Katy Guest: Rant & Rave (11/03/12)

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The Independent Online


Fittingly, in the week when we celebrated International Women's Day, there was news that showed how far women have come, and news that proved how far we have to go. The touching news was the discovery of a letter in the St Andrews University archive, written 140 years ago by a campaigner begging for the opportunity for women to study for degrees.

The worrying news came from the Superwoman author Shirley Conran, the chairwoman of Maths Action, who said that girls don't care about being rubbish at maths because they expect to marry a husband who can add up for them. Sometimes I want to take all the teenage girls in Britain and shake them. What kind of woman signs over all adult-like decision-making to a man; and what kind of man accepts it?

Life's too short to stuff a mushroom, wrote Lady Conran at a time when most women still didn't have the option not to be domestic drudges all their lives. These girls should undergo a compulsory school course in fungus-stuffing and 1950s housewifery until they all beg to start thinking for themselves.


While some little girls grow up planning and dreaming of their perfect weddings, my childhood dreams were a lot more far-fetched. I wanted the perfect book launch, then to win the Orange Prize and the Man Booker, and then to appear as a set text in English A-level exams. The first three are unlikely, at least until I actually write a book (oh let's face it, it's never going to happen), but thanks to EdExcel my last dream has come true.

An article wot I wrote about romantic fiction appears for analysis in one of their exam papers, and has been pored over and scrutinised for meaning by students this year. I'm sorry, students. Also on the paper were J G Ballard, Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Plath, and Shakespeare, who generally didn't bang on so much about feminism and fungus-stuffing. Now that I am practically a set text, I suppose I had better take my role seriously.

So, kids: study hard; learn maths; don't cheat ... oh, and don't write "wot I wrote" in exams – it ain't clever.