Friday, January 22, 2010

Follow her where?

Just one year ago Liz Jones was lamenting that young women were not following in her feminist footsteps:

what we all really need now ... is our very own brand of New Feminism ...

A young journalist I used to mentor got married, much to my annoyance, in her mid-20s and decided to go part time. I asked why she had not followed in the previous generation's footsteps and she said: 'God, I wouldn't dream of working as hard as you do. Who would want your life?'

The problem is that my generation of women, the one after the bra-burning trailblazers, moaned too much about how tiring it was 'having it all'.

Even those of us who, like me, chose a career over a family ... and therefore didn't even try to 'juggle' have turned out not to be an inspiration for well-educated girls.

But would it really be wise for these well-educated girls to take the feminist Liz Jones as a role model? Should Liz Jones really be the one to inspire them?

Liz Jones herself admits that the second wave feminists were too hostile to men:

OK, I admit that feminism the first time around made mistakes. It turned us into man haters (I still, to this day, whenever I am told my BMW needs a new tyre, say, yell at the hapless man serving me: 'You wouldn't dare treat me this way if I were a man!'), and set impossible standards.

As Rosie Boycott, founder of Spare Rib magazine, admitted last week on Woman's Hour: 'In the Seventies feminism was too narrow, it bore no relationship to my life: I liked men.'

Liz Jones herself did a lot of the things feminists were supposed to do. She pursued a single girl lifestyle, with a glamorous career, much shopping and travel, and a freedom to do as she pleased.

But is this pursuit of individual autonomy enough to build a life on? It doesn't seem to have been for Liz Jones. Yes, she tried to get enjoyment out of consumerism:

yesterday, with my niece's smart London wedding only days away, I went on netaporter and ordered an Yves Saint Laurent draped jacket for £1,225 and a hand-painted Vera Wang dress for £2,750 - but it really is gorgeous. Ooh, and a Bottega Veneta clutch for £602 ... I am stroking my Bottega bag now, like a pet.

But this finished when she ran up a huge debt, despite her well-paid job.

And what about relationships? Again, she did the modern girl thing. She didn't select men on the basis of their suitability for marriage. She chose them for being edgy, cool and interesting:

I think in the Nineties I fell in love with three black men partly because it was fashionable and gave me a veneer of ‘cool’ that, as a boring Essex girl, I didn’t possess.

She did finally marry when she hit 40. But it was a modern kind of role reversal marriage:

Our marriage was, on reflection, a very modern one. I am 14 years older than him. When we met I was earning a huge salary ... he was an intern on a local radio station.

He is Indian and moved, aged 26, straight from his mum's house into mine.

At first I believed that love would conquer all, that our bond was so strong that none of these things mattered. He told me he didn't want children ... I hid the fact that I did.

... I told him to give up his job so that he could write a novel: 'Take six years. What's the rush.' I took a job where I worked 75 hours a week to support us both.

Her husband had a number of affairs before leaving her for a "young, slim, pretty, Indian woman" he wanted to have children with. She by now had passed by her childbearing years.

Liz Jones had thought her husband was a feminist "new man," who would take a back seat and accept that he was not needed by his "fabulously" independent wife. But he turned out to be something else:

New men, metrosexual men, men who are in touch with their feelings, who are willing to take a back seat, supporting and nurturing you, don't exist.

They might pretend to be able to cope with you but they are, instead, storing up anger and will hate you for being fabulous, for being independent, for not needing them in your life but just wanting them to be there.

And now? Liz Jones is living a lonely existence on a farm with seventeen cats. She wrote a column about her experiences this Christmas. It makes for odd reading, as it swings between a continuing belief in the "do your own thing" philosophy, attacks on traditional family life and an admission of her loneliness and isolation:

Just over half of all women under 50 have never been married, double the figure of 30 years ago. Dubbed the 'freemale' in the lifestyle pages of magazines and newspapers, this is a breed of woman who has actively rejected the notion that we are destined to grow up to nurture, to be wives and mums and carers.

And while I would count myself firmly in this camp, having always put my career and my own selfishness first, there are certain things that still trigger a lump of doubt in my throat: James Stewart hugging his brood of children beside a Christmas tree in It's A Wonderful Life, say.

And this:

Loneliness is a resilient, persistent little beast. For most of the year, those of us who live alone can rub along pretty well.

We tell ourselves everything is fine, that it's better to live alone than in a loveless relationship, that we enjoy the peace and quiet and the freedom ...

We are beholden to no one. Even that other big examination of whether or not you have passed life's fulfilment test  -  the summer holiday  -  can be cleverly crammed for: you can relish the opportunity to choose your destination with supreme selfishness, content in the knowledge you will be able to finish that book on the beach without interruption, or book one of those 'activity' holidays  -  walking in the Himalayas, learning to cook like a peasant in Puglia  -  that cleverly masks the solitude.

Liz Jones tried to find community by moving from the city to the countryside, but it didn't work:

I moved to the countryside, where I thought there might be more of a community (in London, I never did find out the name of the girl who lived next door).

I was wrong, as it turned out, and have found I can go from one week to the next without speaking to a soul.

I have written my three Christmas cards: to my mum, who lives 200 miles away and has dementia; to John the postman; and to the dustbin men, a lovely trio who often bypass my house because I have so little rubbish.

People can find themselves alone for all sorts of reasons. And, of course, there are feminists who do marry and have children. Even so, it's not difficult to see the connection between Liz Jones's feminism and her current situation.

She is clearly ideologically opposed to the idea that a woman might sacrifice a measure of autonomy in order to enjoy the benefits of a traditional family life. She chose, instead, like so many of her generation, to pursue a single girl lifestyle when she was young and at her most attractive. Then, in her 30s, she selected men not for their likely stability as husbands and providers, but for being edgy, cool and in fashion. When she did finally, in the last moments of her potential child-bearing years, choose a husband it was on the basis of "love conquers all" rather than a sober assessment of their likely compatibility.

She wants young women to follow in her footsteps. I think young women are wise not to do so.


  1. The author is confused. Men do not dislike fabulous women, they dislike arrogant, stuck-up women, women who try to tell them what they should think and feel.

  2. You are right, Randian. Men love fabulous women. Fabulous women embrace their femininity and appreciate the masculine qualities of provision and protection, strength and leadership.

    The problem with people like Liz Jones is that basically, they are selfish. Feminism has been successful in infiltrating society because it tells girls to be selfish and that is something easy to fall for.

  3. Liz Jones admits straight up that she's selfish.

  4. Another powerful insight from Mr Richardson. But when, oh when, is Mr Richardson going to be allowed to appear on a regular basis in the sort of Australian magazine which actually pays money? My guess (and fear) is, never.

  5. There are worse things in life than living alone with cats. In fact, her life sounds pretty nice to me. She could make friends with her neighbors, but she chooses not to do so, apparently.

  6. this is a breed of woman who has actively rejected the notion that we are destined to grow up to nurture, to be wives and mums and carers.

    I disagree that such women have rejected the notion of marriage and children. The reality is that they no longer know how to go about getting that life. There is a reason that so many books and magazines are marketed at young women to help them land a relationship and commitment from men. That is ultimately what they want but the destruction of the old courtship ritual combined with the new overly sexualized social landscape leaves them confused.

  7. I still, to this day, whenever I am told my BMW needs a new tyre, say, yell at the hapless man serving me: 'You wouldn't dare treat me this way if I were a man!'

    Yeah, and if you were a man and treated him like you're treating him now, he'd punch you in the snoot.

    Liz Jones is living a lonely existence on a farm with seventeen cats. She wrote a column about her experiences this Christmas.

    The careerist cougar's lament - LMAO!

    Her ex-husband is awesome.

  8. You know, we can thank Ms. Jones for her honesty if nothing else. And I mean that sincerely. There are other leftists who are not so forthright.

    It occurred to me that Jones' life could make for a great tragedy. She set out in life to find the freedom to be herself, and by midlife, that's still about the only thing she has found.

    And what a find! Three Christmas cards? Are we to understand that she has only three friends with whom she can exchange even Christmas greetings, and one of them is the garbage crew?! Even I didn't think it would go that badly for aging lefties. Wow, these people are in Hell already.

  9. Ha! What an absurd collection of columns that woman has written. Is she even sane, or maybe her lefty goggles are so strong that she just can't even remotely touch reality.

    Why does the Daily Mail even publish such garbage? What a sad individual she is.


  10. On the point "I have never lived with a white man but racism is in my dna".

    I read a discussion of a novel once, its fairly famous but I forget its title. Its set in the 60/70's, an attractive white girl marries a black artist. The artists politics become increasingly radical and he worries about his motives for marrying a white woman, "is it black self hatred etc". A black friend of his loses his arm in some incident and he in turn blames white people for it. He "gets even" by raping his friends white wife. She initially is horrified but then thinks that if whiteness has created the conditions of the one armed mans sense of hurt then she is partly to blame by merely being white and doesn't press charges etc. I mean these sort of idiotic permutations are possible when you go down the rabbit warren of self guilt.

  11. '' That is ultimately what they want but the destruction of the old courtship ritual combined with the new overly sexualized social landscape leaves them confused. ''

    Oversexualization is starting to die ... courtship ritual is starting to return

    What is needed is the destruction of feminization of men and hypermasculinity ( too much masculinity ... usually in the gay realm ) as well

    As Hollywood lost 1/3 of it's industry due to the recession and ticket sales have gone 20 to 35 % it's starting to happen

    Hypermasculinity is mixing with women and turning balanced

    An example is the '' Dear John '' movie

    This is all thanks to indepencence and rejection of political parties