Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Are you a mother or a lover?

In a poll assessing 'what takes priority in your life?', the Daily Mail offers its female readers only two priorities: their husband or their children.

One would have thought they'd at least have included 'self loathing' as a third option for those of us who have the temerity to be unmarried, childless, gay, focused on our careers, or simply uninterested in dedicating the greater part of our lives to caring for others.

Fascinatingly, the poll runs next to two articles that investigate precisely how much time single, childless women over thirty-eight should devote to guilt, plastic surgery and questioning every professional decision they've ever made. Clearly, women with neither husband nor children are of little interest to the Mail unless they're prepared to be effusively upset about it. The prefered pose is one of elegant self-loathing, of well-preserved women in expensive dresses admitting that despite all the good things life and liberation may have brought them, their lives are empty and pitiable.

Unsubtle though its message may be, this poll represents rather succinctly what life is really like for many women today. We are discouraged from imagining futures that do not involve servicing the needs of others. We are offered an illusion of choice, formatted in garish baby-pink, between a small range of options that actually serve to exclude any possibility of another kind of life. And this, dears, is why feminism is still important.


  1. *sigh* This is really depressing! Unfortunately, though, I can't tell you how many women I do know who would gladly choose "husband" or "children" and not even think about having other alternatives.

    Then again, this IS the Daily Mail; there isn't a more idiotic news source out there (except maybe the Sun).

  2. Caring for your community, self, and family are all important, unless you're related to Rupert Murdoch http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/news/thread?tid=0f0555780a36f5bb&hl=en

  3. To be fair, women who read the Daily Mail probably do limit their ambitions to motherhood and marriage. Remember the old sketch from Yes, Minister: "those who run the country read The Times, whilst the Daily Mail is read by the wives of those who run the country."

    What I'm saying is that it's an easy target, and not really the best case for the importance of feminism. Now if you were to find these things in the Guardian or the Independent (perhaps you do - I wouldn't know), then that really would be proof that we need some sort of revolutionary feminism.

  4. Clearly it's all gone very wrong for pets. How our traditional British values are being torn asunder!

  5. That 'two articles' link doesn't seem to be working, though a quick glance at Femail offers a wide selection of options for the two articles you might be talking about.

    There are plenty of other articles on the site that are just as happy to tell even married, child-bearing women how awful they are for wanting a life, for wanting more than just a husband and kids, for thinking it might be nice to have time to themselves, for daring to accept their own body type over the one sold to them in magazines.

    It's unpleasant, pernicious, and this method of guilting women for daring to demand that some of their own needs are met has been spreading- similar, if more subtle, articles appear even in relatively less-mad papers like the Guardian.

  6. Penn, I think the answer is in the first sentence: The Daily Hate. 'nuff said.

  7. Good *grief*. I mean, I know I shouldn't be appalled by anything the Mail have to say because they're the Mail and of *course* they are awful, but even so.

    "And this, dears, is why feminism is still important."

    Quite, and well said! It bewilders me that anybody can think that feminism is redundant...

  8. Bronze Age Man16 June 2010 at 21:58

    Interesting exchange from the Thinking Housewife blog:-

    BJH writes:

    Having read your blog, I am going to go out and find the biggest, hairy-leggiest feminazi I can and give her a big old hug. I am then going to fall to my knees and thank the “higher power” that I have grown up during a time when antiquated views like yours are in the minority.

    I lost my mother to cancer when I was 17. I think about her every day. I miss her smell, her touch, her femininity. I do not, however, miss her strength, because it lives in me and my siblings.

    At the height of her career my mother led over 100 people in cutting-edge medical research. Seeing her live her life as a person, not just a house servant, forged in me the certainty that I could, and indeed should, share my talents with the greater family of society, not just my nuclear one at home. I also never doubted that I too could be a great mother.

    When I read views like yours, it reinforces my gratitude that my feminine role model was a fully human teacher and not just a slave.

    Laura writes:

    Thank you for writing. I am saddened by your mother’s early death. I am sure she was a wonderful woman.

    Your remarks typify the narcissism and arrogance of feminism. You imply I am not “fully human” and that all the women throughout history who devoted their lives to home and family, including probably your grandmothers and great-great grandmothers, were nothing but slaves. But slaves to whom? Slaves to our husbands? Slaves to our children? Slaves to the people we love and who love us in return?

    But everyone in this sense is a slave. We all have bosses and obligations. I don’t see how your mother, with all the immense responsibilities of directing 100 employees, was less of a slave than I am.

    Perhaps you mean your great-great grandmothers were slaves because they did not earn their own money. While it’s true they didn’t have that separate income and could not so easily go off and leave their families or live on their own, they were essentially paid by their husbands. How is being paid by a husband less honorable than being paid by an impersonal entity, such as a corporation or the government?

    Or perhaps you mean we are slaves because unlike your mother we do not use our minds in our work, just like cotton-pickers or farm hands. That would be an interesting point, but I just don’t believe it’s true. Raising children is mentally challenging. Sharing in a husband’s life and work is intellectually stimulating. Running a home and managing all its needs is like running a small hotel. When it is entirely in your hands, this is challenging and interesting work. Besides, there are always a few free hours to read and think.

    By the way, you might notice that when the world contained more slaves such as me, there was more order and civility, more pleasure and leisure time, less vulgarity and immorality. Children were much less stupid. Could the two things be connected? Could the loss of so many slaves be related to the decline of our culture? I believe it is. But of course your mother is not responsible for this immense cultural change. I would not point to your mother and say, “Aha! Here is an evil woman because she had a successful career.” But, I would say that your mother was evil if if she claimed that homemakers are not “fully human” and are slaves, rather than absolutely essential to civilization.

    When you fall on your knees to thank your “higher power,” I hope you will thank him for all the women and men who have made civilization possible. Without them, you would live in a jungle. You are resting on their laurels.

  9. "or simply uninterested in dedicating the greater part of our lives to caring for others"

    That's fine - just don't knock others who do as 'uncaring' when they don't share your adolescent politics (I shared them until I was 40-odd, so don't take it to heart. I just hope you grow up faster than I did).

    "I love humanity - it's people I can't stand !"

    "I love humanity

  10. The childfree forum on Livejournal would have so much to say about this.
    Then again, this is the Mail, who rates a leader on the condition of his wife's feet.

  11. Just come here from a Facebook posting and just had to say: I saw that Daily Mail poll! Having no husband or children (and thank fuck, to be quite honest) I was naturally unable to answer.

    HOWEVER: When I saw the poll, it was included at the side of an article that was about a woman who wouldn't settle for a partner that her children didn't love. So there was a bit more context when I saw it!

    Not that I'm saying 'Yey, Daily Mail!' or anything. Blimey.

  12. Wow laura, I sense your children will not be 'less stupid' in any way i understand. Enjoy running your 'small hotel'.

  13. Yeh,give our instict life,humanity.Trope diatribe,love is compassion.Socialism,Fred and his pal Karl,used to argue about socilism.

  14. Bronze Age Man20 June 2010 at 13:42

    The family, not the individual, is the basic cell of society. Destroy the family and society dies. Simple as.

  15. Love is more important than money.

    People defining themselves by their fashion sense or the way in which they earn their keep is far sadder than people defining themselves be their lover or family.

    The big problem here is that people don't consider their families to be particularly important.

  16. Laura asks, "How is being paid by a husband less honorable than being paid by an impersonal entity, such as a corporation or the government?"

    I would say that it might seem easier to deal with a corporation or government than with an idiosyncratic individual. Certainly, although I know it is not the same thing, I feel better dealing with a council (to which I am paying some council tax) as my landlord than with one idiosyncratic individual as my landlord. Even though he was a good landlord in many ways.

    But I do take Laura's point that it is stupid to insult women for being housewives. I don't agree with her sweeping generalisation that society was nicer when more women were housewives though.

  17. Bronze Age Man21 June 2010 at 22:08

    Vanilla Rose wrote:

    "I would say that it might seem easier to deal with a corporation or government than with an idiosyncratic individual. Certainly, although I know it is not the same thing, I feel better dealing with a council (to which I am paying some council tax) as my landlord than with one idiosyncratic individual as my landlord. Even though he was a good landlord in many ways."

    It's interesting that you feel that way. Wouldn't you rather deal with a person face to face rather than with an anonymous, faceless bureaucracy (which, after all, can be just as "idiosyncratic")?

  18. "The family, not the individual, is the basic cell of society."

    You wouldn't have families if individuals didn't decide to come together to form them. Simple as.

  19. Bronze Age Man22 June 2010 at 19:49


    "You wouldn't have families if individuals didn't decide to come together to form them. "

    And you wouldn't have individuals if sperm and egg didn't come together to form them. Doesn't mean a sperm or egg should take priority over a human being. End of.

  20. I find this poll rather funny, because ultimately, the only group of women who have cash to spend and 100% decision rights over it, are those same pitable women that the Mail seems intent on pouring scorn upon. Their stupidity and ignorance will revisit them as their sales plummet.

  21. Me missus is a housewife who cares for her four children. I'm a incidental: a cock on four toes. In fact in many ways I'm one of the children. A big cock at times on four toes wanders round the joint being fed and occasionally, well frequently, being allowed to engage in extra-territorial activity. Women with beautiful lips need only apply. Wink wink.

  22. I'm a wife and a mother and I'd have liked at least a third option as well. Thank you, Daily Mail, for reducing my entire existence to the service only of other people!

  23. I like Laban's comment. To deny that these probably are the two most important fixtures in most women's lives is short sighted, whether that means agreeing with something the Fail has packaged to fit their agenda or not.

    I'm not entirely sure what you want, to be honest. Women have the choice to devote their lives to children, a career, or both. If there's a third option that takes up as much time and prominence then I'd like to know about it. As in Laban's case, I only realised this when I got to the age where I had to make that choice.

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