Up Front by Emma Hart


Does My Mortgage Look Like a Slag in This?

Let’s deal with the obvious question before it comes up. Yes, I still get The Listener. No, I don’t really know why. Part of it is, I suspect, that I’m so lazy you can pwn my soul for the price of a few crosswords and t.v. listings. Part of it, though, seems to be morbid curiosity, the need to see just how bad it can get. And boy did Rebecca MacFie set a new bar this week.

Is this what the women’s movement was fighting for? The right to get wasted on equal terms with men?

…Outside one of the bars, a strikingly attractive young blond(sic) screeches about unwanted attention from a man inside. With her up-thrust, barely-clad breasts and short skintight dress, might she be the author of her own difficulties?

“I’m f---ing sick of being harassed,” she squawks at police. “I just want to have a f---ing good night.”

A good night, apparently, entails dressing up like a hooker and coming to town “pre-loaded” on booze some time after midnight

I honestly don’t know where to start. Is this what the women’s movement ‘was’ fighting for: the right to define a woman’s sexual harassability by the amount of cleavage she’s showing? Do we need to have a Listener Guide to Dressing for the Liberated Woman, containing instructions on how to choose your clothing solely for the impact it will have on men? Life would certainly be easier with a set percentage of Breast Tissue Exposed to View which entitles men to sexually harass you and women to describe you using verbs more usually applied to chickens. You could perhaps take a digital photograph of yourself and see what your ‘dressed like a hooker’ ratio was before you went out. Because that’s what the women’s movement was all about, right? Replacing being told what to do by men with being told what to do by other women.

I’m also really impressed with this woman’s chest, both up-thrust and barely-clad. Obviously she has an invisible push-up bra, which is awesome.

And you know, I was going to go the Full Sarcasm on this. I was going to pull examples of the kind of sexist Victorian paternalism from which this ‘feminism’ is largely indistinguishable. Be decorous. Behave like a proper lady. Dress appropriately. Speak quietly, if at all. (A gown for an evening out from a hundred and fifty years ago, while properly covering the ankles, exposed vast amounts of decolletage. Shocking.) But the prospect was just too depressing, and far too easy.

So for once, let’s be serious about this, because apparently it still needs saying. There is no amount of flesh I can expose on a night out which makes me fair game – sorry, the author of my own difficulties. It is, by definition, impossible to deliberately attract unwanted attention:

it’s unwanted.

I have a partner, and have had for a while now. Many times over the years I’ve gone out for an evening without him. On none of those occasions was I looking to get me some. And yet for some reason I still put on nice clothes, which made me feel good, even though in some cases breast tissue may have been visible. (My French Whore Top is awesome.) On some of those occasions I have attracted ‘unwanted attention’. I work on a ‘gracious deflection’ principle which works almost all the time. But if someone persists after that, it makes no difference at all what I’m wearing – or where I am or how much I’ve had to drink. I am not responsible for a strange man’s behaviour.

Now, it’s true that it’s not at all unusual for a woman to criticize another woman’s dress sense. We do it really a lot. In the last couple of years I’ve been making a conscious effort not to slag off other women for their clothing and make-up choices, which has made me realise just how normal it is. It’s especially hard for me, because when I’m drunk and bitchy? Fuck I’m funny.

So we do this, but you know what? We don’t call it feminism, and we don’t call it journalism.

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