27 Jun 2012, Comments (5)

Looking like a duck, walking like a duck

Author: Helen

Manga character says "Girl Cooties"!

All right.


I wasn’t going to take the bait. Trollumnists want attention and clicks, and it’s all very well to take my frustration out on the blog by pounding out a reply – that’s one of the reasons we blog – but it gives them the attention the advertising manager of their media outlet craves, and sends the signal to the media outlet that more trollumning is required. But to hell with it, I can’t leave rubbish like this unfisked.

Here, Elizabeth Farrelly protests: “Here’s the truth. I’m not a misogynist. It’s 13 weeks, give or take, since I was accused of misogyny in these pages… but in the intervening weeks I’ve searched my soul and decided no, not true.”

Trouble is, Farrelly goes on to demonstrate some sterling misogyny in the very same article.

Feminism always had a strategic choice; either to escape the sewing circle or to make it legitimate. I’m with the escape artists. Most of what passes for feminism these days, however, just legitimises girliness.

Scorn for crafts and pastimes associated with femaleness? Check.

I don’t usually read women authors but not because they’re women. Because they’re boring. My female friends are shocked by this, urging me to revisit my Margaret Atwood or Jeanette Winterson. But I tell you, if I never read another intelligent female devoting her first page to how she felt when her husband left her it’ll be too soon.

Valorisation of male writing over womens’ writing? Denigration of womens’ writing in its entirety (with a few exeptions-which-prove-the-rule thrown in to convince us she’s being fair)? Using an obvious straw-writer (all novels written by women begin with a woman musing about how her husband has left her, O RLY) to provide some weak argument for this? Check.

In part this is an aesthetic thing. I like writing with a higher IQ and lower pH than most women can manage: tougher, edgier, stringier. But it’s also, unavoidably, political.

Praise for attributes coded by the writer as “male” (without stopping to consider whether these attributes are intrinsically “male” or whether she just assigns these to maleness in her personal world view)? Claiming men ipso facto have a higher IQ? Check!

To my mind it is the task of writing to lace the personal into the supra-personal – bridging from the self to the political, the abstract, the cosmic. To fail in this, to wallow about in the personal, is a muscular dystrophy of the mind.

Associating women with the “personal” (domestic, earthed, grounded)? Associating men with the cosmic, transcendent world of affairs? Check.

Remember when people used to take offence at women athletes being called ”girls”? Now it seems feminism has given up. Far from liberating us into the tough, exciting world, it has simply stretched the circle, like some outsize marsupial pouch, to encompass it. We’re all girls now.

This makes no sense. The feminist objection to the use of the word “girls” for grown women is to do with infantilising female adults, not hating the very notion of girls and girl-ness. Moreover, Farrelly uses the term “girls” to patronise the reader a few paragraphs on.

I hope you don’t think men escape Farrelly’s beady-eyed gender policing:

At the gym you hear men earnestly sharing tips on diet products. Over coffee they dissect fashion, babies, relationships. “I said, then she said, then I said …” Neo-boys’ natter.

Fearing some kind of contamination of male society by female qualities? Check.(Don’t forget, this is the woman who fears modern building codes and environmental oestrogens are effeminizing our little boys and putting the entire nation at risk. seriously. Obviously, these girly-men are those poor kids, grown up.) See also.

Just as suddenly the Women’s Weekly, which for me growing up symbolised everything frilled, dumb and domestic – everything I did not want my life to become – is a cultural icon, with its own TV drama and a National Library project to digitise it as “nationally significant material”.
Now you can catch up on all those stain-removal tips and sponge-making recipes online, secure in the knowledge that you’re engaged in something of national significance. Super.

Thinking that womanhood or girlhood is defined by womens’ magazines? check. Assertion that material aimed at women can have no archival, educational or historic significance? Check.

Everywhere you look there’s women’s stuff. Websites, blogs, zines and e-groups. The explosion of social networking, and not just the ability but the expectation that you indulge, is a symbolic victory for the X chromosome. But how feminist is it, actually?

Interpretation of proper feminism as abandoning anything which could be coded “girly”? Obsession with avoiding Girl Cooties? Check.

But it’s more than that. The sub-heads of the Parlour blog, for example, go unconscious bias, leadership, mentoring, pay equity, career paths, work/life, and so on.) It’s run by writers and academics but none of it – not a word – deals with architecture the stuff, the content, the juice.
It makes me want to scream. Stop self-obsessing, girls. Leave the sewing circle. You want respect as architects, get on and bloody do it. Build something brilliant, funny, sweet, enchanting, weird, crazy – I don’t care. Do it, and they’ll come.

Women concerned with building professional networks as “self-obsessed”? Check. “Sewing Circle” (Girl cooties, eww!) used as insult? Check. (Have the Melbourne Club, the MCC and other male social networking organisations anything to do with the actual work their members do? What might be the role of a magazine like the one she’s bagging?) Use of “Girls” to denote adult women? Check.

I have a lot of time for Zaha Hadid for this reason alone. I recall her as a young thing in London, sweeping all before her with her retinue of black-clad gay boys like the Persian princess she was. She didn’t bother whingeing about work-life balance. Balance be damned. She just did it.

Yes, “gay boys” are so useful as a social/interior decoration prop, aren’t they? We wouldn’t want to only patronise women, after all.

I believe Greer is right (she too is labelled misogynist, as is Paglia, so I’m in good company). There is a level at which men hate women, for a very simple reason. They’re jealous. Women are core, men are luxuries.

After such a litany of “Girl cooties, eww! Be more like men!”, suddenly Farrelly is concerned to show she’s really on the womens’ team. Somehow, it rings less than true. And Camille Paglia “good company”? I guess if you believe environmental chemicals and female teachers are wrecking society with their “oestrogen-heaviness”, Camille Paglia suddenly seems quite rational.

But this very core-ness can turn us into ruminants, and saying so is not misogynistic. Quite the contrary. It’s recognising that it’s bigger than us. The world needs heroic females more than ever; it needs us out there, muscular, mindful, purposeful and strong. That’s funny.

Women compared to “ruminants”, i.e., cows? Check!

Well, Farrelly’s protestations have failed to convince me that misogyny has no place in her world view. We’re being asked to accept that someonewho looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck may not be one. A goose, perhaps.

Comments (5) »

Leave a comment

XHTML– Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>