Dear Janet Street Porter,
In this month’s Sainsbury’s Magazine in an article designed to advise women on how to live with men, you effectively argue that women should accept their lot as second-class citizens. As a woman who has such an influential voice and who had to fight a long battle to achieve the level of success you have today in, what was and to a large extent still is, a male dominated industry, this is a really surprising response. Why not encourage women to claim back their lives and demand equality. It’s not as if you don’t recognise that the way men behave is about the operation of power. As you note:
When men come up with that classic phrase, ‘stop nagging me, I’m going to get around to it in my own time’, we all know that the three magic words ‘my own time’ really mean this year, next year, sometime, generally never. It’s one of the few simple and 100%-guaranteed ways men exercise power and control over women. My best advice in this situation: just feel inwardly superior- because you are!
What! You recognise that this response is a form of abuse by men and you advocate doing nothing! Feeling inwardly superior has always been the advice given to women when they protest about their maltreatment, but it doesn’t make them feel better and it doesn’t stop men abusing them. This is terrible advice. The rest of your article makes similar points. You argue that older women should ignore the fact that they are passed over for younger models because of their looks with complaint. You advise women to:
Accept that you are going to have to work 50% harder to get where you want if men are managers.
When it comes to housework, you note:
Don’t even attempt to argue, just accept the reality that women do this stuff better. Get even in other ways.
Telling women to accept the reality that they will be treated badly is not good advice. It just perpetrates hurt and abuse. It tells men and women that the world will not change and, by saying that, you make it that much harder for women who are desperately trying to make life better for everybody else. I appreciate that you are essentially advocating trying to minimise the effect men have over your life, as you note:
But it’s harnessing all that, so that our lives are not disrupted to an acceptable extent by trying to accommodate and cater for them, that’s the difficult part.
But, that is not a solution, because we do have to live alongside men. We have to work with men. We give birth to men. We have to live in societies where the decisions that affect our lives are made by men. Trying to ignore their bad behaviour is not going to be effective. It’s just burying our heads in the sand. For a woman who is very outspoken about other social injustices, it is really surprising that you are so reticent to speak up for your sex. Conservative advice of this nature is harmful to women.