9 Mar 2009

"Working Women Caused the Credit Crunch" - Satire and its Limits

I suppose I should be getting annoyed about the Michelle ObARMa fiasco, but who has the patience?

I think Posie has been keeping herself too busy trying to stop chauvinism in interpersonal politics, when really she should have been attacking chauvinism in the economy and in environmental issues. I’ve just signed up to Plane Stupid, and not only because I want to dress up as a Suffrajet and chain myself to Parliament like Lily Kember.

As a freelancer with no savings or debts to speak of (except for Aunt Lily's trust which the lawyers say is unaffected) I can't really identify with most of today’s economic concerns. However, I can tell bloody-mindedness when I can see it, and I can see it now. It’s time for Posie to get financial.

Last week, I was most cruelly confused by the Irish Times' article "Working women almost certainly caused the credit crunch". The alleged author, Newton Emerson - a foolish name, my lady premonitions should have been up! - claimed that working women caused the credit crunch by raising families' income levels and pushing up house prices. His solution? Remove women from the workforce! This, to his mind, would solve the problem of unemployment - jobless layabout men could replace women in work - and also of overburdened public transport as, while climate conscious women get in everyone's way by taking the train, most men drive to work in their big cock jags. Women are more suited to home life, which depresses men. Women are greedy and their "oestrogen-crazed acquisitiveness" was at the root of the greed that caused the credit crisis.

His article is clearly an offensive, nonsensical, bigoted and sexist anomaly which no newspaper should have been willing to print, even under the 'moral lease' of a 'free comments' section.

Of course I responded to this article at once, sending a three page treatise of Kantian proportions to the vile rag. Echoing Wollstonecraft’s Vindication and Rousseau's On the Origin of Inequality, with more than a dash of J S Mill, my complaint, entitled Bloody Fuming in Hampstead hit their desks on the morning of Friday 27th February at 10am sharp. Only today did I receive a response.

A smug, arrogant letter was waiting on my Habitat Boucle Stripe doormat. Even Emmeline Pankhurst didn't like the look of it. She generally brings me my post at 11am, when I rise, but she had left this right where it was on the mat. Her lady premonitions were clearly on top form!

I was told by Tony O'Daly, the comments editor, that the article was in fact a raging satire. No such writer as Newton Emerson exists, he is an avatar for the comedian John O'Farrell. I was asked to look up Swift's A Modest Proposal to compare tone (SWINE. I wrote a 2000 word essay on Swift as a Cambridge Undergrad, which is much more than can be said for John O'Farrell. I got 67%).

Apparently my scathing response was all in vain, as the article was in fact a parody of the chauvinist press and its representation of women. I came away with egg on my face and an afternoon wasted. All that I managed to do was amuse a few overpaid hacks. Three cheers for Posie.

Their article was certainly controversial. But is it satire?

In my understanding of satire, there must be someone or something who is being mocked. In this case, the anti-working-women views of the chauvinist press. But does anyone actually hold such views? I don’t know what it’s like in Ireland, although if their government’s outdated abortion laws and restrictions on getting the contraceptive pill are anything to go by, I can imagine that women don’t have the best of times over that Irish Sea.

The opinion that women are more suited to confinement in the home than men may seem like a comical anachronism, but it is a view espoused in earnest by the Daily Male in their article on house husbands -

Just as many women feel the deep-seated urge to bear children, so most men feel a similar need to do their duty, not only in terms of offering care and protection to their wives and children, but also in a wider, public sense - to be useful to society.

Honestly! One point to Mr O'Farrell.

As a born-again green activist, it’s not hard to find examples of wanton destruction of the sort satirised by Mr O’Farrell in his suggestion that more workers should travel to the office by car. Two points.

But everything else? Women’s natural acquisitiveness? Our greed? Our oestrogen levels? I encounter ‘biological’ nonsense like this everyday – see my F WORD FEATURED ARTICLE, Pity in Pink – but it’s hard to see who Mr O’Farrell’s target is this respect.

My major complain against Newton Emerson’s approach is that, by making his satire so broad, he leaves most of his targets unnamed and unscathed. Yes, feminist satire is a powerful tool, one that I myself am want to wield like a petrol soaked tampon, but it must be one that hits home and hits hard.

Who is really the victim of Newton Emerson’s wit? Feminists like me who respond in affront and then themselves become the victims. Like a straw-mugger, he sends his argument wheeling down the poorly lit street as I return home alone at night, and when I lunge in self-defence, he pulls the straw mugger away and I fall over at his feet in a cascade of lipstick and pamphlets. Then the editorial team of the Irish Times appear from various shadowy bushes in a chorus of
laughter. Very funny, John O’Farrell. Those chauvinist hacks you were ‘mocking’ can join in too.

This is right-wing satire if ever I saw it!


  1. Look another asshole: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/search/label/Women%20writers