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On False Idols...And Empty Rhetoric

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Head met hands yesterday in the Meadows household after I read Carla Bruni's argument against contemporary feminism 'My generation don't need feminism....a woman's place is in the home'.

Oh Carla, Carla, Carla.......I'm afraid you're wrong. By the very fact that you have made such a short-sighted statement means we need it more than ever.

Bruni's, surely always untimely, statement comes after a week of setbacks for female equality. Last Monday, David Cameron decided that equality impact statements were dispensable. On Tuesday, the General Synod voted against women bishops.

On Thursday, the earlier vote to give a woman a turn on the board of the European Central Bank was ignored, giving Yves Mersch a place on an all male board, which has been that way for the past 14 years. Every week, in some shape or form, gender inequality is rearing its ugly and rather archaic head.

Bruni's argument has spurred me on to think about feminism, and its public face, and I have arrived squarely at the door of our current populist 'feminist icon' Caitlin Moran.

Moran's book, the supposed quasi-feminist tract, How to Be a Woman, has received massive press attention, and plaudits from all quarters.

You have probably even read it yourself. I have, of course, and can confirm that it is indeed rather funny, and very well-written. Moran is observant, and engaging and carries you along her path of reason in a seemingly effortless fashion.

We learn about her impoverished Midlands background, and her various battles with her sex, and it's all rather fun, and a breezy read.

As long as that is all you are looking for. Although I rather enjoyed the book, indeed, recommending it to various (younger) family members, I was left ultimately feeling rather let down.

For Moran, for all her best intentions, has not tackled feminism, or indeed any of the issues that any debate on contemporary women's issues entails, in a manner that lingers in the mind for more than a few days.

It's not just the book; as a regular reader of the Times, and of Moran's various columns therein, I was initially dazzled by her candour, but soon came to think her tone as glib and unsatisfying when I realized I couldn't remember any of her points two weeks later.

My favourite columnists make a lasting impression, and I'm afraid this is where Caitlin Moran is left wanting, the column equivalent of McDonald's - momentarily satisfying but ultimately empty calories.

Yet, she is everywhere. The Times are crazy about her. But this may be because her diatribes on council estate living are a palatable version of the truth, rather than a realistic portrait of what breadline living really is.

In this respect, Moran is a curio to the comfortably off. They can read her columns in comfort, knowing that they will never have to go to Wolverhampton.

Sure, she has a witty turn of phrase but it may be that this alone has weakened the stock of feminists everywhere - any one that approaches the subject in a less than amusing fashion is deemed too serious, anything that doesn't make us chortle over our cornflakes is too much like real life.

Could it be that Moran, by pitching for laughs, has queered the pitch for any serious discussions on feminism, on breadline Britain, on the future of the Monarchy, sexuality, the work-life balance for mothers?

If Carla Bruni had put any research behind her statement, and Googled 'contemporary feminism', I would loath to think that any of Moran's work would come up in serious discussion.

Feminism, in my eyes, isn't whether to wax your bikini line, your right to crawl through the door steaming drunk at six in the morning or how enjoyable you find masturbation.

When we're talking about the need for serious consideration of vital equality issues, could it be that Moran's ultimately empty rhetoric has done more harm than good?