Tanya Gold has written a very good critique of Joanna Lumley’s recent foray into misogynistic, victim-blaming. Unfortunately, at the very last minute, Gold herself makes a statement which, at best, undermines part of her point. For those that missed the twitter storm earlier this week, this is Lumley’s advice on how not to get raped:
‘I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly, which means behave properly, be polite, be on time, dress properly – I don’t mean dully – but don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they’ll rape you, or they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.
‘Don’t look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t be sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes at midnight. This is bad.
‘It’s not me being a snob about it. It’s not me being an old woman talking to young women, it’s just standard practice for how our species should behave. Don’t behave badly.’
And, then, I read the very last paragraph:
Lumley says she cares about these girls. Perhaps she thinks she does, even as she lays rape at their own doors. But if that were true, there are many things she could have said. She could have spoken of education, of inequality, of the pay gap, of gender segregation, of the under-representation of women in parliament, the professions, the City and the judiciary, and of all the ways in which women feel less important than they should. She could have said that rape is the only crime where the victim is routinely blamed and routinely disbelieved. She could have criticised a country where ambition – and seemingly, pleasure – is now, more than ever, for the wealthy and, to her eyes, tasteful. Instead she turned, with wrinkled nose, to the clothes – a fashion model still.
I agree with everything up to the phrase “a fashion model still”. It just feels wrong. Our culture routinely dismisses fashion models as stupid and incompetent; as walking boobs without brains. It just feels wrong to end an article about misogyny with a reference to Lumley’s one job in which her intelligence would have been routinely dismissed. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the fashion industry (massive understatement klaxon) but women who are fortunate enough to belong to that 5% who naturally pass the partriarchal fuckability test aren’t stupid; they are simply using something beyond their control in order to financially benefit in a society which punishes women who don’t conform.
So Gold’s last sentence seems to subvert much of what she was arguing. It reads as if she’s dismissing Lumley for being a former fashion model rather than critiquing Lumley’s privilege and her refusal to acknowledge the structural inequalities and misogyny which lead to blaming women for rape instead of men for raping.