Women: Oh! We are Awful!
Holly Combe // 9 April 2009
We’ve heard it all before. A celebrity laments that, contrary to apparently popular opinion, women are actually incredibly horrid and the idea of “sisterhood” is a myth. The media then delightedly seizes upon it in a sexist frenzy to imply that, actually, we’re a pretty ineffective bunch and there’s no such thing as patriarchy because we all hate each other and bring much of the hardship we experience on ourselves.
Certainly, this was the jolly old gender pantomime I had in mind when I took part in a Radio Five Live Debate focused on the question “are women their own worst enemies?” on the Richard Bacon show on Tuesday night. To be fair, I generally find the show to be reasonably feminist-friendly so it seemed the question -on this occasion- was largely just a good-natured attempt to get a lively discussion going. However, I still went armed to defend myself against that particularly pervasive example of modern-day sexism against women: woman-on-woman conflict presented as it’s some excitingly taboo spectator sport.
Okay so women don’t always get on (what a surprise that we’re, er, human) but it seems that whenever we don’t, we can count on some sexist being ready to hand to laugh and point and tell us what bitches we are (i.e punish us for not being “sugar and spice and all things nice”). In my view, this leads to the unfortunate trap where failing to be sweet, lovely and uncritical with other women is often taken to mean not only that you are a bitch but also lend weight to the reactionary notion that, really, all women are.
Initially, I was meant to be debating the issue with a guy from Nuts magazine but, as it happened, I ended up debating with Katie Hopkins of The Apprentice. I did cringe at some of her generalisations about women but I have to say the irony of being pitched against another woman on the topic made for a somewhat different discussion to the one I perhaps would have had with a guy who is in the business of embracing a culture that has a history of dividing women.
If you want to see yet another example of bad press for women serving sexism, check out the suggested reading material I was given in preparation for the debate. In summary, it’s basically an example of a woman who has had bad experiences with other women “projecting her experience on an entire gender.” It’s even got a nicely degrading headline with references to catfights and handbags to helpfully remind us of the horror that apparently ensues when there aren’t any men around. Nice one Daily Mail!