Not an Odalisque

Aiming at Amis

with 3 comments

Once a fortnight I resist throwing things at Martin Amis. Usually books, but it depends what else is to hand. I haven’t had the guts to knit during sessions with him, but if I did, I’d launch my needles like javelins. Amis isn’t evil—he hasn’t killed people or spoken at the theatre—he just has a habit of making smug pronouncements that force me to sit on my hands for fear of doing something violent.

Today he announced the end of class and gender discrimination. The only oppressive system left, apparently, focuses on age, so we should concern ourselves with the old. Martin Amis is white, male, and not getting any younger. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why his concern lies where it does.

We made some points about education, I pointed out that class affects identity, and pulled some faces. What I didn’t do was rant and gesticulate, talk about the disproportionate number of women living in poverty, weep over the woman jailed because her abuser pressured her into retracting her rape claim, or demand to know why he hadn’t set a single novel by a female author. It wouldn’t have felt appropriate. He’s eminent, after all. Most of the eminent people are old, white men.

I’ve never taken the toffee-hammer approach to feminism. Generally, I think we’re like to get further if we don’t give everyone a reason to write us off as hysterical madwomen. So I wait my turn and voice my disagreements, if invited, politely. Even if I haven’t bothered to shave my legs, I’ve put on a skirt, hold-ups and some new Chanel foundation that I really couldn’t afford. I’m a nice, middle-class girl, after all.

Sometimes I imagine a life in which I wasn’t polite. I replay the moment when Martin Amis said that women should stop sleeping with gloomy novelists, because it only encourages them, and visualise myself saying what every woman in the room must have been thinking: that he didn’t have a chance with us, and sex with women isn’t some sort of rewards system for writers, in fact, some of them are women. I’d go back and tell all the guys who talk about their aggressive driving that they are dicks, and strip off in front of men who harass me on the street. Every time a man made a sexist comment while pretending to seek understanding of women or feminism I would slap his face and walk away.

I know that this isn’t how you build understanding or change minds. I realise that people are more likely to forget what you told them than how you made them feel. I have ideals and mediation training and Martin Amis’s autobiography. None of that changes this: I want to throw things at Martin Amis. If I’m arrested for assault, will the feminists bail me out?

Written by Not an Odalisque

November 24, 2010 at 12:01 am

3 Responses

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  1. I dont think amis is any different from most people. feminists are self-interested, privileging gender over other differences, gay men are often obsessed with gay rights, trans people can be decidedly focussed on trans rights etc etc.

    but if you want to punch him just for being a knob, I would support you, even though I am not a feminist. The fact he has no books by women on your course though, is ridiculous.

    Quiet Riot Girl

    November 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm

  2. I don’t know Martin Amis (whereas you obviously do!) but I think one probably needs to have a sense of humour to understand really what he’s about (not that I’m suggesting for a moment that you don’t!)

    Can he really believe that the feminist project is done now, or that the class war has been fought and won? I wouldn’t of thought so. But he has a point about age though doesn’t he? That we are living longer than ever, and that ‘the old’ (the retired, unwaged and increasingly less mobile) will soon be about a third of our total population, which will be about 20 million people in a few years time?

    Perhaps his slightly hyperbolic assertions are a strategy designed to project an issue into the foreground so that people actually notice it and some head-scratching and beard stroking and ask themselves some questions ?

    I’m no apologist for Martin Amis but I don’t think he believes the whole equality thing is done and dusted. And the suggestion that women should stop sleeping with gloomy novelists because it only encourages them – that’s funny isn’t it? And were there really others in your class thinking ‘He doesn’t have a chance with me?’ And I’d hardly call his novels gloomy.

    But yes, he is rather silly sometimes, I agree.

    And I think you should definitely knit, and if he asks just say you are taking notes.

    Apart from all that… Nice blog! Lots to read! I shall certainly come back.



    November 26, 2010 at 8:59 am

  3. @Quiet Riot Girl I understand that we tend to get angry about the things we experience ourselves, but that doesn’t necessitate denying other issues. I can be a white woman focussing on feminism without saying that racism doesn’t exist. It does, even if it doesn’t trouble me overly. I’ll try to resist punching him, but if I do, I’ll hit that much harder with your support.

    @Homme de Plume I don’t see how denying other issues raises awareness of ageism, but even if we accept that it does, why target a writing class for that campaign? He’s got a bigger loudspeaker in the form of the Guardian. No, I didn’t find the gloomy novelist comment funny, and judging by the silence in the room, no one else did, either. That something is funny doesn’t make it correct, or any less offensive. At least one person spoke of thinking the same thing I did. I have, on occasion, found him humorous, just not while he’s being misogynistic.



    November 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

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