Lisa Hilton’s Athenais: When spite is mistaken for women’s history

I came across this book in a charity shop. I’m glad it only cost 50p, otherwise I’d have to write to the publisher demanding my money back for mis-selling a deeply spiteful text as a “biography” of Athenais, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

Whilst the premise is ostensibly biographical, it’s mostly a treatise on how ugly women deserve to be treated like pieces of shit. And, any man who cheats on his ‘ugly’ wife has every right to; especially if you are the King of France and like pretty things. Then you get to be as abusive, cruel, and selfish as you like. You can humiliate and insult your wife, pretend she doesn’t’ exist, and still be considered a good guy, Because, hey, you’re the king, And, even the ugliest guy doesn’t deserve an ugly wife. Even if they are violent and hateful and cruel.

Even Athenais is dismissed as irrelevant once she stops being beautiful. Her beauty gone because she got fat. After giving birth to 9 children and being in a relationship with a man who forced all of those around him to eat too much.

Below are three images of the snide way in which women are treated. Hilton’s misogyny was accompanied by the usual classism and racism, but I have just picked examples of her loathing of women.

Here we have the theory that Queen Marie-Therese was so ugly that King Louis XIV was required to cheat on her repeatedly.

The Dauphin’s choice of an ‘ugly’ woman was clearly because he was insane. As no proper king would choose such an ugly woman (except, obviously, his father who was also trapped in a marriage with an ugly woman). 

And, women are stupid. Therefore, completely deserving of being described as hysterical.

No one should bother reading this book, and I am now stuck between burning the copy I have, keeping it so no one else is forced to read it, or returning it to the charity shop I bought it from.

Burning it is my current default position.

Caitlin Moran: Excluding WofC isn’t Feminism

I have long been uncomfortable with the construction of Caitlin Moran as Britain’s Number One Feminist for a while now; especially after her dismissal of beauty practises and housework as feminist issues. Whilst I agree with this sentiment:

 ‘What? You don’t want to vote? Do you want to be owned by your husband? Do you want your money from your job to go into his bank account? If you were raped, do you still want that to be a crime? Congratulations: you are a feminist.’

It’s not enough to just proclaim oneself a feminist. You actually have to live as a feminist and, yes, it is hard to live as a feminist in a society which punishes women for critiquing Patriarchal structures. None of us are perfect and we all fail from time to time. We live in a Patriarchal society which is inherently racist, homophobic, disablist and misogynist. We have all internalised these structures since birth. We can strive to live outwith the endemic violence against The Other but sometimes, a lot of the time, we need to be pulled up on a thought or an action which causes pain to others. Part of being an adult with critical thinking skills is to not get defensive when someone calls us on our privilege; no matter how difficult or humiliating it is.

The problem with Moran’s construction of Feminism is that it is of the “I’m alright so the rest of you must be moaning about shit because you’re whiny” school.
Many of us watch American television. We all know that racism is endemic within it [and British TV for that matter]. We all know that shows like Friends are racist because of the total failure to include any PofC. The fact that mainstream culture is so steeped in racism that a program based in New York, like Sex and the City, manages to be completely “white” without any real criticism is the problem. It’s one of the reasons that Law & Order was so different from other TV programs: it had African-American characters within the police and judiciary as permanent cast members. Yes, it got stuck in serious racial stereotyping in many other ways but it was a start. This is why Lena Dunham’s Girls is such a disappointment. You simply can not have a cast which is all “white” and pretend they live in New York city. It’s unbelievably stupid and racist. But, for Caitlin Moran to dismiss the concerns of others by stating that she “literally couldn’t give a shit” about the representation of PofC in TV; well, that’s just taking the piss. And, it isn’t Feminism. It will never be Feminism.

Feminism is the political theory which is concerned with the liberation of ALL women from male violence; not just ones who happen to be white.