How to be a feminist in hot weather

From street harassment to hot pants to barbecuing, Rhiannon and Holly will help you survive the sweaty season with your feminist ideals intact.

In these hazy, sweaty July days, the fledgling feminist is likely to encounter a number of scenarios which test her principles to the limit. Feminism is by its very nature a somewhat grouchy endeavour, and therefore rarely enriched by the sensation of having to lie in a dark room in only your knickers as you cool your nipples with a hand-held mini fan and periodically call out "It’s so fucking hot!" to no one in particular. Happily, we have written this guide to behaving like a Proper Feminist while enjoying the heatwave. No need to thank us.

Topless conundrum

Though a scabby patch of Clissold Park is not in any way comparable to the Cote d’Azur, the summer feminist will find herself resisting the urge to bare her breasts to the tender caresses of the summer sun. This is because, the minute even a flash of sunlight pokes its way through the blanket of cloud that swaddles this country for most of the year, the men of Britain will invariably whip their tops off to reveal their man-breasts, with little care for the sensibilities of those in the vicinity. In contrast, your woman breasts are beholden to societal conventions that they remain under wraps, constrained as they are by the oppressive stays of your £3.99 H&M bikini top. Complain about this loudly and frequently, and never resist the urge to tell your male friends to "put it away, love" as a way of redressing the balance. This is always most effective when combined with a creepy leer, a notion which brings us to . . .


There are more perverts to an English summer than there are yeast infections. They come crawling out of their little pervert hidey holes the minute you ditch the woolly tights, and will continue to drool and make crass comments aimed at your behind right through to September, all the while claiming it’s your own fault for "unfairly" wearing hot pants.The worst of this breed of garden variety misogynists is, of course, the slut-shaming pervert, who will immediately follow up with a heckle of "whore", "slag" or "jezebel" (the residents of Islington are nothing if not retro in their choice of insult, we’ve found). Street harassment really comes into its own in the summer months, and it’s up to you how you deal with it physically - with a short, sharp kick to the, er, shins - or verbally. Thankfully, the season has equipped you with a number of helpful props, ranging from barbecue skewers to aviator sunglasses, the latter of which not only effectively hide your tears of anger from public view but also make you look like a badass cop about to deliver one hell of a revenge beating.

To Barbecue or not to Barbecue?

Evolutionary biologists will tell you that the grilling of meat over a fire is as natural and atavistic as their need to grab you by your hair and drag you into the nearest cave, and they may have a point, insofar as men LOVE to barbecue. Many a time have we attended such functions only to be pipped to the post of "assistant sausage manager" by a man in a straw hat. Instead, the summer feminist will oftentimes find herself assigned the post of "deputy salad co-ordinator", whose job it is to carry plates into the garden, provide the gentlemen’s relish, and, well, make salad. Your reaction to this, as a summer feminist, of course depends on your priorities. As any man knows, providing the pack with sustenance is a messy and often drawn-out business that necessitates one taking quickfire bites of the last leftover burger while trying to stop the garden catching fire, as everyone else gorges themselves on kofte. Meanwhile, the deputy salad co-ordinator is smoking a fag and telling their infamous "that time I got sprayed by a skunk" anecdote – guess where the party’s at. Of course, you could always step in to relieve the barbecue master of his duties while simultaneously demonstrating to the group your insane multitasking abilities, but this bottle of gin over at the other side of the table has cucumber in it – cucumber! 

Beyond Comparison

Having ensured that you "got your bikini bod" (via the simple one-step process of putting on a bikini), you’re halfway to holiday heaven. But then, as you test the chilly waters of the North Sea during a particularly optimistic jaunt to Whitley Bay, you may catch a glance of the woman beside you. She’s lithe, she’s taut, she’s toned: she’s the living embodiment of everything Cosmopolitan ever beat you over the head with in order to make you submit to the Redfish Diet. Her legs go up to here, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. And she’s wearing a white bikini. You’ve been taught by Magazineland to compare yourself unfavourably to pretty much every member of your gender, starting with Heidi Klum and ending with the goddess two metres away. Express your jealousy and rage through the medium of water: splash her copiously, soak the white swimsuit, and cackle away maniacally as you and your cankles swim off into the Northumbrian sunset. But pretend it’s an accident, because you’re a feminist and, like, sisterhood.

Don’t blow it

As you swelter on a concrete slab in the middle of Milton Keynes, you may well want to pick up an ice lolly to ease your pain (#firstworldproblems). But be aware that everything lolly is now automatically phallic, from a Rocket to a Mini Milk. Remain vigilant against anyone who might have seen a girl fellating a Fab in porn and therefore may get his rocks off by watching you. Consume iced treats in cubicles, tents, or behind towels emblazoned with the symbol of Venus only. And finally . . .

Get your freak on

During the summer months, everyone’s expected to get into the festiv(al) spirit, and watching a fully-clothed male hip hop star turn up onstage accompanied by a troupe of half-naked female teenagers who shake their asses when they’re told to can be a total buzzkill. And who’s going to spread the feminist message if it isn’t you? Pull on your Hunter imitation wellies and get down to the party with a few right-on placards. "HARRY STYLES, YOU COULD BE OUR CHILDREN’S STAY-AT-HOME DAD" would make a good start. Meanwhile, always keep a copy of The Female Eunuch handy for throwing at favoured popstars instead of your knickers. But if you must throw your knickers, sew a few Greer excerpts into the lining. He gets a pair of top quality lace pants, as well as an education. As always when feminism gets involved, everybody wins.

Now read Rhiannon and Holly's feminist survival guide for attending weddings.


When feminism gets involved, everybody wins. Photograph: Getty Images

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: How should Labour respond?

The government always gets a boost out of big setpieces. But elections are won over months not days. 

Three days in the political calendar are utterly frustrating for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – the Queen’s Speech, the Budget and the Autumn Statement. No matter how unpopular the government is – and however good you are as an opposition - this day is theirs. The government will dominate the headlines. And played well they will carry the preceding with pre-briefed good news too. You just have to accept that, but without giving in or giving up.

It is a cliche that politics is a marathon not a sprint, but like most cliches that observation is founded in truth. So, how best to respond on the days you can’t win? Go to the fundamentals. And do the thing that oddly is far too little done in responses to budgets or autumn statements – follow the money.

No choices in politics are perfect - they are always trade offs. The art is in balancing compromises not abolishing them. The politics and the values are expressed in the choices that you make in prioritising. This is particularly true in budgets where resources are allocated across geographies - between towns, cities and regions, across time - short term or long term, and across the generations - between young and old. To govern is to choose. And the choices reveal. They show the kind of country the government want to create - and that should be the starting point for the opposition. What kind of Britain will we be in five, ten, fifteen years as these decisions have their ultimate, cumulative impact?

Well we know, we are already living in the early days of it. The Conservative government is creating a country in which there are wealthy pensioners living in large homes they won, while young people who are burdened with debts cannot afford to buy a home. One in which health spending is protected - albeit to a level a third below that of France or Germany – while social care, in an ageing society, is becoming residualised. One where under-regulated private landlords have to fill the gap in the rented market caused by the destruction of the social housing sector.

But description, though, is not sufficient. It is only the foundation of a critique - one that will succeed only if it describes not only the Britain the Tories are building but also the better one that Labour would deliver. Not prosaically in the form of a Labour programme, but inspirationally as the Labour promise.

All criticism of the government – big and little – has to return to this foundational narrative. It should connect everything. And it is on this story that you can anchor an effective response to George Osborne. Whatever the sparklers on the day or the details in the accompanying budgetary documentation, the trajectory is set. The government know where they are going. So do informed commentators. A smart opposition should too. The only people in the dark are the voters. They feel a pinch point here, a cut there, an unease and unfairness everywhere – but they can’t sum it up in words. That is the job of the party that wants to form a government – describing in crisp, consistent and understandable terms what is happening.

There are two traps on the day. The first is narrowcasting - telling the story that pleases you and your closest supporters. In that one the buzzwords are "privatisation" and "austerity". It is the opposite of persuasion aimed, as it is, at insiders. The second is to be dazzled by the big announcements of the day. Labour has fallen down here badly recently. It was obvious on Budget Day that a rise in the minimum wage could not compensate for £12bn of tax credit cuts. The IFS and the Resolution Foundation knew that. So did any adult who could do arithmetic and understood the distributional impact of the National Minimum Wage. It could and should have been Labour that led the charge, but frontbenchers and backbenchers alike were transfixed by the apparent appropriation of the Living Wage. A spot of cynicism always comes in handy. In politics as in life, if something seems to be too good to be true then … it is too good to be true.

The devil may be in the detail, but the error is in the principle – that can be nailed on the day. Not defeated or discredited immediately, but the seeds planted.  

And, if in doubt, take the government at their word. There is no fiercer metric against which to measure the Tories than their own rhetoric. How can the party of working people cut the incomes of those who have done the right thing? How can the party who promised to protect the health service deliver a decade of the lowest ever increases in spending? How can the party of home ownership banish young people to renting? The power in holding a government to account is one wielded forensically and eloquently for it is in the gap between rhetoric and reality that ordinary people’s lives fall.

The key fact for an opposition is that it can afford to lose the day if it is able to win the argument. That is Labour’s task.