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 . . .

Perverts

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
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The end of loyalty: why are we still surprised when politicians betray each other?

There was Labour’s attempted coup, now the cabinet is in civil war. Have British politicians always been so openly disloyal?

Politicians have always had a reputation for backstabbing, but recently Westminster has been a battleground of back, front and side-stabbing in all parties. The shadow cabinet trying to oust Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum; Michael Gove abandoning Boris Johnson to make his own Tory leadership bid; and now Johnson himself derailing Theresa May’s set-piece Brexit speech with his Telegraph essay on the subject – and rumours of a resignation threat.

On the surface, it seems Brexit has given politicians licence to flout cabinet collective responsibility – the convention that binds our ministers to showing a united front on government policy.

The doctrine of cabinet collective responsibility was outlined in the Ministerial Code in the early Nineties, but it became a convention in the late 19th century “the way in which we talk about it still today, in terms of people failing to adhere to it”, says the Institute for Government’s Dr Cath Haddon, an expert in the constitutional issues of Whitehall.

It even goes back earlier than that, when the cabinet would have to bond in the face of a more powerful monarch.

But are we witnessing the end of this convention? It looks like we could be living in a new age of disloyalty. After all, the shadow cabinet was allowed to say what it liked about its leader over nearly two years, and Johnson is still in a job.

An unfaithful history

“I think it’s nothing new,” says Michael Cockerell, who has been making political documentaries and profiles for the BBC since the Seventies. “If you think back in time to Julius Caesar and all the rest of it, this loyalty to the leader is not something that automatically happens or has been normal both in history and modern democracies – there have always been rebels, always been ambitious figures who all work out exactly how far they can go.”

He says the situation with Johnson reminds him of Tony Benn, who was an outspoken cabinet secretary under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan in 1974-79. “He knew exactly how far he could push it without being sacked, because of the old thing about having him inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent, pissing in.”

Cockerell believes that Johnson, like past cabinet rebels, knows “how far” he can go in defying May because she’s in a precarious position.

“Often if a prime minister is weak, that’s when the ambitious members of the cabinet can parade their disloyalty while still claiming they’re still being loyal,” he says. “Most people who are disloyal always profess their loyalty.”

The peer and former Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell, who has been in politics since the early Seventies, also believes “it’s always been like this” in terms of disloyalty in British politics.

He gives Wilson’s governments as a past example. “There was a fair amount of disloyalty within the cabinet,” he says. “I remember it being suggested by someone that the cabinet meetings were often very, very quiet because people were so busy writing down things that they could put into print sometime later.”

“Fast-forward to John Major and the ‘bastards’,” he says, recalling the former Conservative prime minister’s battle with trouble-making Eurosceptic cabinet members in 1993.

Dr Haddon adds the examples of Margaret Thatcher being brought down by her cabinet (and tackling the “wets and dries” in her early years as PM), and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s teams briefing against each other.

She believes “nothing changes” regarding disloyalty because of the way British government works. “The UK system really provokes this sort of situation,” she says of Johnson. “Because we have empowered secretaries of state, we have a sort of federalist structure, and then we have the prime minister in the position of primus inter pares [first among equals].”

The idea of the prime minister being a fully empowered leader in control of a team is a “modern concept”, according to Dr Haddon. “If you go back into the nineteenth century, ministers were very much heads of their own little fiefdoms. We’ve always had this system that has enabled ministers to effectively have their own take, their own position in their particular roles, and able to speak publicly on their perspective.”

She says the same happens in the shadow cabinet because of the nature of opposition in the UK. Shadow ministers don’t receive tailored funding for their work, and are therefore “often very much reliant upon their own team” to develop policy proposals, “so they become quite autonomous”.

How disloyalty has changed

However, disloyalty plays out differently in modern politics. Campbell points out that with politics developing in real time online and through 24-hour news, there is a far greater journalistic focus on disloyalty. “Previously it would’ve been in the Sunday papers, now you get it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.

Dr Haddon believes pronouncements of disloyalty are more “overt” than they were because of the way we communicate on social media. Platforms like Twitter discourage the “coded messages” of past disloyal cabinet secretaries, and show infighting more starkly.

“There is this immediacy of reaction,” she says. “And that it’s constrained to 140 characters leads people to ever more brief, succinct declarations of their position. We are also living through a period in which, dare I say, hyperbole and strength of position are only exaggerated by that medium. There’s something in that which is very different.”

And even though British political history is littered with attempted coups, betrayals and outspoken ministers – particularly over Europe – there is a sense that the rulebook has been thrown out recently, perhaps as Brexit has defied the status quo.

Collective responsibility and the idea of the prime minister as primus inter pares are conventions, and conventions can be moulded or dropped completely.

“The constitution is open for discussion now to an extent that I can’t remember,” says Campbell. “You’ve got arguments about independence, constitutional arguments which arise out of Brexit, if we leave. In those circumstances, it’s perhaps not surprising that the constitutional convention about cabinet responsibility comes under strain as well.

“If you’ve got a constitution that depends upon the observance of convention, then of course it’s much easier to depart from these if you choose,” he adds. “And in the present, febrile atmosphere of constitutional change, maybe it’s hardly surprising that what is thought to be a centrepiece is simply being disregarded.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.