Laurie Penny: Daily Mail asks women: “Are you a mother or a lover?”

The importance of feminism.

In a poll assessing "What takes priority in your life?", the Daily Mail offers its female readers two priorities: their husband or their children.

One would have thought they'd at least have included "self-loathing" as a third option for those of us who have the temerity to be unmarried, childless, gay, focused on our careers, or simply uninterested in dedicating the greater part of our lives to caring for others.

Fascinatingly, the poll runs next to two articles investigating precisely how much time single, childless women over 38 should devote to guilt, plastic surgery and questioning every professional decision they've ever made. Clearly, women with neither husband nor children are of little interest to the Mail unless they're prepared to be effusively upset about it.

The preferred pose is one of elegant self-loathing, of well-preserved women in expensive dresses confessing that, despite all the good things life and liberation may have brought them, they are miserable and pitiable.

Unsubtle though its message may be, this poll represents rather succinctly what life is really like for many women today, in that we are still discouraged from imagining futures that don't involve servicing the needs of others. We are offered the illusion of choice, formatted in garish baby pink, in a small range of options that serve to exclude any possibility of another kind of life. And that, dears, is why feminism is still important.

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Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.