I love a good bitch. Sometimes there’s nothing better than getting it all off your chest and having a good old rant. Whether it’s about something or someone, letting it all out can be therapeutic. I reckon Anne Robinson, with her daily blank cheque of bitchiness on the Weakest Link, must retire of an evening utterly zen after her efficient 45 minute insult session. The idiot who wouldn’t move down the carriage on the tube becomes Ann, Coffee Artist, from Bognor Regis. Nick, Student, from Gloucester, conveniently has the head of a traffic warden on his scruffy, skinny jeaned and Conversed body.
Women are usually charged with being the instigators and encouragers of the art (science? Not sure) of bitching and bitchery. The intended uses of ‘bitch’ are 1) a female dog and 2) an insult. Nice, huh? But quite apt when you consider what the verb ‘to bitch’ means in practise. When it comes to what we consume in the news (I use the term loosely as I am referring to tabloids) the actual tone of the piece is bitchy, often a “Who ate all the pies?” thinly disguised as “Flaunting her curves.” Most of what is written for or about women runs on a not too subtle current of highlighting flaws and pointing out mistakes. Even in our own lives, away from the sidebar of the Mail, we find ourselves continuing this theme. It may be because by pointing out other’s faults we make ourselves feel better about our own. Classic defence mechanism, really; attention will be drawn to their big bum/bad taste and away from our own bigger bum/worse taste. Couldn’t be more Chandler if I said “Could it be any more of a defence mechanism?”
In some ways, though, it’s a sign that we are incredibly competitive. And, listening to Woman’s Hour this morning, I got thinking some more on competitiveness. Jane Garvey had the editors of Cosmopolitan UK and Vagenda on the show, debating what women look for in a magazine. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett for Vagenda argued that Cosmo’s content of beauty buys, belly busters and blow jobs is not just disempowering and outdated, but patronising too. Cosmo’s Louise Court (admittedly with reader numbers on her side) countered that plenty of women in the UK are interested in Cosmo’s articles on firmers and fellatio – 1.6 million actually – and that, besides, Cosmo does tackle “feminist” issues; equal pay and speaking out about domestic violence being two of them. Disregarding the fact that being paid less than your subordinate with a penis and being subjected to physical violence go against basic human rights; Court does have a point when she touches on readership figures. Women do buy Cosmopolitan. And they keep buying it. Its content can’t be that far off the mark.
Yes, women are interested in more than just sex, how to look good with their kit off and how to achieve the perfect blow…dry, but equally this would have been said about the magazine at its launch back in 1886. At that point it was a “family” magazine with a section “devoted exclusively to the interests of women, with articles on fashions, on household decoration, on cooking, and the care and management of children.” For some women this would have been condescending and belittling. For others, it would have been the best thing since…I’ve got nothing here – sliced bread wasn’t invented ‘til 1928. But let’s leave it as really awesome. Besides which, now, in the 21st century, there are entire magazines, blogs, websites and TV programmes devoted to these topics, so they are by no means irrelevant, unpopular or antiquated.
Court and Cosslett are intelligent, successful women at the helm of two groundbreaking magazines; the fact that they can’t agree on what women are interested in is a good thing - it simply means we’re interested in a wide variety of issues. (Even typing that sentence annoys me – why shouldn’t we be?) Competition in our media is also a good thing; it means we get to enjoy varied, boundary-pushing journalism. We need to focus on this benefit – we don’t need to bitch about the content – they are written by women, about women and for women. They both satisfy the needs of the fairer (ahem) sex and we have many, like any human being. I like to look good. I like clothes. I like to bake. I like to read. I am interested in current events. I am interested in Ryans Gosling and Reynolds. I deserve equal pay. I am a feminist. None of these sentences should cancel each other out. As for our in-sex bitching, competing and showing each other up, I recently saw an interview with the country singer Reba McEntire who put it brilliantly when, having been asked if there was competition between her and other female country singers, said “Of course we’re all competitive in our business, but we all pull for each other too.”
Jo is a writer slash blogger, who works in sustainability. I’m still not sure what that means. For a small person, she is very noisy. In fact it is my personal belief that she only learned the four languages that she speaks fluently so that she could talk more. She knows the entirety of Bridget Jones by heart (don’t we all!) and is a dab hand at quoting any and all chick flicks. In fact we spent nearly 2 hours doing this the first time we met.
Jo will be launching a brand new website later this year, which I will tell you all about soon – but rest assured, it’s going to be awesome. You can find Jo on Twitter, or in her little corner of the HuffPo.