Her article The Make Up Wars – entertained me but also got me furiously to think.
I had recently read – and on the most part enjoyed – Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman but was left with an overriding sense of unease about her Claxon Call for the New Feminism. The notion that – “Do you have a Vagina – Do you want to be in charge of it – then you’re a feminist” does not seem to me to quite cover it. At least not as well as those splendid pants that she was also banging on about would. In fact, if you will allow the extended metaphor – Moran’s brand of Feminism seemed about as secure and all-encompassing as a lacy thong.
Whilst at some points in her funny, sweary rant I did want to stand on the table and shout ‘I am a feminist’ with her, there were some other moments when I thought that perhaps we were not such great ‘table partners’. I can see, at a stretch, that sexual liberation might extend to embracing the porn industry and encouraging it to make ‘good’ porn (although that is only really supportable if we mean words rather than pictures – cue 50 Shades perhaps).
Where Ms Moran and I totally part company is on the subject of Celebrity Culture. She does after all make her living in the world of Celebrity Gossip (Celebrity Watch in The Sunday Times) and has an avowed passion for the likes of Grazia and Closer: she engages with those shiny, bits of cheap filler that lurk near the checkout so that women can ‘treat’ themselves to a dose of envy, snide pseudo-sympathy and generally indulge in the medieval practice of gawping at the pillory. By doing so she becomes a part of the cult of the celebrity.
Moran clearly enjoys the theatre of celebrity whilst at the same time disapproving of the obsession with the look, size and behaviour of other women which takes the form of lauding the unnaturally thin, berating the slightly less skinny than last week, and poking fun at the fashion, hair or makeup choices of those in the public eye. She asks “Is it just the global media acting as a giant bitch?” Whatever it is, it is definitely not a feminist pastime!
To judge a book by its cover is the most cras of errors but it seems that women must present the correct cover at all times in order not to be judged wanting either in moral, social or intellectual terms. This, in not applying equally to men, is an example of where women come under different pressures both in the work place and in society at large, but Zoe Williams sensibly points out that we are different. We do not just put on make up to look sexy but in order to feel in control, present a professional face, put on our war paint – all sorts of reasons for all sorts of women. To make an effort with appearance is not an undeniable sign of a trivial mind anymore than to leave off the powder and paint is to show that we have lost all control and claim to a respected place in society. It is not the wearing or not wearing of lipstick that is a feminist issue: The issue is how society and the ‘sisterhood’ judges us because of it.
As Williams says “I would fight to the death for Hillary Clinton’s right to go foundation-free, but I would get into a fight just as bad for a woman who wanted to be a philosopher and wear blusher at the same time. The rule is that there is no rule, except for this one: nothing is less feminist than slagging off another person’s eyelashes. I don’t care if they’ve got green diamante on them and they flash.”
Zoe made me laugh and declare (quietly to myself – I was on the train) that I was right behind her in that fight. But then I remembered: Both Zoe Williams and Caitlin Moran are keynote speakers at the Mumsnet BlogFest in November and I’m going too! Are they on the same side or opposing ones?
Well – if there is a fight I know whose side I’m on – the only trouble is that I am a total wuss and I suspect Caitlin Moran fights dirty!
So what do you think? Is Caitlin Moran is on the side of the Angels (albeit with Dirty Faces) or by engaging with the Cult of Celebrity does she court and encourage the ‘Global Bitch’?