The female gaze

Tamara Rojo programmed three female choreographers for her English National Ballet spring bill because, she said, she had never danced a ballet by a woman, and wanted to see what women would produce. Just the two begged questions here. First, that female choreographers are being stifled by institutionalised sexism in the ballet establishment. Second, that female choreographers, if allowed to see the light of day, would offer a differently thought, differently imagined argument from the general tenor of those pesky male choreographers who dominate the stage. The first assumption has been swallowed whole by the luminaries and enablers of the art world who flooded Twitter after the première with ecstatic

Sex worker

‘Of course,’ said my husband in his worst smirky way, as though waiting for an appreciative chuckle, ‘as soon as she found out he was a politician, she broke off the affair.’ That was not the only unoriginal remark about poor old John Whittingdale, who last week admitted to going out with a woman for six months without realising that she was a prostitute. Hearing about the thing on Sky News, I thought its use of sex worker for the woman was an eccentric example of political euphemism. But then I found the BBC using sex worker, and even reputable newspapers. The Times too called her a sex worker. In

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown accuses the Independent of sexism over print redundancies

This week the Independent will publish its last ever print edition. With a reduced number of staff being kept on to work on the digital-only edition, around 75 journalists are thought to be being made redundant. So last night’s Words by Women journalism awards proved to be a poignant affair with several soon-to-be ex-Indy journalists present. While Independent on Sunday editor Lisa Markwell said it was a ‘bit emotional’ — while presenting an award — as it was the first time she’d been called the paper’s ‘former editor’, Indy columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown appeared to be experiencing a real mix of emotions when it came to her take on the paper’s demise. When introducing the Political

Stephen Hawking is a misogynist. And The Theory of Everything is a whitewash

We’re closing 2015 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. No9 is Tanya Gold’s piece from January, when The Theory of Everything was released. Stephen Hawking is a misogynist; and also, quite possibly, a narcissist. You wouldn’t know it from watching The Theory Of Everything, the new biopic from Working Title, in which you are invited only to weep when he discovers he has motor neurone disease at 21, and then marvel at his achievements in physics. It goes wild on the obvious cognitive dissonance of Hawking’s life and work — trapped in his body, yet transported in his mind to the stars. I cried as Eddie Redmayne — as Hawking

Is ‘female’ still an insult?

‘More deadly than the male,’ said my husband archly. He was knowingly quoting Kipling, though I don’t know why he should, since Kipling was not fashionable when he was young. His cue was a remark he overheard from an academic former colleague puzzled by the frequency of female in student essays, where woman might have been expected. This usage is said to be ‘now commonly avoided by good writers, except with contemptuous implication’, said the Oxford English Dictionary in 1895, when it got round to considering words beginning with F. It had not always been depreciative, for, more than 600 years ago, with no intention of being rude, old John

Forty is a feminist issue

If Emily Hill is right in her cover piece for the magazine last week headlined ‘The end of feminism’, then women like me are in a whole world of trouble. And by women like me, I mean women over 40. The nub of Ms Hill’s argument was that all the big battles are won. She quoted the sparkling achievements of ‘women in their twenties’ and also ‘the under-40s’, who are out-earning men. What happens to women after they have broken through the glass ceiling is a question for an older, more cynical female writer. At your service. While agreeing with a lot of what Ms Hill says about the pettiness

My recipe for the new Milk Tray Man

Cadbury’s is searching for a new ‘man in black’ to spearhead its advertising campaign for the godawful Milk Tray chocolates range. However, a spokesman for the company has said that the macho-man stuff is old hat. ‘It will be as much about traits such as thoughtfulness. Leaping off a bridge on to a moving train is not as relevant as it was perhaps in the 1960s, there has to be a little more to gift giving,’ the corporate monkey revealed. Thoughtfulness – yes, indeed. I suggest they get the BBC’s Fergal Keane to hold a box of Milk Tray in one hand while stroking the head of a Syrian refugee

A compliment isn’t misogynistic. Why can’t feminists understand this?

If you were in any doubt that we live in mean-spirited and vengeful times, then Complimentgate should put you straight. Complimentgate is the name I’m giving to the naming and shaming of a solicitor who had the temerity to say something nice about a woman’s looks. For doing this, for paying someone a compliment, he has now become an object of Twitter-ridicule, fodder for the insatiable global outrage industry, which rails not only against people who are abusive online but also against people who are nice. No one is safe from their virtual slings and arrows. The man in question is Alexander Carter-Silk. Via LinkedIn, he sent what the press

Jeremy Corbyn is right – it’s time for women-only carriages on trains

What can we as a society do about the relentless harassment of women by terrifying men? Menacing men, threatening men, priapic men. Something must be done — and quickly. I reached this conclusion after reading a deeply distressing article by the Guardian columnist Daisy Buchanan, who announced that she has imposed a curfew on herself after a series of deeply unpleasant incursions by bestial males. ‘I can’t believe women have to live like this in 2015,’ Ms Buchanan lamented, having revealed that she has also given up dancing in case the same sort of thing happens when she is on the way home from wherever it is she dances. I

Why the gender pay gap is a myth

Today the Prime Minister has set out to ‘end the gender pay gap in a generation’. It would be an ambitious goal, if a wage gap actually existed. According to the latest ONS figures, women between the ages of 22 – 29 earn 1.1 per cent more on average than their male counterparts and women between the ages of 30-39 are also earning more. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s evidence that when men and women follow the same career path in the UK, women tend to out-earn and out-perform men. There is growing evidence that if you control for similar backgrounds, women actually tend to get more aggressively promoted than

Anna Soubry and Alex Salmond bury the hatchet following sexism row

Only last month, Alex Salmond found himself at the centre of a sexism row after he told Anna Soubry to ‘behave yourself woman‘ during a Commons debate. The chippy Cabinet minister went on to criticise the former SNP leader for his comments, claiming he had a 19th century attitude to women, by which they ‘should be seen, and not heard’. Happily, the pair now appear to have put their differences behind them during a trip to Aberdeen. Soubry reports that Salmond provided great entertainment on their flight from Aberdeen back to London. The feeling is mutual, with Salmond boasting that Soubry behaved ‘impeccably’ this time around. She even gave him

Censoring Jews

You might think that Jews, faced with a relentless campaign to ban their culture, would think once, twice, a hundred times, about instituting bans themselves. After they had thought about it, they would decide that, no, absolutely not, prudence as much as principle directs that they of all people must insist that art should be open to all. A good liberal idea, you might think. So good and so obvious there’s no need to say more. If you still require an explanation, allow me to help. You don’t try to silence others if you believe in artistic and intellectual freedom. You keep your mind open and the conversation going. Every

If comedians can’t take a politically incorrect joke, who can?

Jerry Seinfeld’s takedown of the political correctness of today’s youth should give us all pause for thought. In an interview on US radio, the sitcom and stand-up star said that college campuses have become a no-go area for comedians. ‘I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, “Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC”’ he said, before launching into a story about the time his 14-year-old daughter accused his wife of being ‘sexist’ for suggesting that she may soon want to start seeing boys. ‘They just want to use these words. That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice. They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking

The Women’s Prize for Fiction deserves a better drink than Baileys

Well, as a mere PR exercise, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, awarded last night, has done really well, what with the American woman from Diageo (owner of Baileys) causing Ian Hislop to fall asleep while standing up during her speech. I haven’t a clue whether Ali Smith’s book, How To Be Both, about sexuality-shifting, is any use, though I am still recovering from reading last year’s winner, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, which is sort of James Joyce, only with really gross stuff about sexual abuse. It’s nice and short though. Two questions to ask about the prize. One, why was Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty,

Women don’t need police protection on the Tube

The Tube isn’t an obvious political arena, but recently, it has become the backdrop for a number of flashy feminist statements. Last year, a blog which pictured women eating on the Tube provoked outrage among female activists, who held a picnic on the Circle line in protest. More recently, the infamous Protein World adverts, which supposedly encouraged body-shaming, were defaced before they were eventually banned. Yesterday, TFL announced that more than 100 police officers will be on patrol once London Underground’s 24-hour service begins. Her Majesty’s finest will be accompanied by extra Community Support Officers and the installation of a further 13,000 CCTV cameras. What call is there for such precautionary measures? A big call

The police shouldn’t be expected to clamp down on wolf whistling

Every morning on the way to work I pass a group of Polish builders waiting to start work on the new Design Museum. I know, it tells us a great deal about the availability of British youth for work in construction that every last one of them is Polish, so far as I can make out – and come to that, are the Irish nowadays too swanky to be navvies? –  but what’s interesting is how well behaved they are. They smoke heroically, but when women walk by they register their existence but don’t utter a peep. Possibly it’s because their English isn’t good enough for Wotcher, darling, but they don’t wolf

Commons sexism row: Barry Sheerman calls Esther McVey a ‘hard-hearted Hannah’

Things became heated in the commons today after Barry Sheerman told Esther McVey to stop being a ‘hard-hearted Hannah’ during a Department for Work and Pensions questions. The incident occurred after Sheerman voiced his concerns over the department’s handling of the government’s welfare reforms. McVey has taken none too kindly to the term, which is a reference to an Ella Fitzgerald song. The Conservative MP says that it is ‘not the first time that the opposition benches have been like this to me’. Sheerman meanwhile insists his innocence, claiming it was not a sexist comment. ‘She has a reputation for being a very hard champion of the welfare reforms this Government has introduced and I believe it

Sorry, but I don’t think feminists can fight the male gaze by baring their breasts

Imagine that you have stepped back in time to the 1970s. Feminists are out on the streets of London protesting against the Miss World competitions. There you meet a sleazy men’s magazine publisher who tells you he has a new idea for getting women to show men their breasts. He’s not going to offer them money or fame like Playboy or Penthouse. No, he’s going to get them to take off their tops in the name of women’s liberation. ‘I have seen the future of feminism,’ he tells you, ‘and it has great tits!’ Naturally you think: this man is insane! Surely no woman would fall for that? Wrong. Not


Revealed: Emily Maitlis’s hairdressing dream

Mr S was a guest at last night’s Grazia ‘News at 10’ panel discussion, where Christina Lamb, Jayne Secker, Sue Turton, Emily Maitlis and Mishal Husain discussed their experiences as female newsreaders. For Maitlis, however, talk turned away from journalism and onto her first choice of career: ‘I never envisaged myself being a journalist – I was committed to being a hairdresser from the age of 14. My parents had a heart-attack.’ While her dream is yet to be fulfilled, the Newsnight presenter did manage to find work at a young age as the ‘world’s worst radio reporter’. ‘My first job was in radio – and I was the world’s worst radio reporter. Every

The march of the new political correctness

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Brendan O’Neill and Cambridge Union president Tim Squirrell debate the new political correctness” startat=33] Listen [/audioplayer]I wonder how many of you know that you’re cis. Not very many, I’m guessing. So let me break this gently. You are almost certainly cis. It is short for ‘cisgendered’, which means that you ‘identify’ with the gender you were assigned at birth. To put it in everyday language, you were born male and are still male, or were born female and are still female. Roughly 99.7 per cent of human beings — including gays, lesbians and bisexuals — are cisgender. The rest are transgender (‘trans’), which includes transvestites and trans-sexuals. The