I dream of Christine: Mme Lagarde at the IMF headquarters in Washington. Photo: Getty
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“So much love for Christine Lagarde”: why girl crushes are a straight thing

Girl crushes are 75 per cent respect, 24.999 per cent idolatry and 0.001 per cent something nebulously sexual. It’s more about wanting to be someone than wanting to do them.

Girl crushes. Straight women have them; gay ones don’t. Confusing? Let me attempt to explain the ubiquitous “girl crush”. Women as various as Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton have been “crushed” on by straight women, somewhere. The first known girl crush was had by Eleanor of Aquitaine and it was on the lesser-known Brenda of Marseilles. Possibly.

“ZOMG,” announces @StraightChick77, on Twitter, “so much love for Christine Lagarde #GirlCrush.”

What you have to understand is that @StraightChick77 isn’t romantically interested in the besuited IMF doyenne. She wants to have skinny lattes with her and effuse about what a role model she is to all the women, ever.

Girl crushes are 75 per cent respect, 24.999 per cent idolatry and 0.001 per cent something nebulously sexual. It’s more about wanting to be someone than wanting to do them.

Girl crush recipients are usually formidable women, the kind of grandes dames who’d look at home riding panthers into battle against an army of patriarchs. Lindsey Hilsum, Oprah, Mary Beard. Either them or Cara Delevingne.

Formidable Woman transcends the world of glass ceilings and economic woe. Formidable Woman is so awesome that a small part of Straight Woman wants to achieve congress with her in the hope that she’ll consume her essence, quadruple in size and become an unfettered feminist giant. So why doesn’t @StraightChick77 just tweet “I think Christine Lagarde is extremely good”? The answer is simple: girl crushes are all about being a lesbian ironically.

We’re at a point in time and space where we do things ironically without even realising. We love Bonnie Tyler and dance furiously to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. We eat ironically in bathos-themed restaurants such as Burger and Lobster and Bubbledogs (the one that serves champagne and hot dogs).

Sorting the lesbians from the “lesbians” does require some level of expertise. @StraightChick77 returns home from a gruelling day of doing whatever it is that heterosexuals do, to find Christine Lagarde in her bed, wearing nothing but a document on public expenditure reform and a string of pearls.

@StraightChick77 needs to clarify to her the nuances of the girl crush – and fast.

“I see,” says Christine Lagarde, putting on her clothes. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m delivering a speech on sub-national credit risk in Geneva, in 15 minutes. Maybe you should think before you use the word ‘crush’, non?”

“Wait!”@StraightChick77 cries: “Let’s do coffee! Tweet me! Christiiiiiiiiine!”

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

This article first appeared in the 01 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The Islam issue

Photo: Getty
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UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.