An awesome article. One of my favorite quotes:
The British government, like many others, is no longer even pretending to care about how or if the next generation gets to thrive. It is demonstrably content to sacrifice its young. That quality is not just spiteful; it is a recipe for social and cultural self-annihilation.
I feel like I’ve been seeing Laurie Penny linked absolutely everywhere since the beginning of the year, and I’m completely grateful for the exposure to her work. “Human beings are worth more than their usefulness to capital.” That’s why we fight.
Ambition is demanded of us because we know mediocrity is not an option. When society tells women that if we are just averagely good-looking, or averagely smart, or reasonably high-achieving, we will never be loved and safe, perfectionism is an adaptive strategy. We learn that if we want love and security, we have to be perfect, and if it doesn’t work out, well, that means we just weren’t good enough. And we know it probably won’t work out well. Girls aren’t fools. They know what is being done to them. They know what means for their futures in terms of money and power.
Girls get it. An under-reported, crucial facet of the study is the extent and cynicism of girls’ concerns about economic equality and unpaid work. A full 65% of girls aged 11-21 are worried about the cost of childcare, and while 58% say they “would like to become a leader in their chosen profession, 46% of them worry that having children will negatively affect their career.
Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have. They are striving to have it all everyway, striving to have everything and be everything like good girls are supposed to, and it hasn’t broken them yet, for good or ill. That’s is one reason young women still do so well in school and at college despite our good grades not translating to real-world success. It’s one reason we’re so good at getting those entry-level service jobs: we are not burdened by the excess of ego, the desire to be treated like a human being first, that prevents many young men from engaging proactively with an economy that just wants self-effacing drones trained to smile till it hurts.
The press just loves to act concerned about half-naked young ladies, preferably with illustrations to facilitate the concern. Somehow nothing changes. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe part of the function of the constant stream of news about young girls hurting and hating themselves isn’t to raise awareness. Maybe part of it is designed to be reassuring.
It must be comforting, if you’re invested in the status quo, to hear that young women are punished and made miserable when they misbehave.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: for all those knuckle-clutching articles about how girls everywhere are about to pirouette into twerking, puking, self-hating whorishness, we do not actually care about young women - not, that is, about female people who happen to be young. Instead, we care about Young Women (TM), fantasy Young Women as a semiotic skip for all our cultural anxieties. We value girls as commodities without paying them the respect that both their youth and their personhood deserves. Being fifteen is fucked up enough already without having the expectations, moral neuroses and guilty lusts of an entire culture projected onto this perfect empty shell you’re somehow supposed to be. Hollow yourself out and starve yourself down until you can swallow the shame of the world.
We care about young women as symbols, not as people.”
"perfectionism is an adaptive strategy"
Dear Caitlin Moran,
Yesterday afternoon I was with my friend and looking through the list of people she follows on Twitter, and your name appeared. I had already heard about you, mostly because your books had been recommended to me. I wondered for a moment if I should follow you too - I’m shy about following celebrities but you’re the type of person someone like me, who likes to think herself a feminist, wouldn’t be ashamed to publically be interested in. My friend, in any case, spoke very highly of you. “And you know,” she told me, “she’s hosting the Q&A of The Empty Hearse BFI event today!”
It was only one more reason to envy you, a massively successful writer only a few years older than me, living a life of highbrow glamour at exclusive events, rubbing shoulders with interesting people. I was about to yield.
Alas, in our Internet age, what a difference a few hours makes.
In a rather spectacular manner, you managed to antagonise an entire fandom made up almost entirely of young, liberal-minded women like me, aka your core readership. How did you accomplish this? On paper, it doesn’t sound like much: you picked an erotic Sherlock fanfic off the Internet and made the stars of the show read an extract aloud for shits and giggles. But while it was most certainly shit, it wasn’t giggles for anyone, and least of all for us.