Oh dear. How one’s perspective changes. I think I always used to have a certain affection for chivalry. Shining white knights riding to the rescue of damsels in distress. And don’t get me wrong: now that I’m this side of the fence I can see the attraction.
The idea of being able to lie back in the arms of some strong and gorgeous person: to let them take the strain emotionally, workwise, at least for a while. Although my shining white knight is more likely to look like Judith butler (sigh! Girl crush alert!) – though I’m not altogether sure what post-structuralism would have to say about the pile of dishes waiting for me in the kitchen.
Basic chivalry = control
Otherwise, though, blokes being “chivalrous” and looking out for us poor defenceless girlies is starting to get just a little tedious. Like the old joke (what IS the punch line?) involving the over-eager boy scout grabbing an old lady by the arm and rushing her across a crowded road, which she’d just crossed coming the other way.
As I posted a day or so ago, I think I first started to notice this when I was threatened by a guy because I might be “making his wife feel uncomfortable”. I’d had similar formulations (without the threat) from a couple of guys before, and it did strike me then as a bit odd: because I’m IN situations alongside women who are far from cowed by my presence and I am pretty sure if I offended in some way, they would make their views felt: either directly, or indirectly by complaining through official channels.
Men getting outraged on behalf of women
Then at the weekend, there was the stuff about Sandi Toksvig outraging the nation by referencing much-maligned Danish King Cnut before the watershed. At least, I think that’s what she was doing. Who was outraged – on behalf of womankind, natch? Er, a couple of blokes: a politician and a stuffy type who proudly proclaimed that he wasn’t a retired vicar from Cheltenham.
Shame! One of the nicest clerics I’ve ever known came from that neck of the woods. What’s wrong with Cheltenham?
And hence: sexualisation and modesty
And yesterday I was working on a piece for the Grauniad about the Bailey review which sort of was meant to look into commercial pressures on kids, but which we all knew was going to focus on sexualisation. Smut!
Except, it doesn’t. It focus on the sexualisation of girls. At so many places in the surrounding press and publicity we hear about the need for girls to be offered “modest” choices, as though the vast majority of girls aged 8 and above aren’t already acutely aware how clothes interact with the world.
Intriguing discussions about the appropriateness of various sorts of bras and crop tops, mostly from the perspective of moralising guys: how INAPPROPRIATE a padded bra is. As opposed to an interesting discussion I had later in the day with a female academic, who suggested it was a lot less clearcut.
Underwire is bad for growing boobs: sure! But padded bras might actually be a good option if a girl is sore, hitting puberty early and enduring early development of nipples or – hell! There’s a load of reasons why a padded bra MIGHT be a sensible option. But no: the debate is reduced instantly to one about sexualisation, with the focus almost exclusively on what girls wear (with little corresponding focus on boys).
And this report is shepherded by who? A leading female cleric? A well-known agony aunt? A female politician? Of course not: this load of utter tosh about female sexuality emanates from a review team headed by Reg Bailey, who may count as honorary woman in his current incarnation as head honcho at the Christian Mothers Union – but was previously chief at Danish Bacon, following a glittering career at Del Monte. So qualified. Not!
Bailey – the man who likes to say NO (to women!).
Creating a list
And here it is again: a bloke looking out for women’s interests by laying down the law as to how they can interact with the rest of society.
Spot the pattern? Well, from today, I am going to keep a little list. I think I’ll call it “blokes who look after women” – though I’m open to suggestions for catchier title.
And no: men added to the list need not puff themselves up and think they’ve done something to be proud of. Cause if you’re on there, its because you’re an interfering, politely controlling git. You may think you’re being chivalrous: but either you ain’t; or behind the mask of chivalry, you’re doing nothing other than continuing to exert male control over women.
Bailey: as of today, you’re on it!