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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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.