Many lunchtimes ago, I was bidden to a basement. The year was 1997 and the catering for our all-girl do was provided by a tea urn. This was International Women’s Day—a date that will always commemorate workers, no matter how bosses try to buy it up with sparkling events. We, a union group who worked in media, had not gathered to toast our success. Instead, we’d make a list of ways our workplaces had failed us.
Shortly before we were due back at work, an older and respected journalist spoke. “I’ll tell you one indignity no woman in our industry should ever bear again,”. She was a person we’d not dared hope would elevate our meeting, much less speak at it. But here she was, about to tell us an ugly truth; one learned hard over decades.
What would she say? There could be little doubt she’d been groped in the green room and diddled on pay for years. Perhaps she’d rage about handsy managers or better salaries for high-profile lady broadcasters, or for all. Not one sister and comrade could breathe as the veteran prepared to name her pain.
“Blasted royal reporting. We women should never do this again.”
“We must never do this again. No weddings, no tours, no engagements. Let the men suffer the tedium of monarchy. I tell you. I have been describing the colour of the Queen’s frigging hat since 1967, and if me or any member of my sex is coerced again into uttering another synonym for ‘hideous lime green’, I will become a violent republican.”
This Markle sparkle smells like robo-journalism. Surely, there is no actual woman at the New Statesman called Rosamund who actually believes that a princess can “cheer up feminists”.
This was not a silly proposition, if you think about it. The organised refusal to perform one minor ladylike labour made sense. As there was no remaining local media job with the description “full-time royal reporter”, no salary would be lost. A great gain, however, could be won. With this small action, we could make a point about the division of labour by gender, race or class. We could make the case against crappy work itself. We would refuse to do this single chore; one so few people admired. Who would care? In 1997, Australians were generally agreed that royalty was worth less than the small change into which its likeness was pressed.
Then, a few months later, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car collision. The event itself was terrible, of course. While we cannot say that the subsequent return to royal reporting, largely by and for women, was also a tragedy, it was a bit of a shame.
Diana’s death had the curious effect of renewing media interest in the Windsors. Sure, the royals were depicted in press for years as cold bastards whose failure to feel had all but led a princess to her grave etc. But over time, the much-told story of their human imperfection permitted media organisations to describe them as simply “human”. Then, as Princes William and Harry grew into photogenic men, local outlets forgot our Australian impatience with the monarchy altogether. Media found new and sycophantic ways to tell female readers that these young adults bore the flame for the Candle In The Wind.
Maybe CNN’s “Jill”, who asks if the actor will function as the royal “silent feminist”, is an algorithm.
The magic of heirs. A woman raised in aristocratic traditions, later paid in public money, who was really one of us. The fetching green hats of the Queen. We’d have believed none of these lies without media to tell them. And media would have produced few of these lies without the (coerced) labour of women.
I’m quite certain many consumers would still prefer that media not insist the Duke of Cambridge is one of us simply because he posed with a baby capsule supplied by Palace PR. I was certain that many media producers, particularly women, would prefer not to maintain these delusions. This week, as I hear the shite about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meaghan Markle, I’m not so sure.
This Markle sparkle smells like robo-journalism. Surely, there is no actual woman at the New Statesman called Rosamund who actually believes that a princess can “cheer up feminists”. The only “princess” who can cheer up legitimate feminists is surely one who eschews the title, perhaps before taking the trouble to piss on the Duke of Edinburgh and racing from Buck House screaming, “No woman may claim to be free when her comrades must work to pay for this posh rubbish lot.”
Maybe CNN’s “Jill”, who asks if the actor will function as the royal “silent feminist”, is an algorithm. Or a misogynist. Or a misogynistic algorithm. Either way, the function of a “silent feminist” seems pretty limited to me. And what does the alleged “Kristine” at Women’s Agenda hope to gain from us remaking our “image of a princess”? Is this the most utopian a purported pro-woman news service can get in the current era? Change the “image” of a fucking “princess”? Not even the princess? The thing routinely called feminism is so distant from mine it now finds victory where “Doc Martins” (sic) are seen on titled little feet. What the cock is this? I’d say a Cinderella update, just no longer in glass but in leather.
Yes. Yes. There are “many feminisms”, as I am often told. But at what point did we embrace unambitious fembots who crave no more than “edgy” shoes and concessions to freedom from the straitjacket of gender that are meaningless to all but the very rich and famous?
But, wait! The fauxmenism can get more faux. In The Daily Life, a Fairfax property whose oped section often appears aimed at young white women who will identify as feminists for exactly as long princesses do, the name “Kasey” is appended by one hot mess. You try reading it. Something something Meghan Markle is a divorcée ergo a force for positive feminist change something.
We cannot be sure this “feminism” was written by an actual human, much less a person committed to the end of punishing social constraints. I too have offered some confused rot in the time before deadline, but never quite this much. The piece, made by machine, begins with the claim that the fact of being “mixed-race” (sic) carries with it less disadvantage in royal circles than divorce—a fact plainly unknown to Prince Philip. It continues with the failure to compute the Wikipedia entry on Reformation. It then states that Markle’s marriage to this prince—one so dumb, he not only once failed to attend a “Colonial”-themed costume party dressed as himself, which would have been droll, but WORE A NAZI UNIFORM—is “certainly progress”.
Women audiences are approached as though they are children unable to “relate” to a concept like divorce unless it’s bound up in a princess story.
Then, some palaver about how being divorced is really hard, especially for women. “Kasey” says we can make divorce better through changing our attitudes, quoting inspirational women like Caitlin Moran (on an unrelated matter) to help us change these attitudes and—pretty much my fave bit—recognising that “women are bombarded with messages and advice”. Such as: change your attitude, be more like Caitlin Moran and begin to understand that the royal family is now more “socially progressive” than the rest of society.
Asking questions of institutions ought to be a journalist’s work. Asking questions of institution has so briefly been the entitlement of any Western woman. I remember the veteran woman journalist, urging us to resist the toil of the royal beat, of pretending that a lime green hat could be “socially progressive”. Of pretending that the royals were even of interest. They were not. That endangered institution exists only in the service of its own preservation. It was not the work, we thought, of feminists or journalists to help.
Now, the stuff true feminists once resisted is turned out every day. Women audiences are approached as though they are children unable to “relate” to a concept like divorce unless it’s bound up in a princess story. As for the women making the journalistic case for their own subjugation: I truly hope they are not human women, but algorithms that feel no pain. Let’s hope Kasey is as real as Cinderella. As is Rosamund, Jill, Kristine and the inspirational Ms Moran.
This is not feminism. This is the binary nightmare of a cut-and-paste past come to scare us. Role-model princesses do not serve the people. That’s not the job of the powerful. At some point our “feminist” news media became so powerful, it was no longer their job to serve the people, either.