In defence of Megan Fox

Hiring a night nurse doesn’t make Megan Fox neglectful of her child – she’s just a woman trying to survive in the patriarchy like the rest of us.

Until today, the only thing I knew about Megan Fox was that she starred in the first two Transformers movies and that she may or may not have been fired from the third for calling the director Michael Bay a misogynist. It's hard to say if she walked or was fired as Fox is keeping a dignified silence whilst Bay, and her former co-star Shia LeBoeuf, are bad-mouthing her at every opportunity. Whatever actually happened, Fox is clearly a better person than either Bay or LeBoeuf; although that isn't the best compliment since I've eaten carrots that had more empathy than Bay. Suffice it to say, I'm on Team Fox.

Today, I learned that Fox is now married and has a very new baby. 

I learned about Fox's new baby from an op-ed piece in the Independent which effectively accuses Fox, but not her husband, of child neglect for hiring a night nurse. I have no idea who the writer Susan Elkin actually is, above her very basic biography attached to the article, but it's been a while since I've read a piece written by a woman who so clearly hates other women. 

Because there is no excuse for what Elkin has written. 

There is no excuse for the Independent to have published the op-ed piece. 

But, you know what, I would like to thank Megan Fox for publicly acknowledging that she has hired a night nurse. 

Because what really pisses me off is the culture of "motherhood" that requires "celebrity" women to pretend that they do everything all by themselves after having a baby. That is what is harmful to all women: the idea that a woman who has just given birth must immediately lose all their baby weight, baking 250 cupcakes for the school fete, going back to work full-time at six weeks whilst simultaneously looking immaculate in their immaculate house. Celebrity women who try to exist outside this narrow and punitive construction of mother are punished by the likes of Perez Hilton calling them fat and Hello mag making snide remarks about their lack of make-up.

So, power to Megan Fox for being honest about something that was going to result in her being bullied. How freaking brave is she?

And, that shit about whether or not Fox breastfeeds, well that's none of our business. The culture which pushes formula feeding unnecessarily onto new mothers and which sexualises women's breasts to the point that women can not breastfeed publicly without feeling uncomfortable is the problem. The culture which believes that women's bodies belong to their husbands and that a man's rights to access his possession's breasts are more important than a new infant is the problem. The culture which defines any woman who has given birth as unfuckable until they lose all their "baby weight" is the problem. That is what we need to address.

We won't create a breast-feeding friendly culture when women write shit like this:

Babies are born to women – whether some feminists like it or not and wish it otherwise – and nature provides the baby’s food in the form of breast milk. That milk, and suckling it from the mother’s breast, is the child’s entitlement. Direct access to its mother’s breast milk is, in my book, every child’s human right.

That doesn’t mean extracting it with a pump and handing it over to someone else to pour into the child either. It means proper tactile feeding from the breast and all the bonding which goes with that. Everyone knows that there is nothing better than breast milk for a baby’s health and, there are benefits for the mother too – not least, it is much easier to lose the baby weight if you breast feed than if you don’t. It is also considerable less hassle – at a time when you’re tired and maybe stressed – than fiddling about with bottles which have to be sterilised. And you have it with you, on tap as it were, wherever you and the child happen to be.

If you hire a night nurse the child may be losing out on part of this and I regard that as a form of neglect.

Now, I get that Elkin is clearly trying to flog some book that no one actually wants to read but, unless you are actually stupid, no one would think the above was going to increase the number of women breastfeeding exclusively for six months. It just isn't. All it does is make women feel like failures if they don't. As for the hyperbole of child neglect, well, I'd suggest that Elkin wasn't the most effective teacher on the planet if that's her definition of child neglect.

Plus, Elkin doesn't actually understand the mechanics of breast-feeding. It's not the breast-feeding which changes the shape of women's breasts. That's the result of the weight gain during pregnancy and the subsequent loss of weight thereafter. Not breastfeeding will do nothing to prevent a woman's breasts from changing. Pregnancy changes women's breasts.

And women shouldn't be policing other women's bodies. We should be standing up for other women being forced by Patriarchal structures into making "choices" they do no want for fear of reprisal. 

In many ways, this article is just spiteful. It's just the kind of spiteful that the Patriarchy loves: pitting women against women. Normally, I'd veer on the side of ignoring, however insulting a woman who has just given birth and making her personally responsible for the decisions of a thousand other women isn't kind. 

Megan Fox may be a very privileged woman but she is still a woman. She doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. 

Megan Fox is just a woman trying to survive in the Patriarchy; just like the rest of us.

Louise Pennington is a feminist activist, historian and writer. Her personal blog My Elegant Gathering of White Snows is part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. This piece originally appeared on her blog here and is crossposted with her permission.

Megan Fox may be privileged, but she is still just a woman trying to make the best of things. Photograph: Getty Images

Louise Pennington is a feminist activist, historian and writer. Her personal blog My Elegant Gathering of White Snows is part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network.

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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.