What Bruce said, the real Christian Grey and career v motherhood

An annoying start to the week. The Mail on Sunday leads with a cover story about how Andy Murray was the first Brit to make the Wimbledon singles final in 74 years. The small matter of Virginia Wade’s win in 1977 was entirely overlooked. That attitude backs up my magazine’s theory – sport is still sexist; it’s the neglected sibling that gender equality has failed to make an impact on.

When we launched Stylist in October 2009 we had no intention of making it a feminist magazine. But who were we kidding . . . Feminism runs through me like words through a stick of rock – no accident, as I have a mother who’d sneak into my bedroom when I was a teenager and leave feminist tomes on my bed and who told me in my romantic-minded adolescence (though she denies it now, possibly because I ignored her advice) never to get married.

This year, we launched our first campaign at Stylist: Fair Game for Women in Sport. Just 5 per cent of UK sports coverage goes to women, and an even poorer 0.5 per cent of sponsorship. We want to encourage more women to play sport, more money to be diverted to women’s sports and to rebalance the media coverage. We demand equality in all other areas of our lives, so why not sport, too? Even the Church of England is moving faster than the BBC sports desk on equality – the legislation for female bishops could well be passed this autumn. But I’m confident we’ll see some success.

Mother’s ruin

I’ve not yet met a woman who can tell me the secret to balancing a career and motherhood.

I anticipated the guilt of leaving my son to go to work, but what I hadn’t quite anticipated was the guilt I feel leaving my office to go home.
Having it all is possible; doing it all . . . well, that’s a lot harder. Each day is a juggle. A 6am start is followed by milk, nappies, books and
a chase around the house as we all try to get dressed – as any parent will tell you, far more complicated than it sounds – and being dropped off at nursery or with Granny. Then I begin my commute, where I read the paper, reply to emails and read page proofs, ready for the first meetings of the day at 8.30am.

This may all seem melodramatic. I’m not saving lives. I’m not struggling to juggle jobs to earn a basic income. I’m running between creative meetings and photo shoots and am spoiled with a lot of perks and a none-too-shabby dose of glamour, but I still work very hard. I have huge expectations of myself and want my magazine to be the best, my readers to feel excited and fulfilled by what we do. Besides that, like the rest of the world, I worry about paying the bills, how much time I spend with my family and how to be a great mother.

I want to be a role model . . . which may well be setting myself up for a fall. It is this multitasking – juggling jobs and families – that has made women now officially cleverer than men (IQ testing has proved it for the first time, according to psychologists). It is also the reason we are a lot more tired.

Grey note

As a woman (and this is doubly true for a woman in the media), I find it has become compulsory to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if you don’t have time. Or suspect it’s not that good. Every conversation I have had with friends and colleagues over the past week has drifted to the book du jour. “Scientists” even went to the trouble of creating a photofit of what the protagonist, Christian Grey, really looks like (no irony spared).

So I gave in and started to read it to make an informed decision, which sounds like the incredibly lame excuse a teenager would give when caught downloading porn – but in fact it’s true. My Kindle reports I’m 28 per cent in, and for doing that I think I should receive some sort of prize for literary persistence.

The book is very badly written. The prose (if not the content) are reminiscent of my school-day efforts to write a novel. I am disappointed. I’m not against it for its sexiness. And I admire E L James for self-publishing with success. Yet it is disheartening that the writing is so terrible – especially when there are so many people reading it. I don’t expect Dostoevsky to be top of the commute reading list, but I would love to see something slightly more challenging make such a buzz, for reasons other than spanking and nipple tweaking.

Five dimensions of sporting reality

I have been planning our Olympic issue since January but getting the balance right is tough. Too much sport, and the edition can feel alienating. Too little, and we patronise the women we have set out to serve with our Fair Game campaign. In the end, we decided to create an “augmented reality” issue for the week of the opening ceremony, with extra multimedia content, and then focus our efforts on key sports stars
in the following weeks. This means our week has been monopolised by video edits, “overlay” designs for the Blippar app that will appear to be floating over our real pages when you hold a phone over them, and complicated technical meetings way beyond our normal expertise.
In the background we have put a “normal” issue to press, and my team barely flinch. A wise woman once told me: “Always hire people better than you.” I’m happy to say I listened.

Curbed rock and no son

My week rounds off with a typically overorganised weekend – planned weeks in advance of accurate weather forecasts and predictions of mood, health, or toddler sleep patterns. The Hard Rock Calling festival provides a rare opportunity to see some live music.

After putting my son to bed, I force myself to go to Saturday night’s gig and arrive 90 minutes in to Bruce Springsteen’s three-hour set.
A surprise guest appearance by Paul McCartney makes all the effort worthwhile . . . until the duo are cut off four minutes (yes, I timed it) before they’ve finished. Two musical legends cut down by Westminster Council’s sound curfew.

The disappointed crowd amble out, mildly confused and wishing they could have worked out what Bruce was saying. I can only assume
it was something the council might not have wanted us to hear. 

Lisa Smosarski is the editor of Stylist. Sign its petition for Fair Game for Women in Sport at: change.org/petitions/we-demand-a-better-deal-for-women-in-sport

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the future