Lez Miserable: Unleashing your inner aggro-dyke

Aggro-dyke is more than “angry lesbian”. It’s a smarter, more subtle concept.

An Austrian and a lesbian walk into a bar. After a few G&Ts, the Austrian disappears for a bit. She reappears looking pissed off and damp.

“What happened to you?” I say (I’m the lesbian, by the way)

“Zat girl,” she says, pointing into a dense crowd of drunkards, “She spilt her drink on me.”

“Oh. It’s rammed in here. She probably didn’t even notice,” I reply, trying to stop The Austrian getting all Ride of the Valkyries.

“She noticed,” says The Austrian, darkly, “And she laughed.”

“What? And no apology?”

“No. I think she might have done it on purpose – I was in her way.”

Suddenly I’m the one getting all Wagnerian. Nobody fucks with The Austrian.

“Which one is she?” I ask, getting out of my chair, “I’m going to have a word.”

I size up an innocuous-looking blonde girl pointed out by The Austrian. Yeah, I could take her. In spite of my friend’s peace protest, I bulldoze my way over to the unapologetic drink-spiller. Inasmuch as a 5’4” asthmatic with posture that makes the Hunchback of Notre-Dame look like Darcey Bussell can bulldoze. After a brief exchange which may or may not have contained the word “mean”, I’m shocked to get an apology out of The Spiller.         

“Wow,” another friend says to the newly-assertive me, “I never realised you were so aggro-dyke.”

I think I may have invented this term, but I never realised that it applied to me. I once spent a week in a new job being called Helena because I couldn’t bring myself to embarrass my colleague by correcting him. But what does it mean to be aggro-dyke?

Aggro-dyke is more than “angry lesbian”. It’s a smarter, more subtle concept. Angry lesbians play hockey and knit passive-aggressive waistcoats. There’s nothing nuanced about hitting things with sticks. The angry lesbian stereotype is also, unfairly, mostly attributed to butch women. Let it be known that you can be femme as fuck and aggro-dyke. Aggro-dykes aren’t caricatures; they’re gay women who happen to be both gobby and skilled in calling people out on kinds of arsehattery.

Aggro-dyke is the innate gruffness that comes with not only a being woman (in a sexist society), but being a woman who loves women. I’m not saying that I stood up for a friend in a bar squabble purely because I’m gay. That would be insulting to gutsy straight women everywhere, but aggro-dyke is defined by an obsession with tackling injustice. Perhaps being part of a minority makes you more sensitive to unfairness and more reluctant to let things go.

One aggro-dyke speciality is staring down men who are hitting on their girlfriends. They’ve even invented a facial expression specifically for this purpose. It’s a cross between a snarl and a full-body dry heave; not so much looking daggers as looking rusty chainsaws. Aggro-dykes also make the best coffee you will ever taste. They just do.

My inner aggro-dyke has only just been unleashed. I always knew it was there. I mean, there was that time I shushed some loud-talkers at a Daughter gig. I’m both excited and terrified by my newfound gruffness. Goodbye Helena and hello girl who “gets involved”.

This surly butterfly has emerged from its “don’t cause a scene” cocoon. In fact, who knows how many scenes I might cause from now on? I can’t exactly see myself draped in a hemp cloak, fighting homophobic crime by night, but woe betide the next person to deny me a “thank you” when I hold a door open for them. Aggro-dyke may be a form of belligerence, but it’s one that needs to be celebrated and embraced. 

No one spills a drink on The Austrian and gets away with it. Photo: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: www.oldmutualwealth.co.uk/ products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/