If we don’t count crushing guilt and disappointment, there is just one Roman Catholic habit I can’t seem to shake. Liturgy is difficult to forget in the weeks before Easter, and the appearance of Creme Egg always makes me remember Lent. As I am not Jesus, I can hardly refuse the temptation of Cadbury, but I generally do try to practise some instructive form of self-denial starting Ash Wednesday.
This year, I had given up writing about feminism for Lent.
It is peculiar, perhaps, to think of feminism as a kind of seduction, but you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you it has lately become a profitable sin. Thanks to the reliable spending habits of their readership, Australian women’s publications have long paid journalists better than anyone else. There is a reason many content providers appeal explicitly to a female audience, and it is not, as is often claimed, that ours is an era in which women Finally Have a Voice. It is because women buy most of the shit in shops. The voice used to sell this shit has just changed its register a little.
Once, women’s mass media publications wrote about diets. Now they write about body-image and self-esteem. The new advice to "celebrate your difference" such as we might read in mildly reformed publications such as Cosmopolitan
magazine is, for mine, not that different from the old advice to "wear a chunky brooch" to distract from the girth of your hips. Similarly, the tendency to inspire fear of rape among readers, such as we might find in Daily Life
, has a tabloid resonance that cannot even be muffled by cries to Reclaim the Night. Urging to autonomy in a range of local start-ups including Mamamia
, Women’s Agenda
and Essential Baby
never seems more vehement to me than that we might find in a Cathy
Familiar themes of dread, loathing for one’s body, parenting and Treating Yourself are re-branded as feminism. It took me a year or two to overcome the irritation I felt in seeing a useful account of power tamed into a form of SEO -- and right up until Ash Wednesday to vow never to engage with what had essentially become a debate with corporate interests.
There is no point arguing gender and power with people who are in the business of collecting clicks and buying and selling Girls' Weekends Away. Even if they do throw in peculiar argot like "rape culture" and "hegemony", there is no more reason to think of this stuff as meaningful resistance to the stricture of gender than, say, the memory of Thelma Bullpitt hiding her Myer receipts from her husband.