Category Archives: wimmin

19 Nov

Women and Wimmin

There are only two sorts of women in this world: those who come on Woman’s Hour; and then there are all the others

I regularly meet some of these others in my family, among my friends, in casual conversation in shops, on buses and trains, in church, in the pub and very occasionally at the betting shop. I like this sort very much.

For a start, you can learn things from these women and I once sat all afternoon beside an old lady in the pavilion at Hove who taught me nuances in the game of cricket which I’d never properly sensed in the sixty-odd years of my love affair with the game. Decades ago, a girl showed me the best way to break in a new pair of walking boots and another taught me to cheat at knockout whist. At theological college an elocutionist jumped up and down on my chest and squeezed my stomach vigorously in an attempt to get me to project my voice from the pulpit. Dr Aggie Crawford in the Psychology Department at the University of Liverpool proved to me that behaviourism is crap. When I was five, Alexandra Atkinson showed me how to make “Spanish wine” by shaking your stick of liquorice in a jam jar of water for several hours. A few years later, Corinne Kendal taught me something called “cork wool” but failed to teach me to knit. I learned from my grandmother how to make a creamy rice pudding using sterilised milk.

None of these interesting, chummy and delightfully helpful women and girls taught me anything at all about the phenomenology of gender-orientated  consciousness. But on Woman’s Hour they talk of nothing else. They do talk about about interesting subjects such as snooker and bitter beer – but it will always be “snooker from the woman’s perspective” and “the implications of beer-drinking for feminism.” Every item on Woman’s Hour – and I am a devotee of many years’ perseverance – is delivered from this peculiar angle.

It’s not like this at all with my male mates. Even the sweatiest masculine topics – such as motor-bikes and pipe-smoking – are not discussed according to a self-conscious masculine agenda. When Stan Gillimore told me he once gave up smoking Erinmore Flake and took to St Bruno instead, it wasn’t to explain “…what smoking St Bruno means in terms of my masculinity.” – but because he preferred the stronger tobacco.

Gillian Reynolds writes a consistently decent page of TV criticism without needing to set it in a context of – a phrase I heard for the first time the other day – and hope it’s the last – “the iconic tropes of feminism.”

Even the sanctimonious old bore Attenborough, well into Blue Planet Series Seventy-three, doesn’t offer us “Whales and plankton: the manly view.”

Woman’s Hour never – ever – presents a single item unless it comes in the parentheses of the feminist ideology. Don’t they get sick of their monomania? It’s like playing every tune in the same key.

If this were referred to a psychiatrist, he would conclude they were suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or pathological self-reference. Idee fixe. Narcissism.

May I offer a suggestion, ladies? If you want to be interesting, talk about something else.    

04 Apr

The mellifluous regiment

I’ve taken to listening to Woman’s Hour, because its presenters have such agreeable voices. But why do they harp only on one subject – women? Is that really all they’re interested in? Most of the real women I know – not the politicised BBC types – are interested in all manner of subjects. I think they should rename the programme Feminist Solipsism Hour. Are men interested only in men? I don’t think so, and I know I’m not: I’m interested in women for a start. But Woman’s Hour is a study in monomania. They are in thrall to the ideology of antisexism.

They are interested in politics, up to a point, but not much beyond the suffragists. English Literature consists of the Brontes, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Maria Edgeworth and Doris Lessing. If they talk about music on the programme, it has to be about Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn. Though, credit where it’s due, they did once do a feature about the astounding Hildegaard of Bingen who ranks several notches higher than Clara and Fanny. They will talk about Florence Nightingale, though they prefer Mary Seacole because this gives them opportunity to indulge their subsidiary ideology, antiracism.

They remind me of the mystical communists who look forward to their atheistic version of the end times: the punishment of the capitalists and the dawn of the communist utopia. They are panting for their own wimmin’s paradise: that great and glorious day when all women will be hod-carriers on building sites – stripped to the waist? – and whistled at by brawny men sitting on the pavements and engrossed in their needlepoint. Progress has been made towards this feminist parousia, but there is still a lot of work to be done and women need to show tireless vigilance.

Still, they regularly give thanks for past successes, milestones on the road to utopia. For example, the other day, the script went something like this: “D’you remember the bad old days and the Ladybird learning to read books featuring Peter and Jane? Jane was always in the kitchen helping mummy and Peter was out in the street washing the car with his dad?”

They can hardly contain their scorn for a bygone age when things were so cliched and unliberated.

But here I draw the line, girls. Here I object. For however much times have changed between the era of Peter and Jane and our wonderfully progressed and emancipated age, that picture of boys washing cars and girls making jam tarts was actually how things were fifty years ago.

Again we notice their resemblance to communists in their fixation on rewriting history.

What damage would be wreaked on the historical tomes if they were to be consistent and insist on role-reversal in ancient Rome: Priscilla would have to be portrayed as an apprentice charioteer and Markus a trainee vestal virgin.

Ladies, you may work to change the present and the future to your hearts’ content. But leave the past alone. It was what it was, for better or worse.

I shall still listen though. As I say, they have such mellifluous voices. That Jenni Murray, for example: you’d never think she comes from Barnsley. 

08 Nov

Wimmins’ Hour

I try to listen to Woman’s Hour whenever I can for, beyond the political chit-chat of everyday, this programme keeps me in touch with the things that really matter, things that are dear to a woman’s heart. The other week, for instance, the programme fearlessly exposed the failure of so many of our local councils to provide adequate lavatory facilities for the transgendered. There’s a lot about rape and the rumours of rape. Intense debate about the 5:2 diet, or the stone-age diet or whatever Manichean foodie obsession happens to be in vogue. Wall-to-wall celebs, it goes without saying. Inanities and banalities by the bucket load: the soap operas of course, by the side of which real life is a mere shadow. Historical novelists whose own linguistic register is out of synch with the period they write about: Hilary Mantel, that disgorger and forger of the 16th century, is ever popular.

But the programme’s fondest obsession is pop music. Today, for example, Jane Garvey confessed she had been “weak at the knees” during her interviewing an aging punkster called Blondie and her side-kick, Chris. They play you blasts of the “music” unfortunately, but that’s not the worst part. The most sickening part is the way the Woman’s Hour wimmin go all gooey over this trash. Rock music has its place. It is for teenagers, to allow them to imagine they’re being cool and anti-establishment during that most uncomfortable part of growing up. Most do grow up, but many alas live on to stretch the folly of their youth to be the shame of age – as G.K. Chesterton put it. For goodness sake, gooey Garvey is fifty years old! Shouldn’t she have got past going weak at the knees at the sights and sounds of the past it perpetrators of audible filth and learnt to go weak at the knees at such as the Beethoven late string quartets?

I will keep listening though. What cheaper or easier way is there of keeping up with the sub-theatrical absurdities of the meedja world. Oh hell, if we really do get the media we deserve, then God help us!

I can’t help thinking that things would be better if the wimmin – all with impeccable leftie CVs – reverted to being women, or even ladies, and told us the secrets of jam-making and demonstrated the creation of net curtains by the forgotten art of croquet.

Those were the days, alongside Mrs Dale’s Diary, Top of the Form, Journey into Space and, new every morning, Housewives’ Choice. It was a far, far better thing they did than now they ever do.