Dear Lily Allen, Other Women Are Not The Enemy

Posted: March 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Daisy Buchanan, Writer @NotRollergirl

I don’€™t think men are the enemy. I think women are the enemy.

This is a quote from Lily Allen, speaking as the guest editor of the current issue of Shortlist, which is all about How To Be A Man, and it chills me. Lily has been hired to tell men how to be men. And she’s making a salient point about women and bitchiness, and (I hope) saying that women know men aren’t all natural misogynists, and feminism should lead to us all being cheerful buddies and pals -€“ although there’s another troubling bit where she claims we live in a post-feminist world. The thing about feminism and equality is that women are just as capable of being cruel to women as men are. But women should not be the enemy. We are allies and comrades. And we hear a lot about how the dialogue between the sexes should be negotiated, but what happens when we try to talk amongst ourselves.

There are infinite, dissenting, distressing opinions on What Is Wrong With Feminism And How To Fix It, but on International Women’s Day, or the Most Magical Day Of All Days Apart From The Last Friday Of The Month When Itsu Gives Out Free Teryiaki, I would like to talk about sisterhood.

In my younger years, it was the idea of sisterhood that made me want to give feminism a swerve. I have five sisters, and when I was little, I definitely didn’t want any more. Bloody hell. Imagine being bound to half the population, having to buy them all drinks and lend them tampons and tolerate their terrible boyfriends. Imagine billions of voices rising up to tell you that your new jumpsuit makes you look like an egg in a sock. During one family holiday, my sister Olivia (4/6) pooed herself. Every single sister was forced to relinquish one of the pieces of clothing that they were wearing, in order to craft a new, poo free outfit for Liv€“ – and there was every chance she would poo herself again. I am not Mother Theresa. I do not want to clothe all the scatty ladies of the world, because they are my metaphorical sister. There isn’t a dry cleaner near where I live.

The thing is that you do not choose your family. Depending on your circumstances, they’€™re a source of constant joy, laughter, anguish, irritation, food, comfort, love and hatred. Last time I saw Ellen (2/6) I hugged her so hard that the lace on my blouse got stuck to her coat and she nearly accidentally carried me to Shoreditch with her, on her boobs. It was the two year anniversary of the time when various things happened that led to me calling her a c*** and throwing a paper napkin at her in the questionable curry house opposite Clapham South tube station. We don’€™t always like our sisters -€“ but we love them. And it’s the same for the sisterhood.

You might look at the chick opposite you on the bus and think “Eughh, your perfume is giving me a headache and your stupid substandard Black Eyed Peas music is leaking out of your terrible cheap headphones and I know you’€™re giving me side-eye because my hair is still damp and scraped back, but I’m a busy woman. What’s your excuse, asshat?!”€ But the second you spot some guy giving them unwanted attention, you make eye contact. You ready yourself to do the imaginary long lost friend routine, or alert the bus driver, or pull the emergency cord. Because love is a weird compulsion that you can’€™t choose, and you know that you might not dream the same dreams and want the same things as Bus Girl, but this person, like you, is constantly surrounded by people saying “When will you have a baby? Are you a good enough mother? Perhaps you should do something about your hair? I know you set up this meeting, but are you going to make the tea? Your boyfriend is a lucky man! Don’€™t go out at night! Get a rape alarm! Be careful, be suspicious, be hot, but never too sexy, always apologise, always explain, there is no right way to ‘€˜flaunt your curves’€™.”€ And you can, and should, feel love and empathy for a vulnerable, frustrated stranger, and help them, because you have a duty of care to yourself and others.

It feels like lately, more than ever before, women are getting brilliant at telling each other how not to be. At snarking, pointing fingers, “calling out”. Creating a climate in which it’s better to stay silent rather than risk making a mistake. Shortlist magazine is telling its readers how to be a man in a feminist way. Last month the Telegraph claimed feminism is ruining chivalry. But if women act like sisters, and treat each other with a combination of love and chivalry, even if they don’t always like each other, everyone will have figurative and actual doors opened for them and the snarks will get bored and go home. Here’s how I think girl-on-girl behaviour should be. NO SPA BREAKS ARE INVOLVED.

  1. We need to open doors for each other, and help each other with packages. Let’€™s be mindful of our neighbours, the people behind and in front of us on trains and buses. We smile, we help, we don’€™t push.
  2. We praise and share each other’s good work. That means we retweet it, more often than we favourite it. I SEE YOU, SERIAL FAVOURITERS, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
  3. We don’t comment on each other’s bodies. Ever, ever, ever, unless invited. If you’€™re about to congratulate someone for losing weight, imagine them telling you it’s because they nearly died from tapeworm. Yeah, you’re not enforcing anything good. Famouses STILL COUNT.
  4. We share opportunities with our pals. We close the pay gap by our deeds, and by wanting our friends to have maximum professional success, and knowing that when they succeed, we all win! Their triumphs don’€™t take anything away from you.
  5. We do not ask each other to spend £500 drinking tepid blue cocktails in Faliraki the weekend before our weddings. Hen nights are bollocks. You can get drunk anywhere. I’m sure all the bitchy lady-hate in the Western world stems from the fact that every year we resentfully spend thousands of pounds on other people’€™s princess complexes.
  6. We don’€™t do compound bitching. If someone has wronged you, it’s fine to slag them off -€“ but don’t repeat someone else’s slagging off to a third party. It’s destructive and pointless.
  7. We are open and generous with money. We do not go all ‘Connecticut’€™ and whispery about our finances, because this whispering is contributing to the fact that we, on average, get paid 18% less than men. And, not always, but when we can afford it, we insist on paying for dinner and we buy each other flowers and gifts and the tiny, lavish things that amorous suitors bought their ladies in the early twentieth century. Because we love each other!
  8. We don’€™t assume that our problems are harder or worse than anyone else’€™s. We don’€™t decide, without asking, that anyone’s wealth, family or life experience has sheltered them from the horrible things we have to put up with. Women are socialised to grin and bear a lot, and put a brave face on. Never dismiss someone because you think they’ve had it easy -€“ they could just be coping brilliantly.
  9. We admit that we don’t have to like all the women – we don’t have to labour any points about how much we dislike the ones we really hate. It is enormously unlikely that they are existing purely to derail you. I hated Quantum Of Solace, but I’m fairly sure it wasn’t made just to spite me.
  10. We listen to each other. Much is made of the fact that women find it easier to talk about their mental health because they have fabulous, built-in support networks. Well, be a pal. Empathise, don’t rationalise. If the person with the problem has ever held down a job and managed to put shoes on and arrive at your pre-arranged meeting place, they’€™re probably smart enough to have run through all the solutions you’re offering. Focus on what they’€™re saying, and don’€™t just wait for their lips to stop moving so you can jump in with all your stuff. And buy them a bloody big beer.

I’€™m sad the Lily thinks women are the enemy. Let’s spend Women’s Day 2014, and the rest of the year, and THE REST OF ALL TIME, proving her wrong.


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