Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

Whoever invented referendums needs a kicking

They are not ‘democracy at work’ — they are a recourse for tyrants

My favourite quote of the year so far comes from the author Fay Weldon. ‘If this were an all-woman society,’ she said, ‘we wouldn’t have television. We’d just have lots of nice cushions.’ Fay was making the point that it’s men who do all the -inventing and most of the work. She has since profusely apologised for this remark and others made during the same ‘off the cuff’ interview — almost certain proof, then, that what she said is largely true.

But only largely, Fay. Without women we might not have discovered either of the unpleasant radioactive elements polonium and radium — both stumbled upon by Marie Curie, who was habituated (unwisely) to carry chunks of them around in her apron pocket. But that’s not all. A woman was responsible for inventing the disposable nappy, apparently, and bizarre though it might seem, the actress Hedy Lamarr devised a complex guidance system for torpedoes, ensuring that the radio signals were not jammed by the Nazis. She also invented a tablet that would make drinks carbonated, and furthermore was quite fit in a certain 1940s kinda way, hair swept back, smouldering expression etc. Helluva girl.

But that’s about it, for women and inventing stuff — so Fay was more right than wrong. I once replied to an online query about why men, rather than women, were usually the derring-do heroes in children’s fiction with the suggestion that this was in order to make the stories seem much more realistic. Children are not easily fooled. All hell broke loose, much as it did with Fay’s comments — the greater the resistance to a statement, the more likely to be true it is.

I am not sure about cushions, though. Women do enjoy sitting on them, for sure. But I suspect that it was a talented homosexual man who invented them.

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