Confessions of a Free Market Feminist…

I went into the IoE library on Tuesday and dug out a huge pile of books – I finally got round to reading them yesterday.

I was really fired up after the residential day and probably stayed up much too late.

Anyway, the best thing I read was an essay by Angela McRobbie called “Free Market Feminism, New Labour and the cultural meaning of the TV blonde”.

It was slightly off topic but then I always find the best things are…

However, it made me feel extremely uncomfortable as it exposed the values I held as a younger person in the late 90s  – ie a kind of careerist feminism based on workplace achievement  – as part and parcel of a New Labour plan to make women vote for them.

Research showed New Labour’s policy makers that women hated being seen as housewives – come to think of it, when did you last see a TV commercial that put women in the role of “wife”? We can be sexy or mums but I don’t think advertisers really bother getting women to buy stuff any more because it will please hubby – this was a nauseating staple of 70s advertising.

So the clever politicians ran with this general cultural shift and used it to create the idea of the “working woman”, which was not only a way of sucking up the female vote (we all bought it), but was also a way of convincing poorer women to get off benefits and into the workplace. Work for women was sold as empowering, even if it was stacking shelves and meant that your never saw your kids.

Obviously, this only works if there is affordable childcare – still very much an issue and one which I have been obsessed with for some time. I had kids in my mid 30s and had a “good job” in TV but once you threw a child into the mix, it was a very different story. We could afford childcare but the situation was very unsatisfactory – I wrote a piece about this for the Guardian a few months ago – (check out the trolls in the comment section, they are awesome!!!).

Basically, what I have discovered since becoming a parent is what women all over the world already know (unless like me they were trapped in a bubble of their own delusion): namely, that the notion of the “working woman” is a political hot potato. Unless you are young and without dependents, or have tons of cash to pay for childcare, it is just not possible to “have it all” as the free market feminists would like us to believe. Women – like everyone else – are circumscribed by social and cultural forces and find their “choices” rapidly shrinking once kids enter the picture.

My reading was also all the more poignant, because I encountered another parent at the school gates who was writing a piece for one of Murdoch’s papers about why there weren’t enough women on the boards of major corporations.

The very concept made me hiss and spit, but I wasn’t in a particularly articulate state this morning so couldn’t come up with anything very pithy. I did manage to mutter – “maybe most women don’t want to be on the board of corporations” and “is this all we should be striving for” but what I really wanted to say is “surely we should be raising the conditions of all women in the workplace” rather than just focusing on a tiny cadre of high flying executives?” Shouldn’t we be paying cleaners and supermarket workers a living wage and making all women have access to affordable child care and decent housing?

Anyway, it’s always fun to end on a song (still can’t get the ghastly D:Ream from yesterday out of my head). Here’s a relic from the 90s (sensing a theme here?) – a band I love to hate….

This entry was published on January 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Free Market Feminist…

  1. after all Geri did say that “Mrs Thatcher was the first Spice Girl”.

  2. Hi I used to know Angela McRobbie personally.

    She’s a clever writer but I have found she has tended to jump on the ‘zeitgeist’ of the times and flits around to suit what is in fashion. including getting into ‘fashion’ itself.

    also this focus on women ignores problems men face, including men who are fathers. It’s not just difficult for women. In the Uk for example, paternity leave is very badly managed.

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