I’m standing at the sink, looking at dirty saucepans and say, “domestic drudgery tends to vitiate a lively interest in world affairs, love.”
She says, “plain English mum.” I say, “women are all too busy loading dishwashers.”
My husband, who’s loading the dishwasher, gives me an eloquent look. My daughter says “in fact, now I come to think of it, there are way more famous men than women,” and asks, “how come?”
I’m tempted to repeat my dishwasher rationale but say “there are lots of famous women,” instead. “Like who?” she asks. She says she can’t think of many, “apart from stars, like.” For one scary moment, neither can I. I try to think of women who are famous for something other than being skinny and hot, but Cheryl Cole has sprung into my mind, flicking her hair, all glossy and toothy, telling me that ‘I’m worth it’ and this is getting in the way of proper thinking.
Scrubbing a pan, I begin to list female authors off ad-hoc.
“Apart from authors,” my daughter says.
“But they count,” I say.
“I know, but you know what I mean,” she says. I’m not sure I do. Perhaps their fame isn’t global or stellar enough?
“How about Michelle Obama?” I say, “and that Burmese politician?”
I hope she doesn’t ask for details about the Burmese politician. “What Burmese politician?” she asks.
“You know, Aung San something, the one under house arrest for years and years,” I say.
“That’s a bit random,” she says, “and Michelle Obama is just married to Barack Obama.”
Ha. Game over! My morning fix of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has taught me all I need to know about Michelle.
“No,” I say, “she’s a distinguished academic in her own right...” She cuts me short, “apart from Michelle Obama,” she says.
Right. “Frieda Kahlo,” I say. I am going to have to be quick and lock in hard; she looks as if she might tell me Frieda doesn’t count either. “Adele, Maria Callas, Mary Robinson, Madonna, Oprah, Angela Merkel, Annette Bening, Britney Spears, Imelda Marcos, Kate Moss, Anna Wintour, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Theresa, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Munroe, Claudia Winkleman, Cleopatra and Mary Harney.” (What can I say? I can’t account for who comes into my head or the order in which they arrive.)
I take a breath. “Sports-women!” I exclaim suddenly. My daughter jumps. “Ask Dad,” I say, “he’ll give you a list...”
“I get it, mum,” she says, “relax.”
“I am relaxed,” I say. “No, you’re not,” she says, “you’re getting all weird about women again.”
“Suffragettes,” I say, thinking bulls-eye! “Emily Pankhurst,” I say, “and hey! What about the early feminists, like…”
“I hate feminists,” she says, shuddering.
“You hate feminists?” I ask.
She says, “feminists like Germaine whatshername — they make such a fuss about nothing and they look awful. Why don’t they shave their armpits? I mean what’s that about?”
And then she adds, “what are suffragettes again… are they the ones that fought for the vote?”
“Yes,” I say, “they’re the ones who fought for their right to vote, and yours.”
“Yay! They fought for me! So I can vote for men all the time!” She has cracked herself up with this remark. She wheezes, “Mum, you should see your face,” and laughs some more, “relax,” she says shaking her head, “God, you’re so weird about women.”
Heading into the sitting room, she says, “I know women are equal to men, Christ, I mean, look.” She points at my husband, fiddling about with I don’t know what inside the dishwasher. “I mean Dad does loads around the place, cooking and stuff, I mean you have it pretty equal, so chill.”
I scrub the last pan. My husband shuts the dishwasher door. “And I clean the dishwasher filter,” he says and gives me another eloquent look.