I Want To Help Those Less Fortunate Than Myself And Promote World Peace – How A Cambridge Medical Student Has Made Some Feminists Very, Very Angry.
Take a long look at the photograph above. Not a difficult task for most of the gentlemen out there of course, but I want the ladies to have a good look at it too. No ladies, stop looking at the shoes, look at the girl.
The girl in the photo is 24 year old Carina Tyrell. She is a Medical Student at Cambridge University. Her father is a scientist who helped design the Large Hadron Collider and her mother is a retired executive with the World Health Organization. She has passed the non-clinical part of her medical degree with first class honours and is set to qualify fully as a doctor in the same manner.
Carina Tyrell is bilingual, a qualified ski instructor, a talented artist and an accomplished dancer and gymnast. She has wanted to be a doctor since she was five years old when she made a mosquito net as part of a school project on malaria. She is, on paper, every feminists wet dream. Yet she has just made a lot of feminists very angry.
The reason for this is linked to the way she is dressed in that photo. She’s not wearing that dress and those heels because she’s attending one of Cambridge University’s infamous Spring Balls. Though most of female attendees to these occasions do dress in a similar manner for those occasions. And some of the male attendees too. It’s a pretty decadent world, the world of the Cambridge Undergraduate.
No, Carina is posing for that photo, dressed in the way she is, because she has just been crowned Miss England. She intends to put her academic career on hold for a year or so to enter the Miss World Pageant. This is making some feminists very angry indeed.
It would be easy to dismiss this reaction as just what some feminists do. They always get angry when someone looks like they might be in danger of having some fun. They always get hot under the collar when a woman achieves anything that doesn’t involve engaging her emotional psychopathy and hacking her way to the top of the morally reprehensible world of the boardroom. The feminists do have a point though, so let’s examine that point.
As far as I understand it, the main feminist point seems to be that we should celebrate female intelligence and achievement rather that going all misty eyed over feminine pulchritude. I have to admit to agreeing with the “achievement” part of that statement. Women’s achievements should be celebrated on equal footing with men’s achievements. More so in fact. The world is still a hideously sexist place and women’s achievements are harder fought for than men’s. Though again, I’m dubious as to how far getting into boardrooms and maximizing profits by sacking people and ruining their lives should be celebrated.
Where the argument falls down for me is the lumping together of intelligence and achievement as if they are somehow synonymous. They are not. Intelligence is not an achievement, it’s a God given gift. Clever people are born clever. They no more achieve their cleverness than they achieve their height or the colour of their eyes. I know this by personal experience.
Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I joined Mensa. By “a galaxy far, far away”, I mean the small Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know what I mean by “a galaxy far, far away”. I joined Mensa by passing a written exam. I didn’t prepare for that exam. I just paid a fee, turned up, did the exam and bingo, I was in the clever club. It was no more of an achievement than joining a “people with blue eyes” society by rolling up to an Optometrist’s passing an eye exam.
So, why celebrate intelligence but shy away from celebrating physical beauty? They are both just happy accidents of nature. In fact physical beauty is far more transient than intelligence, so why not celebrate it more?
Beauty contest are puzzling affairs, there’s no doubt about that. They’re not all about physical beauty though. Yes, there’s a swimsuit round and an evening gown round, but one thing is certain. It’s never actually the prettiest girl or the girl with the best figure that actually wins. As Carina Tyrell herself puts it about being crowned Miss England : “I’m not the prettiest girl in Cambridge, let alone England.” I’ve never been able to puzzle out what the fuck beauty pageants actually are about, but I do know that they are really fucking competitive and that the process of winning them isn’t easy by any means. It’s not like joining Mensa. You don’t just turn up and the prize is yours.
I first read about the story of Carina Tyrell in an article in The Daily Mail a few days ago. It was written by a journalist called Helen Weathers. There was one comment in the article which particularly struck me. It was this. “Why set aside years of hard academic work to pursue the prize of a luxury holiday, free fake tan and tooth whitening, and all the shoes and handbags a girl could wish for?”
Why indeed? What girl would be remotely interested in luxury holidays and a limitless supply shoes and handbags? Though I guess the tooth whitening and fake tan is a matter of personal preference. This journalist seems to be suggesting that, as an intelligent woman, Carina Tyrell has no right to have any interest in such frippery.
This is surely a little dictatorial and shows no recognition of the fact that there’s more than one way of being a one dimensional human being. Unless this journalist was being ironic of course, but I have read The Daily Mail on many occasions and have yet to detect any traces of irony in its pages apart from the unintentional variety. If she was being ironic, then well done to Helen Weathers. Sneaking intentional irony past The Daily Mail’s beady eyed sub-editors is a celebration-worthy female achievement in itself.
The point that some feminists are missing about Carina Tyrell is that she is merely setting aside her years of hard academic study, she’s not actually throwing them away. Carina has achieved many things in her life so far. She’s only 24, but the fact is that she’s always going to be clever. She’s not always going to look like she does in the photo at the top of this post.
When she passes her medical degree, which no doubt she will do with flying colours, she will be a junior doctor. She will be working 100 hour weeks. Most of the sleep she will get will be snatched fleetingly on one of the cots in the side room of a hospital ward. There will be little chance of any glamour in her life when she’s gloved up, performing a manual evacuation on a pensioner’s impacted colon and all the other horrible stuff junior doctors are required to do.
As Miss England she will have a year of being treated like minor royalty. Why shouldn’t she enjoy a sort of gap year filled with shoes, handbags and champagne? She’ll certainly have some interesting stories to tell. The stories most doctors tell tend to be a bit single minded and gruesome, which is why doctors usually only tend to be invited to dinner parties by other doctors.
Carina Tyrell is, in her own way, just pursuing the original feminist ideal of “having it all”. The criticism levelled at her sounds a lot like sour grapes to me. And hypocrisy. Germain Greer, inventor of the phrase “fuck me shoes” said this on the subject of Carina Tyrell “It seems like a bit of a tacky way to start off your career.” If you want to test out how solid the ground Ms Greer stands on in this instance, type “Germain Greer Naked” into Google Images and look at the photos she posed for in a 1971 issue of “Suck” Magazine. Now that’s showing the Phallocentric world what you’re made of. And indeed what you had for breakfast.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2014