Category Archives: Facts about women that must be true because they were in the media

Silly women and their silly shoes

Oh hey look, here’s another “news story” based on a media release from a marketing company that says women are silly for spending money on some stereotypical thing: Some home truths about that shoe addiction of yours, by Jessica Martin. Well, it’s not by Jessica Martin. The article is by Bianca London for the Daily Mail and published a month ago. Martin did a re-write for Fairfax today.

The flimsy argument is that the amount of money women spend on shoes over their entire lifetime adds up to a house deposit:

Women wondering why they don’t have enough savings for a house deposit could do well to look in their cupboards for the answer. A survey has revealed women will spend more than $57,800 on shoes in their lifetime – almost $3400 more than the 10 per cent deposit needed for an average $544,000 mortgage in Australia.

So, if you never ever buy shoes, by the time you die you’ll have saved enough for a house deposit. Presumably so your corpse can rot in it for a month or so until the bank repossesses it because you’re not making any repayments because you are dead. Never mind the fact that you’ll have a hard time getting a well-paying job to save that deposit if you don’t wear shoes. ManFriend and I tend to have pizza on Friday nights (today, hooray!) – if we don’t do that for the next 70 years, we’ll have a house deposit. We’ll also have died from old age, but I won’t let that get in the way of the re-write of a re-write that I’m gonna pitch to smh.com.au.

There’s another problem with the calculations. From the PromotionalCodes website:

This results in an average annual spend of £570 which, over the course of 60 years, equates to a massive £34,200 spent on shoes.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that a woman in her early 20s who has bought 12 pairs of shoes in the last year will be doing that for the next 60 years. It just doesn’t make sense. Also, most flats will only last one season because they’re made of cheap pleather with crap soles, and don’t get me started on how hard it is to find a pair of boots that look like they’ll last more than a few months.

Mindy has a great take-down of this click-bait at Hoyden About Town:

To say that women frivolously buying shoes is the only thing between them and home ownership is really crap. Structural inequality might have a little something to do with it too. Also, for the majority of women just try and get one of those $100K per year jobs (I don’t have one) without being well turned out with nice shoes and see how far you get.

What Martin doesn’t mention in her re-write is that the survey was conducted by PromotionalCodes.org.uk – a URL that should have made a journalist think, ‘hmm, this survey is probably a load of bollocks and if I pretend it’s newsworthy then I’ll be adding to the whole pile of stinky bollocks that we call stories about women on news sites’.

Veet 1, news editors 0

Oh goody, another “study” from a company with a product to flog is considered news: Body hair linked to women’s confidence and body image, study reveals:

ONE in three Australian women have knocked back going on a date because they are embarrassed by their own body hair, according to a recent survey.

The study found – somewhat obviously – that women avoid baring hairy legs and armpits but some 40 per cent still go longer than a month without getting rid of the stubble.

If it’s so obvious, then why bother reporting it in the first place?

Helen Davidson is a good young journo, so why is her editor wasting her time with stories like this? More importantly, why does a media release re-write get a byline? That is a major journalism no-no.

Bylines are used for original reporting (unless you write for The Economist, but they have their own reasons for not using bylines). News.com.au isn’t the only one using undeserved bylines. The Sydney Morning Herald gives bylines to journos who re-write AAP copy. I guess the thinking is that if readers know your journos, they’ll be more likely to go behind the paywall. But who wants to pay for re-writes of wire copy and media releases?

(The study was, also somewhat unsurprisingly, commissioned by a hair removal company.)

Acknowledging the source of the “study” (term used loosely) doesn’t change the fact that you still fell for it and gave that company a free plug. And no, it’s not “ironic”.

I was once told to write a story about limited edition Coke bottles. I pointed out that a) Coke releases limited edition bottles all the time so it’s hardly news, and b) it was simply free advertising. So the editor told me to call an ad person and find out how much that sort of coverage would be worth. To put in the story. I’ll just leave that with you.

Reading The Punch so you don’t have to

One of my favourite things is to take the piss out of The Punch. Unfortunately that means I sometimes have to read it, but usually I can just see what they’ve published and roll my eyes.

Some days I like to call The Punch “I Don’t Know Why People Care About This Issue But I Will Publish Something Anyway And Demonstrate That I Simply Don’t Get It”. Other days I just marvel at how News Ltd gets away with not paying contributors. Sure, there are some good writers who contribute every now and then, but on the whole, it’s pretty blah.

And today we have a piece by GQ Australia‘s chief sub, Nigel Bowen, who demonstrates that making all the required cultural references doesn’t mean you actually understand why they were important: It’s the Return of the Battle of the Sexes.

Don’t let the headline fool you. It’s really just a piece about how women either think all men are rapists, or spend all their time sexting their friends with benefits.

For those of certain age (that is, old enough to have spent any time on a university campus between the early 80s and mid 90s), the controversies of the last few months – the Penny Wong meow-slur, Slutwalk, the Brocial Network, the Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society Facebook page, ADF sex Skyping, Julian Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct – are like déjà vu all over again… Gen X women sure knew how to put on a feminist protest.

Huh? Since when is sexual assault a feminist issue and not a criminal one?

Back then, when what Helen Garner memorably termed “feminism’s grimmer tribes” still wielded considerable cultural and political influence, every female arts student had a copy of The Beauty Myth on her bedside table, all sex was rape, all men were rapists and women wore sensible shoes and expressions of grim determination to marches protesting sexual assault.

Oh dear, where to start with this one? I was at university in the 90s (and the 00s, and the 10s – I’m a sucker for letters after my name) and “all sex was rape”, “all men are rapists” was not a part of the feminism I knew. Perhaps in a small part of radical feminism, but you can’t suggest that they “wielded considerable cultural and political influence”. And would he rather women smiled and giggled when they marched against being raped and sexually assaulted. Would he mock the “expressions of grim determination” of a group of men marching against being raped? (As an aside, it smacks of “honey, smile”, that incredible sense of entitlement that some men show when they tell a woman, a complete stranger, to smile for them.)

Then an Ariel Levy reference, and a reference to Boomer and Gen X feminists (they think “their Gen Y daughters are ungrateful little sluts”) without understanding that women of different age groups have different concerns.

And then this:

Now, much to the surprise of everyone, the girls gone wild of Gen Y have taken a break from sexting their friends-with-benefits and debating which Sex and the City character they most resemble to march in the streets for, erm, no-one’s exactly sure but it definitely seems to be something that would have once been called “a feminist issue”.

No one is sure what SlutWalk is about? Well, fellow Punch writer Tory Shepherd didn’t know but that didn’t stop her publishing something on the topic, but all of the other opinion pieces in the MSM have been pretty clear. Perhaps, Nigel, you should have read at least one of them before demonstrating that you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. It’s a little embarrassing for you.

Oh, and SATC reference, check. Don’t let the fact that it’s a Gen X show, not a Gen Y show, get in the way of making your, um, argument.

Slutwalk is just the latest indication that the battle of the sexes is heating up again over, well, sex.

NO NO NO NO NO. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to our clothing being used to justify someone else’s crime. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to police perpetuating rape myths which stops them responding to crime. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to victims of crime being blamed for what happened to them. SlutWalk is about demanding an end to society shaming women for real or perceived sexual activity (I was called a slut when I was still a virgin).

So, as a veteran of the last war, my advice for the young men of today is this — if you’re dating an arts student, be prepared for her to announce she’s decided to become a radical lesbian-feminist separatist at least once before she graduates.

That was supposed to be witty, wasn’t it?

Not enjoying the enlightenment

It’s always so disappointing when I don’t enjoy a book as much as I thought I would. That was the problem with Jonathan Franzen’s How to be alone, and it’s happening again with Enlightened Sexism by Susan J Douglas. It doesn’t help that I only know half of the popular culture references in it. Sure, I watched 90210 as a teenager, but didn’t get into Melrose Place and have never seen an episode of Ally McBeal or Grey’s Anatomy or that show where hot young women compete with hot older women for The Poo.

Douglas writes:

What so much of this media (especially advertising) emphasises is that women are defined by our bodies, our identities located in our bodies, and those must be sexually alluring (now, even when we’re pregnant – thanks a lot, Demi Moore!) and conform to a very narrow fashion-model ideal of beauty. This is nothing new, of course, but it was something millions of women hoped to deep-six back in the 1970s. Indeed, it is precisely because women no longer have to exhibit traditionally “feminine” personality traits – like being passive, helpless, docile, overly emotional, dumb and deferential to men – that they must exhibit hyperfeminine physical traits – large boobs and cleavage, short skirts, pouty lips – and the proper logos linking this femininity to upper-class ranking. (pp. 16-17).

That’s quite an interesting point. I hadn’t linked the pornification of popular culture to this, but it surely has to be a part of it, along with reality tv (and its ability to create celebrities out of “normal” people) and the general relaxing of public morals so that we see sex scenes on tv, cleavage in ads for everything, and the FHMing of pretty much all photo shoots.

But sensationalism, titillation, and ridicule, all reminding girls and women that they will always be defined by and reduced to their sexual attractiveness (or lack thereof) and their sexual behaviours – now that’s an effective form of social control. (p. 57)

For enlightened sexism to convince most women, especially girls and young women, that feminism is unnecessary, irrelevant, or horrid, the media had to make clear what would happen if the advance of feminism were not halted. They had to make it clear that feminism, if taken too far, would turn girls and women into monsters or ridiculous, unlovable freaks. (p. 74)

But there’s something running through the book that makes me uncomfortable: the subtle judging. Demi Moore is blamed for pressure to be sexy while pregnant; Sandra Oh is called “flawless”; the Living Single character Synclaire is called a “dimwit”. The thing is, I do agree with her premise, that we’re all being sold this idea that we’ve achieved true gender equality, so women should stop being political and go back to being pretty things to look at and fuck. That it’s only ugly, hairy, humourless feminists who say there is still work to be done. Indeed, that young women should avoid feminism because it will make them ugly, hairy and humourless. But I’m surprised that in a book criticising the policing of women’s bodies, the author has failed to notice that she also polices women’s bodies.

The Blind Pimple of Fairfax

You know when you get a blind pimple, and you know you shouldn’t try to squeeze it because not only will it hurt like crazy without any satisfying pop, but it will just make the pimple a whole lot worse? Well, Elizabeth Farrelly is a blind pimple. I know I shouldn’t read her opinion pieces when they’re about women, but I just can’t help myself.

Here is today’s women-aren’t-interested-in-work-because-they-have-wombs nonsense: Your chicks or your career? Do you really want what he’s having?

First there’s the insult to feminists:

the hairy-legged Guardian reader contingent

And then the insult to women in general:

How can you expect to leave work to collect the kids at five and still get promoted with your more dedicated male colleagues?

Just because someone is at their desk after 5pm doesn’t mean they are more dedicated. In my experience, those who are still there after 5pm have either fucked around all day, or they came in late, or they’re playing solitaire in the hope the boss sees them still “working” and mistakenly believes they are dedicated to the company. And those who leave at five-on-the-dot are usually going to the pub – with other male managers. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and many people have massive workloads, but just because someone is trying to achieve a balance between their work life and their personal life doesn’t make them less dedicated to their job.

Then she says something weird about how Architect Barbie’s biggest handicap is being an architect, not being a woman – as though somehow Barbie dolls are a realistic representation of the real world. When she writes about women, Farrelly makes very little sense and I honestly don’t know why half her shit gets published. And this piece makes so little sense that I’ve had to read it twice to work out what she’s saying. Was she drunk when she wrote it?

Apparently only those who see women as “just men with breasts” want equal gender representation in positions of power. Huh? I don’t hear anyone saying that women are just men with breasts. But Farrelly, don’t let that get in the way of you making shit up. You know, I was so pleased when trollumnist Miranda Devine left Fairfax to return to her natural home at News Ltd, but she’s been replaced with someone who is baffling. It’s hard to know where to start picking apart her arguments because it’s so hard to find them.

Other standard Guardian-reader assumptions are that women listen and talk better, intuit better, are more client-responsive and collaborate better. This last is clearly rubbish.

Men collaborate – I give you football, war, organised crime, the boys’ club. But even if female communication superiority is, as I suspect, real (unless we’re putting this, too, down to conditioning) there’s still a contradiction. Women are either different from men or they’re not.

Wait, I’m confused. Is she saying that only hairy-legged Guardian readers believe that women are better communicators and that she also believes that women are better communicators? At least you could understand Devine’s feminist-bashing opinion pieces.

And there’s still childcare. For yes, it’s unfair. But what’s to be done?

Perhaps the Dutch have this sorted, what with state childcare and parental leave.

But how to manage it?

How to manage it? Here’s a hint: ask the Dutch how they do it. For fuck’s sake, it’s not rocket surgery.

And then there’s something about how only “cretins and shysters” run childcare centres, and that the only productive, dedicated staff members are those who spend every waking minute in the office. Huh?

Sure, men love babies. But (tell me I’m wrong) women love them more. Essentialist, perhaps, but god help us if it ever changes.

Yep. She actually wrote that. Not only do women love babies more than men – which is a bullshit generalisation – but if the situation was reversed then THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS GOING TO END IN CATASTROPHE!

So the issue is not whether women ”want it” as much as men, but whether they want it as much as they want to nurture their chicks. I’m as ambitious as anyone I know, male or female. I put both my kids in childcare as littlies, and wept each time I left them.

See! It’s nature! Women aren’t supposed to work when they have children because I didn’t like putting my kids in childcare! The hairy feminists are wrong!

Yet I’m conscious of having made deep and ongoing career sacrifices for their sake. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, it still makes me furious.

Farrelly, what makes you think that only women feel this?

We don’t just have babies and pop them off to wet-nurse and boarding-school any more. Not only because we can’t. Because we won’t.

In Farrelly’s world, raising children is still something women – and only women – should do. So rather than work towards a society in which both parents are able to job share, to take parental leave, to achieve work/life balance, she thinks women should just raise kids and men should just earn money.

My dad once said to me that the biggest regret he has in life is that he wasn’t more involved in our childhoods. He said he had five chances to be involved and blew them all because it just wasn’t the done thing back then. He said he sees the ways his three sons are with their kids and it makes him sad for his own lost opportunity, but also happy that a father’s role as just a money earner seems to be a thing of the past.

Oh, the irony

It’s just way too easy these days to get your media release written up as a news story. I’m not targetting any specific newsroom with this criticism, because I work in one and know that when your editor wants a quirky little story, you’ll get a pat on the head if you can include boobs in it. But the time it takes you to re-write the media release and put in a call to someone vaguely related to the topic (in the case below, an art teacher), is time you could be spending chasing a real story. Something that is useful. Anyway, You’re a work of art, not a pear:

WHEN everything goes pear-shaped on a woman, she may not feel as pretty as a picture.

With some marketing magic, however, she can see herself as a Botticelli and her apple-shaped girlfriend a Rubens, rather than a Granny Smith.

Because yes! Women just want to feel pretty! And when we don’t feel “pretty as a picture” then it makes us sad. But not sad enough to cry, because that might make our eyes red and our make-up run and then we’d look ugly and we won’t be able to find a husband.

Lingerie-maker Triumph says women are tired of being compared to fruit and has taken a more romantic look at body shape, with Rembrandt, Matisse, da Vinci and Raphael the other classifications.

Here’s a hint: we’re also tired of being spoken to like we’re children. The other day, my news editor asked the newsdesk (on that shift, four women and no men) to find some stories that would appeal to female readers because the mix was “too heavy”. We asked him to explain what he meant by that and suggested he choose his words very carefully. We didn’t get an answer, but he probably meant stories like this one. “Light” stories, because you know, we don’t want to hurt our delicate lady brainz. And besides, thinking gives you wrinkles and you’ll never get a husband if you have wrinkles.

Triumph surveyed more than 1500 people and found men preferred the slender but larger-busted Raphael.

Firstly, there’s a fucking shock. And secondly, Triumph asked women how they feel about being compared to fruit, and then asked men to rate them as meat?

You know what women want?

An end to stupid articles about what women want. As though 10.8 million females (2008 figures) of all ages and all backgrounds all want the same thing.

But personally, I want an end to the constant articles about how women really want to be housewives. Sure, some women do, but we don’t have articles claiming all men want to watch their mates having sex with someone who is too drunk to give proper consent, just because a few league and AFL players like to do that. If I was more of a cynic, I’d say it’s revenge for getting vocal about equal pay and opportunities. (Don’t even try to tell me it’s because women lack experience, because that’s bullshit: 40 per cent of men on boards are untested before they get the job).

Check out this two-pronged MSM attack: We all want to be housewives now, in the Sydney Morning Herald, and What women really want, in The Australian.

Let’s look at the SMH one first:

A new report suggests women would rather marry for money than love and swap their career for the kitchen, writes Judith Woods from London.

Then:

Past the age of 35, where two or more of us are gathered together in a room, the talk invariably turns to wistful longings of “getting some chickens”, which as we all know is code for “a property-porn house in a shire with Cath Kidston tea towels, Emma Bridgewater crockery and a City husband who is so preposterously well remunerated he can almost afford the outrageous commuter rail fare rises.”

Then:

A study by the National Centre for Social Research, commissioned in 2009 by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, revealed that a third of all mothers would prefer to give up their jobs if they could afford to, and three fifths said they would want to work fewer hours.

This doesn’t mean women want to be housewives. It means that two-thirds of the women surveyed don’t want to give up their jobs. The majority. As for the one-third who’d like to care for the kids full-time – many parents I know would love to do this, men and women. Since men earn 18 per cent more than women, in most households it makes financial sense for the person who earns less to be the full-time carer.

Sure, three-fifths would prefer to work fewer hours, but don’t we all?

Now, The Oz. This piece is more interesting and the headline doesn’t do it justice at all.

RARELY do social theorists cause a public furore outside their ivory towers – except for Catherine Hakim, feminist foe and author of such provocative works as Mummy, I Want to be a Housewife.

Then:

Women already have their equal opportunities. The sex war is over, she declares.

There is no shortage of women applauding her. One Goldman Sachs banker supports Hakim’s theory that emphasis on equality can undermine women’s achievements. She describes how she was unable to enjoy a genuinely earned promotion because colleagues suspected it was down to a general “boost the number of female MDs” policy.

Belinda Robertson, chief executive of a company selling cashmere clothing, says: “We’ve made women a special case and not equal. That’s not how we want to be considered, as tokens on boards. Women don’t do themselves any favours, abusing the system.

Of course, if all things were equal then we wouldn’t be talking about quotas to increase women’s representation on boards and in management positions. They would already be there. But, in Australia, women hold only 10.7 per cent of senior executive positions, 8.3 per cent of board directorships and just 2 per cent of CEO roles. Does that sound like things are equal to you?

As for the (unnamed) Goldman Sachs banker who felt she was “unable to enjoy a genuinely earned promotion”, why would you blame the push for equality and not the people who dismiss your achievements? If you earned a promotion but a jealous colleague felt you didn’t deserve it, would you blame the person who promoted you? Of course you bloody wouldn’t.

There has to be a point at which we – the mainstream media – stop letting people use us to peddle lies. Again and again, research shows the gender pay gap exists, so why do we keep letting people say it doesn’t?

Back to the Oz article:

Hakim claims the data supports her conclusions.

“Research evidence consistently shows that most husbands are the main breadwinners in their family and that most mothers would prefer not to have the competing demands of family work and paid jobs,” she says.

Actually, what the research shows is that women are still doing most of the housework and childcare, on top of paid employment. From the ABS:

While men are doing slightly more household work than in the past, in 2006 women still did around 1.8 times as much as men (compared with twice as much in 1992). Although women are spending less time cleaning and doing laundry, they still spent almost six times as long on laundry as men in 2006, and more than three times as long on other housework such as cleaning. Women also spent almost two and a half times as long on food preparation and clean up, despite men doing more of the cooking than in the past.

So, when faced with always bringing in a lower income than your partner (assuming a heterosexual couple here), and the fact that children boost a man’s lifetime earnings but not a woman’s ($2.5 million versus $1.3 million) and the high cost of childcare, do women have a real choice?