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Words that, from her father, might as well be spoken in Mandarin, but from you, could yet have an impact. At a literary event in Edinburgh last week, the award-winning author talked about her seven-year-old daughter Kit’s beauty routine.
You have spoken words that my darling daughter Martha needs to hear.
Hopefully, she will take her beauty routine to one of the nation’s finest universities next year and who will be laughing then? Unlike me, she is relaxed about it all, despite being the much stricter parent.
It feels different, because it feels more like I’m rejecting a person, well, personally, rather than saying they aren’t the right fit or we had more qualified applicants. I do indeed think the etiquette for rejection in different in these two situations: It’s much more acceptable not to reply to messages from would-be suitors on online dating sites than it is for employers not to reply to job applicants.
(Not that they always do, of course, but there’s more of an expectation of it.) But a really big part of it is the reality that most women doing online dating quickly learn that if they send polite rejections to men who contact them, they’ll receive an enormous number of hostile and even abusive responses.With online dating, there’s more of a cultural norm (among most people, at least) that if you’re not interested, there’s no need to respond to say that; it’s okay to just delete the message.Part of it, too, is that there’s more of an understanding (or at least there’s supposed to be) that hiring and applying for jobs is, well, business not personal.Most of all, it’s the level of concentration devoted to the whole rigmarole that I find so alarming. So when Mum read her book The Second Sex it led to an awakening. For by responding to the pressure to peer into it, women are complicit in turning themselves into objects to be looked at. Tell her you can care about your eyebrows and your job and she’ll be raising hers from beyond the grave. Being interested in make-up is not a sign of being controlled by other people, or wanting to be controlled by them. And its message is as deeply relevant to my daughter and her generation as it was to my Mum’s, because the message is not about whether you can get a good job and go where you want and wear what you like — all freedoms Martha has that Mum did not — it’s about what it means to be a woman. Of course, life has changed hugely since de Beauvoir was writing after World War II and women today can care about their looks and have fulfilling careers. I am not the slightest bit worried about what people think I look like — or at least no more worried than you are when you shave before going to the Today programme studios.
But can the mirror still act as the same trap today? She has politely put it outside her door, on the floor.