Real women don't decorate with chintz

No 147: IKEA

If the personal is the political, then chintz is a very Big Issue. Backward-looking, rural idyll-ish and a particularly English art form, it's even given us that telling adjective "chintzy". So Ikea, the Swedish high-concept retailer, is mounting a major challenge by telling us to chuck it out. They might as well suggest we become a republic and commit to the European currency.

Invoking against chintz, they link it clearly to the dark forces that have suppressed women over the years. Chintz, lampshades with bobbles, pelmets and fussy wallpaper are all symbols of patriarchy. For a fully actualised woman the only place for all this stuff is on a skip.

Out of the sky, over a street of Victorian terraces in that genteel and clerkly part of the old Outer East End, comes a bright blue skip. At the windows of the bright little houses women are waiting for this sign for the Ladies' Revolt to start. Ordinary, pleasant, mumsy women, 25-45, with most races statutorially represented, they look deeply respectable, lower-middle. And yet, so it appears, they are burning inside.

And off they go, pulling down curtains, prising off pelmets, throwing away a flowery bedcover that "does you no credit", stirred by a vaguely C&W anthem "Chuck Out That Chintz". The song says "we're battling hard and we've come a long way, in choices and status, in jobs and in pay". It identifies the enemies of womankind most frankly: "that sofa's so girly, so silly and twirly."

The Alternative turns out to be low-budget middle-class modern: a women's group circulating with cafetieres among prints of modern architecture, strip-wood flooring and pale-beech kitchen cupboards. It's an ad clearly focused on the Michael in every woman. Michelle of EastEnders (Susan Tully) was the girl who got a degree from the poly, had ideas and absolutely hated the Courts ads with Bruce Forsyth (they reminded her too much of Pauline).

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