Right chaps, my attack-womb is primed and ready for launch. This makes sick. I wish it were satire, I really do, but I fear it’s unlikely. The article damns itself more convincingly than any summary could; essentially, it’s an expat American telling the British why our women aren’t up to standard – apparently, this is because we don’t starve ourselves quite so consistently, our ‘grooming’ isn’t rigorous enough and we are, hence, not ‘good enough’ for him. This is borne out with dire enthusiasm by a sickening little trot out of misogynist anecdotes, including one date where the writer could hardly contain his disgust at his partner eating shepherd’s pie. ‘This is why no self-respecting American woman consumes carbohydrates after 2pm.’
I’m sorry. What.
It’s not the semi tongue-in-cheek reduction of women’s comparative worth across continents entirely on their physical appearance and nothing else that bugs me most. It’s not even the casual, flippant reduction of even this to a measurement of body weight and food consumption – at one point he actually talks about measuring the difference between British and American women with ‘calipers’. He doesn’t need to come out and say ‘women are pieces of meat’; it’s written in every hate-filled line of this piece of slanderous filth. That just pisses me off. No, what really, really makes me goddamn furious is the casual assumption that women are, at baseline, an inferior species: a breed of humanity who are defective unless thousands are regularly spent on their ‘upkeep’ and ‘grooming’, who do not deserve the things like freedom, relaxation or a healthy, normal 2000-calorie-a-day diet that proper people deserve – and that if they indulge their wicked habits, they are not good enough for him, Tad Safran, the writer of this article, who self-describes as ‘not the greatest prize out there.’
In case you were wondering, Safran is single.
Moreover, the kind of ‘superiority’ he’s talking about is one which affects only the wealthiest and most socially ‘grabby’ of Americans – the women of New York or LA, whence all of his examples are drawn. For example: although the average US citizen is heavier than the average Brit (gender notwithstanding), there exists within American culture a paradigm by which wealth is displayed via the physical thinness of women , where cultivated thinness demonstrates exactly what Safran calls ‘necessary upkeep’ : vast amounts of money, effort, self-punishment and available leisure time are spent on dieting, personal training, ‘bikini boot camps’, as they are on waxing, tanning, dental work and cosmetic surgery, a lifestyle available only to the wealthy few, mostly white upper middle classes in either nation. I’m preared to bet that $800 on beauty treatments per month isn’t the outlay of the average American family.
Although this culture of thinness and beauty is gradually spreading across the pond to Europe, no, you’re right, Tad – we don’t care quite so much. Yet. It’s changing: my kid sisters own far more make-up than I do and spend time straightening their hair and saving their pocket money for eyebrow waxes that I would never even have heard of at fourteen. But our standards haven’t quite been warped so far that the average UK citizen really believes that thinness is equivalent to beauty: over here, the photo comparison between plump, pretty Charlotte Church and twiglike, tangerine-toned Paris Hilton seems to show Church as the much more effortless beauty. Hilton looks pretty damn scary as far as I’m concerned; what frightens me is that my sisters might not be able to see the difference.
Yes, this article is deliberately provocative in places, and through the glowing red mist I can, of course, concede some of Safran’s phraseology to satire. But why was such an ugly, misogynist piece ever published? Of course, the beauty editors at the Times knew that Safran’s article would draw attention -as indeed it has, given the number of online comments, many of which make excellent reading. But that’s nto a good enough reason for publishing something which, part-satirical or not, is so amazingly hate-filled towards women.
This is a hackneyed comparison, but consider what the response would be if Safran had published a (half-satirical) article attacking the relative deportment of ethnic minorities rather than gender differences. With equivalent sentiments, it would run something like: ‘golly, you British, you just don’t know how to train your blacks, do you? Over here they’d never leave the house without all that nasty kinky hair properly straightened out, and they all spend thousands per month on dangerous skin-lightening treatments – it’s just upkeep, you know, I mean, we wouldn’t want them going au naturel! Of course, ours tend toget a little pushy – your blacks are much more polite and obedient, will think twice before just jumping into bed with a white person. Well, I suppose that’s what you get if you let them get ideas. Land of the free!’
I’m sorry. That was a comparison that needed to be made, but writing it has made me feel soiled and disgusted, so I’m going to have a cup of tea, check my emails and come back in 5 minutes …..
[later] It actually makes me feel uncomfortable to even think statements like that through grammatically. Certainly no editor would ever publish racist hate-speech along these lines, but this is exactly the argument of Tad Safran’s article. It’s incredibly distressing, and the decision to publish sexist propaganda like this – tounge -in-cheek or no – is frighteningly disrespectful to women and, indeed, to all of us who see both men and women as complete human beings.
What makes me spit is that I know that this article was partly published in order to make me, and people like me, angry, and that makes me even angrier. So it’s okay to publish wildly disrespectful hate-speech as long as we can wind the feminists up and watch them go, is it? Bollocks to that. There has to be a sense of media responsibility – in Britain, of all places, we have a national press that the world relies on for objective journalism relatively unmarred by sensationalism.
Yes, I’m rising by even blogging about this article. Yes, I probably shouldn’t even give it my attention: it’s bilge, and whichever (probably female, British) beauty editor at the Times allowed it through subbing probably recognised it for bilge. But ignoring them isn’t going to make misogynist filth like this roll over and go back to chewing on the bones of nubile anorexics. There has to be outcry, and it has to be loud. This sort of derision, dissection and mockery of women is unjust and deeply unethical. We will not stand for this. We will not stand for this.