2018 – The Year of Women? (it’s OK we’ve only been waiting for millennia)

If all facets of the media are to be believed, 2018 is set to be the Year of Women. The ‘we’re not poking up with this crap any longer’ movement has been turbo charged by the crowning of Donald Trump, who is unquestionably the greatest thing that has ever happened to feminism. Now an array of toad-like males in positions of power are being exposed for everything from rape to donning a white bathrobe and asking for a massage. The only people who are surprised by the ubiquity of any of this are most men.

For some, the whole sorry mess presents a different kind of tragedy for gender relations. Who doesn’t love watching poor, beleaguered Dave from Basildon bemoan the fact that a bloke can’t pay a woman a compliment anymore without someone calling the police?  I mean it’s ridiculous. What’s the world coming to?  If things continue like this it might significantly alter the dynamics between men and women forever and the current status quo is so convenient.

But Dave, we shout.  You can pay us as many compliments as you like!  Yes you can!  Pile them on.  Lay’em on with a trowel.  The only teeny weeny difference is in return WE OWE YOU ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  We might say thank you if we’re feeling polite, but we don’t have to be grateful, flatter your ego, agree to spend time with you or perform any favour on the sexual spectrum.  Is that OK, hon?

For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, we find ourselves on fairly familiar turf.  The recent sabre rattling is like Jim Davidson’s nodded off in front of Grandstand for a few decades and is gobbing off because it’s 6 o’clock and his tea should be on the table.  When I was growing up we were surrounded by this kind of mentality and there was nothing subtle about it.  It was blatant on the television, in the newspapers, walking down the street and in every other place, that you were up for grabs.

Becoming a beautiful young woman and coming of age should be a free-flowing, pleasurable experience, right?  Wrong. What it is instead is a deeply uncomfortable and rather brutal awakening where you realise the attention you’re going to get is rarely the type you dreamt about.  It’s nearly always the unwanted variety, emanating from a reptilian older man who thinks that he’s entitled and you’re responsible.  And the biggest kicker in this whole grubby scenario is that everyone around you is reinforcing the idea you have to put up and shut up.

Abandoning the put up and shut up mentality, not just on the subject of unwanted sexual attention, but on everything from equal pay to who’s doing the hoovering, is going to take some gumption. After all, standing up and being counted is terribly unfeminine. Someone might accuse you of being a bloody difficult woman or unlovable or a shrew.

In my opinion, New Year’s Resolutions are for people who are amateurs at life.  However, here are a few aspirations for the female cause in 2018:

  • Mansplaining gets an on the spot mandatory fine. Repeat offenders are sent to the Mary Beard Correctional Centre because you don’t know everything and we are tired of being patronised.
  • Harvey Weinstein is crowbarred out of his sex addict spa (he just wants to wear a bath robe) and forced to work as a runner on an all-female movie franchise that has three sequels. He’ll probably have to do it in a gimp suit because that’s only fair.
  • So-called Liberal men who say things like ‘Hilary Clinton was a bit past it’ do an entire summer on the strip at Magaluf with Dave from Basildon and all his mates. They might own a bread maker, but this is really their tribe.
  • Women everywhere stop signing the invisible contract that says they’ll do an unfair share of the domestic labour and always put themselves and their needs last when no one else in the family has to. You know this is unacceptable horseshit, so why are you still doing it?

Sisters (and brothers), it’s time to start roaring.

Mistress of Reinvention

Mistress of ReinventionRecently, I did a couple of semi-radical things.  Cut my hair off.  Left my job.  OK, it might not be the October Revolution but it’s still change and, to paraphrase Hilary Clinton, I think that’s a good thing.

I’ve never been someone who transitions seamlessly from one chapter to the next.  Something ends and something quite different begins. And although I don’t always know what it’s going to be, experiencing life as a curious mistress of reinvention is far more pleasurable than being a calculating card player.  It also does wonders for your character and gives you much more interesting stories to tell at parties and this, after all, is the point of transformation.

The luxury of time has allowed me to re-establish my flâneur status.  Truth be told, wandering aimlessly as a keen-eyed urban stroller is my natural demeanour.  And London is the ideal place to revel in flâneuserie; look at Virginia Woolf.   I read an article recently about her ‘sailing out into the evening surrounded by the champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets’ so I thought I’d give it a go Dalloway-style in Green Park on a Tuesday lunchtime.  I walked through the avenues of trees, up to Hyde Park Corner, though the gaucheness of Knightsbridge and straight into You Say You Want a Revolution at the V&A.   Yes, I thought.  Yes, I bloody do want a revolution.   I want one right now.  And two hours later, rolling off one of the beanbags where I’d watched Hendrix nimbly strumming the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, I was able to confirm something quite fundamental about myself.  I am seriously pissed off I missed the 1960s.

Me and the 60s were made for each other.  Liberal, anti-authoritarian, a thorn in the side of the establishment, I can’t believe I had to wait until 1973 to exist.  Of course, you’d need to get the 60s at the right time – it wouldn’t have been much fun in a nappy – but I think in the spirit of reinvention I would have started out as a kohl-rimmed beatnik and unravelled to full hippie status by about 1967.  Cheesecloth, beads, incense cones, plenty of batik…..actually, I did do all of this in 1989 when the 60s saw something of a resurgence (a consummate smoker, I was able to retain my doyenne of glamour status by co-ordinating the colour of my smocks with my Sobraine Cocktails) but we still didn’t have Janis and craggy faced Keith.  Nor did we have the same desire to overthrow the status quo and create something new in its place.  The 1960s had the kind of bravery and idealism that changed the things it couldn’t accept, from the position that everyone is connected.  The irony then of Theresa May quoting Sam Cooke at the Tory Party Conference left me, to quote Victoria Wood, adjacent to vomiting.

Reinventing your world is a good thing.  It requires imagination and maybe some courage, but getting off the carousel allows things you didn’t know you wanted to make themselves known, something life’s plotters don’t get the privilege of experiencing.   A change is going to come.  But in the meantime, there’s always fun and cosmopolitan wandering.