Glamour, trans politics and the outrageous idea that adult human females might be people

It was the free eyeliner that did it. After over a year of avoidance I caved in and bought a copy of Glamour and yes, it’s as rubbish as it ever was (but “hey, it’s okay if your new sandals require strategically placed plasters to be wearable”. So, there’s that).

Peak Glamour Rubbishness comes on page 91, with a piece by Stephen Armstrong on “girl envy” (yes, I know). It’s one of those sleazy, sugar-coated MRA-in-disguise articles that tells you “hey ladies, you’re so great, what with your ability to multi-task, always look perfect, bear my children and do lots of shitty jobs so that I don’t have to!” Gee, thanks. Always good to know my subjugation is appreciated.

The piece goes on for three pages, providing plenty of choice nonsense to pick from. My particular faves include Armstrong quoting a fellow journalist, George, on what women are like once they’ve had given birth:

Mid-life crisis? Women have no time for that shit. From the outside, pregnancy looks like a nine-month crash course in the meaning of life. We men, on the other hand, seem destined to spend our late forties seeking enlightenment in Lycra that doesn’t fit, on carbon fibre bikes we can’t afford, doing triathlons. Yes, childbirth might do us a favour.

Yes, George. That is EXACTLY what it’s like. Post-natal depression? Never heard of it. Unhappy mothers in their late forties? Don’t exist. And then there’s Armstrong himself on why it looks like we ladies are “having a lot more fun”:

When we see you across the room – through a bustling party, in a high-powered meeting, back to the table after 15 minutes in the powder room or walking towards the bed – there’s something about the way you move, your mischievous smile, the smart joke and the totally sorted view of what’s needed that stops our heart and catches our breath.

It’s at this point you start to wonder whether Armstrong has met any women in real life or bases his whole reading of half the human race on TV adverts and rom coms. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to think women have an inner life in the way that men do. We don’t have any of those messy crises. We don’t feel conflicted or challenged or incompetent. We just sashay across the room, spreading sweetness and light, making everyone feel better with our “totally sorted view”. Jesus Christ. Thank god we’re not actual real, live people since that would really make things inconvenient for Stephen and George.

The whole piece reminds me of another, supposedly different in outlook and intent, which I read earlier today. Discussing feminism and trans rights, the author – a trans woman – offers up a similarly dismissive, dehumanising view of what adult human females are. Apparently we’re not unique individuals, born into and experiencing a female body, with all of the cultural conditioning and oppression that entails. Don’t be silly! As in the Glamour piece, we don’t get to be real in any meaningful sense, although the argument here is not simply that we’re amazing TV advert women, but that our female bodies don’t mean anything anyhow.

The author mocks “transphobic” feminists for their “nostalgic imaginations of feminism’s nature-over-nurture iconification of the True Female Body”. That’s right – STFU about your periods and your menopause, you fucking flat-earthers! Womanhood’s all about performance now, innit, and hence we’re back at Armstrong’s “the way you move, your mischievous smile, the smart joke and the totally sorted view of what’s needed”. It’s not about your body, your mind and what your experiences mean to you. Women are permitted no interiority other than that defined by males. Fuck this shit and fuck any attempts to characterise such thinking as remotely feminist in nature.

What we have is a movement to impose restrictive stereotypes on all people born female that seems to come from both “sides” – the right (Glamour man) who wants to flatter women into submission to his fantasy and the left (anti-feminist trans woman) who treats womanhood as a plastic fantasy albeit one that can be freely chosen. In truth, we are dealing with same side: patriarchy. In both cases, women have to renounce engagement with their own female bodies as they experience them (“girl envy” shall not be sullied by the thought of brown, sticky menstrual blood) in order to play along with an ideal that exists only on the surface, in make-up, tits, labia, vagina, long hair, dresses, the way you walk, the way you talk, but never in the pain you feel and the life you live. It’s what males see and project onto us, not what we experience. That, ultimately, is all we are allowed to be: the surface. It is nothing short of a denial of our humanity.

Male fantasies of what women are may vary in detail, but they have this as their common feature: we are what those born male say we are, not what we suffer, think, desire or need. To pretend that this flatters us or even liberates us from the ravages of gender is frankly absurd. It matters not whether you are mocking women for daring to describe their biological reality – a reality that has been demonised, controlled and talked over for millennia – or “celebrating” women for being the multi-tasking robot dolls you always wanted them to be. You still believe you own us and set the boundaries of what we are permitted to be. No one who truly loves women, respects them and does not believe themselves to be innately superior to them could possibly think like this.