Carla Bruni doesn't understand that being bourgeois and feminist are essentially the same thing

The glamorous singer and former French First Lady has a limited understanding of the bourgeoisie. Living in Islington, our Notebook writer should know

Share

It’s not as if it has been Women’s Week, or anything, but we have certainly been under the spotlight.

First, it was Kate Winslet, telling us via the somewhat startling mouthpiece of HM The Queen, that being a mum was the most important job on the planet. And then, Carla Bruni – another woman who has acquired global fame and riches by doing quite a lot of things other than staying put and looking after the kids – agreeing that a woman’s place is in the home. As she put it (in an interview for French Vogue): “I am not at all an active feminist. On the contrary, I am a bourgeoise!”

What? Are not ALL feminists bourgeois? I don’t know about France, but here, feminist and bourgeois, you don’t get one without the other. We “active” feminists trot off to work in our Louboutins, campaigning for equal pay and more skirt in the board room. The unsung second verse is we employ other women to look after our children, clean our houses and do the ironing. And if that isn’t bourgeois, I don’t know what is.

Come to think of it, does anyone actually know any working-class feminists? The Suffragettes were as bourgeois as they come. They used their education and social position to gain maximum publicity for the cause. Their prototype, the writer, wit and beauty Caroline Norton, who had a scandalous affair with the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, campaigned for the right of divorced women to have custody of their children, and paid for her daring with life-long social opprobrium, was the model of a bourgeois London lady.

Nearly 200 years on, I doubt whether you would find any bourgeois woman to admit she was not a feminist. It is the bourgeois woman who: a) has the confidence to think that she can have it all; b) the education/ambition to fight for equality, and afford the attendant childcare necessary, and; c) the lack of family capital which has necessitated her getting a job in the first place.

Aristocrats are not feminists. Neither are Tesco shelf-stackers (to use a convenient cliché of working class employment). Men can be feminists. Women, obviously. But both have to be paid-up members of the bourgeoisie. My credentials are so perfectly honed that not only do I live in Islington, where the taps run with balsamic vinegar, but I also have a habit of wafting around chez Millard listening to none other than – of course – Carla Bruni, whose music provides a delicious, utterly bourgeois backdrop to the quotidian goings-on.

Sending the kids out to work

Of course, as an “active feminist” I want my four children, girls and boys, to learn about what work actually entails. So I signed them up for Kids in Museums day at the British Museum. Their job was to stand in the Great Court, greeting visitors, handing out leaflets, and directing people to where they wanted to go. At the BM, this is usually either the loos, or what my youngest child (as befits an Islingtonian born and bred), calls the Risotto Stone.

“I enjoyed people who stopped and took leaflets,” said my 10-year-old daughter later, “but if they didn’t stop, it was embarrassing. And there really weren’t many families. It was mostly Chinese adults.” My 13-year-old son said: “Some people were not very polite. One man told me to ‘stop wasting his time’. And 90 minutes is too long to be standing around the entrance.” Rudeness? Fatigue? Frustration? Ah, the realities of everyday toil.

Twitter@Rosiemillard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bill Cosby dismisses the allegations that have demolished his lovable TV persona as ‘innuendos’  

Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

Rupert Cornwell
UK Border Control  

Do you think I'm feckless? I worked for two years in the Netherlands

David Ryan
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin