Monday, 4 May 2015

She's not like other girls...

I’m not like other girls! You can’t straighten my curls

No, sadly this post is NOT about PJ Harvey, I just can’t get that song out of my head because of the title of this post. 

It’s about BABIES!!

(Jarvis! Such moves!)

It’s about BABIES and EQUALITY! 

Yes, that’s right - unless you have been living under a rock for the last two days you’ll know by now we have a NEW PRINCESS! They even lit up Tower Bridge pink because girls are pink amirite it’s innate don’t you know, it’s not like gender is a construct and rigidly policed by societal expectations from the moment of the 20 week scan…But anyway, just as this post isn’t about PJ Harvey or Pulp or Jarvis Cocker’s dancing skills, it’s also not about gender stereotypes. 

It’s about this one sentence in Allison Pearson’s frankly nauseating front page Telegraph article published today called:

I mean, that headline tells you all you need to know about the squishy, sickly, syrupy prose. But the line in the article that caught my eye was:

One day, they will have to explain to their daughter that she is not quite like other little girls

She is not quite like other little girls. 

There you have it. One sentence that explains the utter absurdity of having a monarchy and a system of inherited privilege in 2015. 

It’s a system that enshrines inequality from day one. At some point, Pearson remarks, William and Kate will have to explain to Baby Girl that she is not like other girls. Not because she is special and unique and her own marvellous little person - as all girls and boys are. But because she was born into a family that has inherited wealth and privilege that most boys and girls born today could never imagine. And they haven’t inherited that wealth and privilege for any other reason than at some point in history their ancestors won a battle and decided winning the battle gave them a divine right to rule, and when we challenged that assumption we then gave them that right - and all the glitz and wealth that went with it - back, and have failed to challenge it since. 

Ca ira…

How can we ever hope for an equal and truly meritocratic society when we continue to insist that one family is apart from us? That one baby born on 2 May 2015 will not be ‘like other girls’ simply because of the family she was born in to? 

As a socialist, as a feminist, damn it as a human being - I cannot agree to a system that says this one baby is different to every other baby born on Saturday, and to every other baby born before and since. I cannot agree to a system that says one child will be born to wealth and privilege, whilst other children are born in poverty. I cannot agree with Allison Pearson as she cosily coos that this baby is “not like other girls” - not, again, because all of us are unique but because she was born to inherit power and wealth and we were born to…not. 

I believe that we must and should all be born equal with equality of opportunity to live out our true potential. I believe that every baby born in this country and around the world has the right to grow and learn and develop that potential. I do not believe that this Baby Girl is any more or any less special, any more or any less deserving, than all the other baby girls simply because of who her parents are. 

To me, the monarchy continues to be a great con. To paraphrase Marx, it’s offered to us as an opiate for the masses. I can’t help see the irony of this great celebration of inequality coming at the end of a government that has seen the yawning gap between rich and poor widen and widen until food bank usage has risen dramatically whilst the Times Rich List is the healthiest it’s looked in years. As we cheer and wave our flags in appreciation of the new baby, Cameron uses the rhetoric of scroungers and shirkers vs hardworking families as a justification to cut life-supporting benefits from the poorest and most vulnerable in society. As parents of disabled children are forced out of their homes because of the bedroom tax, we all quietly ignore the Royals requesting a hardship fund. As we’re told that people should work for free or lose their benefits, we all look away as William and Kate spend £4 million on refurbishing their palace that we pay for. 

It’s not fair. It’s not right. We cannot end inequality and have a monarchy. We cannot pretend we want equality when we place one family above anyone else for no reason other than history. 

And then of course, what about the baby herself? Does she want to be different to all the other little girls? William and Kate are (rightly) praised for their determination to keep their children away from the media glare. But when she’s 18 and not under their protection anymore, how long will it be before sneering articles come out mocking her body? Is that a future we want for any little girl - to grow up knowing that everything she wears will be mocked, that her body will be held up for scrutiny and found wanting? Perhaps the media should have actually read Mantel’s essay on Royal Bodies and learnt something from it, instead of calling her ‘ugly’. No one deserves the bile and hate that is poured on to royal women’s bodies. Why should she have to grow up under that spotlight? Why does she not get a choice either? 

Having a monarchy means we can never have a truly equal society. Having a system where one family have more, enjoy more and are told they deserve more merely because they are born into that family means our society will never be equal. How can we look at the babies born this weekend and tell them they can be anything they want to be, when at the same time we tell one baby that she’s not like other girls? How can we justify that inequality, that legally-enshrined unfairness, to all the children born this weekend? 

I wish William and Kate and the new baby well. But I also wish that this farce would come to an end. We are so far from having a true meritocracy where everyone is truly equal. And we won’t get any closer to that truly equal society so long as we have a monarchy. 

Why don’t we want equality for every baby born? Why are we happy to accept, in syrupy cooing prose, that one baby will always be different from us? Why we are we happy to accept that inequality for our own children? 

I’m not. 

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