My So-called Life: Fear of trying: a guide to feminism


Can you call yourself a "feminist" and enjoy lipstick and high heels and shopping and all that stuff?

Can you call yourself a "feminist" and enjoy lipstick and high heels and shopping and all that stuff? I ask because of the remarks made last week by Molly Jong-Fast, the 26-year-old daughter of Erica Jong, who could have been called Erica Slim, so thank heaven for small mercies, I guess. Erica, of course, wrote Fear of Flying, the book that became the feminist anthem for a whole generation, and argued that we all had a right to multiple orgasms, even though just the odd one every now and then would be impossibly cheering. Only joking. My sex life is fantastic. I'd be having sex now if I wasn't writing this. Sex, sex, sex - that's all I ever do except when I'm not, which seems to take up a great deal of my time.

Anyway, Molly Jong-Fast, who is possibly also thankful that her mother isn't Erica Stead, or even Erica Break, said the following: "Feminism is definitely shifting towards consumerism. Women today can be frivolous and not feel ashamed. But my generation don't need to believe that we should be the same as men in every way, because we know that we're not. It means we can wear make-up and buy a new bag and just enjoy the moment, without having to feel that we should be playing a man's game - competing with them and trying to be them."

I can honestly say that I have never tried to be a man, except for that one instance when I attempted to put out a campfire by peeing on it and setting fire to my knickers which, as you can imagine, was not only rather painful but also put all the other campers off their marshmallows and jolly songs. I had minded to try other ways of being a man - urinating while missing the toilet altogether; falling asleep on the remote control with all my dead weight; leaving dirty crockery out in the belief elves will magically scour them in the middle of the night - but the campfire business rather put me off.

Still, it did lead to my own book, Fear of Trying, aimed at any woman thinking of trying to emulate a man in this way and which, strangely, never became a best-seller. However, as a special Christmas offer, I am making it available to Independent readers for a much-reduced price of absolutely nothing (usual price: £345) because, quite frankly, it would be nice to get back in the garage again. Buyer collects. Same deal available for my other titles: Fat is a Feminist Issue Which is No Consolation Down the Swimming Baths and The Female Tunic, which posits the theory that feminists will never get husbands until they learn to wear clothes that show off their waists and maybe a huge amount of cleavage. I know, I know, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle which, as it happens, is what I've just told our goldfish, Bubbles, who requested one for Christmas. No Bubbles, I said, no Chopper for you. Don't be stupid. Instead, he is getting an iPod, a Robosapien and a new pair of gloves as he lost the last ones, which I'm still rather annoyed about, but what can you do? Actually, I am considering tying his next pair to elastic and threading them though his fins.

So, what does it mean to be a feminist now? Or is it all just too confusing? Well, thankfully for you, I've set up an advice service, Freephone FemQuest™, where you can leave a message and I will get back to you whenever I'm not too busy not having sex or watching all the make-overs on This Morning, which are, I believe, just the sort of thing the suffragettes so bravely fought for. That said, though, don't you go chaining yourself to any railings because, aside from anything else, you'll ruin the line of your frock and may even break a few nails, which always means tears. I've received and answered quite a few queries already. Here is one from a Ms Widdecombe. "Please, please tell me, is it acceptable for someone of my age and my position to start shaving her legs? Will it help me get a bloke? I could then wear hotpants, at least. "

I replied with this: "Ms Widdecombe, shaving, yes, or as John Stuart Mill so brilliantly put it in The Subjection of Women, 'hairy legs... gross... they quite put me off my dinner, not to mention anything else'. As for the hotpants, I do not feel they are key at this time or any time in the future.

Next, on the answer machine, a "blob-blob-blob-Chopper-blob-please" which I think was just Bubbles campaigning, and then this from a Ms Greer: "I'm a writer, broadcaster, critic and Cambridge don specialising in Women's Studies and, as such, I would like to know what would be best for someone like me - lipsticks from the red end of the colour spectrum or the pink? Also, I really enjoyed The Female Tunic. I wish it had been my idea." I thanked Ms Greer most heartily for the compliment - her own books never do very well; poor little dear - then told her I thought she ought to go with pink, perhaps with some hotpants as I know where to get some cheap. Second-hand, but as new. Her response, in turn, was ecstatic. "Pink it is then. Now I must push on as I have to do something anti-patriarchal before elevenses."

Lastly, this odd message: "I live with a woman who claims she's a feminist until it comes to picking up her own suitcase in which case she goes: 'Oh, oh, oh I'm such a weak little thing of the dainty lady variety.' I do not think she is as feeble as she pretends because, frankly, you try getting your half of the duvet back from her during the night. She spends much of the household budget on expensive face creams, which do not make her any prettier, assuming she was pretty in the first place, which takes a leap of faith.

On a recent camping trip she embarrassed me by setting her bum on fire. She still has a scorched arse, so is it any wonder that we no longer have a sex life of note? She's also filled our garage with books nobody buys because they're rubbish. Shall I ditch her? I'd very much like to." I did not like the sound of this chap, and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was a bourgeois chauvinist pig, too bourgeois and chauvinist to see how pretty that woman is - now get the dinner on while you're about it.

That's all from me this week, as well as Molly Jong-Fast, who is also glad her mother isn't Erica Stuck. Or Hold. As for Bubbles, his campaigning is driving me mad so I might have to get him that Chopper after all. Pester power, eh?

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