Editor’s Comment: September 2019
- Credit: Mikal Ludlow Photography
“Of the myriad causes out there, perhaps the most difficult to negotiate safely is that of feminism, if only because it is a multi-faceted minefield.” This time, our editor discusses everything gender equality: from sexist beer pump badges to Marketing Cheltenham’s semi-naked model in body art
Are you a Roundhead or a Cavalier? It's a tricky question to ask in these parts given our troubled history, but despite my significant lack of flowing curly locks, I must confess to being far more of the latter than the former.
I think it's mainly a reaction to the Puritan purges we're now subjected to on a daily basis. We're told what not to do, what not to say, even what not to think. Is it any surprise that I sympathise with those poor souls who were besieged by Cromwell's army in the 1660s?
Of the myriad causes out there, from animal rights to climate change, perhaps the most difficult to negotiate safely is that of feminism, if only because it is a multi-faceted minefield. If the top end is equal opportunity and #MeToo and the bottom end is the burning issue of non gender-specific colouring books for kids, then you're almost bound to come unstuck somewhere along the way.
(A friend of mine was on a flight arriving at Bristol Airport last week and went to assist a very short woman who was clearly struggling to get her case down from the luggage locker. "I don't need your help," she snarled, leaving him stood there, completely nonplussed, as she stood on her seat to wrestle the recalcitrant bag free.)
Now before you start muttering "Look out. Cotswold Life's grumpy old dinosaur has escaped from his cage again", I must have it on record that I like women. I love women. I'm surrounded by them every day, at work and at home. I've even married some of them. And in a decades-long career in male-dominated newsrooms, I have consistently promoted brilliant women over mundane men.
But I do feel that there is a danger in complete capitulation. I mean, when does a reasonable demand become unreasonable? Where on the scale of injustice does common sense give way to condescension? I may have discovered a useful indicator.
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Probably due to its hairy-arsed clientele, the real ale business has long been one of the last bastions of lazy sexism. Pumps labelled Slack Alice, Legspreader and Dizzy Blonde are commonplace, usually illustrated by ladies in a state of undress that would make saucy postcard artist Donald Mcgill blush. Now CAMRA has responded to complaints from female drinkers and has called time on lascivious lagers and bawdy bitters by banning offending ales from its annual Great British Beer Festival showcase.
And quite right too, you say at first sight. This is 2019, not 1969. There is no possible justification for women to be objectified in such a crude manner. But then the devil on your other shoulder chimes in: Hang on… given all the problems women face today, from discrimination in the workplace, to body image issues, to controlling partners, we're getting excited about a cartoon beer name? Do you really think one glance at a Top Totty beer pump is going to turn a man into a raging beast? Get a life…
So there we have it. The litmus test of serious offence. A charicature of a buxom wench in a public bar. I hope you find this guidance useful in drawing your own boundaries in future.
Firmly below the line of offence are the complaining ladies of Cheltenham, where they presumably still cover up piano legs to stifle unsavoury thoughts. As part of its relaunch event with a shiny new video to promote 'The Festival Town', Marketing Cheltenham engaged the services of a semi-naked model covered in body art. This, predictably, upset the massed ranks of Mothers Against Anything who complained that "It's the epitome of lazy marketing. What does a naked woman in blue paint have to do with Cheltenham festivals? What is that image supposed to convey?"
We'll set aside for a moment the far less palatable fact that Cheltenham is quite content to licence sleazy lap-dancing clubs during one particular Festival
week to wonder at the fuss this not-naked lady has caused. The MAA had better not stray down the road to Painswick. The body art afficiandos down there have been getting their bits out every summer for years.
For more of Mike's musings, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor