Toxic best friend: Glossy magazines and me

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with glossy magazines. The reason this blog is called Glosswatch is because I originally conceived of it as a place where I’d go to rant about the publications to which I was still, inexplicably, subscribing in 2012.

I knew how these magazines functioned. I could see the way in which, like a toxic best friend, they eroded your confidence by drip-feeding you advice on ways in which to improve yourself. I knew that the solutions they offered were to problems you hadn’t even realised you had. I knew they didn’t really want you to be happy with yourself, since a woman who is happy with herself does not spend vast amounts of money on trying to make herself look like someone else. But I bought them all the same. I’d been buying them for decades.

Twenty-five years ago I used to spend my lunch money on whatever was available in WH Smiths in Penrith. My selection criteria used to be based on how much content a magazine was running about food, weight and diets. If it had an article about eating disorders, ideally illustrated by photographs of anorexic women, I felt I’d struck gold. Day-in-the-life food diaries were also good. Otherwise I’d settle for anything with a special feature on how to make less of yourself. I never actually followed the diets – my own calorie limit tended to be way below the ones on offer – but I liked reading them anyhow. Continue reading


On Vagenda, David Aaranovitch and women’s complicity in their own oppression

Today I read a review of Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s The Vagenda. I have not yet read the book itself, which is aimed primarily at young women. I probably will read it at some point, but for the time being I’ve decided I don’t have to. A man has read the book and offered his own view on womankind’s relationship with popular culture. This has got to be better than anything some stupid Grazia subscriber might think.

David Aaranovitch is not a young woman. He does, however, have daughters. What’s more, he is known to have existed in the proximity of women for most of his life. He walks amongst them, observing their curious ways and idiosyncrasies. Who better, then, to report back to the rational masses on the enigma that is Women Who Do Stupid Things That Facilitate Their Own Oppression? Continue reading

This time I’ll be perfect: On New Year’s Resolutions

This year my New Year’s resolution is the same as it has been for every other year: become perfect. Be true to yourself while ensuring that everyone likes you, lose weight while simultaneously developing a healthy attitude to body shape and food, develop comfort in your own skin while also stopping ageing in its tracks, always be right while maintaining the humility to know you could be wrong, be Yoda-like in your wisdom, bend time and space, become immortal, that sort of thing. The usual.

When it comes to resolutions, I am extreme. What is the point if you’re not going to be? Make your resolution too much of a SMART objective and you might even stick to it, and where would be the fun in that? The whole point of resolutions — and of womanhood, I’m increasingly inclined to believe — is to be a self-flagellating work in progress. You’re rubbish now but tomorrow you might not be (that said, you’re also obliged to live in the moment, so don’t get too carried away).

It often feels to me that New Year’s Resolutions are merely an extension of women’s glossy culture. Or maybe it’s the other way round? Either way, there’s a great deal of similarity to the way in which the likes of Glamour, Marie Claire and Elle tell you that “your best body ever” is just around the corner and the way in which the new year is meant to make self-control and perfection suddenly attainable. You’re meant to spend each month, each year, convinced that this is the very last one in which you’ll be such a total failure. You’re getting better, you are! Nearly there, just one more push … And then it gets too late and you die and the only consolation is that at this point, you genuinely will lose weight.

I know people who don’t read rubbish magazines make resolutions too. I know it’s human nature to always be dissatisfied in oneself and want to change, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The alternative — wandering through life thinking that you are flawless — would be insufferable (that said there will always be an article ordering you to “love yourself” in between all those shiny pages telling you how useless you are). But our expectations of ourselves are beyond ridiculous and the irony is, the more we hate ourselves, the more we end up behaving as though we’re the only people who matter. There’s no time to be kind when you’re busy being cruel to yourself, no space for perspective on world poverty when you’re battling with a self-imposed hunger strike. This is the case even if your resolutions are broken by January 2nd. You now have a huge expanse of time in which you could be looking outwards but instead you turn inwards, asking yourself why you aren’t a better person (the answer is that better people don’t dwell on why they’re not better people but just get on with it. Now there’s another meta-worry for us all).

I did have one year when I stuck to my resolutions. Never again. I was fifteen and filled a whole exercise book with statements of what I would and wouldn’t do for the new year, divided into subsections such as Food, Exercise, Social Life, Charity Work, Cultural Awareness and GCSEs (yes, I know. Even I worried about it at the time). I did not spend the year being a paragon of virtue. I spent it being a miserable sod who did the bare minimum of everything I’d set myself, with no time for anything else (and actually, I broke one of the resolutions anyhow, which was “be much more relaxed about everything”). Perhaps if I’d stopped to think that for once I was actually doing all the things I’d set myself, I’d have been filled with a profound Weltschmerz. Thankfully at least that didn’t happen because I had always had next year’s resolutions to plan.

Obviously I’m never going to resolve not to make resolutions, because that is terminally naff, not to mention difficult, because how can you be sure something isn’t a resolution and just a plan? There’s always going to be something worth doing to make yourself less of a loser. But I do wonder about this endless wallowing in the impossibility of being you and the need to change. Surely there’s a better way? Once I’m perfect I will tell you what it is.

The bisexual male: Yet another must-have accessory

I tend to blame my lack of experience with diversity on the fact that I come from Cumbria. For the uninitiated, it’s that weird bit of England that’s north of Manchester and west of Newcastle and not really identifiable as anything. We have the Lake District, which is pleasant, and Sellafield, which is less so. And then there’s livestock farming, which is intermittently interrupted by disease. What we lack is cool, edgy, urban diversity. Almost everyone I encountered while growing up was white and identified, publicly at least, as straight. Perhaps it’s changed (I left in 1993, to go to Oxford University, clearly in search of a posher version of home in terms of cultural mix).

Unlike all the cool chicks from Manchester, London and New York, I have never had a trendy, über-camp yet strangely sexless gay best friend to advise me on fashion and blow jobs. Nor have I (knowingly) had a bisexual boyfriend, which, according to the March issue of Glamour, is the new Big Thing.* Apparently “more and more women” are dating bi guys (“are they naïve – or enlightened? And would you go there?”). There then follows a personal story from a female writer who’s married to a bisexual man, plus – in case it still all feels a bit icky – a nice feature on “Celebrity bi guys” (which sounds like a game show to me, although I’ve not yet worked out the rules). Continue reading

Sex and sexism in university culture: Redefining our regrets

A week before Christmas my partner and I took our children to an underground Christmas grotto in some caves near where we live. It’s the first time I’ve been but there’s a display there every year. First you get your two minutes with Santa, then you wander from cavern to cavern, admiring the decorations. It’s all very nice, but it’s still really just for kids. Hence my partner and I devised a game to keep ourselves occupied: Christmas present shag bingo. All along the walls of the caves were fake presents with different names printed on them. The object of the game was to see how many names of former shags you could spot as you went along. By the end of the visit, my youngest had a cuddly turtle, my eldest a toy fighter jet and my partner a resounding shag bingo victory. Rather disappointingly, I’d only got one name out of the whole sodding cave. That said, I’ve actually slept with three different Simons, hence feel I should have been awarded a higher score for that. Plus I can’t remember the name of everyone I’ve ever slept with (the sign of either a misspent youth or encroaching old age). Anyhow, I lost, but can’t help feeling I deserve to have done better. Continue reading

David Cameron: Voice of powerful, mega-rich, old Etonian working parents everywhere

… working sets a good example. I spot that with my children. They imitate. I was sitting on the sofa the other day, reading some files – some quite secret stuff, actually – and I turned round and there was Florence, aged less than two. She’d got next to me, got a bit of paper and a pen and was copying me.

David Cameron, When Glamour met David..., Oct 2012

That was our wonderful Prime Minister, answering the question “David, are you able to come up with a twee anecdote in which you reveal yourself to be simultaneously an attentive father and a mega-important alpha male, and which at the same time gets in a quick dig at the workshy?” And is he? Of course he is! Only Glamour have somehow got the questions mixed up, meaning it looks like he’s responding to this instead: “My childcare fees are astronomical and tax credits have been cut. Could you tell me more about your new commission looking into this?” Ha ha! As if! Continue reading

When “good” people read “bad” things

I am having a moral dilemma. Well, to be honest, it’s not much of a dilemma. I know I am doing something morally unacceptable. I’m just trying to work out how prepared I am to do something about it.

I do try to be good. Whatever else I might think about myself – that I’m unattractive, stupid, lazy – I would like to think I try to do the right thing. For years, however, I have attempted to convince myself that part of doing the right thing involves getting over-familiar those who do the wrong thing. And thus I’ve sought to justify endless hours spent reading hateful nonsense, both online and in hard copy. Continue reading

Self-esteem: Yet another thing you’re crap at

If seeing pictures of skinny models in magazines makes you feel fat and ugly, please don’t blame the mags. The person you need to hold responsible is actually your mum. This, at least, is what September’s issue of Glamour would like you to believe. It is of course complete and utter crap, but you may well think it anyhow. After all, these magazines always catch you when you’re at your weakest.

Once you’ve ploughed through page after page telling you that you’re eating the wrong foods, wearing the wrong clothes and buying the wrong beauty products, what are the odds on you challenging the idea that you’re thinking the wrong thoughts, too? Not very high, I’d say. That’s why pieces such as Dawn Porter’s “Self-esteem? It’s kids’ stuff” come along and kick you when you’re down (while simultaneously berating you for not getting right back up again). Yes, Porter’s written yet another of those articles which are all about YOU and why YOU need to feel GOOD about YOURSELF and why aren’t YOU doing it yet? Go on, get on with it. Stop feeling shit about yourself RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Continue reading

Success, the Louise Mensch way

When were growing up, my brother used to have the following poem on his wall:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Success, attrib. Emerson (possibly)

It is a nice poem (you can tell I’ve got a PhD in literature, can’t you?). Nevertheless, it makes me sad. My brother is disabled and hasn’t achieved all of these supposedly tiny, natural things. He has my respect, and my children love him. But it’s not quite the same. Perhaps we shouldn’t set any universal standards for success; it’s always a bloody minefield.

I say all this, but I have in my hand a copy of August’s Glamour. And right there on page 26, it’s none other than Tory MP Louise Mensch, taking me to task for my pathetic ambivalence towards success:

Continue reading

Great article in this month’s Glamour…

Not a joke title, btw. There is, quite seriously, a very good piece in the June edition of Glamour, and by that I don’t mean one of those ‘serious’ articles about depression or domestic violence ( i.e. the ones which still manage to be shit but which you don’t really want to criticise for fear of looking like a knob). This is a Glamour article on Glamour issues and it genuinely is great. This is perhaps because it’s written by Zoe Williams, who is quite far from being your usual Glamour writer.

In the piece, Williams tries to live like a celebrity for a week. So far, so potentially annoying. She does all the “celebrity” stuff like having a personal trainer, getting acupuncture, eating “special” food etc. At this point it really doesn’t sound good. It all sounds like an excuse for a journalist to piss about, really. Or for one of them to get all ‘Louis Theroux’ and take ‘a sideways look’ at the crazy world of celebrity rituals. Yet Williams doesn’t do either of these things. She has fun, a bit, but overall seems to find it all a bit sad and pointless, and she makes it obvious to the reader why that might be so (far more eloquently than Britney Spears did with that terrible ‘Lucky’ song, where the superstar ‘cries in her lonely world’ and pisses off everyone in the entire Cosmimegaverse).

Williams discovers that her entire time as a ‘celebrity’ is devoted to how she looks:

In other words, just getting into the kind of condition to do a job that requires you to look like this is, in itself, a full-time job. Then I suppose you’d spend a few months doing your actual job, by which time you’d be back to square one.

Put that way, I’d prefer some half-hearted, ineffectual faffing around with my new Bad Gal mascara (free with the magazine!) before getting on with my day. Because yes, celebrities look better than I do (generally), but they probably don’t feel any better:

But in the end, it’s not the effort or the time so much as the sheer anxiety about your appearance that I think would get you down. There’s no escaping it; you cannot look rubbish, not even for a minute […] There is so much pampering and attention, that in the end you’d either have to give in to it and believe you were that important, or you’d have to reject it, and not believe anything anyone said. It’s a bit of a stark choice.

To sum up, Williams simply says “I don’t think it’s much fun”. Which is sad given that the rest of this month’s Glamour is devoted to the magazine’s Women of the Year, women such Amanda Holden, Kylie Minogue, Fearne Cotton, Holly Willoughby, Lea Michele and Eva Longoria, ie women who are no doubt having precisely the utterly not-fun time that Williams describes so well (Caitlin Moran is also a Woman of the Year, but she’s the exception that proves the rule. God, I hate it when people use that expression).

I’ve often suspected that being a female celebrity feels rubbish due to the focus on appearance, but the thing I’ve always dwelt on is the hunger. Being celebrity-thin has to involve thinking about food pretty much all the time. I wonder how celebrities maintain relationships since being so skinny must kill a person’s sex drive (perhaps that’s the real reason for so many divorces). To be honest, I wonder how celebrities do anything. And up till now I hadn’t even considered all the other ‘appearance’ bollocks.

Obviously there are still times when I imagine myself being famous. But I would, quite clearly, have to be a) talented, and b) a celebrity minger, as it’s the only way I’d be able to cope. But then being a minger would have to be a central part of my celebrity. It would make me “down to earth” and into someone who “doesn’t care” about what her detractors say. I’d have to be a sodding role model, but then I’d also get lumped together with people as diverse as Ann Widdecombe and Beth Ditto as someone who “dares to challenge the beauty status quo”. Because just looking the way I look, right now, would be a political act if I was doing anything at all of note. And when you look at it like that, being ugly and famous is probably just as much effort as being beautiful and famous, only in a different way.

Hence this, and not being talented, is why I’m not being famous. I’m just going to stay here, sitting on the sofa with my netbook, while my three-year-old feeds me ice-cream (it’s important I eat it; I’m the first customer at his ‘shop’). Unfortunately I think that, just a moment ago, he also fed me a bit of snot. I bet that never happens to Amanda Holden. So yeah, famous or not famous; I guess it’s just swings and roundabouts.

Glossy magazines: Not dead yet

Last night my partner and I were in the bathroom, watching our children in the bath but also managing to flick through this June’s copy of Glamour. This was done in a manner that was in no way neglectful or dangerous. We’d even got to the feature on “best dressed celebrities” when the following insightful conversation arose:

ME If you squint and don’t read the actual words, it looks like a “most thin people” countdown. Excluding Kim Kardashian, who is a bit less thin and therefore “curvy”.

PARTNER What does Kim Kardashian do?

ME Dunno. Let’s make a pact never to find out. It’ll be like never watching The Matrix. There are some cultural phenomena about which we’ll comment without ever knowing the truth.

HIM Yeah, let’s. It’s weird, though. Kim Kardashian’s in the best and worst dressed lists.

ME So are Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson. Although if you compare the two lists, Watson and Stewart are dressed more badly than people whom they’re also better dressed than. How does that work?

HIM Dunno. It’s like –

[sudden interruption from furious, Matey-covered four-year old]

ELDEST SON Mummy and Daddy! Will you stop talking such SILLINESS!

As you might have gathered, Mummy and Daddy “talking silliness” is a common feature in our household. Nevertheless, never before has it been challenged with so much passion. From the mouth of babes, eh? (Or possibly not. I have a terrible suspicion that “from the mouth of babes” has been tainted forever as a phrase due to its use in some lads’ mag for a “women say the funniest things” feature.)

Eldest is clearly in keeping with the public “mood”. The knives are out for glossy mags. Okay, maybe not the knives, but the cocktail sticks at least. In yesterday’s Observer, Eva Wiseman wrote about how time stands still in women’s magazines. It’s a good article. Mind you, the magazine she mentions, and even the first quote she uses, are things I already identified as crap in a post last week (so, yeah, Eva, quit copying!). Although for some reason Eva doesn’t actually name names (either it’s unprofessional or, what’s obviously more likely, she doesn’t want people to trace her piece back to my extremely famous post). So anyhow, I will reveal the true identities for you: the magazine’s Marie Claire and the Carrie Bradshaw wannabe tosspot is called Lindsey Kelk. So now you know.

Wiseman asserts that reading a glossy magazine “is like entering a time machine. You look down at a page and lose a decade”. I’d go much further than that. I don’t think they’ve changed since at least the late 1980s, which is when I first became aware of them. Oh, alright then, two things have changed:

  1. advice on sun tanning (now it’s all about getting a St Tropez spray tan, whereas it used to be Week 1 in Malaga on Factor 4, Week 2 on Factor 2 and final day on chip fat for that ultimate holiday glow)
  2. advice on tackling cellulite (cellulite was invented in an editorial meeting in 1988 and it’s taken the beauty industry a while to catch up)

Other than that, it’s all the same. Isn’t that depressing?

Well, not for Wiseman. She thinks the situation’s getting better because women are losing interest:

Along with many publications (yeah, hi), their sales continue to drop, but I wonder if this is in part because they ignore the growing awareness not only that women are choosing to opt out of the life they draw for us, with the weddings, the diets and the sexual attraction to shoes, but that lots of us have found alternative places to chatter about it. On Twitter. On blogs like The Vagenda, which hits such nerves that the writer of their post about body hair was invited to show off her armpits on This Morning.

Hmm. I have to admit, I’m not so sure about all this. Surely part of the reason why sales are dropping is not because we’re all turning to The Vagenda (which, let’s face it, is just having a moment because some woman who doesn’t shave her armits is considered a national freak show), but because there are lots of places on the internet where we can find the same old shit the glossies used to give us.* With blogging, for instance, surely one of the most pernicious trends of recent years is the rise of the style blogger, the woman who claims she’s encouraging us to be “individual” but is actually telling us that every day – every sodding day – you’re on a fucking catwalk? And there’s no escape.

So what’s the way forward? Well, look. My son is four. HE can see it’s all nothing but “silliness”. Shouldn’t we be catching the kids while they know, innately, that it’s just ALL WRONG? Let’s harness this feeling of “it’s shit” and run with it. Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to glossy magazines, we need some education!

To get us started, here is a summary of our leading glossies, what they are and what they do. Pay attention. There will be a short quiz to follow:

Marie Claire “Think smart, look amazing.” That is what they tell us. No, Marie Claire. “Think critically, wear clean pants.” That is the way forward.

Glamour The essence of Glamour is best captured by the regular “Hey, it’s okay..” feature near the start, in which readers are “humorously” given permission to do things which they always assumed were okay but now of course don’t. Often it’s “okay” to do things that Glamour tells you aren’t “okay” a few pages later (eating’s often one of these). Glamour is your evil, manipulative “best friend” who “only wants what’s best for you”. She can fuck right off.

Cosmo Older than Glamour, yet has somehow ended up being Glamour’s trashy younger sister. Intermittently does vaguely feminist things, like supporting pro-choice campaigns and being cross about domestic violence. Intermittently allows Irma Kurz to tell rape victims they were probably asking for it due to their suggestive behaviour. Very confused. It’s probably the hormones.

Company One long advertisement for River Island.

In Style Like Company, but for older women, therefore with more expensive brands. Works on the curious assumption that when you hit your thirties (i.e. when you have kids and your career stalls and all the men are whizzing off to the boardroom) you suddenly have money to spend on designer labels. Are you going to tell them, or shall I?

Grazia “Britain’s best-selling weekly glossy”, because no one else can be arsed to produce a weekly glossy. Once ran a TV advert in which a posh woman reading Grazia floated down a shoe production line, much to the puzzlement of some old, scummy, poor woman working the line. It was confusing, and also reminiscent of that Two Ronnies/John Cleese class sketch, but without the irony.

Good Housekeeping/Woman and Home You’re older, the kids are about to fly the coop, now’s the time to sit down and reflect on how you’re still a fat minger who hasn’t found her “own style”. And acquire some additional worries, such as not yet owning an Aga.

Those, I believe, are our main culprits (I’ll be running a catch-up course on Red and Elle later). I haven’t yet written the quiz I promised. I’m sorry. I’m too depressed (and fat and my clothes are shit. I can’t possibly do thinking when I’m like this!). Perhaps I’ll hand the running of this course over to my son. Please allow him to stand before you, covered in bubble bath, proudly proclaiming “STOP TALKING SILLINESS. NOW!”

* Since writing this post (and on the advice of someone I had a go at in another post) I have now started following Vagenda Magazine. It is good. I underestimated it (but lest we forget: Marie Claire still exists).

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!

Thank you, Glamour

This April, the UK edition of Glamour featured the Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence on the cover, looking suitably youthful and unattainably beautiful in a bejeweled designer body-type-thingy. I’ve just received June’s edition (I subscribe, y’see, so I’m ahead of the game) and it includes the following reader’s letter on its Mailbag page:

Hips? Check! Boobs? Check! Thighs that don’t look scrawny? Check! Thank you for putting Jennifer Lawrence on the cover – so refreshing to see a gorgeous, curvy woman.

Yes, thank you, Glamour (although the Good Men Project’s “small-breasted women” man may still want to have words with you). As for the rest of us, we are all eternally grateful that 0.1% of women featured in your magazine are not frighteningly thin.

Of course, the Glamour editors are not afraid to give themselves that much-deserved pat on the back, too. The Mailbag subheading sets the tone:

Love yourself (we do!) April’s issue made you realise that you’re gorgeous inside, outside, and just the way you are.

(btw, they didn’t credit Billy Joel for that last bit. They should have.)

Obviously, while it’s nice for your readership to get a little Real Woman ™ boost, you don’t want them getting too cocky. That’s why “LOSE 10lbs” remains in massive bold print on June’s cover, right next to JLo’s perfect head. 10lbs seems to me to be a strangely exact number. If I were to lose 10lbs, I’d actually look quite ill (mind you, I weighed 10lbs less than I do now at the end of breastfeeding my second child, and the jury was out on this. Some colleagues thought I was at death’s door and others thought I looked brilliant. The main thing is everyone felt happy to deliver their personal view right to my face, so I could collate the various opinions and decide on my next steps in my “how to please everyone by being the right weight” strategy. It’s always good when you don’t even have to ask for consumer feedback).

Alas, I digress. The main thing here is Glamour, and the importance of feeling good as a Real Woman ™ while also being conscious that you’re still too fat, regardless of what weight you actually are. It’s vital that, as women, we’re all able to do this. So thank you, Glamour. Thank you so, so much.

The Big Question: Dannii Minogue

So, what’s your take on the current predicament of Dannii Minogue? Come on, it’s important to take a position on this (by which I mean the whole sorry business involving Dannii, Kris and Little Baby Ethan ™). Okay, so Simon Cowell might have thrown a spanner in the works with his “I might have shagged Dannii a bit ages ago” revelations, but this doesn’t let any of us off the hook. These things matter, and what we all need to decide is: JUST HOW SHIT OUGHT DANNII TO BE FEELING RIGHT NOW?*

I have to admit, I am a bit of an expert on all things Dannii-related,** what with my inexplicable subscription to Glamour magazine. Dannii is Glamour’s resident “style columnist”, which means she gets to go on about how nice it is to have lots of clothes. She also mentions how nice it is that her sister Kylie also has lots of clothes. Sometimes they even get to swap clothes! Fan-bloody-tastic! Of late, of course, there has been another dimension to Dannii’s column. Since the arrival of Baby Ethan, she also gets to write about “mummy style” and “family life” and all sorts of smug things to do with “having it all”. Except now she doesn’t have it all because Kris has buggered off.

The weird publication dates of glossies such as Glamour means that this May’s edition features Dannii writing about her relationship with Kris as though everything’s still A-okay. Oops! I mean, it’s not even May yet! (Should I save the magazine? Could this sort of thing make it a collector’s item?) I don’t know, perhaps they’ll be back together by May and then it will all be fine (and it will only be, ooh, every single other page in Glamour that’s telling readers complete and utter bollocks). Still, what with the Cowell revelations and the general tabloid shit-stirring, I don’t think this seems likely. Sorry, Glamour editors. And, um, Dannii.

Still, perhaps all this will give Kylie some cause for celebration. After all, it’s been quite a while since she was Top Sister and while she’s never admitted it, we all know, don’t we, that deep down she’s been sick with envy (and cancer, admittedly. But mainly envy). Last year Glamour featured an interview with Kylie and while I don’t now have access to it (it’s now polluting hearts and minds in the waiting room of our local GP), I seem to recall it contained a hell of a lot of prodding related to Dannii having a baby and Kylie not having one. Kylie is very gracious (at one point she says “I’ve got my auntie stripes on and I’m ready to go”, whatever that means) but you could easily see the subtext. Come on, Kyles. You’ve really fucked it up, haven’t you? Younger sis has a baby and you don’t! Perhaps you were that bit too successful? (and too full of cancer, obviously. But we won’t say that, as that would be cruel).

But now the Louboutin’s on the other foot (hell, sometimes I could write for Glamour). Dannii’s now a single mum (although not in the “being poor” sense of the word – she’s still got her nice clothes) and Kylie’s providing the shoulder to cry on (as long as that mascara’s waterproof). So where next for les soeurs Minogue? What do you reckon?

Personally, given that they’re reaching the end of their “women of any value” shelf-lives, I think the next step is to buy a massive mansion in Oz and start re-enacting Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Only I’m not sure which one’s Blanche and which one’s Jane. I mean, which one of them ought to take the plunge and do the whole wheelchair thing? Because to be honest, I think both of them would make bloody excellent Janes (and it is the best role. I should know, given the amount of time I spend prancing about in front of the mirror with too much eyeliner on. And serving my loved ones dead parakeet for lunch).

Anyhow, what’s your view? Come on, out with it. WE NEED TO KNOW!

* If you assumed the big question was “what’s with the two “i”s in her name”, look, I’m sorry, but most of us gave up on that one years ago. Get with the sodding programme.

** Parent-bonding alert:  who else heard that phrase read out in the voice of Daddy Pig?