Real women’s lib would be to free half the planet from gender ring-fence

Jane Austen: A women's writer?

Jane Austen: A women’s writer?

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings,” wrote Jane Austen.

She might usefully have added, “especially in the social media”. Barely had I tweeted on this Guardian blog to suggest there were four years to go (and ample time to find the right quote) before the Jane Austen banknote featured in our wallets, that I was hit by some Twitter users seemingly determined to crash my computer.

And make the limits of my online world go dark. Or that’s how I read the virtual assault.

It must have been the misogynist brigade. I can’t imagine who else would care.

In our increasingly homogenized and egalitarian world, it seems increasingly hard to see a superb writer and acute observer without noting their sex. As Simon Jenkins says it is sad “that Austen had to be championed by a feminist website …Her cause became identified with gender representation rather than with her qualities as a novelist.”

He goes on to pinpoint the way “any ‘feminist issue’ is still treated by the media as the ring-fenced preserve of female commentary. Women are addressed by women much as cricket is addressed by men.”

That’s a problem. For feminism. Perhaps real women’s lib would be to free half the planet from the gender ring-fence.