New Times,
New Thinking.

16 June 2010updated 09 Feb 2015 6:12pm

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

The importance of feminism.

By Laurie Penny

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.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett’s “When the Lights Went Out”.

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change