Going off on a slight tangent, Hadley Freeman with an excellent piece on confessional journalism from the likes of the very insane Liz Jones (but specifically prompted by this car-crash piece on breast implants by another woman in the Daily Mail). Shapely Prose discuss that here, and Jezebel talk about confessional journalism here, including this very good piece of advice, which I completely agree with:
One of the best pieces of feminist advice I’ve ever gotten is not to insult my own body in front of others. It perpetuates the idea that women should hate our bodies — that our inevitable physical flaws are worth valuable brain-space and conversational time.
Jill Parkin wrote a piece a while ago on the pressure on young female journalists to write this kind of breast-beating, soul-searching nonsense. I think one of the people she might be referring to is Tanya Gold, who writes the most horrible, pointless pieces in the Guardian about her past disastrous love life.
It’s interesting that a type of journalism which started out as liberating for women is now oppressive to them. In the sixties and seventies, there was a spate of new columns about how the authors were failing to live up to the shiny perfection of 1950s portrayals of family life (the disintegration of the post-war ideal of family life is dealt with nicely in Mad Men). Katharine Whitehorn (‘Have you ever taken something out of the clothes hamper because it had become, relatively, the cleanest thing?’) was one of the first of these. At that level – friendly, gossipy, light-hearted, matter-of-fact – that kind of writing is liberating, freeing women from having to pretend that everything was perfect.
But the self-indulgent wallowings of Liz Jones are not only a million miles from Katharine Whitehorn’s breezy style, they’re also something that oppresses women, constantly reminding us that our bodies are seen as the most important thing about us, validating self-hatred, and representing women’s concerns and interests as purely vacuous and self-obsessed.
Furthermore, there’s a class element to the stories on offer. How many people have the money to have three breast alteration operations at £6,000 a pop? Liz Jones is constantly reminding us of either her marvellous big house or her expensive clothes. Obviously it’s not remotely new or interesting to point out how middle-class the world of mainstream journalism is, and how out of touch most ‘lifestyle’ columnists are with most people’s concerns, but even so you have to wonder what editors are thinking when their take on women’s issues is about someone agonising over whether she should have a fourth boob job.