Gentle Jane

I’ve been cogitating on my response to the Pinnyporn furore for most of the last week. (If you need a bit of background on Pinnyporn, have a look at this blog, this book, this column, and this interview.) There have been a couple of barriers to me setting out my feelings on the matter, the most crippling of which is that I haven’t read the book. I’ve been intending to go to Waterstone’s and flick through it: unfortunately, children, housework, errands and thesis-work have denied me that particular luxury (and yes, that massive clunking noise was the sound of a Heavy Irony drawing attention to itself). If that doesn’t convince you that my commentary is going to be ill-informed and speculative, please bear in mind that I don’t read Yarnstorm either – having recoiled from the blog in a combination of class discomfort (a bit like Alice) and downright jealousy.

I read plenty of blogs. Some blogs, I check in on simply because I don’t like them and I need to pick up a bit more fuel for my ire every once in a while. But disliking Yarnstorm wasn’t a fun sort of dislike, because it felt a bit like being mean to Jane Brocket, and being mean to Jane Brocket would feel a bit like kicking a kitten. She’s so gentle. She likes what she does, she does it well, and she gives every impression of being a lovely and intelligent person with a very nice camera. She exudes a contentment which is essentially precious, and I would hardly like to be the person to spoil that bliss. (A bliss which, as Needled points out, is sustained by a system of privilege and exclusion.)

And yet… Brocket doesn’t make me happy. Reading her blog leaves me with a gnawing feeling that my life is Not Quite Good Enough, a troublesome thought that if only I would Try Harder at the domestic stuff, I might find there all the satisfactions I go looking for in my nascent career. (And yes, I feel that this is a personal failure, not one I share with my partner – even though the housekeeping and childrearing are shared responsibilities. This is the gentle art of domesticity, and the adjective gentle belongs to the class of female attributes, places the domesticity squarely in my purview.) This, to my understanding, is the grammar of pornography: the object that elicits desire, the desire that elicits dissatisfaction, the dissatisfaction that drives one back to the object.

So, I can’t rouse any indignation about the Pinnyporn moniker. Yes, it’s clearly wrong to dismiss baking, knitting and other female-dominated activities as “unfeminist” (I’ve blogged about this subject before). Yes, attaching porn to domestic pursuits is a quick and devastating way to draw in, unfairly, a whole culture of female subjugation. Yes, it’s crude and a bit lazy (and funny, too – it wouldn’t have any sting if it wasn’t funny). But looking at the strange, airy world of Yarnstorm with its mouth-watering pictures, I find the comparison hard to deny. I’ve heard pornography described as the propaganda of the sex wars; Yarnstorm is the propaganda of the bun wars.

7 thoughts on “Gentle Jane

  1. Great read, and the link to Needled was good too.I liked the book, I liked the pictures, recpes, flowers, knitting and all the chit chat in it because I know that life is not all perfect and Jane won’t really be living in a sugar -coated world of fairy buns all the time. I am sure she stresses about all the usual stuff. The only difference being that she has the privilage of being at home. I can fantasise about having a lifestyle like that whilst I go off and clean a posh persons already clean house this morning!!
    PS: I wish I could write my opinions down so well, I think that is why I failed my A level english!!

  2. The use of the term ‘gentle’ and the plethora of connotations it carries were also what irked me about the whole debacle. I think I may well need to take a detour to Waterstones prior to hitting the library, in order to satisfy my curiosity.

  3. Great post!

    As you know, I’m a former professional/career woman now living a nice stay at home life of ‘domesticity’ with my children but I have exactly the same feelings of discomfort on the whole thing.

    In a (very) superficial way, you could say my life is quite like Jane’s. Only with cheap vodka and trips to Lidl.

  4. Eer, uum…. so many issues involved. So many class/gender/political issues involved here, dontchya think?

    Just going off to have a snooze. I think I’ve been here on this debate, in a major way, during the 1970s. And not sure if I can add to this argument per se at this moment in time. But I can photograph some damn good pan scrubbers, yeh?

  5. It’s so very long since we heard from you :(

    I do hope you’re just busy doing wonderful and exciting things.

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