Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: If girls are aping Kate and Kim we're in trouble

Proper trophy women understand the deal. They wear pinky-beige shoes the colour of Barbie's feet

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Wednesday 01 August 2012 00:33
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Andy Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears
Andy Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears

Andy Murray's well groomed lady, Kim Sears paints portraits of groomed dogs. She also watches, claps, beams, weeps daintily, and is always there, for the dour, world-class tennis player. Like Kate Middleton, she has long hair, a white smile, pleasing clothes, discreet jewellery and displays total loyalty. I can't imagine either of them breaking plates, swearing out loud out of sheer frustration. Pippa, Kate's sister is in waiting for her rich knight to whisk her off to further lavish mediocrity (soon, Pips, soon). These are proper trophy women (PTW) who understand the deal. They are likely to wear pinky-beige shoes the same colour as Barbie's feet and support bandages. Safe. Diana and Fergie, though trained to marry up, were feistier, untameable refusniks. They had to go and did, one into a grave, the other driven by derision into obscurity.

Jamie Oliver's wife, Jools, and Tana, married to Gordon Ramsey, Sloanie scrummy mums represent phase 2 for PTW – they bear babies, appear in Hello! or chatter online about Pilates and mummy porn, stay size 8 and innocuously glam. I mean no disrespect to them as fellow humans. They look nice, seem happy. What I mind is the effect of their vacuity and lack of serious purpose on the younger generations.

When I talk to pupils at schools these days, there are always young girls who want to be like Kate and Pippa, getting ready to be plucked by desirable bachelors. I cannot forgive Cherie Blair for unquestioningly backing Blair's bloody war in Iraq and claiming it was a wifely duty, but I was completely with her when recently at a conference, she slated women who made it their life's mission to hook a loaded bloke and thought that was clever or fulfilling.

Identikit footballer's wives and girlfriends, TV's Desperate Housewives and some male politician's spouses are the antecedents to these latest happy no-doers. A Tory minister in Thatcher's government once asked me to be his mistress in exchange for a flat in Knightsbridge and reassured me his wife didn't mind as she had her big house and privileges, all she really wanted. ( I'll name him when he dies). At my daughter's school, a number of mums went to university, never worked, bagged a man who was wealthy or was going to be. They shopped, met up at the posh members-only gym, went on holidays and ski trips, did up second and third homes. What a waste of life, brain, human potential. Their daughters, even if excellently educated will, depressingly, have learnt all the wrong lessons from mum.

Female success, like female beauty, has undergone a total makeover and the reconstruction is so ingenious, so skilfully achieved, there are no unsightly signs of what it once was. Some call it the "feminisation of feminism". I'm trying hard to guess what that means. Many young women believe (wrongly) that we feminists of old never shaved our underarms and legs, didn't care if we were chubby, hated men and lingerie and preferred stroking each other's bits to being shafted by men, as it were. All those centuries when feminists struggled and died for democratic entitlements, pay parity, custody of children and maintenance, equality at work and in the home, the right to own money, to divorce, not to be raped, mutilated and beaten and also against nuclear proliferation Today these hard- won struggles are either assumed to have just happened, or are not really interesting at all to women who have all that waxing and beautifying, buying and gossiping and smiling to do, not to mention squeeze in daily sessions with personal trainers and cherub raising.

Some females who thought they wanted all this got out of it before it was too late. Esther Lloyd, a book editor, told journalist Clover Stroud from the Sunday Times: "It was a total thrill to start with, but I felt uncomfortably infantilised by it too... I felt like a moving part in his life, rather than someone propelling my own future."

She ended it, married a writer and is much happier. They should send Lloyd to schools to talk to those dreamy schoolgirls. Others realise their mistakes when the lights go off suddenly. As they age, their husbands stray, go off with younger women. The ex-wives get cleverly managed, lower-than-expected divorce settlements. Not only do they feel the loss of a partner and precious nest, they are full of self-loathing for being surrendered wives, and nothing more. Even if the marriages survive, a point comes when mutual contempt poisons family life.

My friend Marie is smart and kind. Her husband is a banker and they live in Surrey: "I wasted everything, everything. He plays golf when he isn't working. I hate him. I thought I was being so clever to get him. Now I know how stupid I was. Young girls mustn't do what I did. They just mustn't". Her two sons have married PTWs. Such women aren't listening now. They will one day, sooner than they think.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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