I normally steer clear of issues of gender politics. The arena is so toxic and tribal that it is difficult to have constructive discussions of how we might improve matters. This is not because the subject is inherently difficult, indeed it is blindingly simple ; all humans are born with the same few inalienable rights, which apply equally, and their gender and race play no part in this. Unfortunately this is not enough in this area where tribal loyalties and blind dogma seem to rule and ensure that all discussions degenerate into bad-mouthed squabbles.
It is therefore with trepidation that I write to complain about the current cover of “Glamour” magazine and its false #poweredbywomen tagline. This caught my eye in the supermarket and was successful in that it made me think about gender disparities in the workplace. I note that they stated that in these issues the magazine would be “100% made by women” and that “Every photo in our pages? Taken by a woman. Every hair coiffed. Every lash curled.(by a woman)”. Which made me think about the divisions of labour. While I am fairly certain that “every lash curled” was curled by a woman I wondered how different this was to another day of the week. I have a sneaky feeling that in the world of lash curling or hair coiffing there is already a female preponderance. But what about other areas of the magazine’s production ?
I think we can sleep easy that the gender disparity in forestry has not been tackled. In this hazardous industry with an appalling death rate amongst its workers 99% of those working outdoors are men. We can bet safely that is was a man who clambered up the hill in the rain or snow, to use the chainsaw, to cut down the trees to make the magazine’s paper. Another industry with a dreadful record of safety for its workers is the haulage industry. Of those people working outdoors in lonely lives, often having to sleep in their lorry’s cab in a car park far away from their families, 99.5% are men. I think we can be sure than glamour magazine was not shuttled by a fleet of women lorry drivers from the factories to the shops.
While there is better gender ratio in the printing industry as a whole (70:30) this masks a wider split – white collar office jobs are predominately held by women while dangerous factory jobs are overwhelmingly male. All of this is before we step further back in the supply chain to prinking ink and those who obtain the pigments, the miners who mine the ores that create the metals from which the machinery is made, and the assembly line workers to create them. There are lost of jobs where there is a disparity and none of these will have been tackled by Glamour’s mock feminism.
The cheek of this magazine to put its model on the front page with her fist of solidarity at odds with her winsome smile, perfect coiffure and model good looks. She is no ‘Rosie the Riveter’, no image of female strength and ambition; just another model on the front page showing women how they should look. It really does take exceptional degree of irony to to take up the fight for increasing the proportion women in the workplace in one of the few industries where this is not a problem. I think that fashion journalists, glamour consultants, fashion models, hairstylists, make up artists and the rest have already cracked this problem. Indeed we should perhaps be arguing for more male models to try and reduce the effects of the objectification of women by this industry. I don’t think I have seen a worse case of “virtue signalling” since the campaign to give away tampons at Glasgow Airport to end period poverty; if one group of women are less likely to suffer from this, then it is wealthy people stepping off aeroplanes – surely “To those that have, shall be given“.
How could this campaign got off to such a bad start in missing the gender disparities in its own industry and how could it be so crass and blinkered. Perhaps a look at the group behind it will give a clue. This group of predominately white, young middle class women will have a biased view of the world. Where are the people of colour, does the cosmetic industry feel that this is too poor a market ? Where are the older people, the glamour industry doesn’t tolerate the elderly? Where are the plain people, this industry ejects you when your looks fade ? Where are the disabled, its hard to break into this industry if you deviate from accepted definitions of beauty ?
We do have pressing issues on inequality of opportunity and pressing issues on inequality of remuneration for work, but boosting the cosmetics and glamour industries profile is not one of them. This industry does enough damage to all of us, but especially women, as it is and we don’t need them to steal feminism to create a marketing strategy. Lets campaign for real changes, equal pay, equal parental leave and responsibility and pick some priorities. Here in the west they might be the lack of male teachers to give our boys a role model to encourage learning and academic aspiration, the lack of female taxi drivers to widen the choice for passengers, the lack of male nurses to encourage men to come forward more readily with health problems, and the lack of female manual workers in the days of mechanisation there is no real call for brute strength, look at our female athletes they are clearly the match for men. And lets get rid of magazines that tell women how they should look, how they should dress, how they should use cosmetics, and , increasingly, how they should think. It is not a woman’s lot to “curl a lash” any more than it is a man’s to fell a tree. Stop pigeonholing us.