A piece by Camilla Long in today’s Sunday Times:
Slowly it is happening: a new breed of victim is emerging. I don’t know what we call her — perhaps she is a “prestige sufferer”? She lives in the lap of luxury, in a beautiful house, with gorgeous children and/or a rich husband. But if you dare to suggest that her life might be “perfect”, she’ll remind you how hard it is to be successful “as a woman” and how truly difficult it is to juggle five staff, three children and a small-to-medium lifestyle business that makes her husband’s job look like a side hustle, even if that job is being prime minister.
Last week, for example, we were invited to marvel at how Samantha Cameron had pulled through lockdown with just one full-time nanny living in the house. Posing in day pyjamas from her presumably now-doomed label Cefinn (Cefinnished?), she described how on top of this her son received all-day Zoom lessons from his private school.
“Even then there were moments when I just thought, ‘Oh God, how are we going to survive?’ ” she mooed from her “extremely tasteful, high-end, contemporary” kitchen. Was her experience really that bad, you wondered. As bad as the time she couldn’t get into her trousers because of “bloating” or when she “literally” couldn’t do the 5:2 diet? Why does everyone speak like this? Why do we all have to have a sob story now?
Then there was the singer Billie Eilish, who gave an interview to Vogue. Perhaps this other talented, rich, fortunate woman was having a better time, given she doesn’t have to stress out over “mayo” or ignore questions about David Cameron. Wrong! Read one paragraph of her garbled, hot mess of an impenetrable, rather troubling, self-obsessed interview and you entered yet another world, a world of hellish “anger and disappointment and frustration”.
What on earth does Eilish have to be unhappy about? But she’d argue: what doesn’t she? Her body — too fat. People’s view that her body is too fat — “f*** off”. Wearing a “f***ing wig” for months to hide her new look to promote her new album — moan moan moan.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, what your life is, your situation, who you surround yourself with, how strong you are, how smart you are,” she said, “you can always be taken advantage of.” In some ways it was sad — who even thinks like that? But that is where we are.
I get that being in pain is now the de facto position for feminists. I get that women are disappointed with their bodies, their lives, the disgusting incels who surround them or the gammons crushing their careers. I get that offices are no longer offices, they’re sexual harassment zones. I get that even dates are no longer dates but, as the FGM campaigner Nimco Ali once ludicrously put it, “life and death decisions”. “No woman goes on a date with someone she doesn’t know … without having an escape plan”, she added. Really?
What if your life isn’t like that? What if the worst thing you have to deal with is a missed trampoline body workshop or, as the wife of the then prime minister, “literally no security”? Why isn’t anyone allowed to say: I am a really lucky woman, I have a great family, my life is normal, and I’m happy with it, here’s my podcast? Because that is what a man would say.
Instead we are invited to believe that even the most successful female figures are victims of some evil system of faceless oppressors or as Meghan calls them, “the suits”. Women like Cameron and Eilish collude in this false narrative to make themselves accessible to fans. It is preferable for Cameron, for example, to defend someone like Carrie Symonds by saying, “I will always defend the woman,” instead of what she really thinks, which is, “How dare she rubbish my John Lewis stuff?” What kind of defence is, “I will always defend the woman” anyway? Maybe she couldn’t think of a single other nice thing to say. But it is damaging and sexist to insinuate you defend women as if they are automatically victims.
By constantly telling women they’re at risk of being attacked, groped, murdered, maligned, mocked or disbelieved — even if rich and famous — we are affecting the way women think about themselves and others. Recently a psychologist at University College London observed that victimhood is catching: out of 100 students “everyone self-identified as having depression or anxiety disorder or both”. She concluded that the focus on mental health had created a situation where everybody thought they were suffering, when they weren’t. The people it harmed were, as always, the small minority who actually were.
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