27 Feb 2006, Comments Off on When I am old I Shall Wear Purple Specifically to annoy Virginia Haussegger

When I am old I Shall Wear Purple Specifically to annoy Virginia Haussegger

Author: Helen

The Age (our beloved least worst local rag) always manages to find strange, ahem, right of centre writers to comment on “womens’ issues”.

Remember Virginia Haussegger? She wrote the sad article in 2002 accusing older, “purple-clad” feminists of overemphasising career to the detriment of her personal life, because none of them had remembered to tell her personally about fertility declining as you get older, the stupid old bags. (Did Virginia never go for a pap smear? Did it occur to her to ask a GP?)

Anyways, as I conducted my usual exhausting, no-expense-spared research for this post (Google, only fingers moving) I came across proof that at least one feminist did tell Virginia about the use-by date on her ovaries. Jane Caro, the convenor of Priority Public, spelled it out for her while on holiday in 1987. Did she listen? No.

Sprung, Virginia.

Now, in the interests of fairness, Hausegger does occasionally make some sense on the occasions she turns from feminist-bashing to actual work-life balance issues. But in this latest confused outpouring, Hausseger reckons Australian feminists “hate” Maureen Dowd because they can’t handle the uncomfortable truths in her pot-boiler “Are Men Necessary?” This is because they are horrible. They “sharpen” their “squints”, their “claws are out”. Meow!

If Virginia had just let her fingers do the walking, like me, she would find plenty of American feminists who don’t like “Are Men Necessary” either. One woman’s “sassy” is another woman’s “mind-blowing stupidity“.

Virginia’s Haus style seems to consist mainly of a series of bald assertions, none of them backed up by any empirical evidence, most pertaining to a small substratum of society to which she belongs (we used to call them “yuppies”)… and some of which are simply off the planet.


Dowd’s razor-sharp depiction of women who choose to parade their breasts instead of their brains (in order to enjoy the greater rewards), and who have ditched old-fashioned aspirations of gender equality for slut-culture supremacy, is just too much of an insult to delicate Australian feminist sensibilities.

Who-kicked-who-in-the-what-now?… Is she being wittily tongue in cheek but just getting the tone wrong? Is she drunk? Old-fashioned aspirations of gender equality? Maybe it’s because I haven’t read Dowd’s book that I don’t even get what she is trying to say here – but the idea of an opinion piece/book review is to present your ideas clearly enough that that shouldn’t be required in order to understand your point. And the idea that if you don’t embrace Slut Culture you’re a gimlet-eyed, punishing old Puritan feminist, well, how many times has that poor old worn-out thing been around the track?

I’d be here all day if I tried to analyse the whole mess, and other people have already called her on her cherrypicking other writers ‘ arguments, but one of the most annoying themes is the distaste she shows for “empirical evidence” and her attempt to have it both ways. In the same breath, Australian feminists are judging Maureen Dowd completely on her presentation and persona rather than “ruminat(ing) on the argument”. They “go for the girl”. (I must say, there’s nothing I find so empowering as having a 54 year old woman referred to as a “girl”.) Then she tries to say they’re ruminating too much on the argument. They’re actually asking for evidence… and layers of complexity! The bitchez.


Dowd… is about to experience first-hand our naive lack of humour and tortured desire for layers of complexity.

Well, damn those layers of complexity!


Winnie Salamon was at pains to point out that as Australian women “we need discussion that is meaningful”. Dowd’s playful suggestion that all men will be infertile in 125,000 years, and possibly extinct in 10 million years, was not complex enough for Salamon, whose hunger for serious empirical data found this undignified romp through the “Y chromosome” all a bit “kitschy and futuristic”.

Damn those empirical data! We should be able to have feminist books without all that hard, unfeminine thinking stuff, boop-boop-a-doop!

Enough of that. Now I’m off to sharpen my squint.

Comments (0)

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    You beat me to it, BCIB; I too had vague blogging plans for this topic, though my target was actually not Hausegger but Caroline Overington. From what I’ve read about (and what little I’ve so far read of) the Dowd book, what we now have here is third-generation confusion.

    Dowd herself is, it seems to me, confused. Then Overington trashes Dowd; then Hausegger trashes Overington and Dowd; then Overington responds in the Weekend Australian to Hausegger, whom she forgives, and admires, or so she says, despite the fact that her original article asked whether ‘we’ couldn’t get rid of those useless old bags, the independent childless women of the world — of whom Hausegger is, of course, one.

    Confused? Yes, so are they. Big-time. There appears to be layer upon layer of mire here. Overington’s piece is much worse than Hausegger’s because it is so much more reactionary, anti-feminist and mindless, and to that extent, her point — repulsive as it is — is at least clearer than Hausegger’s.

    I have some personal interest in all this; like Jane Caro, I knew Virigina Hausegger when she was much younger. I was one of her tutors, and no doubt she thought of me as one of the old feminist bags who led her up the garden path about Having It All. However, what I mainly remember about her is that listening to anybody else talking about anything was actually not one of her strong points; it’s quite possible that many, many people warned her that (Surprise! Shock! Horror!) fertility decreases with age, but there’s a very good chance that she didn’t hear them.

    (I would, however, like to point out that I am not as old as that uber-foxette Maureen Dowd.)

    (Quite.)

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    Update: Clearly I too am confused. Hausegger is of course ranging herself on the side of Dowd. Sort of. Sorry, it’s all too much for my pretty little head.

  • R.H. says:

    Damn right. And if you ever stop all this feminist drivel you’ll look a lot prettier.

  • I never got that Hausegger bit a while back about not being told but then being a bit male (ish) I didn’t opt in to the argument. Seemed strange to me – even I knew about fertility and age a long, long time ago. Not to mention the sheer energy required to bring kids up well. I’d reckon to do it best means having kids in early 20’s. I know one has to have an income so some compromise is required.

  • Kate says:

    I am 27 and I know full well that if I want to have sprogs I should do so before I turn 35. But I blame the difficulty of juggling work and life not on feminism — why don’t you fix it for me feminists, damn you to hell — but on corporate culture, the way our capitalist society works, the devaluing of women’s work, etc etc.

    As for Dowd — what is her point exactly?

  • BlueBolt says:

    Having read Virginia’s book ‘The Myth of the Superwoman’ (which is surprisingly good) and some of Maureens articles, I suspect her point is a self justification for her choices and lifestyle. Both women are grandiosing over their lifestyle choices and then surprised that other people made different choices…..

    I agree the corporate culture makes it very difficult – but more so for the poor sods with no bargaining power whatsoever.

  • Zoe says:

    At least you don’t have to watch her on the bloody ABC news five nights a week.

    That is all.

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