Why Caitlin Moran is wrong on the Samantha Bricks “saga”

I’ve already blogged about my feelings on the furor over Samantha Brick’s articles in the Daily Mail a few weeks ago. I believe the Daily Mail set her up for a serious kicking because of the misogyny inherent in their organisation. They are the best selling newspaper in the UK because they feed on the very insecurities they encourage in their readers. They are vile.

I was shocked to see Caitlin Moran’s article in the Times today suggesting that the reaction Bricks got was nothing to do with Feminism. I would have thought it was patently obvious that insulting a woman for “not being as attractive as she thinks she is” is pretty much the essence of anti-feminist discourse. The Patriarchy requires women to police other women’s behaviour in order to survive. Buying into the discourse around Brick’s article just reinforces the Patriarchal structures which blame women for just not being fuckable enough: that would be 21 and malnourished.

Moran is a liberal Feminist and I generally disagree with her on a number of political issues, however this column just disappointed me with its lack of political analysis. Moran suggests that those of us who think this is a Feminist issue are deluded and that men are derided in a similar manner to women in these instances and that Brick was just acting like a “div”. Frankly, I think that’s twaddle:

I think we all knew this, really. It’s a Human Behaviour Check Yo’Self 101 not to go around quacking about how great you are, given that it’s wholly self-defeating. People who say, “I’m clever” tend to be thick, people who say, “I’m mad, me!” usually work in accounts and people who say they’re beautiful tend to be fairly average, but apt to spend a lot of money on trouser suits and highlights. 

So, yes: let us be clear. There is a world of difference between “women doing something” and “it being a matter for feminism”. Lest we forget, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of social, sexual and political equality to men”. It’s got nothing to do with a Daily Mail journalist on a deadline pointing to her arse and saying, “See this? It’s hawt.”

Feminism is about liberating women from oppression; an oppression reinforced by a Patriarchy that punishes women for not thinking they are ugly, pathetic and stupid. Any woman who suggests she might actually be anything but stupid is, therefore, asking to be humiliated and belittled.

As for the last part of her article where Moran suggests two subject which aren’t Feminist, well, I’m going to suggest she’s been drinking the Handmaiden Communion Wine.

1) Beauty routines. There’s been a spate of pieces recently questioning whether a true feminist can wax her legs, thread her eyebrows or wear make-up. While the beauty industry is, as all multibillion-dollar industries tend to be, built on trying to encourage profligate consumerist behaviour through unrealistic imagery, there’s nothing inherently un-feminist about wanting to muck around with how you look. How can there be? If there were then, theoretically, feminists wouldn’t be able to dress up at Hallowe’en, or go to fancy-dress parties rigged out as Scooby-Doo, either. While men can grow beards or wear hats, women can wear eyeliner and wax their legs. Besides, David Bowie wore make-up and it was ACE, ipso facto, Barry M. 

2) Housework. “When,” I was asked, recently, “will feminism get my boyfriend to do his share of the housework?” Wow. While my slatternly nature is perfectly happy with putting off hoovering by saying, “I’m just waiting for a wholesale societal change to kick in. Come and hoover the front room, instead,” if you really want it hoovered, that might all take a while. Surely here, as with everything else in a relationship with two people in love, you just need to discuss your mutual wants and needs, then come to an agreement. You don’t need the advocacy of rights on the basis of social, sexual and political equality to men, dude. You just need a rota.

Beauty regimes and housework are the two most obvious ways that the Patriarchy reinforces the oppression of women. There is a reason why women who don’t starve themselves or wear shoes which deform their feet are considered unfuckable and it isn’t because they are frigid. It’s because their existence is a threat; as is the refusal of men to take equal responsibility for the required work to maintain a family. Women will never be equal to men as long as we are required to dress like fucktoys and scrub toilets because men can’t be arsed too.

School Uniforms: Reinforcing Patriarchal Norms?

I’ve been frantically running around tonight making sure my children’s school uniforms are ready for tomorrow morning. This activity never fails to make me cranky; not because of the “laundry” aspect but because it reminds me just how much I hate the whole issue of uniforms. Inevitably, anyone who is acquainted with me will have heard sections of this rant because I truly believe the only reason for school uniforms is to reinforce capitalist-patriarchal norms.

The following is an amended rant from a post originally made on the Mumsnet talk boards:

This might be very disjointed and take several points to get across because I’ve come to this point from several areas: a background in education, as a mother, as a feminist, and as someone who is beyond angry at how children, and more specifically teenagers, are demonised.
1) Educational aspect: the theory is that children in uniforms learn better because they aren’t concerned about clothing and that uniforms denote respect and causes children to behave better.

I think the theory that children behave better in uniforms is horseshit. Children respond to adults who respect themselves, their colleagues and the students. Behaviour is better in schools which have effective management teams with good teachers who are supported. The best uniform in the world won’t make up for bad management, poor teaching and under resourced schools. It can’t compensate for serious social problems in children’s families or poor teaching. Kids in jeans in a good school with a good headteacher will preform well because they are respected and want to not because they are wearing or not wearing a tie.

Many, many countries do not use school uniforms and have just as much good behaviour, bad behaviour and ‘results’ as UK schools. It must be noted that most schools will still have a uniform policy banning offensive t-shirts, non-existent skirts, and, in inner-cities, banning gang colours. These bans are reasonable.

2) Poverty: The theory is that all children in the same outfit means that kids won’t get bullied over clothing. This is wrong. If your school has an expensive uniform available from only one shop, the poorest parents won’t be able to afford it anyways. Kids can also tell the difference between clothes from Tescos and clothes from M&S, even in schools which have generic cheap uniforms. They can tell the difference between boots bought from Clarks and knock-offs from ShoeZone. If they are bullied for clothing, they are just as likely to be bullied for wearing thread-bare too small uniform as they are for wearing Tescos brand jeans.

This argument also fails to address the issue of bullying. Bullies go after the weakest link. If it isn’t uniform, it will be something else. The problem is not that the children are dressed the same or not; the problem is that the school has a culture of bullying which is not being addressed effectively. That’s the definition of a shit school. Pretending that clothes will make it go away is naive and disrespectful to the children who are victimised by bullying. It makes them responsible for being bullied because they aren’t dressed appropriately rather than blaming the bullying on the bully and the school environment which allows them to continue without intervention.

Bullying and our bullying culture is part of the patriarchal structure of our society which sets up everyone in a hierarchy of importance. It also marginalises any child who does not ‘fit’ the mold.

3) Conformity: I think maintaining conformity is about maintaining our hierarchical society. I believe it is misogynistic as well as classist: setting out a clear difference between those who are important and those who are not.

4) Material Culture of Uniforms: Uniforms tend to be of poor quality, prone to die problems and rip easily. it is more expensive to keep replacing cheap items of clothing that it is to purchase new better quality clothes. jeans from Tescos (£10) last a lot longer on a physical child that a pair of cheap nylon trousers. If you have more than one child, you are more likely to get more wear out of Tescos jeans than you are the cheap nylon trousers.

5) Respect: This is where I think the issue of uniforms moves into questions of patriarchy. I think, in many ways, they are outward emblems of social control designed to make children ‘others’. If you think of the work which requires uniforms, most are of low status and equally low pay [sanitation workers etc]; many of these jobs which are frequently preformed by women.

It is also the outward signifier of respect: those in power require these to make themselves feel better. Its like the idea that you can never be rude to your ‘elders’ because they are old, they must be obeyed. Why should you have to respect a 90 year old man because he’s old. He may also be a paedophile, have committed severe violence against his wife or children, be a violent alcoholic. Requiring respect for being old implies that the opposite, children, require no respect. As a society, we are reaping serious social damage due to our lack of respect for our children.

There are so many other things that schools need to worry about; such as children who are being abused at home, or who are being bullied, ensuring that all kids leave literate even if they have multiple severe problems, which makes continuous school attendance difficult. Arguing over a tie just seems petty. The argument becomes you must wear the tie because I told you to not because it is of any benefit to you.

The other part is the more time we spend faffing about over uniforms, the less time we spend actually ensuring that the kid who is lashing out isn’t lashing out because he’s just testing boundaries [normal for teenagers] but is lashing out because of abuse, anxiety, fear or a 101 other reasons. Uniforms are a form of hierarchical social control and, fundamentally, only serve to reinforce patriarchal norms at the expense of our children’s education and their self-respect.