Feminists might be women, but they’re not actually your mum

Today The Sun did not include a pair of naked tits on Page 3. There are some who might say that this is a victory for No More Page 3, who’ve campaigned tirelessly against the shitty objectification of women in one small area of the press. And yet there are others who will ask, thoughtfully, “what about all the other pages? They’re pretty crap too”.

Similarly, in 2013 the Bank of England agreed to put Jane Austen on its new ten pound note. There are some who’ll say that Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaigning made an important point about the value of women as culturally and historically significant people. But then again others will say “what about women who don’t have ten pound notes?” (conveniently failing to distinguish between symbolic representation and literal distribution, but w/evs, it sounds good).

Small victories, right? There’s nothing so controversial as a small victory for feminism. They’re good, sort of, but then why did feminists bother doing this and not that? In fact, why didn’t the lazy fuckers do both? And why didn’t they sort out ALL social justice gripes while they were at it?

Now obviously, if the aim of feminism is to liberate all women, this cannot be done without the removal of all forms of oppression. As Billy Bragg’s version of The Internationale puts it, “freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all”. That makes perfect sense and anyone who disagrees would have to be a total tosser. The trouble is, when it comes to expectations of who will do the actual work involved in achieving the aforementioned freedom, we are not on even ground. It just so happens that there is one group whose very oppression is founded on the belief that they are “naturally” more caring, more compassionate and meant to give their time to others without complaint. This is group is “women” and this is a problem.

Look, Lefty Male Socialism! Today I supported a friend trying to access an abortion, did some volunteering at the women’s refuge, met up with that cousin who’s in the middle of leaving a violent relationship, carefully avoided the man who’s been harassing me at work, launched a new petition, popped in on your elderly mum, fed the kids, did the laundry and even found time to clean the windows!”

*looks up from copy of Revolution* “That’s great, Feminism, but you missed a bit — look, right over there. I’d use a bit more elbow grease if I were you, oh, and make me a sandwich while you’re at it.”

“Um … Perhaps you could help a bit?”

“Sorry, gotta read my Brand, and then spend an hour on Twitter denouncing a couple of your lot. Make it cheese and pickle.”

“But I ….”

“Also, I have some Serious Philosophical Misgivings about the abortion thing. Next time you’re asked to do something like that, vacuum the living room instead.”

Because of course, feminism is about women, and what are women for if not to be cleaning up after everyone else all the fucking time? Indeed, of all social justice movements, feminism has become the only one that’s expected to sort out all the others while also sticking a broom up its arse and sweeping the floor as it goes along.

Since a woman’s work is never done, the easiest option is to never even start. Don’t launch campaigns; don’t throw your lot in with anything in particular; never, ever fight for anything unless it is The Most Important Thing. The more you do, the more people will point out what you haven’t done and the more they’ll demand of you in future. You will not be allowed to complain because that would be privileged and entitled. You are expected to have a never-ending supply of time, patience, compassion, energy and selflessness. You are, basically, Mummy to a load of whining, ungrateful teenagers who want to put the world to rights but don’t understand why you can’t do it for them, just after you’ve washed their pants and lent them a tenner for going into town.

So it’s no good dealing with Page 3 when we haven’t dealt with all the other pages, you say? Well, it’s a good job you’re onto that one. What’s that? The other pages aren’t important enough to campaign over? Well, good to know you’re doing something more important. What’s that? You’re not because sniping at women is a full-time occupation? Why not take a break and spend some time actually supporting others rather than making more and more demands. Feminists might be women but they’re not literally your mum.

Oh, and make your own bloody sandwich.

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Debating porn: Is it “just like stacking shelves”?

Young women with low-paid jobs in retail are dead useful, aren’t they? I don’t mean just for stacking shelves and beeping stuff through the checkout. I mean as a debating device for the middle-classes, people who’d never dream of finding themselves on their hands and knees in Asda, making sure the Moshi Monsters tinned spaghetti hadn’t got mixed up with the Third & Bird wholewheat pasta shapes.

When I was growing up, for instance, the threatened penalty for not working hard at school was “ending up on the sweetie counter at Woollies”. Whereas to me this would have meant strawberry laces on tap, to my parents this meant only misery and failure. It’s only in a post-Woolworths world that we see how much worse it can get; if the pick ‘n’ mix counter were open today, it’d be run by staff receiving only JSA for their troubles. Continue reading

No More Page 3, Mumsnet and why my own dad has no idea I’m middle-class

A while ago I happened to mention to my dad that I wrote a blog and that it was part of the Mumsnet Bloggers network. God knows why I did this; he’d just mentioned a piece he’d contributed to Trout and Salmon magazine, so I suppose it was a failed attempt at one-upmanship (let’s face it, if you were me, would you want your dad reading any of this?). Anyhow, he wasn’t interested in reading my posts (despite the fact that I ploughed through all of his report on trout fishing in Scotland); he merely screwed up his face and asked me what I was doing associating with Mumsnet because “the women there – they’re all just middle-class mothers!”. Then he packed up his toolkit and went back off to work down the building site (did I just write building site? I meant court – he’s a barrister, so hardly salt of the earth himself). 

I am a middle-class mother – a middle-class feminist mother, which is even worse. How bloody exclusive is that? Obviously I believe all other women are exactly like me and if they’re not, then they sodding well should be. Nonetheless, even my own parents fail to acknowledge this essential middle-classness in me. I have a theory as to why that is: I think it’s because they’re my mum and dad and therefore they think I’m nice. Plus they’re middle-class themselves, but they don’t really know that they are. Or rather, they do, but when my dad says “middle-class mothers” he doesn’t mean mothers who are literally middle-class in socio-economic terms.* He means mummies who are assimilated into mainstream culture but who nevertheless dare to express opinions he doesn’t like.
Continue reading

Ladies: Your boobs, explained

As a woman, I often suspect I am just too close to my tits. After all, there they are, just there, morning, noon and night. There are times I’ve longed for a break. Those few days after giving birth when the milk came in and I suddenly find myself with red-hot, rock-hard, agonizing boulders of pain – I’d have happily gone tit-less then. And then there’s early on, back at school when I realized what an object of ridicule these things made me to bra-pinging, girl-fearing classmates –  that’s not an experience I’d call soarawaytastic, either. But still, it’s not all bad; they provide occasional “adult” amusement, plus they’ve fed my kids. On the whole, I’m happy that my breasts are still with me. Like Bagpuss, they might be baggy and a bit loose at the seams, but I love them. Alas, this means I lack objectivity on all matters tit-related.

When it comes to campaigns such as No More Page 3, it’s worth noting that many of those shouting loudest are in possession of womanly bosoms themselves. This is clearly a worry. What can these people – these women – really know about the role of tits in society? Having never been mere passive observers, they’re simply too involved. What can they possibly understand about the representation of breasts and consequent responses to them? Obviously, a man is required to explain all this (preferably one without moobs). Continue reading

Neil Wallis: Voice of the common woman (and her tits)

As a white, university-educated, middle-class feminist, there are many things about which I don’t give a toss. My children’s health and earning enough money to pay the bills, for instance. When it comes to those things, I really couldn’t give a monkeys. I prefer to let the “real women” worry about such mundane trifles. Meanwhile, my children starve / die of cholera (I pay so little attention I can’t remember which it is), which gives me time to ponder bigger issues, providing they’re not too big. Page 3, Special K, the pay gap – that sort of shit I can handle. I think about these things all day long (there’s nothing else to do except mooch around the coffee machine in my imaginary Bridget Jones office).  As for the real things – FGM, forced marriage, slavery – now that I can’t cope with. Thank heavens, then, for people like Neil Wallis. Continue reading