I have always been very honest about the fact I’m a feminist – albeit perhaps not in the bra-burning and growing my body hair to extreme lengths to prove a point way.
In the past few weeks I’ve been having an irking thought – which culminated and became as clear as the proverbial crystal today when I read Jan Moir’s vitriolic attack on opera star Katherine Jenkins.
The pay gap that exists between men and women is infuriating. The casual sexism, like an over-friendly relative at a wedding, is still accepted and tolerated a little too much for my liking.
But, what is actually holding us back the most as women trying to progress is quite simply ourselves.
We have created almost farcical stereotypes for different types of women – think of it like a bitchier and more regressive version of the Sex and The City characters which we measure ourselves up against on far too frequent a basis.
There’s the career driven woman, who at a young age is held up for being “motivated” and “independent”, yet twenty years down the line is shooed off as barren, a hag and destined for spinsterhood.
Then we have the yummy mummy who idyllically spends her hours cooing at her children and making cupcakes with perfect buttercream icing. Move her into a different socio-economic bracket and she’s money-grabbing, scrounging and bleeding a husband dry. And using your taxes. How dare she, eh?
God help you if you’re a woman who decides you don’t want children, after all you’ve probably got no heart.
Then there’s the issue of telling ourselves that we are “strong, independent women” who shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what we want – be it a pay rise, a sex life that always appears to be described by magazines as “MIND-BLOWING” or a dramatic, sporadic and out of character career change.
I don’t know about you, but whilst the double standards of sexuality are obvious, I find that they’re being instilled more by our fellow female kind than the men we’re meant to be striving to equal in all aspects.
On countless occasions in numerous toilet queues, and struggling to get to the taps in a busy nightclub bathroom, I have overheard conversations where my equally (and frequently overly) dolled up companions are berating some girl I’ve never heard of for being a slag, a slut and advocate of whorish behaviour.
By no means do I condone a lot of behaviour that I’ve had the joy of hearing fifth-hand in bathrooms across seedy establishments, but I do think that we cannot tell women that they should be allowed to behave a certain way, to get what THEY deserve, to throw off the shackles of previously accepted and prudish values – and then use it as another weapon against them when it doesn’t work for someone else.
Referring back to the original article that inspired this flow of irritated thought, Jan Moir’s main criticism of Katherine Jenkins appears to be that she didn’t sweat during the London Marathon.
My own personal opinion – fair play to anyone who runs more than twenty metres and doesn’t look like an emotional tomato, give the girl a medal.
Moir calls out Jenkins on her “attention-seeking ways” for not one, but two, appearances in public as of late.
The first – Baroness Thatcher’s funeral – where Jenkins is accused of wearing a low-cut, bust-revealing dress.
I invite Moir to spend a night out on the town, and to see what people genuinely think is an acceptable outfit, and to then come up with the same attack on Katherine Jenkins.
The second appearance, which the article predominantly focuses on, is Katherine Jenkins’ participation in the London Marathon and her lime-light stealing antics.
It is worth noting at this point that the opera singer took part in the mammoth challenge in memory of her late father who died last year - something she’s been very clear about on Twitter.
The pointed picture captions that accompany Moir’s outraged writing describe the make-up that Jenkins has “hosed on” and her diva-like decision to wear sunglasses on a sunny day. The whole thing is laughable, but demonstrates my next point very well.
We have become so obsessed with our physical appearance that we are undermining any hope that we have of being taken seriously as a gender.
The number of young people turning to cosmetic surgery to be plumped up, sucked in and turned into this society-styled image of perfection is terrifying. The media berates women for not wearing enough make-up, for wearing too much, for being too fat or too thin – and we have let this happen.
Collective spirit should see us standing together to condemn such behaviour, but instead it has us clamouring to see who can be the most vocal about each other’s appearance and failings.
Very little is ever written about men’s physical appearance, I notice. Whilst magazines may joke about the ‘middle-age spread’ as a man matures, or even poke fun at a receding hair line, you can bet that a picture of a female celebrity in a bikini on a beach is as common as the article that mirrors it explaining some other star’s ‘freak diet.’
Jan Moir’s attack on Katherine Jenkins is just a published version of what many of us have been schooled to think of others, or taking it a step further, to talk about unsubtly behind another skirted being’s back.
Emily Davison did not throw herself in front of a horse for one woman to rip holes in another’s career or relationship prospects.
Women didn’t fight for the vote so that we could build a woman up to be a role model and then pull her apart one unfortunate make-up free photo at a time.
Taking the High Road might be a lonely journey, but it’s one that I’ll happily plod along if it means I don’t have to join in destroying any respect that we had already struggled to build for my gender.