News flash: paying bills causes ovary shrinkage. Or something.

// 29 July 2008

EDIT: Oops – I see Holly and I are both into late night masochism when it comes to looking for blog fodder and simultaneously posted on the same infuriating article… Please, don’t read it more than once (assuming you’re made of strong enough stuff to get through it the first time, that is).

From our friends at FeMail:

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.

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

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.

Shit, being in control of your own life really sucks, doesn’t it? As recently as this very afternoon I felt a rather uncomfortable twinge in my groin as I filled my car up with petrol, paid for by my own hard graft, and looked down to see I’d grown a penis!

Seriously, why don’t these FeMail writers spend their days fainting prettily and polishing their fingernails if the freedom feminism continues to grant us is so soul destroying? Do they ever stop and think that maybe they wouldn’t have the privilege of waxing lyrical about the wonders of some mythical internal femininity, based solely on our ability to “yield more and control less”, if it wasn’t for those dastardly feminists who positively forced them to become career women?

It ain’t sisterly, no, but this kind of crap really makes me retch – these are intelligent women using a privileged platform to do nothing but encourage other women to view having control over one’s life as some kind of soul destroying disease (oh, and it also stops men fancying you. Because we all want a guy who’s threatened by you insisting on paying half the bill. Because we all want a guy full stop).

If you don’t like working, and insist on dating guys that are stuck in the dark ages, that’s fine, be my guest. You might want to start by handing in your notice at The Mail. But don’t try and extrapolate your personal preferences and experiences (oh, and your friend Sophie’s) onto half the population. Thanks.

Comments From You

Lindsey // Posted 29 July 2008 at 9:07 am

But if using my brain is too manly what am I supposed to think with?

I think botox would help – if I’m not making thought lines across my forehead or knitting my eyebrows no one will be able to tell that my brain is in use! Huzzah, I shall find a husband at last!

eleanargh // Posted 29 July 2008 at 9:26 am

Booking tickets for holidays is defeminising? Oh, whatevs…

Rhona // Posted 29 July 2008 at 11:18 am

I did enjoy reading the comments at the end of the article though, which were almost 99% ‘WTF’?

Happily, it would appear that even FeMail readers don’t subscribe to this kind of sh*t. :)

Seriously, though, this woman has major self-esteem/gender identity problems. If actually, you know ‘doing things’, as opposed to sitting around thinking about kittens and doing cross stitch is so defeminising, why is she writing for a national news (I use the word in the loosest posible sense) paper?

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 July 2008 at 11:41 am

perhaps if we werent expected to put in double the effort of a man in business to be taken seriously or paid the same wage then women who would prefer to be more “feminine” wouldnt have to put up a front in the first place. as for those of us who would prefer not to be that way at all she has no right saying how we should be.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 29 July 2008 at 11:53 am

How strange because women have always worked and as far as I know from reading herstory women have not suffered from ‘defeminisation.’ What working class women did suffer from was constant worry and exhaustion due to wondering how they were going to earn enough money in order to live. So Daily Male – this is another male-centered myth because women have always sought to make their lives more bearable by deliberately seeking out better paid work. But the rub has always been far too many women were consigned to the lowest paid work or else they were denied the right of working for financial gain. Men, however have always had the right of paid work. Let’s not go engage with the class argument because that did not arise until the 19th century with the advent of ‘middle class women being consigned to a separate sphere – enforced domesticity.’

sianmarie // Posted 29 July 2008 at 1:08 pm

argh i didn’t even get to the end…isn’t is odd how femininity is not about artifice (nothing is less sexy than desperation!) yet she has to have someone show her how to do it….i’m confused/fed up. so, femininity is about being yourself but yourself isn’t feminine enough so we’d better change it! i do believe “femininity” is about being yourself, but i think my idea of femininity is very differnet from femail’s.

Holly Combe // Posted 29 July 2008 at 1:45 pm

I’ve just had a more detailed read of the comments for this article and, yes, it is heartening to see that many of them are -as Rhona says- dismissive or critical of it.

Still, I notice there are a couple of the usual laments from old-fashioned guys who feel hard-done-by that so many of the women of today are such meanies that they have their own minds (and other shocking stuff) and don’t look up to them anymore. These guys generally

1) find an example of the tedious can’t-find-a-man-why-did-I-have-to-be-such-a-feminist complaint that is often gleefully recounted in Western popular culture (see this article) or point to it “anecdotally”

2) wistfully try to paint a picture of this being something Western women bleat all the damn time these days and then

3) go “Ha! We’re going to look elsewhere now! Bet you’re sorry, you bitches!”

What? Sorry that some bloke who thinks it’s his right to be head of the household, and expects us to fit with whatever vision of “femininity” he happens to dictate, is avoiding a whole load of women? Yeah, we’re devastated. Of course we are. (Admittedly, I’ve had very good experiences with men but if it was a choice between a sexist dickhead like that or never getting to snuggle up to a man ever again, I’d go without, thanks.)

Actually, I am sorry. Sorry that the women who these guys offensively assume to be more appropriate for their sexist needs are now going to be enduring their presence.

Watch out, women around the world! Another Western chauvinist is on his way over!

Lindsey // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:34 pm

Shamefully I trawl the Daily Male every other week or so out of boredom and the frequency of this kind of article is alarming. Despite often having most of the comments disagree with the articles they are still keen to push their anti-woman agenda using female writers.

Sian // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:54 pm

Why does Rosie Boycott write for this thing?

jj // Posted 29 July 2008 at 4:16 pm

Of course, “control” and “feminine” aren’t dichotomous in most cases.

However, when it comes to sexualised interactions, I’m not so sure, at least aobut the precise meaning of the concepts. I think for most women it is a turn-on to trust a man enough in a sexualised interaction to want/like to be able to surrender control to some extent – whether that’s a cultural performance or an innate desire is irrelevant for any indivudal’s desires, in my opinion. Check your own archives for a recent post about that.

If that assumed (and personally experienced) desire on the part of many women is denoted as “feminine”, isn’t it possible that some women who have come to be in completely in control of their lives have difficulties to allow themselves to surrender into the kind of “feminine” they actually desire in sexualised interactions? Maybe it’s wrong empirically, but it doesn’t seem to be a completely absurd suggestion.

I think it’s important to learn that in heterosexual sexualised interactions, the equality should always be clearly expressed by mutually respectful behaviour, but not necessarily by equal, or similar behaviour. I think that behavioral difference can (and is for many people) a part of the attraction.

“Feminine” doesn’t mean much outside of a sexualised context, but being in control of one’s life clearly does. I think a problem is in this respect that behaviour is often talked about as “masculine” or “feminine” without clarification whether this occurred in a sexualised setting or not.

Holly Combe // Posted 29 July 2008 at 5:30 pm

jj said: I think for most women it is a turn-on to trust a man enough in a sexualised interaction to want/like to be able to surrender control to some extent – whether that’s a cultural performance or an innate desire is irrelevant for any indivudal’s desires, in my opinion.

I agree with what you say about the conflict that can arise when a person’s sexual desires contrast with other aspects in that person’s life. However, I think it would be a mistake for us to view this as necessarily a woman-thing. Sure, being “feminine” is obviously very much tied up with the notion of sexual surrender and that means women are somewhat more likely to be socialised into that preference but I think men experience the desire to surrender control too. (As with women, this could take the form of something as banal as the basic trust issues connected to being intimate and vulnerable with another person who desires them or a sexual sense of identity that leans towards a concrete preference for sexual submission.)

In turn, there are plenty of women who are genuinely turned off by the idea of sexually submitting to someone, so I strongly disagree that surrendering control is any more of a turn-on for “most women” than it is for most men. We’re all human and vulnerable so I think the uncertainty connected to desiring and being desired means this is something anyone who is sexually inclined enjoys “to some extent.”

I think it’s important to learn that in heterosexual sexualised interactions, the equality should always be clearly expressed by mutually respectful behaviour, but not necessarily by equal, or similar behaviour.

Here, I very much agree. Mutually respectful behaviour and a sexual preference for consensual submission or domination are certainly not mutually exclusive. We need to give each other the freedom to find out what turns us on as individuals and then seek out others who have done the same and either complement or match that (depending on what it is we each desire).

However, I also think that any example we offer as individuals shouldn’t be used to make generalisations about any one gender because, even if the generalisations aren’t meant to be used oppressively, it leads to prescriptions for all and that, in itself, is oppressive.

Julia // Posted 29 July 2008 at 5:56 pm

The Mail never tire of these kind of stories do they? I swear they must make up like 90% of FeMail. This is my favourite bit:

“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.”

Ah uncontrollable sobbing the perfect way to reassert your ‘feminine’ qualities.

earlgreyrooibos // Posted 29 July 2008 at 6:01 pm

ugh. I was getting similar diatribe from a friend last night. She was bemoaning that she currently makes more than her boyfriend, and that he can’t take care of her. Apparently, all she wants is to be taken care of. She’s well-educated, has a career, but just wants to be taken care of.

It drives me crazy that women think they can have all the same privileges that men do, but still should be taken care of. I’ve come to the conclusion that the most feminist thing a woman can do is be willing to take responsibility for her own life.

jj // Posted 29 July 2008 at 6:51 pm

Holly Combe said: “I agree with what you say about the conflict that can arise when a person’s sexual desires contrast with other aspects in that person’s life. However, I think it would be a mistake for us to view this as necessarily a woman-thing.”

No, but in this context it was, no? To underscore your point, I personally think this conflict is affecting men more than women today.

“In turn, there are plenty of women who are genuinely turned off by the idea of sexually submitting to someone, so I strongly disagree that surrendering control is any more of a turn-on for “most women” than it is for most men.”

Maybe. All I can say from my personal experience is that women generally don’t seem to prefer to be controlling in sexual interactions. Some seem to have a desire to be emotionalyl controlling, but not that much physically. Would men prefer not to be physically controlling and surrender more? I suppose so (without necessarily thinking of Japanese CEOs at a bondage session). We’re known to be lazy aftter all ;), and being in control usually means being even more responsible. So yeah, I bet guys generally don’t want to be “controlling” as much as we seem to be, but we’re sort of forced into doing it since girls generally don’t, for whichever reason.

Holly Combe said: “However, I also think that any example we offer as individuals shouldn’t be used to make generalisations about any one gender because, even if the generalisations aren’t meant to be used oppressively, it leads to prescriptions for all and that, in itself, is oppressive.”

I think a certain openness to diverging behaviour would be more appropriate than not making generalisations at all. We all need to make generalizations about the world around us, otherwise we would not be able to function in a social setting. In the general public, most people aren’t gay. In a gay bar, the opposite is likely true. Whether you’re gay or not, that generalisation will likely inform your behaviour in both settings. Could be wrong, of course, but it does make sense to start from that assumption, doesn’t it?

Moreover, the fact that generalisation can work as prescriptions is something a lot of people find very helpful. It’s just that we should be – and I think most people are by now – aware that while these norms are backed by a certain statistical reality, they aren’t a behavioral straightjacket for any given individual.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 July 2008 at 8:28 pm

i like how you’ve both written about the same thing, actually. It’s interesting that you’ve picked up on different things, and put in different quotes. On the other hand, it also means there was SO much wrong with the article that both of you could write a decent critique without overlapping the other, which is depressing. That’s just one article that’s so wrong, let alone the whole of the Mail or the media…

Earlgreyrooibos, problem is, we women are also taught that we shouldn’t want to be in control, that nobody will love us if we are assertive. When this comes from both men and women; from dating guides and well meaning friends and family, it all messes with the head a bit. I mean, I agree with you, personal responsibility is essential for an adult of either gender, and I would love it if it was seen as a good thing. The trends being described is very troubling. But it doesn’t just come purely from women, who make it up for the hell of it. Wome do have to deal with men who are frankly terrified of women wo are not passive, and you still get the old ‘men don’t like a smart woman’ tropes being trotted out by men as well as women. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not just men or just women feeding into this, but a combinaiton of women encouraging others to act in this way, along with the sad fact that many men also pressure women to do so.

Qubit // Posted 29 July 2008 at 9:18 pm

I tend to find articles like this come from somebody who felt forced to give up their beliefs and now feel slightly resentful about it so put the same pressure on other women. This articles is better than most as it doesn’t apply pressure to conform just states she is happier now.

It is easy to criticise the author, however if her experiences are true it is hard to blame her for thinking she needed to change. While we all go on dates where we don’t like the person very few people feel the need to explain to the person you have just met why they aren’t good enough. It is possible she mistook bad chat up lines or miss delivered compliments for insults however I can see how the experiences upset the author. I can also see why she felt she needed to change. I think it is sad she was made to feel so bad about herself and happened to meet either incredibly socially awkward or just plain nasty guys.

While there is definitely a portion of guys who don’t like a women who is more successful and intelligent than them; most of the guys I know would feel uncomfortable with a women considerably less intelligent or motivated than them. I think as with women taste varies. Unfortunately the author of the article has met people who are not just incompatible but see the fact they are incompatible as a fault with her rather than just a fact of life.

Anne Onne // Posted 30 July 2008 at 6:20 pm

Qubit, that’s an interesting point. The weird thing is, even though as a society we talk so much about ‘her/his type’ and about compatibility, in articles like this, there isn’t any recognition that there are many different types of people looking for different things. Often dating advice is broken down to trying to appeal to as many people as possible, turning it into a numbers game, with men being told to approach practically every woman regardless of how she responds, and women being told that they must try harder to appeal to more men. It’s actually pretty pointless, since we’re all so different that trying to appeal to people who you have no interest in, and who would have no interest in you unless you change for them is silly and bound to make us unhappy. What’s the point in trying to appeal to everyone, when what you really want is to filter out all the people you couldn’t live with? I’d say filtering them out as early as possible by being yourself would be much better than having to act like someone else for the rest of your life.

Gah, this article reminded me just how much of a performance gender really is. I mean, women don’t naturally act really ‘feminine’ any more than men are naturally prone to acting ‘macho’ but tell someone enough times that people will only like you a certain way and you get lots of people trying to fit into a mould. Sad, isn’t it?

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