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.