Women don’t want women-only clubs

In my experience, men offer this infuriating comeback when challenged about the continuing exclusion of women from clubs such as the Garrick (for now at least – the Garrick is voting on 7 May on the admission of women as members). ‘But why don’t you set up your own women-only clubs,’ they sulk, ‘and leave us alone?’ My interlocutors are often members of not one but multiple men-only clubs. My husband, father and brothers, for example, frequent a combination of White’s, the Beefsteak, Pratt’s (men-only until last year) and the Garrick. Two of my siblings à l’époque graced the Bullingdon at Oxford. Women-only clubs are all marketed as networking hubs,

Compelling and somewhat heartbreaking: Girls State, on Apple TV+, reviewed

Here’s a fun thought experiment: instead of entrusting the future of American democracy to one of two old men, what if you put it in the hands of 500 teenage girls? Girls State, the sister documentary to Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’s award-winning 2020 film Boys State, follows the events of a week-long civic engagement camp where high-schoolers create an all-female democracy from scratch. A feminist manifesto is much easier to compose than a real solution to culturally ingrained inequality Girls State and Boys State programmes have given argumentative American teens an education in the necessary evil of politics since the 1930s. Each state has its own variations of the

The weaponisation of Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin, who died this week at the age of 76, appeared to be a delightful woman – attractive, adventurous and stoic. Nevertheless, I had to look twice at the Daily Mail headline on Monday which screeched ‘Jane Birkin, a true style icon who put today’s trashy celebs to shame’. Are they talking about the same Jane Birkin, I wonder? The one whose first film role, when still a teenager, was as a naked, nameless model ‘romping’ in a threesome with David Hemmings and Gillian Hills? I mean, talk about nice work if you can get it – but pretty ‘trashy’ if you want to fling around words like that about

The rise of women winemakers

Anna, the daughter of friends of mine, is in her final year at university and keen to enter the wine trade. Clearly, she is wise beyond her years because it’s a hugely engaging career. She will never get rich but will always be happy. Oh, and a glass of something tasty will never be far away, and nor will someone congenial with whom to share it.  Wine is made in beautiful places – just think of Bordeaux, the Douro Valley, Western Cape, Yarra Valley, Napa, Piedmont, Mendoza, Central Otago and even the rolling South Downs of Sussex – by delightful people (well, with just the one exception). It’s a warm,

The age of the male hag

This, we are told, is a very bad time to be a woman. When young, we’re warned that we are sexual prey, privy to a misogynistic ordeal both on the streets and in the sheets, courtesy of the jungle of app-mediated romance. Despite being slaves to the gym and learning to pole dance, we still can’t win. We are locked in a never-ending hell spiral that sees droves of us as young as 18 racing to the plastic surgeon, desperate to fill our faces with Botox and hyaluronic acid in a bid to look sexier, younger, hotter, fitter, less tired and more like the stars of reality TV. Did I

How to make the most of the third trimester of pregnancy

The final trimester of pregnancy is a strange time. You’ll be told to rest, as if you can somehow bank sleep. The reality is likely to be a dash to buy everything you need, as well as don’t need (a hi-tech ‘nappy bag’ for instance). Once the baby arrives, even trying to get out of the house becomes a mission. With that in mind, here are some helpful ways to focus mind and body during the final few weeks, if you’d rather not spend too much time obsessing over the correct shade for the nursery.  Complete your baby courses The National Childbirth Trust runs the most well-known antenatal courses, but

Our flawed body politics

‘New year, new you’, or so they say. And as sure as eggs is eggs (particularly for the high protein advocates), new year’s resolutions for many will have revolved around the quest for a new body. I use the word ‘body’ specifically because our prevailing culture keeps finding new and alarming ways to reduce us all, but women in the most dehumanising terms, into mere bodies; bodies that can be chopped, changed, rearranged increasingly even to accommodate the outward trappings of the opposite sex. This manifests itself most completely of course in porn, as it always has, where the cold-eyed camera sees everything of the body and nothing of the

The curious story of Ann Summers

I always thought that ‘Ann Summers’ was one of those made-up names created by corporate brains, like Dorothy Perkins and Ted Baker. But it turns out that Ms Summers was an actual person.  The store’s founder Michael Caborn-Waterfield named his first shop after his 19-year-old secretary Annice Summers. ‘Dandy Kim’, as he was known, had been a roguish figure around post-war London, a gentleman adventurer who’d smuggled guns into Cuba, dated Diana Dors and served time in a French jail. Described in Jeremy Scott’s memoir Fast and Louche: Confessions of a Flagrant Sinner as ‘an amusing, good-looking man’ who ‘seemed to take nothing entirely seriously’, this one-time actor and trader in black-market nylons opened his first ‘sex shop’ near Marble Arch in 1970.  During our

I’m a one-woman man

Gstaad There’s a fin de saison feeling around here, but the restaurants are still full and the sons of the desert are still moping around. Building is going on non-stop and the cows are down from the mountains, making the village a friendlier and more civilised place. Something of a twilight mood has crept in, especially when I compare the cows with the people. Reclaiming vanished days is a sucker’s game, but it’s irresistible. I was up at my friend Mick Flick’s chalet the other afternoon, talking with Gstaad regulars about how much fun the place used to be. I tried the reverse of an old Woody Allen joke, announcing

It’s time for feminists to say #MenToo

Let me be clear: I am a committed feminist and a passionate supporter of the Enlightenment and its ideals. Indeed, I have been the beneficiary of those ideals in ways unimaginable to most people in the western world. I travelled from a genuinely patriarchal society poisoned by Islamism to a free, secular society where women, whatever issues we might still have, were equal to men under the law and able to pursue opportunities I could scarcely have dreamed of growing up. As I have written before, however imperfect western civilisation might be, we haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else in human history. The progress we have made is dizzying.

The law of unintended consequences

When I awoke the other morning and switched on my radio, the airwaves were alive with the sound of furious, transgressed women. Nobody else got a look in. What have we done to get their goat this time, I wondered, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. Nothing, it transpired. It was all in the USA, where a Supreme Court decision removed the constitutional right for women to have abortions and left it to the 50 states to decide instead. This last part was largely overlooked, incidentally: in essence the women were howling about decentralised democracy and what an awful thing it is. Democracy is sexist. Democracy is especially sexist

The march of the ‘menosplainers’

I think we’ve reached peak menopause. You simply can’t switch on the radio, open a newspaper or watch telly without some fiftysomething media babe banging on about her hot flushes, sudden rages and the feeling of going mad. Davina McCall has just made a whole TV show about it (Sex, Mind and the Menopause), and her book Menopausing is out this month. McCall has likened her symptoms to those felt by people with a brain tumour. Clearly, she has never known anyone with a brain tumour, because those symptoms are a little more significant than simply forgetting where you left your keys, or feeling suddenly hot. I’m not saying there

Why does the City still use quotas?

It sometimes feels like every regulatory body in Britain today misuses its influence to advance progressive causes. A welcome exception is the Financial Conduct Authority, which last week decided to allow firms to choose whether they use sex or gender as the definition of ‘woman’ for reporting on their representation on corporate boards. It is clearly not the role of a financial services regulator to attempt to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Out of 540 responses to a consultation on the matter, all but one said they did not want trans women to be automatically included in the targets and data. As the group Sex Matters has pointed out, there is

The NHS failing mothers is nothing new

Can Sajid Javid really say, as he did this afternoon in the Commons, that the government is taking action to ensure ‘that no families have to go through the same pain’ experienced by those affected by the biggest maternity scandal in the history of the NHS? The Ockenden inquiry into the maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust published its final report today, concluding that ‘repeated’ failures in care may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies, and of nine mothers. The individual stories of stillborn babies, infants severely and sometimes fatally harmed, and women’s pain being dismissed are deeply distressing. What is worse

Women-only train carriages insult us all

Sooner or later, somewhere in the UK, we’ll have trains with women-only coaches. It’s an idea which keeps rolling around, and though the train people complain — it’s unworkable, unenforceable — it makes no odds. It’s too seductive an idea for a progressive politician. Jeremy Corbyn was tempted by it back in 2015, and now the Scottish transport secretary, one Jenny Gilruth, is considering it. She often feels unsafe on trains, she says, because they’re ‘full of drunk men’, especially the train to Fife, which is her constituency. ‘I just want our railways to be safe places for women to travel.’ I’ve nothing against ladies’ coaches in principle. In my

Gender is contentious. The BBC is pretending it isn’t

The BBC has produced its annual 100 Women list, a showcase for women who have done interesting, important things. There’s a lot to like about this year’s list: half the women on it come from Afghanistan; some of them, tellingly, can’t be pictured for their own safety. Perhaps if fewer British resources had been deployed getting Pen Farthing’s dogs out of Kabul in the summer, some of those women wouldn’t live in fear for their lives. But that’s another debate. There’s something else interesting about the BBC’s 100 Women, which says something about the Corporation’s ongoing struggle for impartiality. At least two of the people on the 100 Women list

How having babies fell out of fashion

With all of our institutions now firmly under the iron fist of progressivism it was only a matter of time before social justice mission creep slipped under the doormat and into the home. You can only promulgate the idea that we live under a tyrannical patriarchy for so long before young people take notice and begin to lose trust in the whole idea of intimate relationships with the opposite sex. Fourth wave feminism has shifted its focus from the work place to male/female relationships and a growing underclass of men is turning its back on women by joining poisonous underground groups such as INCELS and Men Going their Own Way (MGTOW).

The truth about ‘Equal pay day’

Could flexible working hurt women’s careers? That’s the view of the Bank of England’s Catherine Mann, who fears it could open ‘two tracks’ and widen the ‘gender gap’. If that wasn’t bad enough, Scottish Widows tells us that because of lower pay and longer life expectancies young women ‘must save an extra £185,000 to reach the same retirement income as men’. This week, we will inevitably hear the baseless assertion that women are working ‘for free’ until the end of December. This Thursday, we’ll also hear the Fawcett Society make its annual fuss over ‘Equal Pay Day‘. This, of course, is the day when women are, allegedly, no longer earning

In praise of chastity

New York It’s party time in the Bagel, or at least private party time. Yours truly is an extra man nowadays as my wife and I have been separated by pandemic restrictions for six months. Alexandra is in London, quarantining after visiting two little blond things in Austria for my fourth grandchild Theodora’s first birthday. I am doing dinner parties non-stop in the Bagel, as if I were a gaywalker back in the 1970s. Actually, I’ve been seeing a lot of old friends who have thrown dinners for Lita and George Livanos. We have mostly been the same crowd, as New York society types have gone the way of wooden

Are ‘controversial stickers’ really a matter for the police?

Has Police Scotland misunderstood the purpose of policing? A recent crackdown on ‘controversial stickers’ appears to suggest as much. ‘On Monday 17th May we received a report of controversial stickers having been placed on lampposts,’ said a message on Kirkcaldy police’s Twitter feed, posted last week. ‘Should you come across stickers of this nature, please contact ourselves or Fife Council so that their removal can be arranged’. So what did the stickers actually say? It transpired that they were emblazoned with the words: ‘Women won’t wheesht’ Baffling? Maybe. But is it really the business of the police to investigate such stickers? Various hashtags, including ‘SexNotGender’ and ‘WarOnWomen’, were also included. But