Women-only swimming sessions are a bit like being at Whites’ or the Garrick club only with a lot more moving and shaking. Photo: Getty
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Rumbled! What life for women is really like

With a lifetime of free drinks, doors held open and watching Loose Women, women have got it made. Oh wait, no.

Recently on Twitter I was distracted by the mention of Loose Women. It’s hard not to be. Every feminist worships at the altar of this lunchtime show in which ALL the regular panel members are WOMEN. I haven’t watched it in years but I know that, whenever I’m in doubt as to whether the feminist vision has been realised, I think of Loose Women and know that all’s well in the world. That Carol who was once married to Chris Evans, and the one who played thingy in Coronation Street, and the singer my dad liked on Cruise Ship — don’t worry, sisters, whatever the problem, they’ll have your back.  

Of course, I shouldn’t be too open about this. After all, as a feminist, it’s important to have something to moan about, otherwise where would we be? Hence I like to pretend that, in a world in which unequal pay, unequal access to education, a lack of reproductive choices, political non-representation, FGM, rape culture, slut-shaming, violence against women etc. etc. remain rife, Loose Women isn’t enough. Thus, along with all other feminists, I spend my time on twitter trolling men’s rights activists telling them that if the world was really fair, we wouldn’t have Top Gear.

Anyhow, this morning I saw someone tweet that true equality would mean having Loose Men. Imagine! So I tweeted back to say I’d be happy to see this, providing men got to experience all the other great things women did. This was what I got in response:

Doors held open, drinks bought, opp sex lusting after me, boom! Sounds like paradise!

Damn! I’d been rumbled. That’s the trouble with men’s rights activists — they know how ace women’s lives really are. They know we’re pretending all the other stuff gets to us.

Hence, in a one-off, 100 per cent honest post, I’ve decided to come clean about just how great things are. Just to say sorry. Yes, MRAs, you were right all along. This really is a whining contest and you really are winning. Here’s why:

Doors held open

You would not believe how much energy and vitality you have when you’re saved from the daily drudgery of door-opening. Admittedly women still have to open doors if they’re on their own. Or in the ladies’. And actually I hold open doors myself, for men or women. But still, when I look at a man, I don’t see a person; I see a potential door opener (and closer). It’s rare that I check this privilege, but at least I’m doing it now.

Drinks bought

Over the course of my life, men have bought me enough drinks to make the pay gap, unpaid domestic labour, pension poverty etc look like small change. In drink terms, at least, I am paid several times more than any man on earth. I actually have a Taboo and lemonade lake in my back garden, which I’ve been filling gradually ever since a sixth form social in 1991. I’m sorry, men. But cheers.

Men lusting after us

Women don’t lust after men. Not that we’re frigid. We’re just not slags, either. Or something. Anyhow, we’re saved all the effort of this lusting by men doing it instead. It’s great. Some of them are so forthcoming, too, never taking no for an answer. Why be an active sexual agent when there are men there to do all the hard work for you? Just sit back and be an object, ladies. Result!

Ladies’ Nights and women-only swimming sessions

Ladies’ Nights might be fucking grim, but they’re free for us girls, right? So add that to the scoreboard! As for women-only swimming sessions — well, men, if you’re curious, I’d say they’re a bit like being at Whites’ or the Garrick club only with a lot more moving and shaking (especially when towelling off).

Female primary teachers

Or Pedagogical Fembot X09, to give them their technical term. They’re not actual people, with an interest in teaching all children and the right to be respected, regardless of gender. They’re robots. We, the feminists, programmed them to destroy the self-esteem of little boys simply by telling them to do things while looking female. It’s incredibly powerful and yes, we’re proud of it. It’s working. It’s been even more successful than that time we made sure the dog in the Oxford Reading Tree scheme was called Floppy, just to make all dads reading to their sons feel just that little bit emasculated.

Thelma and Louise

A film in which a woman kills a man who’s trying to rape her mate. The two women run off together. One of them shags Brad Pitt and he steals their money. Then they die. Get that, men? You’d never get that the other way round, would you? Feminist classic (although obviously not as gripping as Loose Women).

That is a one small taster of how privileged we women are. And I’ve not even got onto pink cancer stuff, binmen, Diet Coke Break ads, the fact that we are all white, middle-class, cis and heterosexual (so never suffer in the way that, say, the “white working-class” do – ‘cause they’re all men! Ha!). Being a woman is bloody ace, I tell you.

And on that note I’m off to have a dip in my Taboo and lemonade lake.

This post originally appeared on Glosswitch's blog and is crossposted here with her permission

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.

Garry Knight via Creative Commons
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Why Barack Obama was right to release Chelsea Manning

A Presidential act of mercy is good for Manning, but also for the US.

In early 2010, a young US military intelligence analyst on an army base near Baghdad slipped a Lady Gaga CD into a computer and sang along to the music. In fact, the soldier's apparently upbeat mood hid two facts. 

First, the soldier later known as Chelsea Manning was completely alienated from army culture, and the callous way she believed it treated civilians in Iraq. And second, she was quietly erasing the music on her CDs and replacing it with files holding explosive military data, which she would release to the world via Wikileaks. 

To some, Manning is a free speech hero. To others, she is a traitor. President Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence before leaving office has been blasted as “outrageous” by leading Republican Paul Ryan. Other Republican critics argue Obama is rewarding an act that endangered the lives of soldiers and intelligence operatives while giving ammunition to Russia. 

They have a point. Liberals banging the drum against Russia’s leak offensive during the US election cannot simultaneously argue leaks are inherently good. 

But even if you think Manning was deeply misguided in her use of Lady Gaga CDs, there are strong reasons why we should celebrate her release. 

1. She was not judged on the public interest

Manning was motivated by what she believed to be human rights abuses in Iraq, but her public interest defence has never been tested. 

The leaks were undoubtedly of public interest. As Manning said in the podcast she recorded with Amnesty International: “When we made mistakes, planning operations, innocent people died.” 

Thanks to Manning’s leak, we also know about the Vatican hiding sex abuse scandals in Ireland, plus the UK promising to protect US interests during the Chilcot Inquiry. 

In countries such as Germany, Canada and Denmark, whistle blowers in sensitive areas can use a public interest defence. In the US, however, such a defence does not exist – meaning it is impossible for Manning to legally argue her actions were in the public good. 

2. She was deemed worse than rapists and murderers

Her sentence was out of proportion to her crime. Compare her 35-year sentence to that received by William Millay, a young police officer, also in 2013. Caught in the act of trying to sell classified documents to someone he believed was a Russian intelligence officer, he was given 16 years

According to Amnesty International: “Manning’s sentence was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.”

3. Her time in jail was particularly miserable 

Manning’s conditions in jail do nothing to dispel the idea she has been treated extraordinarily harshly. When initially placed in solitary confinement, she needed permission to do anything in her cell, even walking around to exercise. 

When she requested treatment for her gender dysphoria, the military prison’s initial response was a blanket refusal – despite the fact many civilian prisons accept the idea that trans inmates are entitled to hormones. Manning has attempted suicide several times. She finally received permission to receive gender transition surgery in 2016 after a hunger strike

4. Julian Assange can stop acting like a martyr

Internationally, Manning’s continued incarceration was likely to do more harm than good. She has said she is sorry “for hurting the US”. Her worldwide following has turned her into an icon of US hypocrisy on free speech.

Then there's the fact Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Manning was released. Now that Manning is months away from freedom, his excuses for staying in the Equadorian London Embassy to avoid Swedish rape allegations are somewhat feebler.  

As for the President - under whose watch Manning was prosecuted - he may be leaving his office with his legacy in peril, but with one stroke of his pen, he has changed a life. Manning, now 29, could have expected to leave prison in her late 50s. Instead, she'll be free before her 30th birthday. And perhaps the Equadorian ambassador will finally get his room back. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.