Thursday, 20 January 2011

Misogyny at the Mail

It's no secret that the Daily Mail hates women. Look at it any day (if you can bear), and you'll find evidence of misogyny spread all over the paper like fake tan on Katie Price.

On Tuesday, they pushed their anti-feminism agenda one step further by printing a story entitled "The high fliers with the ultimate status symbol - wives they can afford to keep at home. So whatever happened to feminism? (You now have five minutes to fall to the floor laughing at the fact that the Mail are asking what's happened to feminism. Back? Good.)

Well, as we will see, the Mail's not exactly fighting the case against being a housewife. If I'm completely honest, all I can see when I read this article is yet another example of the Mail denigrating working women and portraying housewives as superior, whilst also promoting their usual 1950's style ideals, however unrealistic they are for most families. Yes, they may have the faux-horror in the title and first line, but all this article does is talk about how fan-sodding-tastic it is to either have, or be, a "kept woman". In the third line of the article, we're told that "[h]ere, three husbands describe their perfect lives - and their wives explain why they're happy to stay at home". This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the article - men being given their 'perfect lives' by little wifey, and anyone who doesn't do everything at her husband's beck and call is depriving him of the chance to have a perfect life, the foul harridan!

In the first paragraph of this article, it is claimed that "nearly 70 per cent of women admit that they'd rather be kept by their husbands, according to a recent survey". That's it on the survey. No further details were given, so I can't chase them up. They didn't even mention any company which may have commissioned it, so I can't check any vested interests or dodgy stats work.

After the first paragraph, this article is entirely made up of descriptions of life in a breadwinner/kept woman relationship from three different couples. For all the Mail's mock-outrage, it's overwhelmingly positive. By the time I'd finished reading it, even I had a flicker of an urge to let my brain slide out of my ear, put on a Cath Kidston apron and start making gluten-free muffins for a child with a ridiculous name in my Aga, whilst wearing a beatific, heavily made-up grin.

All joking aside though, this article both saddens and angers me so much, and for so many reasons. Firstly, the concept of 'women belong at home, men do the work' is just so utterly demeaning, and hopelessly outmoded. What on earth does the fact that one of your chromosomes lost a leg have to do with your ability to provide for a household? What does the fact that it didn't have to do with your ability to cook and clean?

Secondly, how can the unified lack of ambition shown by these obviously well-educated women be viewed as anything other than thouroughly depressing? Especially given the government's seeming intent to make sure that few young people will be able to experience such opportunities in the future.

Another thing that upset me horribly about this article was that these couples are the parents of five children, two of them female. To see gender myths that should have died sixty years ago be promoted to children in the year 2011 is profoundly disturbing. Where on earth will these young girls get any ambition other than to snare a rich husband? Surely they deserve more?

I could rant forever about how patently ludicrous it is to believe that being a housewife is a valid 'career choice' for any woman, let alone the ones with the opportunities obviously afforded to the women in this article, but the point has been done to death by far greater writers than I.

Now comes the time when I delve into the article proper:

So, first up, we have Jon and Rebecca, from Kingston upon Thames. They have two lovely boys, aged four and one, who (if we're lucky) will turn into raving misogynists, just like mummy and daddy!

I'll just pick out a few choice quotes from Jon.

   * I feel quite smug when I hear work colleagues say: ‘I have to rush off now because I’ve got to pick up the children from school.’
    * I can think of only two occasions when I’ve had to leave work and go home — once when Rebecca locked herself out of the house, and once when all three of them came down with an awful bug
    * There’s little conflict in our relationship, because we are not competing about who is the most tired, or who does what around the house. 
    * Rebecca never complains about having to cook my dinner or wash my clothes. She even lets me play cricket on a Sunday, although we try to make it a family affair and bring the children, too, for a day out. 

What. A. Charmer. So Jon hates his children, and considers them nothing but an inconvenience that stops wifey from doing things for him, or his playing cricket. I mean, it's almost like he's straight from heaven! I practically swooned when I read that!


Now, the wifeling is trusted to speak:

   * Every week I go to a life-coaching class with other like-minded women, to keep my brain active. I studied Classics at university, and being at home with children you can feel as if you are losing sight of yourself. 
    * I read lots of books and news­papers, because I would hate to think I have nothing to talk about but the children and the home when Jon comes back from work.
    * Where I live, there are quite a few other young mothers who are housewives, and we’ve formed an informal group. Our ­children play together and we get a chance to chat.
    * I think my university education has served to make me a better ­companion for my husband. I am here to listen to him, and he often talks to me about work and asks my opinion. I make a very good ­sounding board for him, and I am quite happy in this role.

....Yeah, she sounds happy and fulfilled. Stellar job there, Jon!

Seriously though, how can anyone think that sounds good? She has to read things to have conversations about with her own husband because her day is so dull.

Next up, we have Scott and Sam. Scott's a millionaire, and they have two houses. One of them is a five bedroom townhouse in South London, the other a villa in Marbella (c'mon, it's the Mail - when did you think they wouldn't do the property-porn meme?). They have a boy and a girl, aged 14 and 11.


    * Every morning I wake up to a neatly ironed shirt. My wardrobe is full of immaculately pressed suits and even my sock drawer is perfectly arranged.
    * I don’t have to think about anything domestic, such as whether there’s milk and food in the fridge. I haven’t the faintest idea how the washing machine works
    * She buys all my clothes, and makes sure that when I am at home, I can totally relax.
    * Sam never calls me with problems at work — she knows not to disturb me. She sorts out all the household bills, too, and she books all our ­holidays. I just turn up. I love all the little things she does for me, such as organising my wardrobe.

Organising his wardrobe? Sam! You saucy minx! (Seriously though - is it just me that got the vibe that Scott likes things a little too organized, if you know what I mean?)

Wifelet's a corker in herself though:

   * I think a lot of women are secretly jealous — I know they think I have a lovely life.
   * I adore being at home. I love ­poring over fabrics and wallpaper choices and deciding how to decorate. We shop mostly at ­Harrods and Selfridges, and a lot of things for the home are bought at John Lewis.
   * I have a cleaner, and I am free to make the house perfect for Scott and do all the things that he appreciates.

You read it correctly. This one's so bored and unfulfilled that she lives her life in a continuous cycle of redecorating. Sorry Sam, but no. I'm not secretly jealous, and I don't think you have a lovely life. Unless since I checked this morning, the definition of 'lovely life' has changed to 'an endless horizon of ennui, spreading forth until the end of time (or until Scott has a mid-life crisis and runs off with the cleaner)'.

Last but not least, we have Matthew and Laura, and their infant daughter (22 months).

Here's Matthew's view on what makes a wonderful relationship in 2011:

   *I can be quite difficult, but she knows me well and takes care of my quirks. I’m fussy about things like dry cleaning and having pressed shirts.
   *I think the fact that she has had a high-profile job herself means she understands the ­pressure I am often under...she was a sales-trader with a first-class honours degree from ­Trinity College, Dublin.
   *To have both husband and wife juggling highly demanding careers must be so hard, and it must cause a huge strain on relationships.

Oh... bless. That's so... sweet. It doesn't at all make me want to tear my own skin off with rage Matthew, honest.

So, over to Laura. Surely one of our wives can say something that sounds appealing to a woman with a brain in her head, right? Uhm...

  *Occasionally, I miss the buzz of the trading floor and seeing a deal through. But these days I get as much of a thrill over Madison learning a new ballet step

Sorry Laura, my mistake.

I'd just like to remind everyone that Madison is not even two. What on earth they have her doing ballet for at that age is quite beyond me. Unless she is some kind of freaky ballet-prodigy, in which case I take all the sarcastic things I just said back.

So, there you have them. Our three perfect, well balanced, proper couples, courtesy of the Mail.

Yes, I'm fully aware that part of being a feminist is allowing women the choice to do whatever, and this includes the choice to sit around at home while her brain turns to mush to the theme tune from Balamory, but this article just read like a "Good Wife Manual" from times of yore (like so many of the Mail's articles aimed at women), and I find that utterly reprehensible.

Also, I know that I'm usually a lot more serious when I write, but I couldn't do this without making some attempt (however miguided) at humour. There was a good chance that if I'd tried to be serious with this that my bra may have spontaneously combusted.


  1. "By the time I'd finished reading it, even I had a flicker of an urge to let my brain slide out of my ear, put on a Cath Kidston apron and start making gluten-free muffins for a child with a ridiculous name in my Aga, whilst wearing a beatific, heavily made-up grin." I 100% agree with you. This blog rocks.

  2. hello, i agree, on the whole. this bit is misguided though i think- about rebecca. you say she has to 'read things to have conversations about with her own husband because her day is so dull.'

    i would think that reading all day shows she has a healthy intellectual life which many women/people (who work in jobs that are repetitive and dull in themselves) often don't have.

    i don't think work always amounts to personal satisfaction. in fact i think work is over rated. in some ways these women (although they have picked somewhat simpery, stepford types) are much freer than some.

    however, it is a strange kind of freedom as they all seem to think they work for their husbands.

    if it was me i'd be using the time to do things for myself :-)

  3. It's amazing to even think that a newspaper is able to print this sort of bullshit and get away with it. I have a feeling that the Daily Mail seems to completely disregard the Suffragette movement. When will people learn to stop buying the Daily Fail? I have never purchased the Daily Mail, however I have done some of their hilarious online polls, ones with Gypsies in the title. Hilarious. Daily Mail, if you're reading this comment. Please fuck off

  4. They all sound like characters out of Mad Men. I love how Matthew trots out Laura's qualifications and career history, as if to say "Don't I have an obedient wife! She's far too intelligent and massively over qualified to be my skivvy but she does it anyway!"

    I would rather hack off all my limbs than be the domestic financial prisoner of one of these odious men.

  5. Two words: *Stepford* and *prozac*

  6. Hang on a minute - working women might have missed a trick here. I've worked full time all my working life, had 3 children (of course all three are a bitter disappointment to me, they got to at least 5 before they could reward me with a decent ballet step), and I have, in the main, been a single parent. Despite paying thousands into my pension fund, by the time the ConDems have done with it it will be worth very little and I will no doubt die of frostbite in sheltered accommodation. If only I'd had the forsight of these three:
    1 - bag yourself a rich bloke
    2 - pop out a kid or two
    3 - iron his shirt (as if... give 'em to the cleaner or ironing lady) and buy milk
    4 - DIVORCE him - you get at least half of his "well earned" for mostly sitting on your backside reading the papers

    Which dating site should I start with....?

  7. Holy Shit! Sorry, but that's all I can really say...

  8. Thanks for posting and ensuring I don't have to run the risk of implosion by pointing my browser anywhere near the Mail...

    re Laura and her lovely lovely husband - did either of them mention their kids at all in their interview, or are they of an age where they are at boarding school dahling, therefore not really impinging on everday life at all?

    Cheers for the blog btw - really enjoying your posts. CJ, Dunedin NZ