Sunday, 12 April 2015

She Works Hard For The Money

Work. The curse of the drinking classes, that thing that stops you writing, what you do when you're pretending to be a grown-up. 

However you view it, chances are that, unless you're insane, in prison or in the Royal Family (or that combination of all 3 known as Prince Andrew without his legal team), you're going to have had a brush with some form of employment. Actually perhaps I've missed something about the valuable role the Windsors play - according to 'royal watchers' (possibly a job, possibly a medical condition), Kate Middleton officially started her maternity leave last week. And here's me thinking her 'job' gave new meaning to the term zero hours contract.
Women make up around 47% of the UK's workforce yet, based on a completely non-scientific scan of popular media, about 100% of work-related 'expert advice' is made up just for us. It's easy to laugh at the advice from the 1940s and 1950s when Dorothy Carnegie was moralising on How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead in His Social and Business Life while running the company her husband was famous for or men were being counselled on how to deal with aliens:
But you could be forgiven for wondering why, when women working is not just the norm it's an economic necessity for most families, so much of the media still acts like it's 1955 - which, let's face it, was a period wrapped up in its own agenda of returning the world to some mythical type of pre-war 'order'.

Google advice for working women, or worse that scourge of modern society, working mothers, and you'll need to take a sabbatical - first to wade through it and second to make any sense of the contradictions. I for one am increasingly confused about whether I'm meant to lean-in, lean-out or just go vintage and shake-it-all-about:
I'm also uncertain whether earning good money, being a role model and having a life is going to seriously damage my children or leave them just fine (try guessing which paper printed which, I'm offering a non-flammable bra as a prize). Maybe I'll just go sit in the kitchen until someone tells me it's safe to come out... Even the well-meaning stuff is enough to drive you to drink. I'm pretty sure I worked out clubs and offices required different outfits all on my own but thanks for the tips and I'll be sure to let the chaps know to keep those top buttons tight. And as for the 'lady-friendly' acronyms in this helpful video, how about a version for the men? I'm going with Please: Envy No-one ISkirts...
Women in the workplace continue to battle pay inequalities, sexism and glass ceilings - how can any of that be tackled when discussions are still mired in the nonsense of whether women should even be working and when the responsibility for every impact on families (and extend that beyond kids to anyone requiring time/care) of our crazy Western work patterns is still seen as relevant to only one gender?

Television is as much to blame as the press - there's some great depictions of working women but very few combine work with family. The massively popular Parenthood is one of the worst offenders - whatever the crisis (trust me, there are many) all the women sacrifice work for their children without a second thought, the only one who tries to have a career is a 'ball-breaker' (and loses husband and job) and childcare is only an option when Grandma can do it. Oh Brave New World...

So rant done, let's historically recast and embrace the worst stereotype of the working woman ever - not tv this time but film and the joyful wonderful workplace that is The Devil Wears Prada... 

Let's deal first with the irritation that is Andy our bright-eyed little princess destined to be sacrificed to the gods of fashion. I'm sorry, she's unbearable - yes the boss is evil and maybe fashion won't get you a Pulitzer but get over yourself! She should have been forced to host an adoptive children's tea party with Dolce and Gabbana at Elton John's house wearing Kanye West's latest collection, then she'd have something to really moan about. So we need someone prepared to be a handmaiden, with no fashion sense and a burning desire (pun attended) to lead a crusade - step forward Joan of Arc Young, idealistic, bad hair, ultimately doomed - the perfect choice for PA and at least the armour might have kept Miranda at bay.

I have a lot more respect for Emily Charlton - she's not only embraced the dark side, she's drained its life force and left it for dead. Forget all the Star Wars renumbering nonsense, I want a bring up the bodies prequel for Emily - those dead eyes have a tale somewhere behind them. With that in mind, her recast is Lady Jane Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn. Jane's spying and twisted testimony carried huge weight in Boleyn's treason trial, a role Jane enjoyed so much she reprised it in Catherine Howard's downfall although with less success as the sequel cost Jane her head. A lesson there perhaps for all those past-it bands who keep doing comeback/we need a pension tours (Spandau Ballet, enough).
And so to that wicked witch of the work-place herself, Miranda Priestly. It was so tempting to go down the Margaret Thatcher route here (I'm not linking it - if you don't know who she is then live on in your happy bliss) but Miranda deserves more. No warmth, no vulnerability, she's outstanding in her dedication to herself - if Miranda crossed over into Game of Thrones that would have been a 3 part mini-series at best. So a proper female dictator - for that you have to go all the way back to Tang Dynasty China (618-907) and Empress Wu Zetian. This terrifying woman was the only female monarch in China's history, established the Zhou Dynasty, killed her own baby daughter and framed her rival who she had tortured to death and then killed two of her sons when they got in her way. And all this without the benefit of a Smythson organiser - could do better Miranda, could do better.

Perhaps the best advice I can conclude with for working women everywhere is simply that, no matter what challenges we are thrown, always remain dignified - failing that, don't get caught...


  1. Sooooper post. Most interested in your your book, tho - do let me know when it comes out. Am a bit WOTR obsessed :)

  2. Hi Terry and thanks for your ongoing support of the blog. My novel - Blood and Roses - is currently scheduled for publication in June. Editing is complete and the publishers are now putting together cover ideas and a marketing plan - all phrases that sound like pure magic to me!!


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