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shame on you, Grauniad

September 7, 2010

I never thought a fashion article would make me cry but I felt tears of frustration pricking my eyes when I read a piece by Hadley Freeman in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper.

In her usually mildly witty column ‘Ask Hadley’, Ms Freeman was answering a reader’s enquiry: ‘Why are so many wedding dresses so flipping ugly?’ (good question). According to Hadley, one reason is that brides are stressed out because of ‘certain maternal figures’ (though I don’t know why she can’t just write ‘mothers’), who apparently tell them ‘that they simply must invite great aunt Agatha – and yes, we all know she drinks a bit – as well as Mr Musgrove from down the road. Oh, you’re not still going on about that time when you were 15 and he tried to pinch your bum, are you? He’s really very nice, darling, and was ever so helpful when I had to replant the begonias.

Now, I am the mother of two daughters who may decide to marry in the not-too-distant future, and many of my friends are in the same situation. I am sure that all of us would admit to making mistakes in bringing up our daughters. It’s a lot harder than it looks, there’s no manual and both sides, especially the mothers, need to be generous, forgiving and prepared to admit they are wrong.

I am equally sure that we have all made it a high priority to listen well and foster independent thinking. We would most certainly NEVER ignore an allegation of sexual harrassment.

Additionally, should we ever be stumped by the challenge of replanting begonias, we would not need a man to help us. We could look it up in a book. We could even Google it, since – astonishing as it may seem to Hadley Freeman – we are all computer literate. In fact, all of us work hard, paid and unpaid, in a variety of fields such as art, medicine, social work, administration and education, as well as on the domestic front. Jane Ginsborg, the mother of my daughter’s best friend, is a high-flying academic and musician, who, ironically, had a letter published in the Guardian on the same day as Ms Freeman’s nonsense appeared.

In the last 30 years in this country, attitudes towards women have, on the surface at least, become less patronising than they used to be, but for some reason it still seems to be acceptable to belittle older women, especially if they happen to be mothers. Contemporary culture is littered with examples of stupid, narrow minded and obstructive mothers, that supposedly liberating film Bend it Like Beckham being one of my particular pet hates.

The Guardian usually does a fairly good job of avoiding hurtful stereotypes and also has a regular column by the wonderful Michele Hanson (over 40 AND a mother). I think that’s why I was so upset by Ask Hadley.  If a so-called feminist paper can print this drivel then things really are going downhill – and younger women had better watch out too.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2010 1:29 am

    Well said, Jo. Shocking that that statement was actually made by…..a woman! I’m curious, do you know if there has been much backlash against her for writing that? I can’t imagine you are alone in feeling attacked.

    Just out of curiosity and being a bit unfamiliar with British culture, I looked her up on Google, only to discover there’s not a whole lot of info out there. I will say, though, that she looks awfully young in her photos. Which makes me wonder: does she have kids of her own? In particular girls? Because I can’t imagine those words coming from anyone with a daughter. Have kids, having daughters especially, changes a lot of things in you.

    By the way, I also had to look up ‘Grauniad.’ I was sure there was a reason you misspelled it, other than an unintentional typo. I was right.

    Touché, Guardian.

    • September 11, 2010 1:31 am

      Oops! “Having” kids I mean!

      (Speaking of typos…)

    • JoannaD permalink
      September 11, 2010 9:00 pm

      I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have kids – she’d think differently if she did, for sure!

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