This week, the Australian newspaper published an obituary for the bestselling author, Colleen McCullough. McCullough wrote more than 20 books, The Thorn Birds alone sold in excess of 30 million copies but for the Australian, that fact was mere trivia. They opened the article with a disparaging comment about her looks-
“Plain of feature and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth.”
To say I was enraged doesn’t come close. I was at the livid end of fury. Bitterness was left at the post as I moved rapidly through resentment and indignation to full on apoplexy. How, I raged, in this day and age, was this allowed to happen? Surely we’ve moved on, surely we’ve closer to equality than that? How come men aren’t allowed bile -fuelled obituaries anymore? It’s unfair in the extreme, in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s downright sexist.
To be honest, when it comes to hogging the vitriol, I’ve long thought that the feminist movement has been allowed to go a little too far down the equality path. In this area in particular, they’ve left the path and flattened a rain forest. You never see men treated in this fashion anymore, and it’s grossly unfair. In the old days men used to get the sledgehammer treatment all the time. Women, quite rightly, said it was sexist and they wanted a bit of it for themselves, but it’s gone too far the other way as usual and men never get a look in now.
Back in the day, men ruled the roost when it came to disparaging obituaries. Teddy Roosevelt was said to have resembled a walrus with spectacles, whilst Franklyn. D, was reputed to look like a wrinkled potato that hadn’t slept in six years.
Charles Darwin, it was judged, looked like something that came out of the ice just slightly to your left on the evolutionary scale while the great man, Dickens, was described thus; balding, with an increasingly visible comb-over and facial hair that looked like a sloth had crawled onto his face and died.
Not to be outdone, Einstein had a face like a monkey that had stuck its head through an old straw hat and been electrocuted.
I miss those days and while I’m not selfish enough to want to go back to men-only belittlement, I would like to see it shared out a little more evenly.
Whenever I am mentioned, (not, I admit, in obituary form, so there’s hope yet,) reviewers always manage to find the plot and spout off about my writing ability, not always with the adjectives I would have used personally, but I don’t feel denigrated or vilified. No mention is made of my grey hair, my wrinkles are left to sulk by themselves while my rapidly expanding waistline may as well not exist. My manboobs remain unremarked upon and my bespectacled eyes are left to squint, unmentioned in a dark corner.
Life, as they say, is a bitch. I have never been sacked by the BBC for being over forty and though It is high up on my bucket list, I am still awaiting a request to wander naked around a millionaire’s swimming pool while the world’s paparazzi take snaps. I feel cheated, I haven’t even been offered a photo-shopped magazine shoot; such gifts are only ever handed out to the morbidly beautiful and for some reason, David Cameron.