I have mixed feelings about International Women’s Day. There will be much celebration and good cheer when it arrives this week. But also despondency. Why? Because as more women rise up to top positions, too many of them forget the rest of their sex and become apolitical, or apathetic and self-obsessed. The struggle for gender equality is but a distant memory. These women wear the power suit and heels, join the boy’s club, barely glance down at those beneath them – the pathetic weaklings who never understood the game.
Triumphant ladies do pass on advice about aspiration, confidence, “frozen talent” (like frozen ovaries?) and indomitability. Good of them to share, but all they are doing is shifting the responsibility to the excluded individual. The system is never questioned. That would not be good for ambition.
Men still rule and control the world, of course. And they are most to blame for keeping females down and out. But, increasingly, the masculine power base is protected by willing handmaidens. So, this year, I think feminists need to speak out against female connivance and ruthlessness as well as male dominance. Fair criticism is required, but bitchiness is not.
Some female journalists relentlessly pick on women and girls in the public eye. They can be more judgemental than Jeremy Clarkson would ever dare. Year after year, when the Bafta or Academy awards are handed out, fashion editors – even those who work for the broadsheets – get their talons out and rip into the female stars for wearing this or that. They can be brilliant actresses and directors, but what really counts – apparently – is how much tit they showed, or if their legs were too fat for the dress.
Then there is the new breed of female TV presenter who seem to think they must be extra-ferocious and tenacious to make their mark. Instead of changing the medium and the message, they become the transgendered Paxman or Humphreys, at times without the charm of the blokes.
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
The world's 15 most powerful women in 2015
1/15 Angela Merkel - German Chancellor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has retained her number one ranking for topping this year’s Forbes list for the fifth consecutive year and ten times in total.
2/15 Hillary Clinton - Presidential candidate, United States
Clinton, who could become the world’s most powerful leader in 2016, has been featured on the list every year since it launched in 2014.
3/15 Melinda Gates - Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $3.9 billion in giving in 2014 and more than $33 billion in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000.
4/15 Janet Yellen - Chair, Federal Reserve, Washington, United States
Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first female head of the Federal Reserve.
5/15 Marry Barra - CEO of General Motors
Mary Barra made history by becoming the first female CEO of General Motors.
6/15 Christina Lagarde - Managing director, International Monetary Fund
Christine Lagarde is entering the last year of her first term heading the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the organisation which serves as economic advisor and backstop for 188 countries. Under Lagarde the IMF has supported efforts to increase female labor force participation as way to reduce poverty and inequality. The UK, Germany, China, France and Korea have endorsed Christine Lagarde for another term as the head of the IMF.
7/15 Dilma Rousseff - President, Brazil
Dilma Rousseff, who has been elected in 2010, is Brazil's first female president.
8/15 Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of bestseller “Lean In,” joined the company in 2008 and became the first woman on its board four years later. Sandberg helped the social network go public and expand digital revenue.
9/15 Susan Wojcicki - CEO of Youtube
Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube, the world’s most popular digital video platform used by over a billion people across the globe. She oversees YouTube's content and business operations, engineering, and product development.
10/15 Michelle Obama - First lady, United States
Michelle Obama, the 44th first lady of the United States has focused her attention on issues such as the support of military families, helping working women balance career and family and encouraging national service.
11/15 Park Geun-hye - President, South Korea
Park Geun-hye is the first female leader of a country that has the highest level of gender inequality in the developed world. In her inauguration speech, she promised to prioritise both national security and economic revitalisation.
12/15 Oprah Winfrey - Actress, Director/Producer, Entrepreneur, Personality, Philanthropist
Oprah Winfrey, a former queen of daytime TV has proven she can thrive without a talkshow. Her 'The Life You Want' tour sold out stadiums from Newark to Seattle in 2014.
13/15 Ginni Rometty - CEO of IBM
Ginni Rometty joined IBM in 1981 and later became the first woman to lead the company.
14/15 Meg Whitman - CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Meg Whitman is the only woman to have headed two large U.S. public companies: eBay and Hewlett-Packard.Until Marissa Mayer's arrival at Yahoo, she was the only female head of a leading Internet-based company.
15/15 Indra Nooyi - CEO of PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Mrs. Nooyi leads one of the world’s largest convenient food and beverage companies, with 2008 annual revenues of more than $43 billion.
Another growing irritation, for me, is women who have it all and still seek our attention and sympathies. An exhibition titled The Pram in the Hall, by the artist Alice Instone, opens this Tuesday, just in time for International Women’s Day. She talked to famous women and asked them how they juggled their various tasks, then turned the responses into artworks. One list goes: “Call Jason Donovan, buy Secret Santa gifts, then write to Melinda Gates.”
Another, a supermodel, was vexed because she had to buy vitamins, get her MOT and look usual stuff for her child. How many nannies do they employ? Do they think at all about mums who survive on benefits, do menial jobs and can’t even afford a bath at night? Or Syrian mothers trying to keep their children alive in places only hours away from these isles? Narcissism posing as feminism and art. Not good.
Online, female furies are pitiless. Jerry Hall has been whipped and punished by she-trolls and bloggers since she got married to Rupert Murdoch this weekend. This grown woman, intelligent and beautiful, made her choice and I hope she finds happiness. But they, the mercenaries of discontent, had to spoil it, by filling the web with poison and ill will.
Last Christmas I made contact with one of my online persecutors, and told her how she made me feel week after week. She said she was sorry but that I “asked for it” and that she had the right to say what she wanted because we live in a free country. It was a dispiriting encounter. A woman, Isabella Sorley, was convicted in 2014 after sending violently threatening tweets to the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. This nasty ethos is shared by a generation of young girls who stalk and try to break each other online. Are we feminists to say nothing about this? Are we avoiding this duty because it is simpler and easier to blame men and boys?
Which brings me to my final item that needs to be on the agenda this Women’s Day. We need to talk about men and boys: those who are deeply depressed and anxious, the thousands who end up in prisons or kill themselves. They were born to women and most raised by their mothers. Their pain should matter to feminists.
We women and girls must continue to fight male oppression, to claim our equal rights and place, to refuse inferior status. The huge risks and burdens carried by mothers and daughters are crimes against one half of humanity. However, internal collaborators do almost as much harm to our cause as external enemies. It is time to get tough with women who betray other women – high fliers who, in the vein of Margaret Thatcher, are only interested in themselves and their own good fortunes.Reuse content