Before I start this post, I have a confession to make. I am a Feminist, a Cranky Feminist, and I have been for years. This blog was meant to be a mix of feminist thought and craft – the two are not mutually exclusive – but discipline is not my strong point, and I’m afraid at the end of the working day, all I want to do is knit, crochet or sew, not sit on a computer. Were I a better blogger, I would have bought this man to your attention. Sam de Brito, according to the SMH website, is the guy who blogs about “the business of being a bloke”, on his blog All Men Are Liars. It’s an interesting blog; he’s an articulate well-read guy, who is not afraid to point the finger at his own sex. But his blog of April 28, “Choose your Battles”, Sam is pointing the finger, very firmly, at women.
Sam believes women are to blame, not just for the lack of free childcare in this country, but also because it’s not front and centre of our national consciousness. Sam points the finger at two groups of women. Firstly, the female editors of women’s mags across the country, who he says, are more interested in “which celebrity woman has had plastic surgery” than “universal free day care”. He continues saying women’s mags “talk endlessly about cellulite and handbags and who Lindsay Lohan is shagging” instead of “shaping the world we live in and the one our daughters and sons will inherit”. The second group of women Sam singles out are mothers, who let the feminist side down by “continuing to transmit the trivial obsessions of shoe shopping, beauty products and fashion magazines to their baby girls”. Apparently, the lack of public rage amongst women, particularly women under the age of 30, is the reason free day care is not at the “forefront of the national consciousness and top of the Federal govt’s agenda”.
I’ve been contemplating Sam’s post since I read it yesterday, because I think he’s got some valid points, points that need to be discussed in the public sphere. Sam, on the whole, is a good role model, in an age where positive male role models are almost non-existent. I would make every man on the planet read and discuss Sam’s blog were I in charge. And women for that matter. But I hope to God that Sam’s women friends, who I imagine think for themselves and perhaps are mothers, are beating him over the head with their Prada clutches.
Just because a mother shares with her daughter a love of shoes, does not make her the feminist anti-christ. You can line your bookshelves with Greer, Dworkin and Faludi and still be able to discuss the fall collection. Fashion does not make a woman a dimwit, and nor does being interested in what Gwyneth is wearing. I love shoes, but I also demand the right to chose, and god help anybody who tries to take that choice away from me, or any other woman. I adore handbags, but I abhor pornography, and will argue to the death with any chauvinist who thinks porn is his birthright. I love looking at starlets in frocks, but I also expect to earn the same amount of money that my male equivalents earn, and to be provided with the same opportunities as the boy next door. I think Andrea Dworkin is the bees bloody knees, but I can also talk frocks, and I don’t think that makes me less of a woman – quite the contrary.
Sam does have a point about female editors of women’s mags perpetuating the interest on shoes, handbags and starlets. Sam is right – from my recollection all the fash mags are edited by women – with I think the exception of Harpers Bazaar. But to say the blame lies at the feet of these women is perhaps a little superficial. Who employs these editors, who do they answer to? Sam’s been a journo for at least a decade, so he knows that if you want a career in publishing in Australia, you either work for Murdoch, Fairfax or PBL. Fairfax has one woman on a board of nine, giving Fairfax 11% female representation. News Corporation, with a board of 17, also has just one woman, giving them 5.88% female representation. (interestingly, Rupert’s sons are on the board, but not his daughters). Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, once the jewel in the crown of yet another Media Son, with seemingly invisible sisters, is now called Consolidated Media Holdings and is run by a group of Private Equity Professionals. I’d love to tell you about their board, but there’s no information on their website, so I’ll update this when I know better – but I’m not holding my breath.
As any journo knows, publishing, be it newspapers or magazines, is not about the readers, but about advertisers. They supply you, the reader, to their Golden Goose, the advertiser. Don’t believe me –open your favourite mag – any mag – and count how many pages of advertising there are until you get to the contents page, or something you can actually read. Those pages pay the wages of your favourite mag’s staff – without their advertisers, editors would be on some other career trajectory, as would their designers, their subs and their writers. And publishing, like the rest of the world, is doing it tough – Sam’s employer recently laid off staff, as did News Ltd and PBL/CMH. So those women editors, with quite a bit of responsibility on their shoulders, need to be smart businesswomen and keep their income stream coming in, which means make the advertisers happy. And who are the advertisers? In the glossy in front of me right now – Dior, Chanel, Armani, Prada – and that’s just on the first 4 pages. And it’s not a fashion mag, I hasten to add. And as any well rounded woman will tell you, most of the so called “luxury brands” now-a-days are owned by either Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH), PPR, or Richemont, which are, you guessed it, run by men. How many female editors would have advertisers, or their jobs after pushing a “feminist agenda” like childcare?
And since when was childcare the sole responsibility of women? Last I heard it took a man and a woman to become parents – granted the woman gets the fuzzy end of that lollipop (and does most of the work), but childcare is not just about mothers, Sam. It’s about fathers too, but I don’t remember reading about the importance of free childcare in Ralph or Zoo.
All that aside, let’s be realistic. Most of the mags Sam is referring to are either fashion or gossip titles. Which means people (not just women) buy them for fashion or gossip. I don’t see Sam pointing the finger at men’s magazines and blaming their editors for the high rates of young male suicide not being on the national agenda. Those magazines are what they are, and as a woman I accept them, and excercise my choice to either buy them, or not. There are other mags for those interested in politics or current affairs – like The Good Weekend (edited by Judith Whelan) or The Weekend Australian (edited by Helen Trinca) or Monthly (edited by Sally Warhaft). Serious mags, with serious issues, run by, wait for it, women!
Sam, you ask me to Imagine an Australia where every woman (and family) doesn’t have to choose between career and their children’s well-being because the country had spent say $42 billion ensuring that quality, nurturing day care was available nationally?”. As a woman who would like children of her own one day, I do. I know the battle will not be won by women asking “Please Sir”. Other than taking up arms and declaring war on men, I’m convinced that the only way we will change outdated sexist attitudes, and have things like affordable, accessible and quality childcare, or even paid maternity/paternity leave, is when enough of us, both men and women stand up and challenge the status quo. Sam, in my book you are either part of the problem, or you are part of the solution. By pointing the finger and blaming women for not being angry enough, you position yourself in the problem camp. Maybe next time, instead of giving women a serve, you’ll look at where men are complicit, and start pointing the finger accordingly. Child care is everyone’s responsibility, and to blame mothers and female editors, well, it’s just sloppy. This blog post is nothing more than a man telling women what to do. Which is one of the things feminists railed against in the first place.