Role model behaviour
A Dad's Life:Topics I have a fear of discussing: The Troubles with anyone from north of Balbriggan; the Premiership with anyone who supports Man U (I can’t get past “why?”); and, most of all, feminism with women. There’s a non-starter for 10, a bogey category in every man’s first date.
Do not engage, do not open mouth, shut up and nod. If the topic develops, no matter what you say, you, the man, will become the enemy. Why provide a shovel to further the hole you stepped into when you didn’t kill the subject at the outset? Now, take your punishment.
But why should I worry what faux pas I might make when there are women out there like Rosanna Davison doing more damage to the “struggle” than Alf Garnett ever managed.
My favourite piece from an interview she gave in this paper last month went like this: “You see the shots of bikini models on Grafton Street in February, and that is something I always said no to, as I thought it was inappropriate . . . My advice to younger girls would be to think carefully if you want to go down that route.”
This in the same year that she appeared in German Playboy. I can only presume she had her tongue so firmly planted in her cheek at that utterance, her mouthful of polished porcelain had to be re-straightened for her next shoot, bikini or no bikini.
Earlier in the year, Davison was paraded on The Late Late Show as apparent cannon fodder for British pin-up feminist and English Times columnist, Caitlin Moran. It never sparked.
Moran, witty, smart and insightful, seemed to realise she was being set up from the start with this person as a foil, and instead of fireworks the two blathered away amicably.
The TV audience groaned in disappointment and went back to abusing the show via Twitter.
This is the problem, as I see it: the whole discussion has gotten too damned polite. On one side you have Caitlin Moran pronouncing that every woman is a feminist, has to be a feminist, that it would be unreasonable, unnatural and self-harming not to be a feminist, and doing this in a way that everyone who can read, can understand.
On the other you have Rosie Davison polishing her nails and saying she hopes to model for a few more years, then settle down “in a house in the country with kids and lots of animals”. If you can’t get these two to throw digs, how are your daughters ever to become aware that the game they’re entering might be skewed somewhat?
I can understand why Moran wouldn’t want to take down a sister, but in refusing the opportunity she allows the falseness to stand. Davison won the genetic lottery, but only one girl in a million gets to walk around in Barbie’s body and have a popstar dad with millions. The rest of us have to duke it out to survive or prosper.
I, like the rest of my gender, would argue that the rules made very little difference to us; well, we would, wouldn’t we? And I would go to the grave holding that line were it not for the two small girls I am readying to go out there by themselves.
You tell your kids to play fair, to treat their mates with respect and help out anyone who might be struggling. In doing so, you insinuate that by doing this the world will smile favourably on them and they will receive some sort of payback. A total lie of course. They have as much a chance of being smacked in the mouth for being nice as for being nasty. More, probably – for being nice can appear weak and attract the bad ’uns. But being nice for niceness’ sake is a harder package to sell.
In the not-too-distant future I’ll wave these girls off and tell them while I’ll always be there for support (they’ll hear “wallet”), they better be ready to look after themselves.
So I need people like Caitlin Moran to shout as loud as possible about what is really required and for her to get riled by big names on prime time TV, because there are some things these small girls just aren’t going to believe coming from me.
I don’t like encouraging my girls to be prepared to fight, but it looks like I’ll have to if even radical Doc Marten toters are swayed by a toothy grin from a six-foot blonde.
I also don’t like to pass on world-weary, dreary cynicism, but without it worse could happen.
They could end up with Rosie Davison as a role model.
There, I opened my big fat mouth. Bring the punishment on.