Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How NOT To Write An Article About Women's Lifestyles

First a warning: if you're reading this while having a bowl of breakfast cereal - finish eating before you click the link, otherwise you're going to be spending the next 20 minutes cleaning half-chewed oats and sultanas of your computer monitor. I hardly need to mention which paper is behind this piece from Anna Pasternak.

This is, by the way, a really long one. I couldn't decide which parts of the article deserved derision the most so I did it all line-by-line savouring it as I went... enjoy!

"Recently, the media has been awash with articles suggesting that career women are to relationships what garlic is to a vampire - the kiss of death."

...and when we say the media, we mean the Daily Mail don't we - I haven't seen any such articles in my regular subscription to BUST.

"We're unable to sustain meaningful unions, apparently, because men are intimidated by our intellect, threatened by our higher earning potential and turned off by our controlling, capable, yet powerful personalities."

We? Speak for yourself, myself and lots of my smart female friends are having pretty great relationships thanks. And any guy intimidated by my intellect probably isn't my type anyway. I prefer guys without screwed up power complexes.

"While this has been my personal experience - I was left by the father of my daughter (now nearly five) three years ago when I was the higher earner - I think that the issue goes far deeper."

No doubt you remember him running out the door screaming "Don't earn any more money, I can't stand money, all those ghastly holidays and expensive restaurants!"

"It is more psychological than sociological."

Uh oh, Anna, using big words again - I can hear the sound of a forest of penises drooping now...

"The problem, I believe, is not so much with career women per se, but that women are increasingly out of balance with themselves and, therefore, with men. I know I am."

Hold on the first bit was a huge leap of assuming there is a problem. Now we're on to massive leap number two - assuming that women are at fault. Maybe the somewhat mythical problem is with modern guys, maybe they need to get over themselves and realise women are entitled to careers and to power.

"In the past three years of being single, I have been on a handful of dates."

That would make you the expert then. Last time I was single I slept around like I was in training for the Olympic shag-a-thon so really I think you'll find I'm the expert on men in town (actually in most towns!!).

"Two years ago I went to dinner with a doctor who told me that I 'wasn't in touch with my femininity' as I 'didn't flirt or wear much make-up'."

I've been on dates like that - it's up to you, you can just walk out or if you prefer you can chuck your red wine on his white shirt and then walk out - your call. Take the advice to heart though - men love women who flirt continuously and wear a ton of make-up...

"His diagnosis also included the undeniable fact that I was in 'acute need of affection'."

Sounds really patronising. But I did warn you to leave the date before it came to this.

"The last straw came four months ago when I had dinner with a successful, high-profile entrepreneur who literally screamed at me that I was 'so in control it was scary' - although he did backtrack when I dropped my head towards my plate and started sobbing."

I'm getting this sense that every guy you date you have to tell me how successful their career is. A doctor, a SUCCESSFUL entrepreneur,... maybe it's you who has the bee in their bonnet about dating guys who are more successful and higher earners than you. Maybe that's why you get so few dates. How about pitching for smart, interesting and in a job they enjoy. And what is so scary about being "in control"? Surely being out of control is more of a date-burner? Like, erm, bursting in to tears. And if you're on a date and he's screaming at you - unless it's "get out the way there's a car coming" - leave, just leave, he's not behaving appropriately, you can do better than this.

"As well as being hurt, I was shocked and outraged. What, I thought, had become of modern man's chivalry? But later, I grudgingly reasoned, maybe he had a point - what had become of my femininity?"

Easy mistake to make - he didn't have a point, he was an arsehole. Date someone sympathetic and kind next time.

"The difficulty for many of today's career women is that in order to compete with men, we've morphed into them."

We've morphed in to men? Neat trick. Can we please have equal pay now then?

"We've worked ourselves half to death in order to conquer the career ladder, yet in the process we've trampled our core femininity into the ground."

If women have a harder time than men conquering the career ladder, we need urgent equality legislation to address that. And what core femininity? Hoovering? Ironing? Cleaning floors? Having no money? What did we miss out on? And don't pretend that women working is a new thing. Working class women have worked for years out of necessity. It's is a tiny minority of who haven't worked at all and a tiny minority who have the resources available to them to be able to quit work if they want to.

mum juggling work and kids

"De-feminising: Juggling work, children and all of life's trimmings can leave a woman little time for herself"

How is raising children de-feminising? Surely that's one of the most "feminine" things one can do, if you happen to be the sort of person who cares about "feminine" which I really don't. And I hate that word "juggling" - it really implies you're not doing any of those jobs very well. But many women are brilliant at their work and brilliant with their families. Where are the guys "juggling" accountancy, golf and looking awkwardly round a fancy restaurant while Anna Pasternak blubbs into her creme brulee!

"These days, as a single parent and sole breadwinner, I often feel more masculine than feminine."

There is no doubt that being a single parent is hard work, hard work that is mostly done by women. What is "masculine" about being a single parent? And what does it mean to feel masculine? I don't understand what that feeling is. Everything I feel is feminine by definition because I feel it and I have a cunt.

"Working full-time, making every decision, paying every bill, driving myself everywhere, booking tickets for holidays, lugging the Christmas tree in - it's all completely de-feminising."

So feminine would be not working, not making decisions, not being able to go where you want in the car or on holiday and not doing any heavy lifting. I'm not much intot he heavy lifting part, but you can usually get the person at the shop to help you, otherwise, I'll take de-feminising any day if it means I have control over my own life.

"My friend Sophie, 46, who runs her own design company and is a single mother to two boys aged nine and 11, agrees. She has been single for six years, since her husband left her for another woman. Blonde, attractive and kind, she hasn't been on a date since he walked out. 'I have absolutely no idea how to be a woman any more,' she says. 'Because I run my business, my home and make all the decisions about the boys, I feel totally unfeminine. 'I'm terrified of dating as I have no idea how to behave. 'I would love a partner but I feel unattractive, untrusting, unsexy and completely alone.'"

We're back to the "proof by single case study" argument. How convenient that "Sophie" got interviewed rather than, err, me. Which would have changed the nature of the story somewhat.

"That, of course, is the crux for many of us. We honestly believed that if we worked hard, we could have it all and more. Yet so many of us have ended up lonely, exhausted and broken-hearted, with far less of what we bargained for."

Yes despite the victories of the women's movement the work environment can still be tough for women, especially those with children. We have a long way to go. Men with children have it much easier, lets keep fighting til we get there too. And I'd rather be "lonely" (which I'm not) than in a relationship with one of those scumbags you mentioned on your dating stories.

"According to a Mintel report, 39 per cent of the adult population is single - that is 19 million people - and this is expected to rise to 41 per cent by 2011. Clearly, men and women are increasingly out of sync, and the key could be in learning to re-balance ourselves as women and reclaim our essential softness."

So to re-iterate - there's a problem with male-female relationships ... it must be women's fault.

"So I embarked on a psychological make-over to see if I could fast-track my femininity."

Can anyone else smell bullshit around here?

"First, consultant stylist Kira Jolliffe, who runs a company called Wardrobe Woman, appraised my closet."

That would be the problem - working too hard, too much to do at home? Get some new clothes!

"Once she got over the shock of how few clothes I have, she immediately sussed that I 'compartmentalise' my wardrobe. I live in jeans and shirts to write and do the school run, wear nicer tops to work meetings and have a couple of dresses for going out. But as I rarely go out, the more elegant clothes hardly get worn."

Doesn't everyone "compartmentalise" their wardrobe into smart and casual clothes? Otherwise you'd be going to proms in tracksuits and pub quizzes in an off-the-shoulder sequin number. And no, I don't wear my fanciest clothes very often either, that's because they're fancy clothes, for special events and occasions.

"She was correct in saying that I 'try to bring out my femininity for the occasion, as opposed to being feminine whatever the occasion'. My homework was to mix up my wardrobe, ditch my beloved chunky loafers and not save smarter clothes for some mythical special occasion. Femininity is about an internal experience with your self and clothes are about the external appearance,' she explained. 'But your clothes can be a tool to remind you of it; a way of tapping into the essence of who you are."

Never pay anyone to give you homework. That's just dumb. She's on your time - tell her to go find you some funky new clothes and if she refuses, withhold payment.

"'This has nothing to do with showing cleavage, for example, as there is nothing less sexy than enforced femininity. Femininity is all about being relaxed with yourself.' The problem for the career woman, according to Jolliffe, is that in the corporate world, women often use dress as an armour. They over-do their hair and make-up and then it becomes difficult to drop the armour, both sartorially and emotionally, for a date."

Earlier on the doctor she should have walked out on said she didn't wear enough make-up. Lesson - people are full of crap and will tell you anything to mean-spiritedly belittle you. You don't need these people in your life, throw them out, stick on a pair of patchwork dungarees and hang out with fun people.

"'But to equate femininity with florals and chiffon is childish and simplistic,' she cautioned. 'To suddenly wear floaty tops in the office smacks of trying too hard. 'WAGs, for example, are the antithesis of femininity because they reek of desperation. Artifice is the least sexy thing. Femininity is about authenticity.'"

WAGs - don't they wear fancy clothes and make-up all the time and for the most part not have day jobs, but just hang off the arm of their rich footballer hubbies? And WAGs by definition are not "lonely", they're women with partners. Very, very successful partners actually. Isn't that what you wanted?

"After a week of trying to up my feminine ante by wearing nicer shoes and adding jewellery or a pretty top, I understand why Jolliffe insisted: 'If it feels false, don't do it.' I spent the first day staggering around in a little skirt and heels, feeling ridiculous considering my life in the country."

So that was money well spent then? A week later you realised you looked ridiculous.

"'Sexiness is about getting the balance between the feminine and masculine with panache and confidence,' she had said."

Earlier it was all about being feminine, now it's about balance. Maybe sexiness is about just being yourself... Radical!!

"'It's about being soignee, not overdone. It's about being vulnerable and empathetic without being a victim."

Being a victim happens when someone else abuses you. You can be as vulnerable or as invulnerable as you like. Others make you a victim. To suggest otherwise is an insult to the millions of victims of abuse of all kinds around the world.

"'But you need to be realistic about your sexual identity because being sexy isn't necessarily being feminine."

I don't even know what she's on about any more. We're out of touch with our femininity, we're too controlling, we are de-feminised by child-raising and we should try to strike a balance between feminine, which isn't about floaty dresses and masculine, which is about having a job but that still isn't necessarily sexy and there's no point pretending, especially not if you've worn too much make up and now you're crying in a restaurant...? Is that it? Or is it more like this: ARE YOU A WOMAN? THEN THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU.

"'My advice to career women is to get into the habit of rubbing really expensive body cream in after a bath."

That's it? That was the point of the article? Moisturise?

"'It's amazing how being at one with your body puts you more instinctively in touch with your physical self-esteem.'"

I've found that going wing-walking, sky-diving, white-water rafting and then having a lot of really good sex can put me instinctively in touch with my physical self-esteem.

"The most valuable lesson I've gained has been to wear the clothes I enjoy, instead of saving them for best. Interestingly, I've had more comments on my appearance lately. I'm beginning to see that femininity is like a flower. Water it by paying attention and it will blossom."

So you wore nicer clothes and people noticed? Wow, maybe they have eyes...

"Next, I went to see renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh. Responsible for some of the most beautiful faces in the world, including Cindy Crawford, he is nicknamed the Botox King."

I think Cindy Crawford was ok-looking to start with. I don't think he can claim 100% of the credit.

"He had just returned from Russia, where he took part in a documentary on the subject of women and femininity. 'Russian women don't have that hardness of women in England and America,' he said. 'They get their men because they are extremely feminine and they listen to their men, yet they are not regressive. They have managed to hold on to an old-fashioned prettiness. 'In contrast, most of the women I see in Europe have become warriors. They are feisty and aggressive. 'They see relationships as business transactions, and they treat dating the same way they climb the corporate ladder, which makes them look and seem hard.'"


"So can he help feminise a woman? 'My job is to make a woman look attractive to a man, but I cannot change her character. 'I can soften her looks, but I can't get a woman in touch with her soft side.'"

So the woman who was crying while a guys screamed at her on a first date in a restaurant needs to be softer? No, she needs to toughen up so she can walk out of abusive situations before they get to that stage.

"But how do we do that? 'I think that it is difficult to be a woman today,' he adds. 'Our society is quite harsh, and if you want to enjoy the materialism, then you lose your soul. 'If women can stay away from their corporate brains, then they can tune into this softness and core values.'"

Yes women, leave your brains behind, they're so unattractive. I think it takes real brains to find those core values. My core values right now for instance are telling me I shouldn't let idiots like Pasternak fill my head with nasty rubbish... mmm.

"Interestingly, Dr Sebagh says that his happiest clients are in their 50s and 60s. 'They are in touch with what matters in their life. They want men for companionship, not some lifestyle choice. 'They have souls and are far more authentic. 'Ironically, I believe that the credit crunch will force more women towards that authenticity because they will no longer be able to pretend that they are rich or successful."

Women under 50 apparently don't have souls. That's true though - and of course not do women over 50, no-one does, it's just brain chemistry creating the illusion of consciousness. Tune in next week for more philosophy from me and a guy with a big pointy needle of botulism aimed at your face. And what about women who are rich or successful? Will they still be able to pretend they are. I think women are pretty realistic about their careers and wealth.

"'How can you find yourself if you are fake and pretending to be someone that you are not?'"

Did he steal that line from the Scientologists?

"Some may consider Dr Sebagh's helping hand towards the appearance of softness fake in itself. However, when he administered Botox to me, the results were fantastic. Far from looking taut or frozen, I looked like me, only less worn and haggard. I look fresher - and because I look softer, I feel softer."

This directly contradicts Sebagh's statement that he could only change appearances.

"However, as both Kira Jolliffe and Dr Sebagh concur, the appearance of femininity is meaningless without the inner experience of it. Psychologist Jeff Allen, founder of Psychology of Vision, who coaches for relationship and business success, said: 'Independent women look like they are tough and have their acts together, which is appealing, but really they are well-defended because they don't want to get hurt or be vulnerable."

Fuck off. REALLY FUCK OFF. Independent women look like they are tough and have their acts together because ... they're tough and have their acts together. When you say a woman's strength is a sign of weakness, you are saying all women are weak whatever they appear to be.

"'But to be feminine, at some level you have got to be open. 'Being open allows connection, intuition and compassion-these are the feminine gifts.'"

In case you're wondering - the masculine gifts are better pay for work of equal value, the right to buy and sell women's bodies and the fun of peeing standing up.

"So how do we open ourselves up to our feminine energy, especially if we also want to survive career-wise in a male-dominated world?"

The answer isn't moisturising? I'm confused.

"'The feminine principle is about allowing things to unfold and happen, not always interfering."

So I should just shut my pretty little mouth up and put up with whatever anyone else decides should happen to me? Of course!

"'Career women think that they have to be in control to make it happen, but if they stop and tap into some kind of emotional intelligence and empathy, it makes them better problem-solvers.'"

No if you want to make things happen you DO have to be in control. No fucker is going to do it for you.

"According to Allen, you cannot have true success or a successful relationship without the balance of masculine and feminine: 'The reason career women feel lonely within themselves and often have a deep sense of failure is because they are not connected to their hearts."

But career women don't feel lonely, the only women I know who feel lonely are the ones stuck at home with the kids all day.

"'I'm not saying career women should chuck it all away, but if they connect to things that really matter to them, if they start to appreciate little beautiful things every day - literally stop and smell the roses - then what they will have to offer will be really quite profound.'"

How am I going to smell the roses when I am doused in expensive moisturiser?

"Allen also says we must stop competing with men, especially in relationships, as competition is totally destructive."

No-one should be competing in relationships, men or women. Everybody HAS to compete at work. Otherwise they'll end up out of a job.

"Researching this article, I feel that I have undergone a subtle yet seismic change."

Called botulism-in-the-face. Lovely.

"I can see that being feminine is about allowing oneself to yield more and control less."

It is? Then I do not want to be feminine. I want to chose for myself the stuff I want in my life and have the power to make it happen.

"Two nights ago, I went to dinner with a male friend, and for the first time in years I looked more feminine, acted more femininely and, crucially, felt more feminine. Not in a simpering way, but with a profound realisation that being able to show vulnerability isn't a female weakness but a sign of a woman's strength."

But as we discussed earlier feminine is not the same thing as sexy so presumably you didn't get a shag. And showing vulnerability is a sign of vulnerability, not that there's anything wrong with being vulnerable with your friends, if you trust them. Anyway, enough, what did this male friend do for a living and was he SUCCESSFUL? We need to be told.

Can you believe the editors didn't pick up ANY of those glaring misogynistic issues with the piece? It's almost as if they hate women too...


Lynne Miles said...

LOVE this!

butterflywings said...

Great piece Kate! and what a crap article! It IS 2008, isn't it? *sigh*.

"'Career women think that they have to be in control to make it happen, but if they stop and tap into some kind of emotional intelligence and empathy, it makes them better problem-solvers.'

No if you want to make things happen you DO have to be in control. No fucker is going to do it for you."

So agree. Also - since when is being in control exclusive to being emotionally intelligent and empathetic? An inability to be in control of your life indicates a lack of such, surely?

lost clown said...

Love your breakdown. But I'm so conflicted. I read a piece earlier this year by Charlotte Allen telling me that

"I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home… . Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are … kind of dim.”

So now I'm so confused! How, oh how am I going to be a woman! *cries*

Cruella said...

It's so confusing isn't it. I try to ignore it all and just read Ann Coulter: http://cruellablog.blogspot.com/search?q=ann+coulter

Depresso said...

Just love it when one 'journalist' thinks "This is how I feel, so it's how everyone feels." Selfish beyond a joke.

One thing, why does the moisturiser have to be "expensive"? Because I'm worth it *cough*? But doesn't the expensiveness of the moisturiser mean that I'll have to keep working, so I can pay for it, therefore masculinising me? What if I have kids? All that moisturising time, doesn't that make me a bad mother? And once I have a partner, can I stop? I mean, all this moisturiser's making my hands slippy, I've dropped a gajillion glasses...

Sabertooth Screaming Lemur said...

I really want to sat something witty and in-depth, but I'm in a hurry, so all I can manage is *vomit, vomit, barfing allllll over that awful article*. Seriously, that was the most incoherent, insulting, idiotic piece of pseudo-journalism I've read all day. Did you do that beakdown with a bucket nearby? LOL
Great post- you rock.

Fairy said...

You can think you're entitled to career and power as much as you want, but the fact of the matter is that since women have started having these careers, the divorce rate has shot up and not many women are getting married.

Because believe it or not, men really don't want to go out with a bitchy, man hating feminist who is all out for female supremacy as opposed to what feminism is really all about.

The reason we have so many ASBO children is because women decided to have careers instead of staying at home and raising a family like they should do.

Cruella said...

Ha ha. Very funny. The thing is what you say would make total sense if it were some sort of accepted phenomenon that women were 100% responsible for the success of their marriages and raising of their children. But we're not.

If the divorce rate is going up (and that may not be a bad thing if women are leaving unsuitable and even violent partners) then maybe guys should try a bit harder. And if kids are going off the rails maybe guys should be more involved with child-rearing.

But also feminists don't hate men and nor do they want female supremacy. It's about equality - always has been. Next time look in the dictionary before making ridiculous remarks like this.