Tuesday, 9 October 2012

No, thank you.

This has had a few days to simmer now:

There was, understandably, some uproar straightaway that Caitlin Moran was basking in her white privilege and, well, 'literally' not giving a shit about it - an uproar that is still going on.

I'm not really here to talk about Lena Dunham's show Girls, or the alleged lack of diversity in the show itself - there wouldn't be much for me to say, as I have never seen it, and I don't wish to pass judgement on it before having done so. I want to talk about why this has been bothering me so much.

I should start by saying I thought last year's How To Be A Woman was a pretty terrible book. I picked it up thinking the title was tongue-in-cheek (i.e. there's actually no singular set way to be a woman, doesn't it suck that society imposes these narrow and damaging standards on us?). Since it was marketed as an accessible, humorous introduction to feminism, and I was interested in finally getting a UK perspective, I was excited about reading it. Instead, my most frequent thought whilst reading was 'did she even have an editor?'. It looked like it had been written when she was drunk and keyboard-happy.

The first red flag was when she asked the reader to stick their hands in their pants - and if they found a vagina, they were a woman. From here, I could tell it was not going to be a very inclusive kind of book, but I carried on anyway. The other thing I can immediately remember rubbing me the wrong way was her loud insistence that being a sex worker (unless you were a burlesque dancer, therefore an artist!) inherently meant you were a pawn of the patriarchy and a disgrace to women everywhere.

In a nutshell, the brand of feminism Moran advocates is basic, regressive, self-absorbed, and dangerous. In fact, the only reason I can think of why people seemed to like the book so much is because it was presented in a vaguely entertaining way, and that she prides herself on being so outspoken.

So I wasn't really surprised when all this happened. Whether you agree with the accusations being thrown at her and Lena Dunham or not, surely we can settle on the fact that the way she handled being told something she didn't like was completely unacceptable.
For a long time now, anyone who has challenged Moran on Twitter gets blocked, and that's the end of it. This is the behaviour of a surly teenager, not a 37-year-old high-profile journalist. She did not need to reply to that question in such a dismissive, impudent manner. If she was uncomfortable about answering it, she could have easily ignored it.  She shows no sign of remorse, which I doubt will ever happen when she has people tweeting her not to listen to the haters. I must have missed the memo that people who tell you that you messed up are haters.
No doubt that if, for whatever reason, Moran had tweeted a male writer of a TV show asking after the lack of female representation, and he replied saying that he didn't give a shit about it, that would have suddenly been the worst thing in the world. How is it possible not to see the connection between shutting out someone because of their gender and shutting them out because of their race?

Reni Eddo-Lodge says in this article, 'Until feminism is for everyone, it will work for no-one'. I find this to be completely accurate. Moran seems to be all for feminism... as long as it's exclusive to white, heterosexual, middle-class women! But she seems to know little about how flawed the movement actually is, how it still needs to be sorted out. It's why so many women are reluctant to assume the feminist label. This is not a truth that can be avoided for much longer.

If you are seeking an introduction to feminism, one that's slim and easy to read but leaves no stone unturned, Feminism Is For Everybody by bell hooks comes very highly recommended.