Suzanne Moore’s latest piece, a review of that shining great white hope of female journalism Liz Jones’s book “Girl Least Likely To: 30 Years of Fashion, Fasting and Fleet Street”, managed to both make me angry and deeply hurt all in one go. That’s some feat. Rarely will someone be able to elicit sympathy for Liz Jones, but Suzanne Moore managed it.
Jones has a column which requires some level of self-hatred required to read on a regular basis, in which she espouses on whatever topic has aggrieved Liz Jones. Having written astoundingly awful articles on depression, or stealing your husband’s sperm or [insert badly informed and often absurd topic here], the consensus seems to be that she has to either be a parody of sorts or a deeply troubled woman, probably equal parts of both.
Every so often, Jones will write an article so infuriating and damaging that we can’t help but share it. The Daily Mail get the page hits and Jones gets the infamy. The internet has a term for this. It’s called “feeding the troll”. Whether she believes what she is writing or not is largely immaterial. Her column serves to get The Daily Mail page hits, and for Jones, it seems there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Were they a responsible publication, this would be the first sign that The Daily Mail should take some control, rather than exploit her obvious craving of attention.
Make no mistake about it, the things she writes range from the simply absurd and almost comical, to the deeply disturbing and problematic. It seems she has imbued the very worst of patriarchy and deems to vomit it back in our faces like an infant.
Obviously, there is a critique of her poisonous form of journalism to be done. This isn’t it.
In reading Moore’s critique of Jones’s book, the only thing that leapt out was an asinine and personal contempt for Jones. Suzanne Moore is a feminist, that is, when she isn’t writing transphobic articles and displaying breathtaking levels of ignorance and privilege when told she has been offensive. Who can forget the “chopping off their dicks” comment which spawned so much controversy it caused her to temporarily depart from Twitter as yet another way of getting attention – much like her target Liz Jones employs in her articles – only to return having learned (it seems) very little.
There is nothing feminist about Moore’s piece on Jones, however. Were it feminist, it would’ve have shown a sliver of compassion to the fact that Jones has openly spoken about her eating disorder. Whether she calls it fasting or anorexia, is neither here nor there. The media’s constant thrusting of unattainable bodies which are deemed as “normal”, only leads to internalised self-hatred of the natural body form. Moore knows this, and yet completely ignores it in this piece, choosing to go on the attack.
Liz Jones, however nasty and absurd her opinions may be, is still a woman after all. She is a woman very likely to be suffering from a mental illness. Those who suffer from eating disorders are well versed in its effect on the psyche. How it can change not only what you see in the mirror, but in others, how you treat others and even your beliefs. It permeates every aspect of yourself. For Moore to acknowledge this and then decide to continue with an attack-ridden article is nothing short of bullying. This piece is published in The Guardian, so it’s hardly contrarian. It reads as the equivalent of shouting at an alcoholic to stop drinking. Giving a woman with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia and other problems what is tantamount to a load of abuse, is not going to get her to seek the help she quite clearly needs. It will only make her more unhappy or go on the defensive.
Perhaps The Guardian should consider for a moment here that this is the second time this year that Suzanne Moore has used her platform at the paper to bully the vulnerable, and review her articles they sanction for publication.
The piece also fails to separate Jones’s views, which rightly should be challenged and forcibly so, from her human self. It is almost entirely ad-hominem. Moore makes no acknowledgement of the effect a misogynistic society and internalised misogyny, combined with a mental illness, can have on people. She makes no reference to the fact that the kindest and most moral thing we could do for Jones is to not indulge her views, rather than giving her something to kick against.
Instead, Moore chooses to describe Jones’s miserable life as “almost entirely self-inflicted”. We all know that eating disorders are a form of mental illness, one that lends itself readily to women (and men) in a patriarchal society obsessed with dictating (especially to women) what we should look like and how much we should weigh. Moore knows this, as this is a common issue feminists have with the media. Nobody chooses to have a mental illness, to suggest otherwise shows a lack of understanding on how eating disorders manifest, and an incredible lack of compassion.
As for the “tainted love of narcissism”, Moore omits the fact that any and all form of social commentary, and indeed her very article, requires a degree of narcissism. Why else would you assume anybody gave a fig about what you had to say? To paraphrase The Bible: Let the writer who is without narcissistic traits cast the first stone.
As feminists, we regularly get angry at the victim blaming culture that surrounds rape and violence against women. It would serve Suzanne Moore well to consider how similar she is to those she claims to despise when she next chooses to write a hatchet job on someone she disagrees with.