I’m amazed to find that I have the whole of a Saturday afternoon off, off from cleaning something or shopping for stuff or pretending to know what I’m doing out in the garden. I say I have it ‘off’, but I suspect that if I made a list, there would be plenty of chores to fill my Saturday afternoon off, but I’m not going to make the list. Not today.
There’s the great thing about being a grown-up kids: you can do what you want. When I was a youth, I dreamed of this day when nobody could tell me what to do. I’ve sat by the river and drunk a can of A&W root beer (imported from the US, so at a dear price £1.20), and I’ve downloaded the new Alabama Shakes album so far. What other crazy things will I dream up then? I might lie on the sofa and read a book, possibly with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. The world is my oyster, and those dandelions growing all over the back garden lawn look pretty damn good to me.
Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy today, and what is the trailer on the PM news hour this evening but ‘We’ll debate if a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a victory for feminism’. And my reaction to that is ‘Really? Why? Why is that the first thing you think of when Hillary Clinton announces that she wants to run for President of the United States?’ Feminism? Yeah, I’m down with that, I’m a feminist. But you know, we’ve been having this conversation for such a long, long time: whenever a woman does anything in politics, her first and foremost characteristic is ‘being a woman’ and what that means for everybody else.
I’ve been around a while, and for heaven’s sake I remember when Shirley Chisholm talked about running for President in 1972. (And in the context of this post, I shouldn’t say this, but she is really rocking that dress in the Wikipedia photo.) That was in 1972! There have been a lot of women who have done a lot of amazing things in politics: Margaret Thatcher –boo! — and Bella Abzug — yay, hero of my youth! — to name but two, and also way back when in the dark days of the Seventies. And since then, well, even in the true Blue constituency of Abingdon and West Oxford where I live, we have a woman Tory MP, and the other two main party candidates in the upcoming election are also women. That makes me hope that maybe, just maybe, ‘issues’ like age, children, clothes, shrillness, marriage, cleavage, menopause — all the squares on the @everydaysexism bingo card — won’t come into it when the Oxford Mail and Abingdon Herald cover the race. One can only hope.
It’s the oh-so-tired feeling that a woman in the public eye is always defined primarily as a woman and not as just a plain old person that gets me down. Women politicians are just like men in many respects — some of them are competent, some of them are total bumblers; some of them are striving meglomaniacs, some of them are selfless workers for the public good. I just wish it was about ability, record and judgement not gender.
You may — or may not — remember my blog in the incarnation of tomayto-tomahdo a couple of years back. After watching the delightful French film Bright Days Ahead the other night, I was inspired to resuscitate it under a new name, Nobody wants to see that. The movie’s protagonist is spiky, sexy, sixty-ish Caroline (Fanny Ardant) who finds herself tumbled into retirement somewhat against her will, and via a dubious gift from her daughter, joins club of jolly retirees filling their leisure time with pottery, computer skills and amateur dramatics. The ladies of the am dram production ruefully explain to Caroline that they’ve been told their costumes will have high collars to hide their wrinkly necks, which very much brought to mind how des femmes d’un certain age are generally viewed — nobody wants to see that.
Here’s the link to imdb’s page on the film, which I would recommend. Caroline in her quiet, classy French way rebels against being shunted into her new role as a benign retired granny with ‘hobbies’. And as this is a French film, she has an affair with a dishy instructor from the club who is 25 years younger Brighter Days Ahead
I’m not French, and I’m not retired — far from it — but I rather hope I’m something like Caroline.