In a recent article entitled ‘Sigh: So Kill Me’ in the University Times, Leanna Byrne commented on the popular Irish fashion and beauty blog So Sue Me, decrying it as a mark of shallow consumerism and an affront to womankind. Says she:
“What the So Sue Me blog is giving us is a woman who eats, breathes and lives as a consumer. She is nothing more than the value her clothes or her beauty regime holds. A Barbie doll that is quite content living in the isolated confinement of the Dream House. With so few women as opinion leaders in the media, it is disappointing to see that one of the most influential female bloggers is one who conforms to a predetermined concept of ‘female’.”
The writer is, of course, completely entitled to dislike beauty blogs and even entitled to write an article about it. The problems begin when she starts linking her opinion to a feminist perspective. A single blog can’t define the boundaries of what it means to be a woman, regardless of its popularity. So Sue Me is designed to cater to the needs of people who are interested in fashion and beauty, the same way Gibbon’s Stamp Monthly is designed to cater to the interests of stamp collectors.
The hateful language in which Byrne describes the blog, its creator and its readers betrays a writer with a serious axe to grind and little of value to say. It serves only to fuel the stereotype that all feminists are bitter, angry and childish and it forces women who identify with feminist values to distance themselves from the word itself for fear of being linked to these qualities.
The real question is why the writer felt the need to direct her anger at an innocuous fashion blog, when there are countless other examples of insidious sexism in Irish society and the media. Unfortunately few people are willing to speak up about it. This is why it’s so disappointing to see a strong female voice go to waste on an issue that shouldn’t even be an issue.
By attacking the lifestyle that Suzanne Jackson champions on her site, the author is (ironically) setting boundaries for what is ‘acceptable’ for women to be interested in. Suzanne Jackson doesn’t (at least publicly) shame other women for not caring about makeup and clothes, where Byrne openly slates women who are. I’m a woman and a feminist and I also like reading makeup reviews, but by Byrne’s standards, that simply isn’t possible. Gender equality should be about opening doors, not closing them.