Class loathing in feminist clothing

'Chavvy' women were being trolled long before Stella Creasy, and no one minded.

Neil Davenport

Topics Politics

Some women, it seems, are more equal than others. This became apparent last Friday, when the UK Guardian decided to run a hagiographic piece on Labour MP Stella Creasy, and in the same edition a sniggering piece about former N-Dubz starlet and X Factor judge, Tulisa Contostavlos.

On the one hand there is Creasy, a campaigning MP who is now famous for being a victim of knuckleheaded threats and abuse on Twitter. For the Guardian, this means she is deserving of praise. Tulisa, on the other hand, has announced she has written a novel. Considering she is working-class, and probably a bit thick, this strikes the Guardian as hilarious. Indeed, Tulisa’s CV was rolled out by the Guardian to demonstrate how deluded she must be. ‘Is there no end to Ms Contostavlos’ skills?’ asked the journalist, sarcastically.

Tulisa has also been the target of lurid Sunday tabloid exposés and has fallen victim to a humiliating drugs-related sting by journalists at the Sun on Sunday. Not surprisingly, the underhand tactics used by these tabloid journalists were denounced by some broadsheet writers, and one columnist argued that it was a non-story designed to put the uppity Tulisa in her place. Oddly enough, though, the self-righteous Twitterati and feminist columnists did not turn Tulisa into the same kind of cause célèbre as they have female journalists and MPs who have been trolled. This is why a broadsheet journalist ended up sounding a bit like one of the supposed enemies at News UK and writing a piece which, like the Sun on Sunday, decided that Tulisa is a commoner who doesn’t know her place. Writing a novel? Don’t make us laugh! Shouldn’t she be working behind the make-up counter at Boots?

It’s not the first time in recent years that an attractive, young working-class woman has been verbally attacked. Long before well-heeled journalists received online abuse, creepy website Chavscum published photos of young working women to demonstrate what ‘slags’ they were. Funnily enough, there was no broadsheet outrage, no demand, as there has been recently, for the vile perpetrators to be arrested by the police.

Although feminists imagine that their creed cuts across class lines, that class wars are unimportant compared with the sex wars, in truth they often appear rather too attracted to old-fashioned class hatred. Indeed, feminism has often been the acceptable way to express hatred towards working-class men. This is why, for the past 20-odd years, state authorities have seized upon feminist arguments and codes to justify greater repression and surveillance of working-class communities.

But feminist class hatred can often be dished out to proley women, too. There’s the Page 3 model who is supposedly ‘complicit with encouraging sexist stereotypes’; there are the Essex girls with the tan and boob jobs who obsess over their looks rather than Caitlin Moran books; and there are the frothy light entertainers like Tulisa or Katie Price who peddle perfume and autobiographies rather than do PhDs in the construction of gender identity. For well-to-do feminists, ‘those women’ – the working-class type – let the side down.

As it happens, Tulisa and Katie Price are astute, business-savvy women with a drive and ambition to become financially independent. Wasn’t one of the goals of feminism to enable women to be autonomous and free decision-makers? Wasn’t it to create a society where women were free from economic dependence on men? That a young woman like Tulisa can afford to live in a £6million house is cause for celebration, not derision. Who cares whether her records are daft or her perfume stinks? Anyone who can leave a life of penury behind and bank tons of cash goes against the defeatist spirit of the age.

The rather grim irony here, of course, is that radicals would actually prefer it if someone like Tulisa was trapped on benefits or slogging away on a ‘zero hours’ contract. If she was, she could become a faceless object of pity, a means to demonstrate how young people can’t cope without state support. By refusing to indulge defeatism, by refusing to be a victim, Tulisa is refusing to bow down and know her place. No wonder both reactionaries and radicals are equally contemptuous of her sterling efforts to bolster her bank balance. The hypocrisy here may be breathtaking, but at least it demonstrates how, for all the high-minded posturing of radical feminists, sisterhood solidarity doesn’t quite stretch to ‘one of them’.

Neil Davenport is a writer and sociology/politics teacher in London. He blogs at The Midnight Bell.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today