Caitlin Moran: Spewing forth

Here is an odd fact: whenever there is a twitterstorm surrounding Caitlin Moran, one or both of my children vomits. I don’t know why this is. During the Lena Dunham thing it was Youngest, all over the back seat of the car. This time, with that rather odd Times piece on equality, it’s been both of them in turn, one after the other (to be precise, one onto the pyjamas of his brother, prompting the latter to puke onto the floor – we call it vominoes). Obviously next time Moran plans on tweeting or writing anything remotely controversial, I’d like to be made aware so I can get a bucket at the ready.

That said, I always end up following said twitterstorms, in-between vomit mop-ups. The truth is, if Caitlin Moran didn’t exist we’d have to invent her. For philosophical purposes, obviously. She’s like that tree falling down in the forest with no one there to hear it, or … Actually, I don’t know many examples of philosophical stuff (I only got halfway through Sophie’s World in 1998). But anyhow, Caitlin Moran has meanings that extend way beyond anything she herself has written or said. I’m sure there’s a special word for stuff like that, I just don’t know what it is (I ought to know these words because I’m a privileged person. The reason I don’t is because I’m lacking in intellectual curiosity, busy with two kids and not quite sure how to look up words for phenomena that I don’t quite know how to describe in the first place. So not unlike Caitlin Moran, you could say).

Like a virtual rubbernecker, I follow twitterstorms but I don’t actually like them. People get accused of things they might not have said or meant, and other people get upset about things that the previous people have said, and then the other people, who have valid reasons to be hurt, end up having their motives questioned. It’s all tremendously raw, with everyone sincerely questioning the sincerity of everyone else. I try not to tweet too much myself, not because I am an aloof Solomon sitting in judgment on the masses, but because I’m scared. I break out in a cold sweat at the thought of checking blog comments. I don’t like people attacking me, especially since there are times when it’s so obvious they’re right about what a knob I am.

It’s odd, though, that it now seems possible to have a row on twitter which isn’t really anything to do with the supposed subject. It probably doesn’t feel that way to Caitlin Moran, but it’s as though she kicks things off by being either downright offensive (rape shoes) or just plain clumsy (poorly executed satire), and then the whole thing takes on a life of its own. That’s not to defend everything she’s written and said, some of which is genuinely worthy of being challenged. But I don’t think she’s a special kind of bigot, or at least she wouldn’t be if she hadn’t been awarded the mantle of Britain’s Leading Feminist. To be honest, in my own self-centred way I sometimes recognise where she’s coming from. It’s a defensive place, in which “mainstream” feminism is seen as overly apologetic and deferential and cannot under any circumstances be criticized. To be even more honest, I used to be considerably worse than Caitlin Moran on this score. The simplistic line taken in How To Be A Woman – advising one to basically not give a shit – is attractive to people. After all, if you are in a position of relative privilege as a woman it’s all too easy to ask oneself whether the patriarchy worry about making sure everyone’s included. As a white, middle-class, cis, heterosexual feminist I’ve said far more offensive things than Moran in the past. It might come across as arrogance but often it’s ignorance, which might not make it morally defensible, but it does mean (I hope) that further debate is possible. I know privilege checking can be dismissed as mere posturing, or even a privilege in itself, but it’s a strange kind of progressiveness that sees others as ripe for conversion but not oneself.

And yet now, no one is really arguing about that, or indeed yesterday’s article itself (which was not as bad as the opening paragraph suggested but let’s be honest – there’s some seriously dodgy “satire”, and even dodgier economics in there). The debate is now about who gets to say stuff, and whether it’s people who are offended by Moran – aka stupid, vindictive right-on Viz caricatures who probably only read the opening paragraph of the piece and don’t understand sarcasm – or those who defend her – aka cliquey white middle-class journalists who get seriously pissed off as soon as the uppity plebs challenge one of their own (by the way, both of those descriptions were “satirical”, but you knew that, right?). It’s a debate that exposes a lot of fears and hidden prejudice, exaggerating it all through the severity of the 140 character limit. Looking at some of the tweets exchanged has made me wonder whether someone like me – who is not paid to have views – enjoys far greater protection from ridicule, but is also far more disposable as a virtual human being as soon as I express the wrong ones. This hidden distinction – between professional opinion-makers and those who merely have opinions – can really start to grate, for both sides.

And yet it’s so easy to get dragged into these storms. They might involve real ideas – and real distress – but just the bickering and the spite can start to feel more genuine than the child who’s sitting beside you, retching into a paper towel. I’m not sure where the cross-over is between learning from other people’s experiences and wallowing in anger misdirected. Perhaps next time I’m faced with nauseous children, I’ll switch off my phone.

Well, hark at me and my “setting myself to rights” pomposity. It’s probably this that makes my children vomit. But anyhow, that’s just what I reckon.

*heads off to get the bucket and kitchen roll*

8 thoughts on “Caitlin Moran: Spewing forth

  1. Although the twitter storms may seem a little OTT Moran and others have been criticised for a reason. Unfortunately the feminist and liberal movement is not as equal as it may seem, mainly because it has copied the right wing, capitalist model for society.

    As a black woman I’ve felt constantly isolated by the feminist movement not because someone called the n-word or told me I wasn’t welcome here but because my views and existence were entirely ignored. So when a self-appointed leader of the feminist movement like Moran says that she doesn’t care about black women many will get annoyed because it confirms what they already knew about the movement and unleashes years of repressed anger.

    You say that you worry about being criticised but I don’t think criticism is the main worry. Everyone gets criticised and you can’t expect someone to be concerned that they may offend if there is a concern that a blogger may have said something offensive. I think as feminists we need to realise that we don’t automatically become amazing people and we don’t know everything about other people’s issues and problems. Rather than worrying about criticism I think we should focus on working out why the person in question may be annoyed with us, listen and work towards educating ourselves to being better feminists.

    To be honest I don’t particularly care if I annoy Moran or others if I post about their comments because I have to suppress my reaction to racist and sexist comments everyday. This is meant to be a safe space for everyone.

    Basically I think we can blog and tweet about what we like but with the knowledge that we don’t know everything and if someone has criticised you nine times out of ten it’s for a good reason.

    p.s. Sorry your kids were ill, that doesn’t sound like fun.

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

      Basically I think we can blog and tweet about what we like but with the knowledge that we don’t know everything and if someone has criticised you nine times out of ten it’s for a good reason.

      Completely agree with that! Alas, this seems to be what ends up disappearing from debates such as these, which end up about whether you’re matey with Moran or not rather than whether your position on inclusion needs changing. That said, I do agree it’s possible to start listening and stop being on the defensive despite being in a position of privilege. Sorry if this all came across as more negative than that (I don’t want to be all “well, I’m a white feminist and I’m way more conscious of intersectionality than Moran”, as the problem with privilege is I’ll still be exercising it without even knowing it – but I do feel it is possible to listen and become a better feminist all the same!).

      1. The debates may seem Moran focused but to me Moran is just being used as a symbol of the problem with the feminist community. I think many feminists are guilty of the things she’s said. While you may say that it’s become about whether you’re matey with Moran or not to me as Moran represents the problems in our community for feminists to defend her shows that they don’t really care about those they are marginalising hence why people are getting angry.

        We definitely need to listen more to everyone’s experiences but most of all we need to stop feeling sorry for Moran. She’s a well paid writer who has been paid actual money (a rarity in the world of journalism I can assure you) to write columns, has several best selling books and has a family that love her. She’s fine and doesn’t need our sympathy in my opinion.

        In other news really love your blog, good stuff x.x.x

      2. The debates may seem Moran focused but to me Moran is just being used as a symbol of the problem with the feminist community. I think many feminists are guilty of the things she’s said. While you may say that it’s become about whether you’re matey with Moran or not to me as Moran represents the problems in our community for feminists to defend her shows that they don’t really care about those they are marginalising hence why people are getting angry.

        We definitely need to listen more to everyone’s experiences but most of all we need to stop feeling sorry for Moran. She’s a well paid writer who has been paid actual money (a rarity in the world of journalism I can assure you) to write columns, has several best selling books and has a family that love her. She’s fine and doesn’t need our sympathy in my opinion.

        In other news really love your blog, good stuff x.x.x

  2. I recently read How to Be a Woman because I couldn’t understand the twitterstorms that erupt every couple of weeks over things she has said/implied etc. I’m still confounded. I don’t agree with everything she says in the book but I never expected to: in 43 years of life I’ve met exactly zero people with whom I agree on everything.

    When I’ve tried to question some of the people who tweet with (apparently) deep anger towards her, I’ve had little joy in coming to understanding. In each instance I’ve had the Lena Dunham incident cited, but little other evidence of why she is so worthy of criticism. It seems a couple of hasty tweets are all the evidence we need to convict a woman of crimes against feminism, even if the vast bulk of their work has a great deal of value for many people.

    One person did tell me she felt Moran’s politics were dodgy because of a section in the book on women hiring domestic help. She told me Moran said low-paid jobs were empowering for women of colour. I went back and re-read the relevant chapter: there’s nowhere in which Moran says anything of the sort. She talks about middle class women hiring cleaners, and makes no mention of race whatsoever. Only someone assuming all middle class women are white and all cleaners are non-white could read the text in the way described. You could come to the conclusion that Moran-haters need to examine their own prejudices before they start in on hers…

    I dropped out of feminist activism in my mid-twenties because I got so depressed at the way some so-called feminists expended a great deal of energy in tearing other women down. I see the attacks on Moran as part of that and as far as I’m concerned that’s the patriarchy winning. As women, we are constantly told the myriad ways in which we are wrong. Too fat, too thin, too naggy, too dull – etc etc. Being a woman means being constantly policed by EVERYONE, including ourselves, and being found lacking. When, as feminists, we try to achieve change by telling other women how they are wrong, aren’t we guilty of the same crime?

    I wonder how many women are silenced by these attacks, who don’t add their voices to the equality debate because they fear similar attacks? Whi gains from that? Patriarchy.

    I think feminism needs a good dose of ‘let she who is without sin cast the first stone’. Let’s celebrate what other women get RIGHT instead policing their every utterance for the things they get wrong.

    1. I think feminism needs a good dose of ‘let she who is without sin cast the first stone’. Let’s celebrate what other women get RIGHT instead policing their every utterance for the things they get wrong.

      I think that’s important – but internal criticism is, too. That’s why I’d want to stress that I’ve really messed up on some things. I’m definitely not “without sin” and can’t see how I (or anyone else) could expect others to change if I’m not open to the idea of changing myself.
      Like you I have issues with the “middle-class women shouldn’t have cleaners” argument – not least because it assumes cleaning is “women’s work”, that women doing it unpaid is somehow more noble than women being paid to do it and also that it is in some way a demeaning job. I’ve cleaned in the past and I bloody well would hire a cleaner (male or female) if I could afford it.

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