Despite the fact I work in the media, I’m never entirely sure who reads The Sunday Times Style section. I’m assuming it’s the same people who are defiantly spending their way out of the recession to save the nation from bankcruptcy, and themselves from a going silently mad at the thought of personal insolvency. These are the same people who believe jobs without bonuses are like cups without handles – ostensibly manageable, but not particularly practical. You just get new cups.
Anyway, turns out there must be scores of women thumbing through its expensive satin sheen pages who must also be indifferent to sexism. I’m not referring to the fact that the front cover usually features some airbrushed airhead lying prone in a variety of scantily clad clobber from places that don’t need to advertise their prices, or that every single page depicts such a starving array of white, thin, full lipped, big haired, doe-eyed fembots that it’s a wonder Storm haven’t been whistleblown for practices in ethnic cleansing. Or the fact that my horoscope recommends I spend £2,630 on an ‘understated’ cocktail ring the size of my eyeball. Or the fact that all the adverts featured are about weight loss and diets. No, this time, it’s none of these offending items. It’s the fact that I’ve just discovered they have a regular column dedicated to giving men no less than 500 words to let off steam about how perfectly dreadful their other halves are – it’s called The Trouble With Women.
It’s remarkable that in 2010 a leading UK newspaper has felt the need to perpetuate the myth that women are, as a general rule, stupid, emotional, flighty, senseless, unfunny, obsessive, childish and spoilt. And that was just from the this weekend’s offering, where some moron called Rennie, who felt obliged to give his age and profession but not his surname, informed us that The Trouble With Women this time, is that ‘they turn out like their mothers’. Kind words from a man who is clearly so in love with his – I can only assume long suffering and perhaps illiterate – wife, that he was at pains to really hammer his argument home by pointing out that as his Mother-in-Law was slim and attractive late into her 70s, “perhaps this merely means my wife was adopted.” I’m assuming he has some slightly more personal issues than he’s willing to let on. Like the fact that he’s an arsehole.
I thought, at first, it must be a joke. But no, a quick search through the archives reveals that every week you can stick another nail into your iron-laden feminist coffin if you so wish, and remind yourself of the salient truth that The Trouble With Women is that ‘they never buy you drinks’, or ‘they’re always on a diet’, or – my favourite – ‘they always want to talk‘. Goddam those women, with their mouths and capacity for speech. Yeah, that one always gets me too.
Truthfully, I don’t understand what anyone would achieve from reading this column, let alone the entire magazine. Commissioning it must be a fun seeing as they’ve plastered the email address across the bottom of the page – a dedicated inbox for the incalculably smug and chauvinistic. I’m at a loss to explain how the Editor has kept it running. I can only imagine that the person in question has an astute nose for balance within the paper, and what with so many female columnists populating the magazine it has only been fair to let the witty little men-folk have a go. I’m mildly more alarmed to see that the Editor is actually a woman, but then that never did stop us sticking the knives in.
So here we are, yawn, another spectacular display of passive sexism. And this time all the worse for sitting silently, dangerously, bang in the middle of a magazine you might be forgiven for thinking would at least make a passing attempt to pander to its female readers and their capacity for independent thought, even it is purely to independently think about buying a new handbag made of jade kitten fur or something.
I won’t accept that this column is playing with irony or satire. And I won’t accept that we should just ignore it and carry on. It’s not ok to keep presenting stereotypes about women without question, and likewise I’d not accept it if we had a new column lamenting The Trouble With Men. There are lots of things which divide the sexes, but there is more which unites us; shoddy writing like this should be weeded out and the space given to more articulate men and women who may, if they choose, help define where those dividing lines are. Or write about eye-wateringly expensive clothes. Anything would be marginally more preferable to this poverty of enlightenment.
And someone might want to check with Rennie. I’d like to think that as soon as his wife got to the part where he compared her ageing to the ‘condition of the merchandise beyond its sell-by-date’, she told him where to stick his tantalisingly absent surname.