Free papers: a masterclass in misogyny

I gave up women’s magazines years ago. It’s not that I have any vast objection to most of their subject areas, because, you know, I dress appropriately for work, I quite like pretty jewellery and the odd makeup tip for creating a desired look is handy. But I have no time for publications that are going to airbrush women to within an inch of their lives and then tell me that it’s the only acceptable way to look. Furthermore, I don’t like the suggestion that man-pleasing sexuality, obsessive dieting, and dressing ‘for your body shape’ are the only ways to live, especially as that’s not required for men.

So, I gave them up. And for the record I’m probably slimmer, better dressed and more successful than I ever was with their help – and certainly more confident.

After a year’s maternity leave, I returned to the world of commuting and therefore free newspapers and magazines, morning and afternoon, in vast variety and abundance. Mostly these do a useful commuter public service, giving us all something to pretend to be gawping at while we’re watching the person opposite pick their nose, and they can be a useful way of getting to know about events, TV shows, etc etc.

But oh boy. I just don’t think I can read them anymore. I can’t even find it in myself to be all that angry about it all, but twice now I’ve garnered funny looks from forgetting myself and literally facepalming on the Tube. (It’s quite a good way to get some more breathing space).

In the last 24 hours alone, I’ve seen the following:

  • A huge letters page, complete with illustration, with no less than three letters from men all making the identical point that Theresa May’s proposed plans to notify women about violent partners are ‘sexist’ because they assume men aren’t victims of domestic violence. This was much more space than was devoted to the original article about the plans, and is accompanied by letters about how if women get a bit narked for being treated as weak and feeble they should ‘smile and say thank you’ because that’s just chivalry and we HAVE TO ACCEPT IT. (Because they were purposely excluded and this has nothing to do with the fact that this is designed to tackle a situation where ONE IN FOUR women will experience domestic violence, so it might just affect them more.)
  • A woman’s article about her partner staying at home to raise the baby and how she possibly feels a bit bad about this, so feminism should be careful what it wishes for. (Presumably because every woman must feel like she does, and those of us who are able to find a shared childcare model can’t possibly exist.)
  • A comment about the possible pregnancy of a famous actor’s wife which comments that because he already has three daughters he ‘must’ be keen on having a boy this time. (Because girls smell?)
  • An article about famous people from a particular ethnic group. For the three women, the comments were purely focussed on their bodies: one was ‘luscious’, one was just a backside and one was only interesting because she posed nude. For the two men (both of which have been sex symbols), it was strictly about their work. (If it’s not necessary to objectify men – and it’s not – then… Oh, I don’t even have the heart to continue explaining.)

And that’s me just sitting here remembering what I’ve been reading. I don’t even have the papers in front of me to pick through them.

What’s really scary is how much of this is just considered matter-of-fact discourse, and can’t even be put down to people trying to be misogynist. They just think this is how life is. Men are serious achievers, women are frivolous decorations. Men must want to populate the world with other men.  When help is offered to women who suffer disproportionately because of their sex, it must have been done to leave men out and victimise them.

Seriously, if you were having a conversation with someone about your issue and they kept talking about themselves, wouldn’t you just feel exhausted by it all?

So, I’m downing tools and giving up the papers again. I lived perfectly happily – happier – without them, after all. And maybe this blog will convince one other person to consider doing the same. And then maybe, as Wayne’s World once told us, they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell their friends and so on and so on.

Cos really, I’ve seen from one campaign after another that writing to these papers and trying to explain why this is Not Good doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s appropriate to stay in the room and try to yell louder to be heard over the background noise. Sometimes you just figure you should leave the room and let other people make their own decisions.

Toodle pip.



  1. I have to tell you, I don’t think I ever spent more than three nanoseconds considering what any woman was wearing when I was in a relationship with them.

    Men just don’t care what women wear so long as they don’t smell and don’t look like they’re about to carry out a bank heist.

    Most men are essentially geared toward why/how things work (this is science, not hearsay) and therefore far less concerned with how things appear or seem. This isn’t to say only women have aestethic sense, but men just don’t care most of the time. It never fails to stun me, thus, that a woman on an average salary would blow small fortunes on clothes shopping.

    The truth is, women get pulled into all manner of ridiculous competitions and it’s among themselves- women buy so many clothes because of changing “fashions” and it becomes an addiction. Naturally, men also buy lots of crap, but generally (and more’s the pity) they’re happy to dress like loose carrier bags if it’s comfortable.

    Antidote? Stop reading the feckin magazines! I don’t watch tv nor do I read papers; I’ve no idea what is going on I’m what I call the non-world; the world of fashion, gossip, “celebs”. I honestly thought Lindsay Lohan was a fictional Irish-American detective from the 1930s.

    Wear what you want, ladies, men don’t give a damn. And yes, your bum looks big in that.



    1. *sigh*

      If I didn’t know you and love you IRL, I wouldn’t bother with this, but I do, and I care so here we go:


      You know that line where I said it’s really annoying when you’re talking about an issue affecting you and then men come along and make the conversation about them? Yep. That’s it right there.

      I could go off on one here about how men DO care what women wear because continuing misogyny is what makes so much of women’s fashion so restrictive and painful (much of it designed by men), but you know, that’s tangential to my main point that this is not. about. men.

      And for a second point, biological determinism is rubbish. I have yet to be convinced by a single thing Simon Baron Cohen has to say. You want convincing? Try Dr. Lise Eliot, or Cordelia Fine (both scientists, by the way).


    2. “Most men are essentially geared toward why/how things work (this is science, not hearsay)”

      No, it’s armchair evo-psych pseudoscience that tells you what you want to hear in oversimplified terms.


    3. And men don’t give a damn about what women wear? I guarantee you that if all women suddenly started dressing in ‘loose carrier bags’, men would not be pleased about it. We’re adult women here, spare us the lecture and credit us with the fact we have actually interacted with some men during our lives.

      (This coming from someone who, like yourself, has never read a fashion/celeb magazine in my life. Although unlike you I don’t think I deserve an award for it.)


  2. well thanks, The Dude, for mansplaining to us wimmin how we all work. Thank god a man was here to tell me I shouldn’t bother reading or getting dressed up, and explaining to me how to spend the money I’ve earned. What would we do without you. Well we wouldn’t be able to do science, that’s for sure, far too difficult for our pretty little heads!


  3. Back to the topic… I stopped reading The Metro a few months into my first year of commuting & never looked back. I just realised I didn’t have to start every day in a rage. I even answered “the metro letters page” to a job interviewer who asked what made me angry. I didn’t get the job but it was true. I see enough casual misogyny without choosing to start every day with a large dose of it. Books and podcasts are better every time!


    1. Certainly I have a lot of books I’d rather be reading!

      The letters page might just be the most objectionable bit of the whole thing.


      1. I read some internet comment recently (can’t remember whose or where) and it said ‘the internet is basically your little brother who’s only interested in getting a rise out of you.’ How true that is. I guess the same can apply to many areas of the mass media 😀

  4. There seem to be two aspects to the misogyny – that from men, and that which we women impose upon each other. The parenthood-related guilt definitely comes from other women, but I also feel like a lot of the appearance obsession comes from us. High fashion, a size-zero figure and lots of make-up don’t appear to be things that men look for in friends, partners or co-workers.

    I’m definitely a room-leaver when it comes to these things. I have avoided women’s magazines for a few years now – both the glossies and the gossip-oriented ones. Neither made me feel particularly good about myself, whether it was my appearance, my sex life or my personality when I felt myself joining in with the snarking. Sites like Feministing don’t make me feel much better. I kind of like dressing up and showing a bit of cleavage every so often, and don’t need to be told that I’m being brainwashed by patriarchal society when I do.


    1. I think it would be ridiculous if I tried to deny that women put a lot of pressure on each other too. I do, however, suspect that quite a lot of it comes out of, or is at least worsened by, a diminished societal position. I think feeling inferior and being taught not to express anger about it breeds a defensiveness that we end up taking out on each other. Women really can get the knives out at each other over childrearing, but they’ve been told for years that they should be the primary caregivers and that therefore everything is their responsibility, and their fault. It doesn’t excuse it, but isn’t it bound to feed it?

      I don’t have any time for people who tell me how to dress, either. I’m not going to be told I’m not a good enough feminist if my skirt is higher or lower than a certain length! I understand that choices aren’t made in a vacuum but the whole point of being a feminist is that I believe it shouldn’t matter if I wear eyeliner or not. It’s not about everyone being the same or being treated identically, it’s about everyone being considered human, and of equal value.

      But you already know that. 🙂


  5. Based on what I could uarndstned from your explanation men tend to mansplain to other men as well but it’s called a conversation few take offense. Aren’t you talking about someone who is being insensitive and condescending or is this a special brand of it?


    1. Indeed, anyone can be patronising. I would say ‘mansplaining’ is a particularly irksome brand of it where women point out something sexist and men try and argue it away while condescendingly ignoring women’s experiences.


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