Last January the first meeting of the All-Party Women’s Group in the UK Parliament met to discuss “The Media: A Female Politician’s Worst Enemy?” Well there’s a subject, eh?
British women no longer apologise in a whisper: they blame themselves and each other in loud and strident voices, refusing to admit or allow any vulnerability, and advocating nothing more to counter misogyny, sexism and gender discrimination than an upper lip so stiff even Brief Encounter’s Celia Johnson would have balked.
“Have you all finished whingeing?” Janet Street-Porter shouted at the rest of the panel of female politicians and leading journalists. “What you lot have to get your heads around is that we’re our own worst enemies. That you get the press you deserve. And that this stuff you hate, is bought by other women.”
You get the press you deserve? Because the world is fair and no one ever throws verbal shit at women just because they’re women? Oy.
Back on the floor, there was more women-blaming to be done. Lady Gillian Shephard, a former secretary of state for the environment, transport and the regions, berated speakers who had dared to admit being upset and intimidated by things the media wrote about them and other women.”One really should not get hung up on the stuff you read about yourself in the papers or be enticed into victimhood,” she snapped.
“Women today are, I have to say it, inclined towards victimhood. [When I was younger] I didn’t know about feminism, I just thought I would get on with it.”
And that’s all there is to it, because there are no barriers to “just getting on with it”; it’s simply a matter of trying harder.
And there you have it. No matter that the media’s laceration of women might have something to do with the fact that just 17% of David Cameron’s 121 ministers are women; that women make up just 15% of UK board members; or that contributions from women on Radio 4’s Today are so few and far between that, on any one day, listeners can go two hours without hearing a female voice.
No matter that this environment enables us to remain a nation of teenage boys who, confronted by a clever, eloquent woman prepared to put her head above the parapet of public life, will stare at her shoes, giggle at her cleavage and gossip about her waistline before we listen – if we ever do – to the words coming out of her mouth.
And no matter that this all culminates in a media climate in which, as the Leveson inquiry heard this week, newspapers routinely engage in inaccurate, prejudicial and victim-blaming when reporting violence towards women, as evidenced by the headline in which a gang rape is called an “orgy in the park”.
No matter to all of that. According to the first all-party group set up to tackle these issues, the answer is almost too simple for words: if you can’t stand the heat, just get your kitten-heels out of the kitchen.
Tits or GTFO.