As we approach 2016, and all it might bring, I peruse the newspapers. And I don’t like what I see.
First up, Sarah Vine:
Womankind has had much to celebrate in 2015. The Queen became the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s history, delightful Nadiya Hussein won Bake Off and the Duchess of Cambridge produced another picture-perfect child.
Meanwhile, the grievously wounded U.S. helicopter gunner Kirstie Ennis, whose aircraft crashed in Afghanistan, showed that a woman can be more than equal to a man by walking 1,000 miles on her shattered leg – to be greeted in London by Prince Harry – before having it amputated.
Hmmm, really? And yet…
For all that women continue to make great strides in the public and the personal arena, there is one area in which we seem to be sliding inexorably backwards: feminism.
In universities and college campuses in Britain and the U.S., there are young women who genuinely believe they exist in a pre-feminist climate of institutionalised sexism.They speak, tweet, act and complain as though they were the victims of the worst patriarchal excesses of the past two millennia and not the most liberated, privileged generation of females to walk this earth.
Such is their lack of self-knowledge and perspective, they revel in casting themselves as victims of rampant gender-based injustice when, in fact, they enjoy lives of ideological luxury compared with most of the planet’s female population. In acts of unbridled narcissism, they indulge in irrelevant self-pity and shallow soundbite gender politics, while at the same time ignoring many of the genuine and truly shocking abuses of women around the world.
Oh, Julia, you scold! That’s just hyperbole! It’s the ‘Mail’. and they offer opinion only, no evidence.
Except…there’s plenty, in other stories:
Angela Mitchell is talking to her father, Patrick, about the anxiety she feels at having to get on stage to speak at an event next month.
With his years of experience as a trade union consultant, 44-year-old Angela knows her father is the perfect person to help quell her nerves.
‘Take a deep breath before you start,’ Patrick tells her gently, ‘and remember to speak more slowly than usual – don’t gabble. You’re going to be fine.’
Reassured, she says a silent thank you for the fact her beloved father is still there to give her such much-needed advice.
Only, he isn’t. For Patrick died from prostate cancer ten years ago at the age of 73. The only way his daughter can talk to him is in her head. And she does, at least two or three times a week.
And of course, he can’t ever tell her anything she doesn’t want to hear, can he?
Oh, shut up, Julia! One swallow doesn’t make a summer, you say. Except, it’s not one:
Single, solvent and secretly pining for a baby? Don’t let the small matter of not being in a relationship stand in your way. When, in my mid-30s, my maternal instinct finally kicked in – I’d never wanted children before then – I wasn’t worried I hadn’t met Mr Right.
Spurred on by the profound regret of an older friend who’d searched high and low for the perfect father only to run out of time, I decided to take control of my own fate.
Not for me waiting for a knight in shining armour, while my eggs, already in short supply, dwindled.
At first I considered a sperm donor clinic, but then a serendipitous meeting presented a different route to my dream of single parenthood. When a strapping young man of 21 happened to cross my path and give me a second look, I had a lightbulb moment.
What if, in the heat of the moment and emboldened by alcohol, we found ourselves having unprotected sex? What if I didn’t spell out the risks of pregnancy? And what if he said he didn’t want anything to do with the resulting child? Then all the better.
I really wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship, and as an independent woman with a career in the financial sector, I felt I would do a far superior job of raising a baby on my own, thank you.
Never mind how the child will feel. It’s all about her, isn’t it?
But the thing that really revolted me was this:
A woman has posted a heart-rending video of her grandmother who has dementia becoming overwhelmed with emotion by the present of a baby doll.
Maxine Daniel, from Durham, posted the video on Facebook with the caption: ‘My Christmas gift to my lovely Nana Lilly (who sadly has dementia) was a Baby Annabell doll. Her reaction is a joy to see and melts my heart.’
Many people were affected by the video and commented to share their emotions.
Lisa Fusedale wrote: ‘The sheer joy in your Nana’s face brought tears to my mum and mine’s eyes.’
Angela Wilkinson wrote: ‘What a wonderful idea Maxine you should continue to share this idea. I’m sure other families would benefit.’
Yes, let’s trick our demented grandmother & plaster the video on YouTube to gain plaudits from strangers! Never mind her dignity, that can be sacrificed on the alter of approval and self-congratulation!
Is it just me? Dear god…
And on the subject of social media, this last story:
The Polish man, who identifies as Pawel O on his YouTube channel, captured the incident, which occurred on Horsenden Lane North in Greenford, Greater London, on his helmet camera.
He claims he was waiting for 10 minutes behind the queue of waiting cars before he discovered the lady and came to her aid.
The subtext of the story is highlighted in neon flashing lights: sainted foreigner, uncaring British, poor soul whose life in unbearable is saved from committing suicide.
And yet…who really tries to commit suicide in the middle of a busy road in broad daylight? Answer: someone who wants attention, not extinction. And doesn’t mind what she has to do, or who she has to inconvenience, to get it.
I’m sorry if this sounds like it’s not what you are accustomed to reading, especially at the start of a New Year. And I don’t do the whole ‘resolutions’ thing, usually.
But if I were to, I’d resolve to make sure I never, ever end up behaving like today’s shallow, self-obsessed, selfish, self-absorbed ‘women’.