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.