fame & feminism

Bee's picture
Mon, 07/04/2011 - 05:25 -- Bee

Have you seen How to Be a Woman?

I like this writer - her column is funny, I've seen her at events, she seems great.

But I have a problem with the way the media is portraying her as she promotes the book.

For one thing, why does every single article emphasise that she is married, with children? Is that information pertinent?

I also take issue with the way the press makes a big negative deal about the fact that she grew up in an alternative (she says hippy) household and was homeschooled from age eleven.

The implied criticism is that she was somehow failed by her parents. I counter, would this witty, eclectic, and super smart girl have done better in mainstream education? I think not.

Beyond that, the interviews and articles are depressing because they are promoting Ms. Moran as the new face of feminism.

This is an incredible rebuke to those of us who have been rocking third wave rhetoric for the last twenty years. Why? Because nearly identical pieces have been written about me, and a dozen of my friends. One or the other of us has been the flavour du jour so many times you could practically copy and paste the content instead of writing new text.

This isn't Ms. Moran's fault: she makes clean, logical, and highly amusing arguments against precisely the same social stereotypes that are distorting the press attention. Did she have a catfight with Germaine Greer? No, but the press wants you to think she did. This is the reality of the media machine.

When I was young and prone to spouting political oratory whilst falling out of my dresses I received a disproportionate amount of attention compared to more restrained but equally intelligent colleagues. This was disconcerting to say the least - and contrary to the message I was trying to get across. Yes, I do believe I can wear, say, and do whatever I like. I'm a powerful person and the world bends to my will. But I did not like it when the publicists of even my most politicised publishers asked for "sexy" press photos.

There was a tendency at the start of my career to focus on the bits of me best described as cuddly or quirky. Like the kids, and the tattoo. Later, when I published a dark and difficult memoir, the press attention changed in a subtle way. Instead of cute, I was described as "glamorous" - to the specific and hugely annoying extent that many articles insisted I wear high heels and couture. For the record, I do not, and never will.

But fundamentally, why does it matter what I look like? I'm a writer, not an actor or television personality. Heck, I don't even like appearing on the radio. I am a solitary and reserved creature, and I never intended to bolster any notion that women have to look good/right/attractive/pretty/sexual/whatever to get ahead.

When you publish work you let go of some control of how the work is represented. And it would be hypocritical of me to claim a pure and noble position here; I've refused to let my kids be used as publicity fodder, but one edition of Lessons in Taxidermy was distributed through supermarkets with a photo of me on the cover.

However, I don't want or need to know that Caitlin Moran has a boiling tap in her kitchen. I don't care that she keeps a nice garden or offers a journalist some cookies. I wish there were fewer photographs of her attached to the articles - or staring out of the poster in every tube stop in London. Why? Because a career based on youth and good looks is not sustainable: everyone gets old eventually. Caitlin Moran is a great writer, and I hope that her fame lasts for several decades.

We should not be talking about what kind of boots she wears. We should stop expecting females in a position of authority to be our friend or mother figure.

We should be talking about the book.


mamanopajamas's picture

We should be talking about the book.

I think this point gets lost all too often -- especially of women writers, but also of some male writers who have fan bases

 "Do not speak--unless it improves on silence." ~ buddhist saying (wow - my email on file was so old - it was from the old hipmama email!)