Two news articles analysed….

// 16 November 2008

First up this piece from the Daily Mail arguing that women over 50 years old are less bitchy than those under 50. So why do I dislike it?

1. It implicitly presents women over the age of 50 as being sexless and unattractive. Apparently by 50 women know how much they will ever achieve (although this is apparently about house size, number of children and income (if any)).

2. It is *so* heteronormative as to be untrue – apparently our first and major competition is for men. Oddly for me, as a feminist, my first and major competition is to do with fighting patriarchy and trying to destroy the entrenched behaviours in creates.

3. It stereotypes younger women as besotted with men – I don’t know about Carol Sarler’s experience but of all the conversations I have with female friends very few are about men.

4. It misrepresents this as an inherent flaw in feminism – completely misunderstanding that it is patriarchy which demands women compete and are cruel to each other – feminism is a way of challenging that. Sarler’s argument that feminism won’t work for women under 50 is completely ridiculous.

5. There is a major inconsistency in her argument – apparently women talk more about men than anything else but lament more for hurts by their fellow women than by men. How exactly does that work then?

6. Sarler is doing just the same thing as patriarchy – for example in blaming her female flatmate more than her boyfriend when the two betray her by sleeping together – both are to blame. What Sarler is saying here is that we should hold women to a higher standard of behaviour than men – precisely the situation she claims to be lamenting.

7. It implies there are such things as “female behaviours” (bitchiness, self-delusion, ease of betrayal) and “male behaviours” (self-absorption mostly, apparently). This ignores completely that these behaviours are perceived as gendered but actually occur in both groups with more diversity within them than between them. Actually for Sarler the whole world seems to be populated by a pretty depressingly nasty bunch of people – I’d hate to have that world view.

8. Sarler says “ambition is an energy-sapping abstract”. True enough, ambition is a desire to be or do more and therefore is quite abstract. And ambition can be tiring, true enough. But that doesn’t mean ambition is a bad thing – just that moderation is needed. This is the same for both genders, however but Sarler argues it is just a women’s issue. Apparently unbridled, energy-sapping ambition for men is fine – presumably because having “bagged” one women are keen to spend their unsapped energy serving men’s needs.

Utterly ridiculous…

Second is this article on the gender pay gap. My problem here is I don’t quite see what it is The Times is getting at – the fact that some women (in this case black carribean women) earn more than others isn’t news unless you are trying to stir up some racism. Why not focus on the fact that that women earn less than men?

But lets take a closer look, shall we?

1. It is actually reporting that in the three months from August to October black caribbean women earned 6% more than white women. This equates to just over £25 per week. For three months. They then strangely compare this to the previous years *annual* figure.

2. I have no idea why they feel the need to but Black Caribbean in quote marks as if it was a suspicious category.

3. At least the article did quote Colleen Harris, Downing St Press Officer and an advisor on equality who said she was “cynical about the figures…Black women do work very hard, and often they are the single earner in a household and have the whole weight of a family on their shoulders” and they also cited the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s point that half of all black women live in London, where average pay is higher than elsewhere in the country.

Maybe I should have named this entry “News outlets do the wierdest things”?

Comments From You

genstar // Posted 16 November 2008 at 10:36 pm

Have just read the first article – thank you for pointing out so articulately what would just make me gape wordlessly. I’m far from 50, and I resent that she’s reducing my life’s purpose to ‘winning’ the best man I can to father my future babies. I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong. Bollocks to her, bollocks to evolutionary pysch – I am more than a potential (and desperate) incubator.

Can I also add that I love how she’s used a shot from Mean Girls to highlight her point. Because, you know, Mean Girls is a documentary… And even if it was – the title girls are not meant to be your average woman, hence the name.

Soirore // Posted 17 November 2008 at 1:25 pm

What is also suspicious about the figures in the second article is the point “Many [black women] work in health or social services where pay has been rising” So the fact is that they work in jobs that were previously criminally underpaid where for the first time in years pay rises have started to reflect inflation and cost of living.

It smacks of the old “you women can have equality but not at the cost of men” argument. This news article is just inviting racism and is totally irresponsible

Lindsey // Posted 17 November 2008 at 1:28 pm

Sounds like the Daily Mail is pandering to one of its favourite audiences – has anyone else noticed their sudden deep and undying love for Helen Mirren?

Qubit // Posted 17 November 2008 at 2:25 pm

“Young women compete with all the ferocity of men. Indeed, another research study, carried out in 2002, found they use the same levels of direct and indirect aggression as men of the same age.”

I found that quote from the Daily Mail article interesting. I agree there is competition between women but my boyfriend says he finds men are similarly always in competition with each other. In fact he believes the competition to be greater in men.

Competition doesn’t have to equate to bitchiness and actually is probably more often more manifested in bitchiness when coupled with feelings of lack of control or the inability to better yourself.

However it is interesting that this competitiveness is viewed as a problem in women and not in men. In fact despite being in competition men can help each other out, mentor each other at work and form supportive friendships, nobody questions this. However to form meaningful friendships and relationships it seems women should be passive and not aim for better?

I agree women are just as competitive as men and sometimes this manifests itself in a different way but I don’t think this excludes friendship. I also can’t help but wonder if women were frowned on less for being assertive, obviously competitive and demanding whether this ‘bitchiness’ would fade as an alternative outlet for the competitive streak had been found. Part of me thinks nothing would change until “but she is ugly” stops counting as a way to dismiss a women and all her work as meaningless (outside the field) because she didn’t manage to do everything but still be beautiful. I think it is possible though that I am too cynical on how much beauty means.

sianmarie // Posted 17 November 2008 at 4:56 pm

wow. that was a really upsetting article. i am not close to 50 and neither am i a bitch. when my girlfriends and i get together we may talk a bit about our relationships, but we are far more interested in each other’s lives beyond that.

sick of these stupid statements, and i agree with everything said in the post. she has completely ignored that if anything it is the patriarchy that forces women to compete and hurt one another. sometimes it’s personality but often the patriarchy!!

i spent the weekend working with a group of feminists, mothers an daughters, kids aged ten and grandmothers. it was so inspiring, talking and working together to create a brilliant ary project and public meeting, and not one bit of bitching.

Anne Onne // Posted 17 November 2008 at 7:11 pm

I wonder…I suspect that if women *are* more ‘bitchy’ than men (by which I mean prone to indirect aggression and social action against those they don’t like, it would be because women are much more strongly regulated than men socially in the area of anger. Women aren’t allowed to be angry: we’re supposed to make nice. It’s not ladylike to tell someone they’re being nasty, or to stop taking advantage of you etc, something I believe men are as a privileged class trained to take advantage of (how many times have you seen a polite woman cornered by a really creepy bloke who won’t take uninterested body signals, edging away, or many polite ‘no thank you’s as a sign to walk away instead of pressuring the woman to talk more/have a drink/etc?).

More importantly, when it comes to other women, we internalise this passive aggressive behaviour (though men can also be passive aggressive, too. I’d just suspect that the patriarchy on average breeds more directly aggressive men than women, and more passive agressive women on the whole) and because it’s just NOT DONE to simply have a talk with someone about a disagreement, and the position women are placed in society would encourage women to tear each other down. Just look at celebrity magazines and newspapers: pages upon pages of people tearing each other down, commenting on tiny flaws and judging each other. Seeing as women are judged by society much more harshly in terms of looks, sexual behaviour, children and ambition than men, it is only understandable if women react like this under the patriarchy.

Not to mention the male gaze we direct at each other. The patriarchy really does

However, I don’t really think it’s true that women of any age are more/less ‘bitchy’. Certainly, I’d guess it’s worst during school years because people are growing up as kids, and maturing is often a very harsh process involving learning how to cope with human interaction.

However, considering that plenty of men and women show conniving and generally nasty behaviour, I’d hardly say you could narrow it down to only one gender or age, or that it should be used as a yardstick to judge one gender by!

And competition? What is wrong with I moderate competition? Apparently, men are all about excellign and being competitive and assertive and *insert buzzword here*, but when women are, it’s ‘bitchy’. I resent that because I’ve known many talented, competitive women, and you don’t have to be ‘bitchy’ to do well. Besides, people compete for a lot of reasons that has nothing to do with attracting male attention. Trying to justify everything women (or men) do as coming back to nothing more than getting laid is rather insulting, since even animals are capable of thinking about more than sex…

Reminds me of that Apprentice series when they had Katie Hopkins and Tre Azam on. Katie kept getting called ‘bitchy’ for being cunning, and a bit rude, but the rather misogynistic Tre (who was equally calculating, set on winning, and arrogant) was seen as a likeable lad of a chancer. I didn’t like Katie, but found it so irritating people would trash her for the very things they lauded Tre for, and ignore his many blatant shortcomings because he was a member of the Penis Club.

All the assumptions are sad: there’s no real recognition that the partiarchy is directly playing women off against each other, and that men are being given a free pass.

Case in example: the boyfriend/flatmate dilemma. The ‘other woman’ is blamed, but is she really responsible for all the blame? I wouldnt’ even say it’s equal blame, because I don’t think both have an equal responsibility to you. Sure, they both might be people you are close to (though for the responsibility to you to be equal, it’d have to be a darn close friend or a sister IMHO), but in the end,isn’t your relationship an agreement between you and the BF? If both were consensually cheating, I’d think that although both were to blame, it’s the boyfriend’s fault, because he is the one who agreed to a (presumably) monogamous relationship, and whilst your friend might have betrayed you, they didn’t agree to keep your vows for you.

And why the hell would it be a problem if black women earn more? Even the article itself pointed out that there may be many reasons for this (such as many black women living in London where pay is higher etc), and it seems kind of pointless, especially when they’re only talking about black Carribbean women (which may not be representative of all black women) to make this into some huge issue. Though my reaction can probably be explained by remembering just how racists/conservatives like to take something like this as proof that the minority are taking over.

Rachel // Posted 18 November 2008 at 8:29 am

Wow, the Daily Mail has really pulled it out of the bag once again! My particular favourite line in the article: ” For most young women, the worst thing a man will ever do is fail to love them.” It leaves me speechless…

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