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.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.