Tag Archives: Gender Roles

Parading around

8 Aug

While looking at an old schoolfriend’s photos on Facebook just now, I suddenly realised something: little girls do ballet, dance performances, perhaps even beauty pageants, that kind of thing – they show off how lovely they look in pretty dresses and how tall and straight they can stand. Women in their twenties become bridesmaids, wearing sometimes beautiful, sometimes hideous, dresses while trying to look demure yet enticing – they want to play their role of dutiful friend well, but still remind the men present that doing so makes them excellent marriage material. It’s all the same – demonstrating how well they can play the role expected of them.

I should probably explain this gross oversimplification and generalisation: the friend mentioned above looked lovely, but when I saw her immaculately made up face and impeccable hairdo I immediately imagined her mum painting her face and pinning stuff to her head. I should probably also mention that this friend developed anorexia when she was 17, a little while after her mum (not a nutritionist or other medical professional) put her (all 50kg of her) on a specially devised diet, and a fairly lengthy stint in a psychiatric hospital followed. Last I heard she was much better, so it made me kind of sad to see her so … subjugated? Stripped of all personality? Kind of fragile-looking in her crisp dress with a hesitant smile that seemed to say ‘I’m being a good girl, aren’t I doing well?’.

The Torygraph and Misogynist Drivel

13 Jul

I can’t work out whether this article is being ironic or not, but considering the Telegraph’s usual attitude towards women and gender equality, it’s doubtful. In short, it’s a rant about the fact that deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg occasionally takes his children to school in the morning.

‘Just how scared must he be of his militantly ball-breaking missus?’

Let’s assume this article is not intended to be ironic, but rather that its writer is being deadly serious in her anti-women outrage. The words used to describe Nick Clegg and his wife are representative of the language which women-haters fall back on when faced with a marginally less-than-traditional family set-up. (I don’t have any further examples right now, but trust me, it really is typical.)

She is

  • Miriam Gonzalez Durante, preferring to be known by her own name rather than as Mrs N Clegg (Ooh, look at her wanting to be her own person, dirty feminist.)
  • Prickly (Because she has *gasp* opinions?)
  • A militantly ball-breaking missus (Nice alliteration; shame that a successful woman who knows what she wants can’t be imagined without some miraculous emasculating effect. How does it work – is there a limited supply of success/determination/power in the universe, and by not being subsumed by her husband’s career a woman somehow uses up his share?!)
  • A partner in global law firm DLA Piper (Aha! As a female lawyer she is clearly a cold-hearted career bitch.)
  • Far too busy to take time off to support him on the campaign trail (Clearly not performing her wifely duty of always being visible in supporting her husband in his endeavours. What could possibly be more important? )
  • Emasculating him (I was just waiting for this to pop up. It is the gist of this article.)
  • Doing him a grave disservice (Being a bad wife.)
  • A woman with a  truculently embattled attitude to equality (How dare she think women are people too.)
  • Smug (Just for opening her mouth.)
  • An Alpha female (Whatever that is.)

Whereas he is

  • Lacking cojones (He should put his foot down/the little woman in her place.)
  • The second most senior politician in the UK (Could do better. If only his wife was more supportive.)
  • Supposedly scared of his wife (Must be, he can’t possibly want this too.)
  • A supine weakling (Big bad feminist, she’s walking all over him.)
  • Scrambling about looking for plimsolls (Poor disorganised little man being forced to do a woman’s jobs.)
  • A Beta male (Whatever that means.)

All this evokes an image of an overpowering harridan who forces a poor weak incapable man to do as she says. Even the distribution of descriptive phrases is a giveaway: the above lists contain just the easily identifiable judgmental phrases, and even here , statistically, the focus is clearly on Ms Durante (10) rather than on Mr Clegg (6), exemplifying how the article, despite its headline, gives an overview of how the deputy PM is governed by his wife because he is too wimpy even to be worth talking about a lot. Obviously its composition is very skilled and effective at getting the point across. But why portray an unexpectedly involved father as incompetent? Perhaps he’s really good at getting the kids organised and out of the door in the morning. Perhaps he wanted things to work this way too, perhaps it’s the only way he can manage to squeeze in seeing his sons on a manic day.

I don’t read the Telegraph usually, and only came across this article because someone on Mumsnet linked to it, so I’m not familiar with this particular journalist, but a quick scan of her work reveals that she mostly seems to write about male personalities and celebrity gossip, so I don’t think this particular article is meant in jest.

Which is annoying because, while it is entertaining to muse about the home life of politicians, this article has served only to further undermine working mothers and wives. So what if Ms Durante didn’t join her husband on the campaign trail! She probably had a lot of her own work to do. So what if Nick Clegg does the school run and the nanny doesn’t! I’m sure they have their own arrangements worked out so that no one misses any important meetings. But but but… he’s supposed to be busy running the country! Well, he’s not even the main person in charge, and again, I’m sure they’ve got it all figured out, they have to.

I’m just annoyed by the vitriol directed at Clegg’s wife. Surely being a female partner in a big law firm is a huge achievement and hard work. So is mothering three children. Being a politician’s wife can surely not always be easy. Anyone can look neat in expensive clothes and name their children after twee Cornish villages, and who cares about hat-etiquette at weddings anyway. So why not celebrate and look up to the way in which Mr Clegg and Ms Durante seemingly manage to cooperate as two busy working parents?