Beloved readers, I have some news for you. The BBC is dead. It was not a good death, nor a dignified one. In its last breath, it rasped “Are women their own worst enemy when it comes to top jobs?”
Yes. According to some talking heads, the only thing stopping women from getting top jobs in politics, business and even the sodding army is women. Not other women, mind. When we don’t succeed it’s entirely our own fault.
Chief talking head Emer Timmons, who has been promoted eleventy bazillion times and is CEO of the Entirety of Space and Time reckons there are few lifestyle obstacles and it has to be down to the individual. Cherie Blair, whose career includes picking the wrong side in a land dispute involving dispossessed people, concurs and spouts the dreaded “30%” statistic, the proportion of female board members which would supposedly magically transmute capitalism into a functional economic system.
But what of the very real issues facing women, such as the fact that they are still expected to care for children? Not to worry, Timmons reckons there’s oodles of free childcare, presumably going on in the same alternate dimension where the only problem facing women is their lack of confidence and there are actually fucking jobs happening.
I wish I were misrepresenting this article, but sadly this is what the BBC have actually seen fit to publish on their website. It is so far from the reality of most women’s experiences, and thoroughly insulting to boot.
It represents the same line of thinking that pervades Tory feminism, right libertarianism and many other unpleasant ideologies: the shifting of responsibility on to the shoulders of the individual. It is a means by which the privileged can entirely absolve themselves of playing any part in an oppressive system, and as an added bonus can feel good about themselves for earning the position they were probably always going to get anyway.
The fact is–as the closest thing to voice of reason Averil Leimon points out in the article–the world isn’t a meritocracy. Unfortunately, Leimon’s solution to this is the same as the rest of the article: confidence and a go-getting, can-do attitude. This is woefully insufficient when we consider the convergence of factors which can hamper a person: class, race, disability, gender and so on. Were millennia of discrimination simply overcome with a bit of a swagger, kyriarchy would have never happened in the first place.
The pervasive stereotype of a confident professional woman still remains–in the year fucking 2012–a ballbreaker, a bitch, a devil in Prada. While we’re up against this, all the confidence in the world cannot shatter the glass ceiling.
Of course, discrimination is only part of the story, and the lack of confidence is a real problem, although it is not the only factor keeping women down. The root cause of this lack of confidence is not due to the individual, but, rather, an effect of living in a system wherein the odds are already stacked phenomenally against us. It creates a negative feedback loop. This is not our fault: we are not our own worst enemy. Patriarchy and kyriarchy are.
The thing is, this article also betrays a staggering lack of imagination when it comes to aspiration: to the people quoted, it all boils down to just getting a job and earning a lot of money. What of, instead, working somewhere less well-paid but offering a greater degree of satisfaction? What of happiness and personal fulfilment and self-actualisation? What of abolishing the entire sorry concept of wage labour entirely?
The BBC’s death throes represent just about everything that is wrong with kyriarchy, neatly packaged in an uncritical bundle. I shall not weep at its funeral.