“It is time to effect a revolution in female manners – time to restore to them their lost dignity – and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world. It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners.”

“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

 

On the 19th of January a group of men described as being of a certain calibre and dressed up like Penguins filed into one of the most expensive hotels in the country feeling mightily pleased with themselves. They had money and had paid a lot of money for a good night out at The Dorchester. What could go wrong doing what they had been doing for years?

They were about to disgrace themselves in a monumental way but were completely unaware because they felt cosily cocooned by their wealth and status. They all belonged to an exclusive male only club known as ‘The President’s Club’.

These men, full of their own self-importance, were devoid of any shred of decency or morality. If they had any in the first place these were discarded somewhere along their journey from workplace to The Dorchester where an annual charity fundraising event was being held.

The men knew full well what was awaiting them – a large number of women in short skirts, high heels and matching underwear who were mainly, sadly, unaware that they were the evening’s entertainment.

They gathered together as if the Dorchester ballroom was a boundaried territory for rich Alpha male cave man instincts with a huge sense of self-entitlement that made them think they were untouched by the whole #metoo movement and the global spike in awareness of sexual harassment.

These moneyed men must have felt utterly unfettered when the evening was kicked-off with a message from the compere welcoming them to the “most unPC event of the year”.

As if to further prove that anti-feminism is a thriving movement too this utterly immoral and possibly illegal event was enabled by a woman called Caroline Dandridge who owns the agency, Arista, that ran the event. She hired the hostesses based on the criteria that they had to be ‘tall, thin and pretty’. She ensured that there was an atmosphere of oppression at the dinner which forbade the girls from having their phones, making them sign non-disclosure agreements beforehand about the event and, even, advised them not to tell their boyfriends about it. The company has since taken down the ‘about’ section on Carolyn Dandridge from the website but here is a cached version.

She took advantage of young women who felt unable, for one reason or another, to fight back against the culture of misogyny that they were led into. Caroline Dandridge colluded with rich city men types to buffet them against the evolutionary process of women’s rights. Absolutely galling when you think that this all happened after the post-Weinstein horror. It’s not been ten minutes since Time magazine, a favourite with City types, voted the #metoo movement as the most notable event of 2017.

The female MPs who raised this fiasco in the House of Commons are to be applauded especially Jo Swinson.

A new generation of female MPs recognise the brutality of sexual harassment unlike those of another generation who think that they are still living in a ‘Carry On’ movie – accommodate the naughty man while putting him in his place.

The sense of entitlement felt by the men who attended the event and Caroline Dandridge is class based. Money and power allows you to buy anything regardless of what society demands. Forget equality and self-respect. The UK is still a country where loadsamoney and class rules.

There is comedy and then there is something trying very hard to be comedy. So-called comedy sketches about ‘What women want?’ falls into the latter category.  These aren’t funny and are downright boring and insulting to women.

As entertainment value, ‘What do women want?’ is a joke that is as old as the hills. Tired repeated formulas lack entertainment value after sometime. When lost for comedy content the ‘cherchez la femme’ ploy is the low-hanging fruit. It is as lazy as it is misogynistic.

Making women the butt of comedy as a gender based joke is disrespectful too if it is executed via the use of socially constructed essentialisms. The jokes are built on a premise that women are difficult, mysterious and devious one half of the population who are out to trip the other half up.

The inbuilt exasperation in these ‘jokes’ is meant to elicit empathy from men who are assumed to be suffering from the same affliction as the comedian in trying to understand what it is that women want. These ‘jokes’ are conveyed as being half-truths.

The narrative plays into the patriarchal construct of women being mysterious creatures to be wary of because they possess powers to confuse and confound you. These ‘jokes’ are repeated with an intensity as if a stream of them will eventually result in a key being unearthed that will help men unlock all this mystery.

Over time these ‘jokes’ become layered on top of each other to become so commonplace that any feminist who doesn’t laugh at them is accused of not having a sense of humour. Again, the women bears the fault. First we are so complex that jokes have to be invented to help men cope with us. The least we can do is laugh goes the reasoning. When we don’t laugh we are accused of not having a sense of humour.

The fact that the jokes are unfunny is neither here nor there to the accusers.

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #498

 

A mother has called for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale to be banned from schools for fear that a kissing scene featured could encourage ‘inappropriate behaviour’.  Sarah Hall from Newcastle is concerned about the message the scene is sending to her 6-year old son on consensual relations.  A Prince kissing a sleeping woman who, obviously, has not consented is anathema in the context of the new enlightenment on sexual harassment against women.

The aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations has, predictably, resulted in a binary system of ‘for’ or ‘against’. There are those who applaud the women who have come forward and who are seeking to rewrite society’s rules on how men treat women. The other half are the ‘against-ers’ who are still making excuses for men and blaming women for what happened to them. Sarah Hall has captured the pulse of those in the ‘for’ camp. She is shining the spotlight on a story that has been regurgitated countless times globally to young children.

I wholeheartedly support her campaign for the simple reason that society is a evolving entity. Our thoughts, analyses and opinions are shaped by our experiences and new unfolding circumstances. We would be mugs as mothers for not absorbing and questioning what challenges the status quo. We have a huge responsibility to educate our children and this extends to questioning accepted wisdom and absorbing it into contemporary truths.

Reading fairy tales to our children plays a huge part of our mothering especially when you consider that this is an activity that is done both during the day and at bedtime. When my daughter was under 5 I would read to her mid-morning and in the evening before bath time as a ritual to get her ready for bed. Her father would then read to her after tucking her into bed. Aggregate these hours and you will get a sense of how much children are exposed to fairy-tales. Children are internally absorbing these messages without challenges. We accepted these stories as being cast in stone when we ourselves were children. The act of parental storytelling is also one of passing these stories down unchallenged. Sarah Hall is turning this supposed inevitability around.

I do wonder how much support her campaign will receive from schools though. For every parent who supports her there will be many others who will dispute it and see the taking away of fairy tale telling as somehow diminishing the experience of childhood.

However, she has opened up a discourse that is worth taking forward but one, in my opinion, which ought to recognise the role of mothers as story tellers. My Asian cultural experiences help me add another dimension to this experience. I used to make up stories for my daughter which involved tales of courage and overcoming adversity. Reading from a book isn’t the only way Asian mothers tell stories. I made up stories involving little Asian children who rode elephants, had mothers who were poverty stricken, sick children who needed doctors and little girls who grew up to become independent women. Mother story telling provides large opportunities for reimagining society and being fodders for inspiration.

While some of my stories did reflect the stereo type Asian mother who prioritises educational success there were also nuances on bravery and the importance of values.

If your child is hearing fairy tales that don’t align with your values don’t despair. You, as a mother, are the premier story teller. Yours could incorporate your values and belief system.Our search for rethinking and revaluating the status quo powerfully begins with us. By imparting this wisdom to your children your story telling takes on a persona that contradicts the simple regurgitation of ‘happily ever stories’.

This blog post was ranked 8th in the weekly Golden Dozen published on 26 November 2017

 

Edwina Currie is far from being a good egg when it comes to understanding sexual harassment

There is a certain type of woman popping up on the media all gung ho style and jolly hockey stick japes to tout a version of female machismo which, apparently, all women ought to have adopted or should adopt to fend off male harassment. The flick of the female hand followed by a witty put-down in a voice that is serious enough to convey her rebuttal would have been sufficient, supposedly, to stop the tidal wave of allegations being made by women around the world of sexual harassment.

It started a few weeks ago with Elizabeth Hurley being interviewed on Sky News about how Harvey Weinstein had never made any advances towards her. The reason for this, according to Hurley, was because Weinstein knew that she would have thwacked him.

It is an extremely puerile and self-obsessed view which considers oneself as being above the ugliness of harassment based on one’s belief in one’s own supposed strength of character.

Did it occur to Elizabeth Hurley that the women who fell victim to Weinstein’s predatory nature were the brave and strong ones who used their voices to speak up rather than peddle forth some nonsense about how treating men as if they were children would immediately rid them of their predatory nature? Probably not.

That was the first hint of the daft dumbed down thinking espoused by self proclaimed ‘strong women’ that was to be inflicted on us.

Since then, we have had Julia Hartley-Brewer give us her opinion on the gradations of sexual harassment with a hand on the knee hardly registering on the scale. This, ironically, is the woman who informed the public about the time Michael Fallon put his hand on her knee. She has downplayed the incident even though she brought it up herself. In all this muddly mix one struggles to find a nugget of wisdom on how to deal with sexual harassment.

Edwina Currie who appeared on the ‘BBC This Week’ programme came across as someone who is extremely out of touch with the modern female world of work and play when she defended to the death, as I saw it, a man’s right to be a man. Edwina Currie is the archetypal older woman who went through the political system some decades ago and thinks that the world has not and, more to the point, should not change to alter the yesteryear when it pandered to men’s whims.

Adopting a macho attitude to male perpetrated sexual harassment is akin to being an apologist for it. These type of women will bend over backwards to accommodate men because it makes them feel equal to the so-called ‘superior sex’. They are desperate to show that they have made it in a man’s world by playing by the rules set by men. It makes these women feel macho and macho is good. Margaret Thatcher was the high priestess of this school of thought.