As a girl growing up in the 1960's, I struggled to find female role models that I could relate to. Books and movies were filled with swashbuckling heroes and adventurers, and they were all men - the role of the female was to look pretty and nurture. They weren't like me and I didn't want to be like them. I was as tough as any boy, and definitely smarter, and I sure as hell wasn't going to be relegated to any minor role. My first act of rebellion at the age of 4, was against my older brother (by 11 months), who ruled girls were allowed to make mud pies, but not actually throw them. My act of rebellion hit him square in the eye.
But let's fast forward to the 21st century, where my despair at the lack of female role models has increased ten fold. I don't necessarily mean those celebrity women who's lives depend on lipstick, make up and hair extensions, I think we should all play dressing up every day, it's a fun game that can make a seamless transition from childhood to the grown up world - women, and avante-garde men have known that for centuries. Just don't get carried away and wear a tiara to the office, unless of course, you are a 'queen', where anything goes.
Those are not the most corrosive or malevolent threats to women's equality, the Barbie doll hair and the startled eye brows are just another spin cycle - in a couple of centuries, we might all look like the majestically made up Cleopatra and her non gender specific predecessor King Tutankhamun. A time, when both women and men, could slap on a bit of mascara and lippy and feel a whole lot better. The malevolency comes from those who claim to speak on behalf of ALL women, while actually only speaking on behalf of themselves.
In the UK we have the self appointed 'feminist' Jess Phillips, who seems to think behaving like a geezer bird will make her equal to her male colleagues. She wants to be one of the lads, but she wants special treatment because she is a woman. Admittedly, as a little girl in a boy's gang, that derogatory term I just used, could equally have applied to myself, but I grew out of it, it is very rarely now, that I want to punch a man in the eye. I jest of course, I eventually got to like men, even, and maybe especially, those who treat me like a woman. As every wise woman who has gone before, I have learned it is not necessary to become like a man to be his equal.
Jess Phillips is flogging her self centred feminist view of the world. Her right not be offended. While her constituents were queuing at food banks, she was demanding a Panic Room and personal protection because trolls had demeaned her as a woman on Twitter. She doesn't present herself as a politician, she presents herself as the bitch at school nobody liked getting her own back. The only thing missing from her twitter profile is the middle finger. She is oblivious to all those working class men, and yes, I said men, who fought, not only on the those hallowed benches she now occupies, but standing on orange boxes in town centres, visiting factories and speaking to the people, without shields and without protection, just as Jeremy Corbyn is doing now.
There was a time Jess Phillips when there were no women in parliament, who do you think got them in? And I'm not giving all the credit to men here, what of those women who stood up in public and demanded the right to vote? Does she think the Pankhurst women were supping tea with those Lords and tory MPs who were having suffragettes imprisoned and tortured? Does she think, fine dining with Jeremy Rees-Mogg, who votes for every cruel and draconian policy the tories introduce will endear her to Labour voters? Did she spoil the ambience by telling him about her constituents who have their benefits stopped, or those being made homeless? Or how about the sale of the NHS? From the beaming smiles, I'm guessing not. Her intention was to illustrate how easily, she can 'walk with Kings'* without losing the common touch. And of course to display her good manners, she somehow resisted the urge to flick peas at the place where his chin should be.
But as shameful a feminist Jess Phillips is, the world's worst example of the current female hierarchy resides in the White House (occasionally), the ultimate trophy wife. A woman prepared to look and dress like a mannequin on a daily basis, an inanimate Kim Cattrall on a pull along trolley would look more convincing as wife of the President. For all those young girls writing fan mail to Melania, (or do kids just write to Ivanka who I shall get onto in a moment), is she really the kind of woman, young girls should aspire to? I kind of see a parallel with Pretty Woman here - go to LA, become a hooker, marry Prince Charming. I actually cringe at Melania's life choices, for her, the frog didn't change, he's still a frog, and an especially nasty one at that. If he acts like a cruel and vindictive bastard on camera, what's he like in private?
But I have reserved most of my ire for Melania's fashion sense. I think 'sense' like 'choices' should be in quotes, I don't believe she has either. She dresses to please control freak Donald, who wears a beautiful woman on his arm like an accessory, a compliment to his own good taste. She cannot have down days, pyjama days, or days where she just wants to fling off her bra and tie back her hair. For her dressing up is no longer a game, it's a daily chore, she looks as though all the fun has been sucked out of it. What other 47 year old woman would go to a day of field sports with kids (Easter egg roll), in a pink prom dress and pink slippers? What other married woman knows her marriage would be over is she gained 5 pounds? Her's is not a happy life, and I hope mums out there with daughters never hesitate to point that out. Her days are numbered, albeit that might be part of her own life plan, but for now, the only pleas for help she has, come from her cold, dead, eyes.
As for Ivanka, creepy as it sounds, she dresses for Daddy too, someone probably told The Donald, as an adolescent, that power dressing opened doors and it has become a Trump family norm. Laying on the sofa in sweats, and eating popcorn is for looooozerrs, I doubt slobbery has ever been an option. The same could be said of the British aristocracy I suppose, but at least they dress appropriately for the occasion. The stunningly beautiful Duchess of Cambridge, like Princess Di before her, dons jeans and sneakers and doesn't care if her hair gets wet or the plebs touch her. I fear Ivanka and Melania would turn up for a hunt, in organza and killer heels.
I haven't read Ivanka's book empowering women, and I really must, because I am going to rip it apart in mine, but I have read enough clips to groan, and on occasion, projectile vomit. Firstly, Ivanka describes herself, as wife, mother, daughter, sister, everything but a woman in her own right. Daddy doesn't describe himself as husband, father, grandfather etc, and I doubt any men in the political world do that either. Maybe she thinks it's endearing, in a cute, girly kind of way, but it still kind of screams, hey sisters, find yourself a good husband.
Digressing slightly, I recently discovered that singles now outnumber couples, in the USA at least. That is, more people are discovering the joy of going through this life, unencumbered or obligated to another**. OK, that's a pretty cynical old view, and one I didn't discover until I got my brain back (menopause). It is actually possible to live a rich and rewarding life on your own. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the fertile years are the most fun, and we wouldn't haven't had half the exploits we did, if common sense had had anything to do with it. What of those single women Ivanka, those women outside of the conventional man, woman, 2.4 children norm? Those female pioneers who dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others in the fields of medicine, science, art, literature, those who don't see themselves as a decorative feature on a man's arm.
Ivanka Trump is not reaching ordinary women on any level. She is reaching out to those women who are like her, or aspire to be like her, and like her father she is deluded enough to believe there are many. She believes women can have it all, the diamonds, the designer wardrobe, the yachts, the millionaire lifestyle, the symbols of her success. and her worth as a human being. Ivanka won't be remembered for building schools and hospitals or providing humanitarian aid to victims of disaster, they will remember the advert for a new shoe line that she tweeted during Hurricane Harvey. Her equally shallow dad, was recommending a book.
I'm adding my bit towards the ire directed at Melania and Ivanka, because the USA have now demonstrated that literally ANYONE can become President. There have been rumours that the fragrant Ivanka may one day run for Office herself, on the ticket that all little white girls in rich families should be treated as princesses and I fear one third of the US population might vote for it. It should be pointed out, that as owner and distributer of (phoney) products made in third world sweat shops, the only ticket she should run on, is Greed.
Karma for Jess Phillips I believe, will come from a genuine feminist, male or female, one who works to improve the lives of ALL women, not just precious female Labour MPs who got lucky. Eventually her constituents will get fed up listening to her whining about trolls, and choose someone who doesn't want a fortress between them and their voters.
Karma for Melania looks as though it is already here, going by the constant pained expression on her face. She grimaces at his touch, and who could blame him. Even Henry VIII's fifth wife chose cavorting with the couriers over sleeping with the gouty, bad tempered old King, knowing death was a very real option. She may have been young and flighty, but she chose the axe. I expect she is already making plans to get away from Donald, and unlike his former wife, I suspect it will be as far away as possible. It wouldn't surprise me if she slipped a 'help note' to one of King Salman's wives, while Donald was partaking in the 'look at my big macho balls' dance.
Karma for Ivanka, may well be creeping up on her. She has everything money can buy, nothing is beyond her reach, or out of her greedy grasp. But like Daddy, what she yearns for most of all, admiration, just ain't coming to her in the way she planned. As First Daughter, she wanted to flaunt her privileged, champagne popsicle lifestyle on social media to gasps at the pure fabulousness of all that it means to be Ivanka Trump. As her father makes the US government the world's laughing stock, Ivanka is tweeting 'letters' from kids telling her how wonderful she is. She is enveloped by her role as the Trump family 'nice' one, the pretty face of capitalism and greed, with her soothing (or creepy) monotone voice, she avoids controversy and expressive adjectives.
Ivanka has got thus far by portraying herself as the voice of reason and indeed enlightenment, she cheered on her gay and transgender friends in the way a racist says they have a black friend. Are any of them impressed one wonders, with her silence on her dad's recent spiteful ruling? And does dare pick up the phone to the fabulous climate campaigner Leo DiCaprio and say 'what do you think of me now'?
There is also some solace to be had for those fashionistas out there who want to bitch. Whilst most of us despair of not having anything to wear, Melania and Ivanka have overflowing wardrobes, and nowhere to go.
* If, Rudyard Kipling
**Bill Maher show I believe