I really am devoting a massive amount of my time to reading weekend-newspaper supplements. Yes, indeed, who gives a tiny damn, except I’m sure that, in the case of certain of these, I’m somehow even less well informed after I have greedily consumed them than I was at the outset. At any rate, as I read the penultimate issue of Sunday, the Herald Sun’s magazine, I was struck by an ‘In My Own Words’ that featured Sarah Jessica Parker. Usually, the main thing that comes to mind when I read something that features Parker is that she was one of the leads of a television program called Square Pegs that I used to like and that I once read an interview with the show’s creator, Anne Beatts, in which Beatts described National Lampoon Magazine, at which she herself had worked, as suitable reading ‘for people with zits’. I thought about that on this occasion too, but what really struck me was that the pull-out quote chosen for the piece in question was ‘I Don’t Think of Myself as a Feminist’. Well now, I’m going to come over completely ‘Dworkin’ and say outright that this rattled my chains, even though, ironically, the content of the magazine in question occasionally makes me wonder, to paraphrase the brilliant EM Delafield, on exactly what grounds I am a feminist anyway.
Different topics were traversed in this small article, albeit it largely snoresville statements such as ‘Being a mum is a balancing act’, but this is what Sunday chose to zero in on, and not only here but on the contents page, where we learn that ‘Sarah Jessica Parker is set to play a feminist icon, but that’s not how she sees herself’. Now, the fact that the adoption of this slant did its evil work and got me to read the piece is no point in its favour, given that it’s never any problem to lure the likes of me to read any old shite whatsoever. And there is a further issue; namely, that what Parker actually said, regarding that she is shortly to portray Gloria Steinem, was ‘It’s because of the work of people like her that I don’t think of myself as a feminist or not; I think of myself as equal. I pursue things I love regardless of my gender.’ Yes, naturally, I am a petty creature but the meaning of the words in this context strikes me as quite different from their meaning when they are isolated and made oversized.
Now, I can’t decide whether I find all this is surprising or unsurprising, given that the Sunday magazine is essentially one big printed vagina. I know that, in one way, I should be thrilled that female ‘voices’ are so to the fore in the mainstream press (and, I see, is still the case in the Age’s Sunday Life magazine, even post a ‘redesign’, given that pretty much the only man in the most recent issue was Marilyn Manson) but, in another way, it doesn’t because, generally, I get to the end of the slender and colourful periodical feeling that I’m not actually a woman at all, given my level of disengagement from many of its writings. This Sarah-Jessica-Parker-is-no-feminist issue of the magazine, which seemed no more or less gal-centric than usual, featured its two, female, regular columnists: Angela Mollard, shaking her flowing locks at those feminists who are man haters (I have to admit that I do hate men sometimes, such as when I hear or read anything about Oliver Stone; just as I hate women sometimes, such as when they refer to their children as ‘small people’); and Fifi Box enlightening the reader as to her, self-described, useless hidden talents: among them, being able to slice an onion without crying. Now, I have a tiny dream, which is one day to read a column in Sunday that strikes an attitude that remotely surprises me.
Besides the lady columnists, however, there’s a small regular humour piece under Mollard’s every week, which is called ‘Mum vs World’, and that is usually about the fictional ma in question having, for example, a piece of Lego stuck on the heel of her work pumps and, for one reason or another, not making it into the office, which must be hilarious fun for her coworkers. Elsewhere, the feature story in this issue concerned Melissa George’s readiness to ‘fulfil her dreams of motherhood’, and there was also an – admittedly, most interesting – article about a woman who ended up in jail because she believed a con man. There were the fashion pages; the beauty page; some recipes; and the actress Rachael Blake on the topic of her ‘favourite things’ (among them, her wedding ring and a teddy bear). Almost the only male to be found in these pages, except the ones in advertisements for, for example, manly products such as Fujitsu pre-paid Visa cards, is Jonathan Cainer, with his customarily opaque astrological predictions.
The more I think about it, the stranger it is to me in the first place that these magazines, which are supplemental to gender-neutral newspapers, are so female focused; the sole reason I can imagine that this would be so is that News Limited and Fairfax have done a whole lot of market research indicating that females are the only people who read them. But why, then, does Sunday make such a big deal out of the fact that Parker is, allegedly, not a feminist, when it’s so woman-themed that I practically grow another breast reading it? Well, I have the feeling that it’s not because they think this statement will be controversial; rather, I think it’s that they believe it will give the magazine’s readers the same delicious comfort as easing their digits into a foot spa that they have just – as I once managed to do – bought at a supermarket for about ten per cent of the original retail price.
One of the things that irritates me about women is that they can be so very enthusiastic about talking down a movement that, unlike most movements, is at least attempting to help them out. Whenever I see another book or article on the topic of whether feminism has failed, I think to myself that even if it had, which it hasn’t, I can’t see why time needs to be called on it already – as far as I’m aware, the world isn’t ending tomorrow, much as the prospect of another season of MasterChef makes me wish that it would. And when it comes to drama queens bleating on about how sinister feminist propaganda encouraging them to have a career has ruined their lives, as they ‘forgot’ to have a baby, I can only say that I have always found being on the rag once a month sufficient reminder that I have the potential to be, in the manner of Barbara Seagull, a ‘Baby Maker’ and that Time is yanking me along by the hand. And when it comes to the other oft-heard moan about how much women have to do these days now that they work both outside and inside their homes, I would argue that a greater number of mothers are working these days less because of feminism than because everything is a whole heap more expensive.
Personally, I would define feminism as women not living their lives as though they are of lesser importance than men’s lives. In my view, men tend to advance further professionally than do women not because they, generally speaking, have superior abilities, but simply because they have more testoterone and are, therefore, more likely to thrust themselves forward – and good for them, might I say. However, all the testosterone, while obviously useful, doesn’t make them more significant beings. Still, despite, or even because of, this creed of mine, there are certain beliefs that have come under the old feminist umbrella to which I do not particularly subscribe. a) I find the concept of ‘the sisterhood’ to be the purest baloney. I consider the idea that, for instance, you shouldn’t bang a partnered-up heterosexual man out of some theoretical loyalty to women as a sex to be bizarre; it’s much more to the point not to do it because you’re probably buying yourself a whole heap of trouble if you do. b) I have absolutely no interest in quilting and/or in seeing this craft get its due. c) I have no problem with the existence, and widespread dissemination of images, of lingerie models, as I would be a lingerie model if I could, given all the money they make. d) I’m becoming increasingly less entranced by women’s thoughts on ‘body image issues’, such as the recent ballyho over models (those tyrants!) sporting fake pregnant stomachs. Females would be much better serviced by getting on with their lives, and ceasing to be encouraged to worry so much about professional beauties, PhotoShopping and such. e) I want to grab the old vomiting basin whenever I read the words ‘Girls need role models’ (I realise that men and boys are also supposed to have role models, but, let’s face it, role models are always a much bigger deal for the oppressed), as, aside from disliking the concept that it is necessary to look to someone else’s example in order to lead a life of quality, I find it to be meaningless. It’s impossible to emulate anyone else, given that they’re a different person, in different circumstances. And, furthermore, for all you know, this so-called role-model female is secretly a bitch on wheels.
Ultimately, however, while some traditionally feminist ideas make me feel as uncomfortable as though I’ve had to drink five lukewarm Lime Spiders, I still can’t fathom the trumpeting of non-feminism. When it comes to the question of whether a woman is a feminist or not, my feeling is that if you’re a woman and are content to have other people treat you badly because you’re a woman, then, yes, you win, you’re not a feminist. But, geez, that’s less of a win than even being awarded a copy of a special extended director’s cut of Raise the Titanic.