Should feminists be allowed to ask stupid questions?

I am 37 years old and have thus been an adult for quite some time. Nevertheless, I have still managed to think some incredibly stupid things. Here are just a few of the things I have believed while being an actual grown-up:

  1. if you use too much bath oil, the oil sinks in through your pores and makes you fat
  2. if you inhale while standing too close to someone eating a sausage roll then you can’t be a proper vegetarian
  3. it is both possible and morally acceptable to achieve gender equality and sort out all the other “equalities” later

I will allow you a few moments of headdesk / facepalm despair. Continue reading


In praise of wussy feminists

Hey, sisterhood! Look at me! Last week I was a humourless feminist with PMS but this week I’ve decided it’s a whole new me. I’m going radical. So radical, in fact, that I’ve gone full circle and ended up being the wussiest feminist in the whole of wussdom.

I’m worse than Natasha Walter, worse even than Ellie Levenson. Honestly, I am as totally non-hardcore as they come. And in my new, wussy, softcore feminist guise, I would like to wussily propose one thing: I AM FUCKING SICK OF FEMINISTS WHO GET MORE RADICAL THAN THOU. WHY NOT GIVE US ALL A FUCKING BREAK?

Let me be clear about this. I am not saying that one type of feminist is “better” than another. Or than to be an effective feminist, it’s probably best not to get too shrill and ranty and all those other things uppity women are meant to be (and actually never are). I think it’s good to be furious about an awful lot of things. But not about other feminists apparently not being as hard or knowledgeable or clever as you. For verily, therein lies the route to arrogant, hypocritical tosserdom.

For sure, wussy feminists used to piss me off. To a certain extent they still do. I cannot have been the only person banging her head on the table when, just as Living Dolls was published, Natasha Walter admitted that yeah, she may have been a little naive with what she wrote in The New Feminism. As though a million other feminists didn’t point that out to her at the time. For chrissakes, Natasha! There’s being slow on the uptake and being completely unconscious for the past decade. But still, Living Dolls makes some reasonable points. And you can buy it in WH Smiths. Things could be worse.

This isn’t one of those posts where’s it’s announced that hey, it’s okay to be a feminist and shave your legs and wear lipstick and suck cock and blah blah blah. I fucking hate all that, not least because it always seems to me that what’s being said is that since it’s okay, it is in fact what you should do. Come on, feminists! Haven’t you realised that being subjugated is now acceptable! The Spice Girls said so! I don’t have truck with any of that (much as I like the idea of “having truck”, whatever that means). There are in fact feminists who are obsessed with makeup but are also aware that it’s all frivolous crap (not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, now).

The thing that really gets to me, though, is it being decreed that others have not proved their feminist mettle. And, in particular, that women who make compromises with their feminism – those who might manipulate the light in which it’s seen, depending on the audience – are crap feminists who can fuck off. No, they’re not. They’re human beings negotiating the world. Often they’re just trying to get things done (and no, we’re not thinking of Louise Mensch here. Just of people who need to get a foot in the door somewhere, anywhere, and won’t get it if they behave like a PhD student who has years to sit around just thinking clever thoughts about how no one should be allowed to make compromises. Not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, ten years ago).

Instinctively, I bristle at the suggestion that it’s not the person who shouts the loudest who gets the most things done. For instance, whenever it’s been argued that the suffragists were more effective than the suffragettes in winning the vote, I’ve thought “no, fuck off! That’s just one massive ‘calm down, dear’ from the historical establishment”. To be honest, I think that still. I think it’s a total lie to suggest that if only women played their cards right and raised grievances through the correct channels, they’d be allowed to join the club. That’s just bollocks. But I think we need a mixture of voices. Including those of women who’ve got to where they are today by positioning themselves as the friendly, made-up, highly compromised face of feminism (again, not saying any names. Oh, okay then: me, in ten years’ time, when I’m famous and stuff and blow the lid on the whole patriarchal conspiracy. I might be dressed like Theresa May, but there’s the one thing I’ve got more of, and that’s my miiiiiiiiiiiind. Oh yes, come the feminist revolution, it will be like the Misshapes video, only with me as Jarvis Cocker).

Until then, though, when I’ve wheedled my way to a position of power, crushing the rad fems underfoot with my chocolate stilettos, there is one thing I need to clarify, though. If you grow your pubes really really long, but then plait them and add Disney Princess hair grips – what kind of a feminist are you then? (not saying any names, though)

Louise Mensch and misogyny: Time to call the A-Team!

So, what’s Louise Mensch ever done for me? Lots of things, actually. She has:

  • made me feel more strongly that ever that people who’ve been hugely privileged should shut up about the ‘choices’ others don’t in fact have
  • confirmed my belief that Glamour haven’t a clue what they’re doing in appointing “advice” columnists
  • forced me to compare the surnames Bagshawe and Mensch (Bagshawe is the better of the two)

That’s the thing about Louise. She makes me think. Unlike, say, George Osborne and Michael Gove.  All I’m capable of uttering in response to them is one long “noooooooooooooooo!”, rather like Luke Skywalker discovering the truth about his parentage. But with Louise, it’s more like ‘hmm. You’re talking bollocks but I feel obliged to engage.’

And now there’s the whole Louise Mensch #feminism/misogyny Twitterstorm. Louise has “favourited” the most hateful, sexist comments hurled at her, using the hashtag #feminism. I’m not going to reproduce any here. I haven’t even read that many because they don’t deserve anyone’s time of day. For Mensch, the whole thing must be extremely upsetting and frightening. It’s just words but hell, I’d feel scared. She’s right to feel outraged, and right to draw attention to what people are doing to her. And yet I also feel a bit cross with her. Is that wrong of me?

It’s the use of the #feminism hashtag. I mean, why shouldn’t she use it? It’s not like anyone owns the word. But I don’t quite understand what she means by it. Is it an accusation? Hey, feminists, you say you believe in equality but you’re not doing anything for me! Is it a call for help? This is where feminism comes in! Please shut these bastards up! Is it derision? Look how far “feminism”‘s got us, eh? We didn’t have this when Maggie was PM! Is it validation? This is why feminism matters so much. Thank you, Germaine Greer. See, I just don’t get it. She needs to say more. While she’s since conducted interviews calling out the misogyny and acknowledging its wider application, where and why she’s co-opting feminism still doesn’t seem clear to me. At worst, it reminds me of American right-wingers such as Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, ever keen to use the sexism of others to place liberals in a double-bind: Hey, suckers! Stop criticizing my anti-choice agenda and get on with defending me against the people I usually spend all my time defending. Otherwise that makes you a hypocrite! See, this irritates the hell out of me, and I think there’s more than a little of this in Mensch’s approach.

Of course, I may be being unfair. Luckily I have in my hand a copy of June’s edition of Glamour, which will of course allow me to check out Mensch’s usual position on feminism. Hey, let’s all take a look!

Fit is a feminist issue

Ooh, reworking Susie Orbach! Albeit in a slightly puzzling way. Let’s get in a bit closer:

As women achieve more in their professional lives, we are not receiving any breaks from the traditional duties of caring, motherhood and housework. The Institute for Public Policy Research found recently that 77% of wives do more household chores than their husbands.

Crikey, that’s not good! Thanks for pointing it out! So what do you propose, Louise? Changes in gender stereotyping in education? Extended childcare provision? Further advancement for women in the workplace to allow them to become the breadwinners? Yes? Yes?

What does this mean for our stress levels?

That we’re, um, stressed?

Twitter is full of ‘wine o’clock’ Tweets, and while a glass a day won’t harm you, more than that will. Alcoholism levels in women have soared.

Um… Hang on. Have I read this correctly? You’ve just highlighted some major inequalities between men and women, and your solution is that women drink less? Have I really got this straight?

But other stress-busters are out there.

Phew – I’m presuming by this you mean kicking the patriarchy in the balls?

Taking time to read can be hugely relaxing, as can connecting with friends, in person (and not in a pub). A walk outside, ideally in a green space, is known to significantly relieve stress.

Christ on a bike. So this is Louise Mensch, the “feminist”? Advising us to basically chill out a bit? Jeez, Louise, you really do need our help, don’t you?

Now look, I don’t mean to be cruel here. And I accept that by saying all this I’m falling into precisely the trap that Caitlin Moran explores so well in How to Be a Woman, namely, expecting something of a woman that I’d never expect of a man. Why should Louise Mensch have to prove her feminist credentials in order to call on feminism for help? That’s not fair, is it? But the trouble is, misogyny isn’t “fair”; we don’t have “fairness” as a starting point. So frankly, we need to kick back any way we can.

In essence I’m thinking of feminism as a bit like the A-Team. We feminists, we’re in our hideout, soldiers of fortune just tryin’ to do some good. And along comes Louise, our arch nemesis, representative of The Man, but hey, times have changed and she needs our help! And how do we respond?

“Yeah,” I say, puffing on my cigar (for I am Hannibal), “we can help you out, Mensch, but it’ll cost ya. At least one article in Glamour covering the Ched Evans scandal, plus a PMQs in which the words “feminist”, “chauvinist” and “misogynist” all get used at least three times. Plus you need to change your name back to Bagshawe. Got that, Mensch/Bagshawe? If so, then I’ll get the plane ready while you drug BA (aka Julie Bindel). Let’s see how you make it in this task. You do well, and there’s a place for you on the team, now that the Face (Naomi Wolf) has gone feral”

THAT’s how we should be working. THAT’s how we become strong. So how’s about it, Louise? Are you in trouble? Can you find us? Are you one of our team?

If not, of course, there’s always the Harry Hill option:

I like challenging misogynists. I like challenging Louise Mensch. But which of these do I like most? There’s only one way to find out … FIGHT!

Ann Romney, Hilary Rosen and THAT crappy old debate again

Way-hey! It’s Mommy Wars time! Or Mummy Wars, as I ought to call it in UK English, only it doesn’t sound as hardcore. But, hey, whatever. Nothing we love more than a good ol’ Mommy/Mummy scrap.

To summarise: Obama adviser Hilary Rosen suggests Ann Romney isn’t an all-round expert on women’s concerns as she’s “never worked a day in her life”. Ann Romney points out that raising kids is pretty hard work, actually. And that, plus lots of media shit-stirring, is pretty much it.

So, who do we agree with? Ann Romney because we should be valuing the unpaid work millions of women do? Or Hilary Rosen as she’s not involved in a presidential campaign that, if successful, would completely fuck women over?

What with having had little people emerge from my vagina, I am an expert on this kind of thing, so here’s my point-by-point guide to help you out.

  1. Looking after kids is hard. Doing paid work is hard. They are both hard because they involve doing stuff for people when you don’t necessarily want to do it.
  2. The relative hardness of paid work vs stay-at-home parenting is variable. Factors for variation include: i) whether you have, or could potentially have, a job with good pay and conditions; ii) whether you have, or could potentially have, a nanny or home help; iii) whether your kids are, or could potentially be, being complete and utter nightmares. Factors i and ii depend a lot on money; Factor iii, in my experience, varies from millisecond to millisecond, and you’ll never, ever work out what it really depends on.
  3. Going on and on about how hard looking after kids can be is nice and all, but it’s not really “appreciation” in any real sense. Normalizing the fact that someone’s having a crappy time is certainly the easy option, but making said time less crappy (changing parental leave laws, challenging gender stereotypes, questioning why those outside the home have more power and influence) would be a whole lot better.
  4. Getting totally carried away and telling someone who’s in the middle of cleaning up toddler vomit that hey, she’s the “CEO of the home” and doing a great job of “project managing” this family “business” is not showing appreciation. It’s being a patronizing bastard.
  5. Women like Ann Romney do not speak for the whole of womankind. Mitt Romney ought to get a focus group or something. Or just talk to some other women (but careful, Mitt. There are literally BILLIONS of us out there, and yeah, I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but believe me, it isn’t).
  6. If raising kids is so fucking hard on women (and yes, it is) perhaps it would be a good idea to let pregnant women make their own choices about whether to have said kids. And yeah, I know it was cheeky of me to slip that one in. But I’m like that.

Right, that’s it. I think I’ve said it, but I’ll leave it to the First Lady for a summing up:

Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.


Uh, thanks and all, Michelle, but I for one am a right lazy sod. But hey, I appreciate the sentiments.

The pay gap: Why it’s all my fault

Two weeks ago I was interviewed for an internal promotion. Today I found out I didn’t get the post. And I was – how shall I put it? – somewhat less than devastated.

I knew my interview didn’t go well. I knew the other internal candidate had more experience than me. I knew, basically, that I was perhaps not up to the job. And so, to be honest, I was just not that arsed.

I like my job and I want to be good at it. I would also like to earn more money, especially with my partner sending off a million and one job applications and still not getting so much as an interview (who’s the idiot reading these CVs? What ARE they thinking?). But I have to be honest: I don’t want a promotion just for the sake of it. I don’t want to get to the top of the tree simply to say I’ve done it. The truth is, I’d rather be good at what I do.

Coming from a man, comments like this might sound like bravado. I say that, yeah, but I’m crying inside. But I am not a man. I am a woman so you probably believe me. Women lack ambition. Women lack resilience. Women just don’t have the drive. I’m a woman, and I’m probably paid less than the average man in my profession, and it’s probably all my own fault. And clearly, there’s a moral in this, which is that ALL WOMEN DESERVE TO BE PAID LESS THAN MEN AND THE PAY GAP IS AN EVIL FEMINIST LIE!

Look, I call myself a feminist but clearly I am letting the side down. I ought to just sell out completely, take myself off to Femail and see if I can get into one of their features on “How, as a wussy mother, I realised I couldn’t hack it in the cold, hard world of work”. I mean, here I am, the only mother of small children in my entire office who hasn’t gone down to working part-time, and I can’t even get a lousy promotion. How’s that for a double fail? I manage to combine hard-nosed career-bitch child neglect with a total lack of career progression. Woo-hoo! What’s even more worrying is I think I’m also the only woman in my office who openly describes herself as a feminist and uses “Ms”. They’re probably all pissing themselves behind my back.

To be fair, women at the top of the so-called tree rarely seem to be feminists. The so-obvious-I’m-cringing-to-mention-it example of this is Margaret Thatcher. The sad thing is, growing up in the eighties, I really, really liked the fact that the UK had a female prime minister and a female head of state. I didn’t give a fuck what the policies were. I lived in a country where it was still legal for a man to rape his wife and I just thought “hey, cool, we’re led by women!” (to be honest, my political ignorance throughout childhood plumbed much greater depths than this would suggest. I think I was in my mid-twenties before I realised Margaret Thatcher was not, and had never been, married to Michael Foot).

Does it matter that I want more women in positions of power and authority even if I don’t want to be there myself? Isn’t it a pretty crappy cop-out, leaving it to the anti-feminists to schmooze up to the dizzy heights and then do fuck all for the rest of us? What pisses me off most is that, while I don’t think for a minute I even have the capability to be prime minister (but then neither has David Cameron blah blah blah), I feel really guilty for not being better, for not doing more. I can’t help feeling that as a feminist, I have to represent female success and progress on an individual level. But I don’t. I just bumble along. And then I think, do men feel this same pressure to represent their sex? And if not, aren’t I letting the side down even more?

It drives me utterly insane each time I see an article on “women of influence” and Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron are there topping the list. I mean, I love my partner, but does this mean I should have thought “stuff romance” and just been a more tactical shagger? Is that the way we do it now? (To be honest, I wouldn’t even be good at that. My partner is a white, public-school educated man with a first from Cambridge, perhaps the only one who, rather than running the country, is buying shoes at Matalan. Not quite sure what happened there). Surely a proper feminist should be topping the “power” lists, elbowing her way to the top on her own merits? Is it feminism’s fault that she’s not there yet?

Perhaps. But perhaps not. As I’m in a thinking-in-foreign-languages mood today, I’ve got a song in my head by a German group called Die Sterne. Called Wir / Ihr, it contains the following lines:

Wir lehnen es ab

weil uns das lieber ist als

nach euren Regeln das Spiel zu verlieren

und dann zum Dank dahin zu vegetieren

(My crap translation: We turn it down because we’d rather not lose the game  playing by your rules and then rot away by way of a thank-you. It works much better in the German). But I think that’s kind of it. We’re losing at the game because the rules and the values are the same, and they’re the wrong ones. And while that’s not feminism’s “fault”, it’s something feminism needs to work to change.

Anyhow, enough German song quoting. That’s my excuse for not getting the job and I’m sticking to it.

Belle, c’est moi

So, Euro Disney is 20 years old and massively in debt. Well, I hate to say I told you so, but if only they’d asked me for my opinion back them. I knew it was a bad idea to build that theme park near Paris. Flashback to my GCSE French oral presentation, 1991: Pourquoi on ne devrait pas construire ce parc d’attractions près de Paris. See! 16 years old, no business training but I bloody well knew it!

Now, lest you get the wrong idea, my 5-minute “talk in the target language“ was not some massive anti-Disney rant. Au contraire, I bloody loved Disney, way more than I loved French (I did however do French at university – I didn’t want people to say I’d done a Mickey Mouse course <ka-boom!>). The thrust of my anti-Euro Disney argument was that well, the French sont très sympas and all, but they’re just too pretentious to “get“ Disney. I “got“ Disney, though.

I particularly “got” Beauty and the Beast, made during Disney’s late eighties / early nineties film revival following The Little Mermaid. I totally loved that film (I arrived at university owning just two CDs – Antmusic (The Best of Adam Ant) and the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. This was when The Stone Roses and Nirvana were cool. Kookily different or just plain twattish? You decide).* At the time, I thought the film was just brilliant. At the time (you can guess what’s coming next …).

Two weekends ago I got to watch Beauty and the Beast again, on dodgy VHS dug out for my sons. And my immediate responses were:

1. Ah, VHS, how quaint!



I know I was a bit, well, deluded at 17, but this was something else. What on earth did I see in that film? And then the creeping, dreadful realisation came to me … Essentially, I used to think that I WAS Belle. Was I the only one?

The evidence:

  1. She’s a pretend outsider Like every teenager, she thinks no one understands her (but for once it might be grand / to have someone understand / I want so much more than they’ve got planned …). While this doesn’t reach the angsty heights of LadyCurd’s fab poetry, it’s getting there. Particularly as she sings the above lines looking longingly over a wide, expansive valley that she can’t reach because she’s, like, stuck in the “little village” or something. Fortunately, like Simon and Garfunkel, she has her books and her poetry to protect her. Less fortunately, she’s always reading the same godawful fairy-tale shit (“far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, and a prince in disguise!” Alas, Betty Friedan it ain’t).
  2. She’s a cultural, geographical and intellectual snob Little town, it’s a quiet village / Every day like the one before / Little town full of little people / Waking up to say “Bonjour!” Clearly Belle is aware of the extent of the bonjour-saying in her town – after all, she’s the one who makes the above observation. However, she doesn’t always respond to the bonjours of the “little people” because, as they note (like they care), she’s always got “her nose stuck in a book” (it’s that shit fairy tale stuff again – see no. 1 above). In Belle’s mind, everyone in the “poor provincial town” is basically thick and small-minded and she can’t wait to get outta there. There’s so much more than this provincial life, she sings, fairy-tale book in hand. That was totally me twenty years ago, all set to leave the fuckers behind and head off to Oxbridge, fantasy literature in hand. I even went on to write a bloody PhD on Romantic writers and the fairy tale genre. Thankfully, I did at least stop believing that I lived in a fairy tale (I realise it is grossly unfair of me to hold this against Belle, a fairy tale heroine, but still, I’m going to).
  3. She’s, like, your archetypal post-feminist independent woman Because she’s not going to be Gaston’s “little wife”. She’s going to be the “little wife” of someone who imprisons her in a medieval castle instead (well, at least it’s kinda kinky). Of course, the thick, provincial women in Belle’s village don’t understand it because they all fancy Gaston. In particular, there is a trio of blonde, thin, big-titted women who swoon whenever he goes past. Obviously we hate them. They are ALL THE SAME and Belle is MUCH BETTER THAN THEM and it’s okay for us to judge them because they are shit apologies for womanhood, parodies of femininity, and they are prostituting themselves in a way that proper beautiful women don’t prostitute themselves (because the latter don’t shag on the first date, or at least until their meal ticket has undergone the beast-to-prince transformation). This is, in essence, how I saw the “slaggy” girls I was at school with, the ones who weren’t off to uni and who married young. Because I thought I was so much better, a proper independent woman who didn’t need no man (until I found myself surrounded by horny public schoolboys and drowning in desperate insecurity). In modern terms, Belle is Beyoncé and the blondes in her village are WAGS. Plus ça change, as real-live French people probably don’t say.
  4. She’s very thin, doesn’t eat and is obsessed with food. Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test! But don’t actually eat the food. Just watch it dance about a bit, and maybe dip your finger in and take the odd lick. It’s the anorexic seventeen-year-old’s dream. Look, I was going to eat dinner but it shimmied off back to the kitchen before I could stop it. And yeah, okay, she eats porridge later on during the “Something there that wasn’t there before” song montage. But hey, that’s just porridge.
  5. She’s sorta French but not really. As in, she’s no full-on cheese-eating surrender monkey, but she’s stereotypical francophile French. Says “bonjour” (when it suits her) and probably appears in A Year in Provence. That’s the kind of French I was into. None of your troubles in the banlieu. Just everything being all idyllic, but also a bit boring and bourgeois, leaving just enough space for one’s own superiority complex.

So far, so Belle-like. There is, however, one fundamental way in which I am not like our heroine. Now it’s no wonder that her name means “beauty”, her looks have got no parallel, sings the fat, baldy jealous woman (aka Samantha Brick’s best mate). There are, of course, three qualities available to young women in Belle’s village: beauty, vacuousness and geekiness (all the older women get is matronliness, and even then they’re outshone by a teapot in the form of Mrs Potts). Belle is geeky, vacuous and beautiful. The blonde trio are vacuous and beautiful. Me, I am (and was) geeky and vacuous, a combination not present in the film itself. So actually, I guess I’m not Belle after all.

Damn. The clue was in the name all along.

* To be fair, my college once arranged a film night where we watched Beauty and the Beast in the common room. So it wasn’t just me. Except I was the only one who didn’t get what was so funny about Mrs Potts singing the lines barely even friends / then somebody bends / unexpectedly. I mean, what IS that about?

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!

Why I am a crap feminist, Reason no. 27: I own too many shoes

Every day

You must say

So how do I feel about my shoes?

Accept yourself, The Smiths

How indeed? Well, unlike Morrissey, I do not possess shoes that “make me awkward and plain”. Au contraire, I possess shoes that make me a superficial, self-indulgent, air-headed parody of womanhood. And what’s more, I possess fucking loads of them.

This is not intended as some thinly-veiled boast. Ooh, hark at me and my great shoe mountain! Just goes to show you can still be a feminist and a SATC-inspired tosser at one and the same time! The truth is, I hate owning this many shoes. Or rather, I hate myself for owning so many (obviously, if I hated the actual owning so much I could give all the shoes to charity. But I won’t. They’re all mine and no one else is getting their feet in them. So there).

Of course, we women are meant to bond over shoes. They’re like the female equivalent of football, only boring. Nothing actually happens. They just sit around being shoe-y. Or you put a pair on (you can only actually wear one pair at a time) and if they’re proper women’s shoes, they hurt your feet. Then you can get bunions like Victoria Beckham and appear in the Circle of Shame in Heat (obviously that’s only if you’re famous. If not, you just have sore, deformed feet).

Womankind’s love of shoes also provides a great reason not to like women very much. Because see, it just proves how frivolous and superficial and self-centred we are. Men don’t faff around debating the virtues of kitten heels over wedges. They just drink their lager, watch their footie and generally lark about being being simple, honest chaps. Whereas us, we’re just so selfish. A few years ago the chick-lit author Marian Keyes even produced a piece entitled A Woman’s Right to Shoes. Geddit? It sounds a bit like it’s to do with abortion rights, but actually it’s all about footwear. Because that’s what women’s liberation was all about. Gaining access to higher-paid jobs so we could buy more shoes (yes, I am aware this is going off at a tangent somewhat…).

Anyhow, all I’m saying is, I feel bad about my shoes 😦 But at the same time, I feel pretty pissed off about all the crappy things shoes are meant to say about women. And the extent to which we’re meant to like them when in fact, we just buy them because we’re told to. We don’t actually like the fuckers. Hell, I don’t. They take up way too much space in the bedroom and what’s more, they physically hurt us. That’s not what feminism’s about.

Anyhow, I have lots of shoes. Let no more be said about it.

Menstrual tensions

Why I am a crap feminist, Reason no. 134: Me and my Mooncup don’t get on

I’ve tried with this relationship, I really have. But I’m just not comfortable in it. Or rather, I’m just not comfortable when it’s in me.

This month I threw the towel in (as it were) and bought some tampons again. But this morning, in the bathroom, I found myself putting them to the back of the shelf, hid behind the Mooncup box. What’s all that about? Who uses our bathroom apart from me, my partner and our sons, half of whom don’t care what goes into my vagina (one would hope)? I don’t think my partner’s particularly bothered about no longer finding a mysterious rubber cup whizzing round the microwave steriliser. No, once again, it’s all about me. Me, me, me, me, me.

I ought to be able to use a Mooncup, for all of the following reasons:

1. First of all, it’s like a moral choice all feminists should make. It’s greener, and purchasing one doesn’t involve giving money to The Man, who is making money from all those nasty tampons which, if they don’t give me TSS, will at the very least contaminate the natural womanly juices within me. So total fail there.

2. Second, that nasty, misogynist ageist Tampax Pearl advertising campaign with mingy old Mother Nature being thwarted by nice, young skinny model girl who’s partying on with fit blokes because she’s shoved the correct sanitary product up her minge. I didn’t even buy Tampax Pearl this time, but I still feel I have (menstrual) blood on my hands. That campaign says something about what sanitary product manufacturers think about all of us who buy their wares. And what they think of menopausal women (hope I die before I get hot flushes, as us young ‘uns are meant to think).

3. Third, my failure to bond with the Mooncup suggests I have inappropriate issues with my body. Surely a proper feminist should be able to shove anything she likes up her cunt with ease. After all, it’s her body, her choice. By constantly fiddling about, trying to ensure I don’t have the end bit (which I have trimmed, thank you) poking into my most sensitive areas, I can’t help feeling I’m letting the side down. I ought to be able to just get on with it. It’s like my nether regions are railing against me with puritanical fervour. I’m sorry. We make allowances for the stronger sex and childbearing, but when it comes to menstrual cups, we are pure and virginal. So piss off, will you?

My absence of Mooncup proficiency seems to fit in alongside a general incompetence when it comes to using the Tools of Feminist Mother Earthdom. Take baby slings, for instance. Me, I’d have a Baby Bjorn with bells on if I could afford one.  Instead, I’ve ended up settling for a Baby Bag. But when I was training to be a breastfeeding peer supporter, absolutely everyone else had these mega-simple, ultra-complex, one-piece-of-cloth-wrapped-around-a-million-times contraptions which you couldn’t buy in Mothercare. We even promoted and sold them alongside nursing bras and Gabriele Palmer’s The Politics of Breastfeeding. They were, like, the coolest accessory if you were serious about raising your child free from commercial interference. And hence I was totally crap at fitting my wriggling infant into one (but they’re so easy! have another try! yes, I know he’s gone blue and his legs are twisted round his neck, but you’ll get the hang of it, honest! Um, no). Come the feminist revolution, I’ll be such a liability. I just can’t handle the tools.

I am, however, good at the stuff that doesn’t involve physical instruments but which indicates that I don’t need any male-led interventions when it comes to handling my womanly bod. Breastfeeding? No probs. Natural childbirth? Hell, I had no.2 outdoors next to a Portakabin with no pain relief, so don’t give me no “too posh to push”. I rule when it comes to these things (of course, I’ve just basically been very, very lucky, but let’s pretend for a moment that it’s down to the fact that I’m at one with my femaleness and all those other women who have difficulties are just a bit useless, because that’s not misogynist at all …).

I am sure that next month I will attempt to get back on the Mooncup horse (which seems a fitting image, for reasons I can’t quite explain). It’s probably down to the fact that the Mooncup itself is a bit branded – a bit corporate now – and there’s probably a menstrual cup out there that only those in the know are using, but which I would get on with just fine. So I’ll keep looking, keep trying. But in the meantime, I know where that box of tampons is, even if no one else does.

Typical Femail

Why I am a crap feminist, Reason no. 362: I read the Daily Mail online

Most of the Daily Mail’s readers are female. It’s because we hate ourselves. It’s because we hate each other. It’s because whatever shame we face on a daily basis regarding how repulsive we look, how fat we’ve become, what useless mothers we are, how we’re failing in the workplace, we like nothing better to have it reinforced. Because we bring it on ourselves anyhow. Basically, we’re shit.

Writing on the Samantha Brick affair, Hadley Freeman does an excellent job of summing up just how appalling the Daily Mail is:

The general motto of the Daily Mail seems to be that a woman’s role in life is to be pretty, thin, get married, quit work, have children and, ideally, disappear or die before getting embarrassingly old and fat (it is no wonder the paper loved Diana so much.)

This is, precisely, the message of the Daily Mail in general, and the Femail section in particular. And women are, it seems, lapping it up.

Responses to Freeman’s article include plenty of references to the Mail’s female readership. What’s the point of a feminist attacking the paper when her sisters are all sneaking off to stand in Amanda Platell’s firing line? If women are reading the Daily Mail, then women are fair game. Doesn’t that make sense?

Indeed, perhaps we should all look away. But if someone or something hates you so passionately, so completely – and is expressing this hatred on a daily basis – do you look away? Or does it hold a bizarre fascination? It goes beyond a general feeling of “know your enemy”. You already know them. But you’re still not sure what they’re going to do next.

I do get an odd kind of pleasure from reading the Daily Mail. It reassures me that I’m not going mad, that misogyny is real, however insane it seems. At the same time it’s so far-fetched – so utterly removed from morality or kindness or compassion for anyone – it’s like reading the best spoof ever. It’s like Private Eye meets Viz but so, so much better because no one could possibly make the attitudes up. They are beyond imagination. Just how deep is the well of bile from which these beliefs bubble up? It’s always deeper than you think. So you keep on looking. Or at least, I keep on looking.

I did try, for a while, to stick to a website called Daily Mail Watch, methadone to Paul Dacre’s heroine. I just found myself craving the hard stuff. The pre-digested venom wasn’t strong enough.

I know all of this isn’t good enough. I need to stop reading the Daily Mail, I really do. But in the meantime, it’s worth remembering that reading it doesn’t mean that we want to live in Daily Mail Land, any more that watching Casualty means that secretly, we’d all like nothing better than to find ourselves in a major motorway pile-up, waiting to be ferried to Holby.

Mind you, I love Casualty. What’s all that about?