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
Show Hide image

The three big mistakes the government has made in its Brexit talks

Nicola Sturgeon fears that the UK has no negotiating position at all. It's worse than she thinks. 

It’s fair to say that the first meeting of the government’s Brexit ministers and the leaders of the devolved legislatures did not go well.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon told reporters outside that it had all been “deeply frustrating”, and that it was impossible for her to undermine the United Kingdom’s negotiating position as “I can’t undermine something that doesn’t exist, and at the moment it doesn’t seem to me like there is a UK negotiating strategy”.

To which cynical observers might say: she would, wouldn’t she? It’s in Sturgeon’s interest to paint the Westminster government as clueless and operating in a way that puts Scotland’s interests at risk. Maybe so, but Carwyn Jones, her Welsh opposite number, tends to strike a more conciliatory figure at these events – he’s praised both George Osborne and David Cameron in the past.

So it’s hard not to be alarmed at his statement to the press that there is still “huge uncertainty” about what the British government’s negotiating position. Even Arlene Foster, the first minister in Northern Ireland, whose party, the DUP, is seen as an increasingly reliable ally for the Conservative government, could only really volunteer that “we’re in a negotiation and we will be in a negotiation and it will be complex”.

All of which makes Jeremy Corbyn’s one-liner in the Commons today that the government is pursuing neither hard Brexit nor soft Brexit but “chaotic Brexit” ring true.

It all adds to a growing suspicion that the government’s negotiating strategy might be, as Jacqui Smith once quipped of Ed Miliband’s policy review, something of “a pregnant panda – it's been a very long time in the making and no one's quite sure if there's anything in there anyway”.

That’s not the case – but the reality is not much more comforting. The government has long believed, as Philip Hammond put when being grilled by the House of Lords on the issue:

"There's an intrinsic tension here between democratic accountability of the government and effective negotiation with a third party. Our paramount objective must be to get a good deal for Britain. I am afraid will not be achieved by spelling out our negotiating strategy."

That was echoed by Theresa May in response to Corbyn’s claim that the government has no plan for Brexit:

 “We have a plan, which is not to give out details of the negotiation as they are being negotiated”

Are Hammond and May right? Well, sort of. There is an innate tension between democratic accountability and a good deal, of course. The more is known about what the government’s red lines in negotiations, the higher the price they will have to pay to protect. That’s why, sensibly, Hammond, both as Foreign Secretary during the dying days of David Cameron’s government, and now as Chancellor, has attempted to head off public commitments about the shape of the Brexit deal.

But – and it’s a big but – the government has already shown a great deal of its hand. May made three big reveals about the government’s Brexit strategy it in her conference speech: firstly, she started the clock ticking on when Britain will definitely leave the European Union, by saying she will activate Article 50 no later than 31 March 2017. Secondly, she said that Brexit meant that Britain would control its own borders. And thirdly, she said that Brexit meant that Britain would no longer be subject to the judgements of the European Court of Justice.

The first reveal means that there is no chance that any of 27 remaining nations of the European Union will break ranks and begin informal talks before Article 50 is triggered.

The second reveal makes it clear that Britain will leave the single market, because none of the four freedoms – of goods, services, capital or people – can be negotiated away, not least because of the fear of political contagion within the EU27, as an exit deal which allowed the United Kingdom to maintain the three other freedoms while giving up the fourth would cause increased pressure from Eurosceptics in western Europe.

And the third reveal makes it equally clear that Britain will leave the customs union as there is no way you can be part of a union if you do not wish to accept its legal arbiter.

So the government has already revealed its big priorities and has therefore jacked up the price, meaning that the arguments about not revealing the government’s hand is not as strong as it ideally would be.

The other problem, though, is this: Theresa May’s Brexit objectives cannot be met without a hard Brexit, with the only question the scale of the initial shock. As I’ve written before, there is a sense that the government might be able to “pay to play”, ie, in exchange for continuing to send money to Brussels and to member states, the United Kingdom could maintain a decent standard of access to the single market.

My impression is that the mood in Brussels now makes this very tricky. The tone coming out of Conservative party conference has left goodwill in short supply, meaning that a “pay to play” deal is unlikely. But the other problem is that, by leaving so much of its objectives in the dark, Theresa May is not really laying the groundwork for a situation where she can return to Britain with an exit deal where Britain pays large sums to the European Union for a worse deal than the one it has now. (By the way, that is very much the best case scenario for what she might come back with.) Silence may make for good negotiations in Brussels – but in terms of the negotiation that may follow swiftly after in Westminster, it has entirely the opposite effect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.