • studying at both Oxford and Cambridge (actually, you’d be surprised how common that is, at least amongst “that sort of person” i.e. the kind of knob I was, who liked quads and posh names rather than remotely suitable, relevant courses)
  • shagging at least one man from each continent of the globe in 1998 (this wasn’t a patronising attempt to turn my boudoir into a Benetton advert – it just sort of happened. And by and large, it was grim [I don’t wish to generalise but the US – and Wisconsin in particular – you’ve got a lot to answer for. Making references to “my” queen at the point of orgasm is not endearing])
  • falling over a pram wheel in Woolworth’s, hitting someone’s baby and losing my change in the pick ‘n’ mix (no idea why that experience from 1990 just popped into my head, but you’d be amazed how vivid the memory remains. Hope it’s not the same for my now 22-year-old victim)

So that’s just half an hour’s pondering on the issue. I could just copy and paste it into the Women’s Room form right now. I could do, but I have a better plan, because while writing this I’ve been drinking wine. I now plan to drink more wine, and then a bit more, until I get totally self-aggrandising and deluded, and that’s when I’ll put in my submission. So ladies of the Women’s Room, if you’re listening, wait till about 1am and then you’ll get a message from someone who is a fucking genius expert in EVERYTHING EVER.

I bet the BBC can’t wait.


9 thoughts on “A female ‘expert’ writes …

  1. Let me first just apologize for your U.S. experience. I swear, they’re not all like that.

    I tend to struggle with the same problem of not being an expert at anything, but wanting to. I think we both need to remember that, however disappointing it is, the world is full of non-experts. That doesn’t mean that all the non-experts are completely inept at life, it just means they’re regular people. However, if you still want to be an expert at something, then go for it. Pick something, and just do it! 🙂

  2. ouch, even I can’t get that far up my own arse without lubrication! which brand of luxury goosefat do you recommend?

  3. I was thinking the same thing after looking at the Woman’s Room site from your other thread. Also had the same problem with “expertise”. I do have one area of expertise but it was already covered by someone else (can you believe it?). I could do “Microsoft operating systems through the ages” but something tells me that wouldn’t be top on the BBC list.

    However you have given me some new ideas. I too gave birth outside in a car park. Maybe it is a feminist thing? Or maybe, in my case, I was just too stupid to realise I was in labour and not having a stomach upset from the curry I ate earlier.

    1. That car park birth thing is spooky! Maybe it is a feminist thing – a way of positioning oneself between the repressive essentialism of “natural” birth and the patriarchal medicalisation of modern labour … Or yes, perhaps it’s just disorganisation and failing to realise what’s happening before it’s too late!

  4. I love your blog but this post, whilst well written and funny, is rubbish. Stop being self-deprecating. You do realise (most) men would have thought a-ha I have a PhD in the variety of cereal available in the 21st century (I am making breakfast) and signed up immediately. The point is you don’t know when the BBC will need an expert on one part of nineteenth-century German literature and if they do why shouldn’t they find a female one immediately so any teenage girls watching out there can see there future doesn’t consist of being orange and shagging someone rich.

    1. You’re right. Actually, I remember years ago (before I was studying for a PhD) having an argument about feminism with a male PhD student. He was a historian who kept insisting that feminists were wrong because they tried to distort and revise the “edifice” of history (because it’s all about adding stones to the edifice and never about considering the ways in which new knowledge revises previous assumptions ..). At various points in the argument he would say “look, I’m a PhD student” to try to shut me up. I thought this was a ridiculous tactic at the time, but it was still quite intimidating (since then I have had the very same argument with a male history lecturer at Cambridge. Thankfully not all male history PhDs are like this, though – especially since one’s been my partner for the last 12 years!).

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