Friday, 1 April 2011

In which I discover what a perfect monster I am

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Warning for intemperance, occasional incoherence, reckless use of heavy sarcasm, and a stupid amount of capital letters.

I was thinking: oh, it's Friday, it's a time for gentle diversion. I was going to give you butterflies and bluebirds and lovely undemanding good news stories, to take your mind off the national debt and what is happening in Syria and Yemen. I wondered if there were any Portuguese or Irish readers who might need cheering up. (Not that things are very much better in dear old Blighty, hanging on to some kind of fiscal sanity by our fingertips.)

Then I discovered that a huge feminist row has erupted. I used to love a good old fight about feminism. Now I am older and more tired, it just makes me feel rather melancholy. Yes, yes, we are all man-hating bitches who are to blame for every social ill from single motherhood to yob culture. We spend our spare time going around emasculating gentlemen, for fun. We are all secret lesbians, and most of us have facial hair, which of course makes us bitter, and therefore EVEN MORE FEMINIST.

If you open a door for us, we are more likely to assault you than thank you, because who ever heard of a feminist with manners? We are always moaning about the patriarchal conspiracy, because we have no other topic of conversation. We insist on calling history herstory. If you do not refer to us as Ms we will report you to the European Court of Human Rights.

Yes, yes; tell me something I do not know.

Then, David Willetts did. He told me that I am directly responsible for the lack of social mobility in this country. It took me a moment to understand. Not only am I a castrating harridan, but I am an ELITIST harridan.

Here is how the argument goes, apparently. When middle-class women were allowed out of the kitchen and into jobs and universities, we deprived working-class men of any opportunity to get on in life. I have read it twice, and this really seems to be what Mr Willetts is saying. Of course, a moment's reflection will bear out the good sense of his thesis, because if there is one thing we feminists hate more than men, it's bloody working-class men. Of course we ran around literally taking the bread out of their mouths. That will teach them to read Page Three of The Sun. We are amazed that no one noticed until now. Fair dos, Signor Two Brains, we are SO busted.

It is not for nothing that David Willetts has a reputation for being the most intellectual member of the Conservative Party. Anyone who can say this is of a mind so dazzling that I run out of adjectives:

'“Feminism trumped egalitarianism,” he said, adding that women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men.'

You see the cleverness? So blinding brilliant that he thought no one would notice that feminism IS egalitarianism. What we feminists don't like to tell gentlemen, because we are too busy laughing at their penis size, is that really all we want is to be treated equally to men. We know this is a big ask, what with our times of the month and our irrational hysteria and our fear of spiders and our overweening interest in shoes. When we are not busy running off to sperm banks so our children need not have fathers, we dream our ghastly dream of EQUALITY.

(I would like to state for the record that I have always thought David Willetts a very nice and engaging fellow, even if he does labour under the disadvantage of being a despised man, and I am really hoping this is an April Fool, or that he has been kidnapped by space aliens and replaced by a pod.)

Luckily, though, my sister in arms, Christina Odone, was ready to do battle. 'Why David Willetts is wrong about Feminism' said the headline of her piece. I put the carving knife down and paid attention. Then it turned out that she too is one of the pod people:

'Willetts is right that feminists are responsible for the plight of working class men. Feminists have undermined working class men with their philosophy that all males are expendable. Women don’t need men: not as husbands or partners, not as bread-winners, not even as fathers to their children. This man-hatred has not only been taught, it has been rewarded. “Thatta girl! You don’t need him! He’s rubbish!” – this is the refrain that working class men keep overhearing. Little wonder they feel demoralised and useless, and live down to these expectations.'

All right. I put my hands up. I do spend most of my waking hours going up to working-class men and jeering at them about how I do not need their awful rubbishy testosterone-fuelled selves. It is my absolute number one thing in the world, I freely admit. It is quite spooky that Ms Odone knows my daily routine so well.  'Thatta girl', I do indeed yell, to my lady friends; 'You don't need HIM.' It is the famous feminist cry, the one that Mrs Pankhurst started, as she chained herself to the railings outside Number Ten. 

For even more illumination on the subject, there are grateful readers over at The Telegraph, ready to elucidate the point. My favourite by far is one called Long Haul, who judiciously remarks:

'Put it anyway you like Ms Odone, but call a woman a feminist these days and it'll be taken as an insult by the great majority. Most of them have broken relationships in one form or another, and I've yet to see one that could be called physically attractive. Good looking women in sound marriages and relationships are seldom feminists.'

It really is nice to see that the dear old Torygraph, newspaper of the Great and the Good, is still attracting such a high class of reader.

All in all, I feel quite breathlessly lucky that I have nice Mr Willetts and brave Ms Odone and incisive Mr Long Haul to set me straight. I am immediately going to apply to be a housewife, so that a poor deprived working-class gentleman can write my books instead. It's a bit late to revoke my MA in history, but obviously I am VERY VERY SORRY about it, and promise that if only I had known then what I do now, I should never have been so greedy and stupid and illiberal to apply for university in the first place. And now I am going to do some nice crochet, and ponder the frightful error of my ways.


[If you too, would like to be put back on the road to righteousness, you can read both pieces here, and here. If not, then I would go out and have a very strong cocktail instead.]


And now for pictures. Because it is Friday and there must be loveliness. Yes, yes, there must.

Amazingly, the dear little carnations are still going:

1st April 2

1st April 3

1st April 4

(Warning: the carnation is of course a secret feminist flower. The word carnation is actually code for: CASTRATE, CASTRATE.)

Here is some old eucalyptus, which has dried and looks rather sculptural:

1st April 5

1st April 6

Outside, these lovelies are still in full fig:

1st April 6-2

It turns out they are irises, as some of you correctly guessed. I was confused, because they are the size of crocuses, so I thought they were some kind of iris-like crocus. Well, you can take a horticulture, but you can't make her think, as the great Dorothy Parker once said.

They are so lovely, I also transposed them into black and white, just because:

1st April 7 

The heavenly hellebore:

1st April 8


1st April 10

That was in capitals because there was nothing there yesterday. This happened overnight, like magic. When I saw it, I shouted: THE ORNAMENTAL JAPANESE CHERRY IS IN FLOWER, out loud. The dogs seemed slightly surprised. They have a lamentable lack of interest in ornamental cherries. Philistines.

These are mystery bulbs. No idea. Tulips, perhaps? But the green shoots alone are worth the price of admission:

1st April 13

The little apple tree:


I love the acid green rose leaves against the magenta honeysuckle:

1st April 17

The murk:

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1st April 16

But the black sky cannot dull the philadelphus:

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Or the radiance of the ladyships, for that matter:

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1st April 22

1st April 1

The hill, almost lost in the dreich:

1st April 23

Final thought: does anyone actually say 'Thatta girl'? Surely it is 'Atta girl'? Just asking. I really am stopping now. Really, really.

Have a lovely Friday.



  1. Well! Atta girl to YOU, Tania! I missed the whole sorry public exchange between Mr Willetts and Ms Odone, but you've cheered up my Friday evening with your spirited re-match and I feel a lot better for it, & find myself cheerfully lining up as a harridan of the first water right beside you.

  2. This reader in Ireland is very much cheered by your Friday blog... (and especially the carnations).

  3. "The plight of working class men" - I think this is due less to feminism than the demise, almost, of manufacturing and agricultural work -in Britain, anyway - where most work now depends not on muscle-power but on office work and/or social skills, which many working class men are reluctant or unable to broach.

    Thank goodness women are now able to use their brains and have responsibility at work. However I do rather draw the line at a woman politician I heard about today (can't remember her name) who grumbled that women aren't allowed to take a baby into a voting queue in the House of Commons. The two worlds are very incompatible. Surely she has enough money to have a baby-sitter for the day? Her attitude seemed completely selfish. A sweetly sleeping babe in arms - yes, but they can suddenly yell! And yet it's difficult for people to speak out about this as it's seen as un-PC.

    Ah well, it's big subject!

  4. Lillyanne - hurrah for the harridans. And am most delighted by your used of the word 'spirited'. I always wanted to be spirited.

    Sarah - slightly overcome by the fact you are an Irish reader. I spent some of the happiest years of my twenties running around Dublin and Connemara and feel furious with those reckless banks and property developers. So the idea the carnations cheered you up makes me smile.

    Vivien - such an interesting and thoughtful comment. I had considered doing nuance, but was too cross, so chose irony instead. Thank you for being a gentle voice of reason.

  5. Love your passion and the fact that even if you feel melancholy you don't just put up with this kind of rubbish. I admire your pluck (I have always wanted to use that word) and spirit.


  6. it is quite extraordinary isn't it, how the ego of the male is so very very very delicate. One would have thought all thsoe years being brainy and elite and superior might have hardened it up a little, but clearly we forgot they must be sustaining bruises from the glass ceiling themselves.

  7. I love your blog but don't usually comment. I do think you are a bit unfair here - David Willetts was simply pointing out that research shows expansion of opportunity has gone to women and not suggesting - or even thinking as far as I can see - that this was a bad thing.

  8. Sue - love the idea of having pluck. Thank you.

    Jo - I do find the whole thing quite baffling.

    Deb W - I always love getting polite and constructive dissent. I do get cross with people taking soundbites out of context and running with them, so I did check carefully what Mr Willetts said. I am afraid he did say, in terms, that feminism was the single biggest driver of social inequality because of middle-class women taking educational and vocational opportunities that would otherwise have gone to working-class men. I think he had no idea how terrible this would sound to women, but believed he was making a neutral sociological point.

    I have two major problems with it. It is observably incorrect. It takes no account of the decline of industry and manufacturing, educational changes, and other societal factors. If you look at the Scandinavian countries, they are number one for feminist policies AND number one for social mobility and equality.

    The other thing is that if you blame feminism, and, as Mr Willetts said, women who would 'otherwise have been housewives', the inescapable implication is that it would have been better if women had stayed in the kitchen. I do not think he really meant that, but that is the only logical conclusion conclusion. It also pitches women against men in a most depressing way. I like to think we are all in it together.

    So, although I do think he is an intelligent and well-meaning man, I think he is incorrect, and guilty of infelicitous phrasing. I actually think he certainly did not mean to cause offence. But you could also say that a gentleman of his position and accomplishments should realise how absolutely exhausting and demoralising it can be for feminists, this feminist certainly, to be blamed for so many things.

    Sorry for such a stupidly long reply. I completely respect your position, and probably have not changed your mind, but I am a huge believer in each to each. Thank you so much for your comment and please keep reading. :)

  9. Thank you for your thoughtful reply - I am sure you have read this but below is the link I used. It is certainly possible to unwittingly suggest this is a war between men and women but my point was that I thought he was reporting rather than being polemical. I write as a lifelong feminist, fourth female generation of graduates in my family (with nieces the 5th - I only have sons) and as a woman in continuous professional employment since 1977 so we are on the same side!

  10. And should add - being less polite - that I would take David Willetts over Christina Odone any day!

  11. Dear Tania, don't people talk a lot of rubbish? I loved your sarcasm. Personally I've never rated Christina Odone either, I've never seen what all the fuss was about. And she's not funny.

    And it's definitely Atta xx

  12. If feminism has led to more women entering the workforce, resulting in a lowering of wages and fewer opportunities, especially for the unskilled, then feminism has indeed had a negative overall effect on society as a whole.

  13. Deb and Christina - hate to say it, but do rather agree about C Odone.

    Lee - interesting perspective. I think you and I shall have to agree to differ. I see equal rights for women as a huge step forward, but I understand not everyone agrees.


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