The church I had belonged to and whose rules and commands I had tried to live by, has changed its corporate mind. Forget “mutual flourishing”. Those two weasel words have done immense harm. Mutual flourishing doesn’t happen. You either ‘like it’ — the secular, liberal, anything goes way, especially if it has anything to do with sex —or you lump it. Jayne Ozanne, says people like me have been reading the Bible all wrong all these years. Now she has a Foundation to give that same message to the rest of the world.
Over the last several weeks I have discovered something else, as fundamental to my existence as my church which has changed so drastically that I am feeling as badly shook as ever I did when I discovered that marriage is no longer only between a man and a woman. This time I seem not to be a woman.
I don’t think I have ever actually defined myself as a ‘woman’. I’ve been called various things—Mrs Mason’s little girl; John’s girl friend; the paper boy’s Mum. But that didn’t define me. I certainly didn’t think of myself first and foremost as a woman. I don’t think we defined ourselves as anything in particular, back then. We were just who we were. Even when Germaine Greer was encouraging Cambridge gals to burn their bras on Parkers Piece most of us put personal comfort above solidarity.
#MeToo and the Sisterhood have been filling the headlines but, for all their torrent of words, I don’t know exactly what constitutes sexual harassment.
During the Harvey Weinstein disclosures one woman, who claimed he’d raped her, had also had a sexual relationship with him off and on for ten years. Then there was the woman in Britain, who claimed she’d been raped, by a man that she’d been badgering for casual sex with innumerable text messages. Which makes me wonder about the definition of rape. Sexual harassment seems to involve anything from a comment about your clothes, a hand on your knee or a hand in your knickers. Forty years ago I would have ignored the first, laughed at the second and known exactly how to deal with the last.
Perhaps I have been viewing the whole world as simplistically as, in Jayne Ozanne’s opinion, I have been reading the Bible. I will admit I was never offended by builders’ bums and I enjoyed wolf whistles.
The celebrations to mark 100 years of Women’s Suffrage — which it strictly wasn’t—I found frankly bizarre. The BBC, along with almost every women’s magazine and most newspapers, behaved as if they had just invented women. Until this year women, in the eyes of the women who know best, had been under valued, totally unremarkable, full of misery, angst and frustration; victims, one and all, of man’s inhumanity to women.
What a load of codswallop. If that view of the ‘Sisterhood’ were true the human race would have died out thousands of years ago.
In truth, what these modern women are doing is killing off the genuine camaraderie, fellowship and jollity that has always existed between women. It depended on shared experiences, chores, ideas, child raising and man-management. It involved compassion, independence, collaboration, resourcefulness and enormous amounts of fun and laughter.
I can remember walking home from school with a group of friends and their mothers. To my intense embarrassment, at one point, my mother collapsed on the ground with the bike she’d been pushing on top of her. No, she wasn’t drunk; nor were the other Mums. They were just helpless with laughter.
Don’t see much of that with the modern ‘for your own good’ activists, do you? Moaning minnies, most of them.
I certainly wouldn’t want to belong to any gang, of which Ms Justine Greening is an example. Thank God she’s no longer Minister of Education. I wouldn’t trust someone so insensitive and illogical to take charge of anything involving people, especially impressionable young people.
Among the things she wanted to do was to allow men to claim they were women just by thinking themselves women. What sort of encouragement is that for women athletes for example? Don’t believe that can happen? It’s happening in America. What’s more, in an American High School, when a top girl sprinter got beaten into second place by a boy who said he was a girl, the beaten girl just shrugged and said “That’s the way it is.” Doesn’t seem to me fifty years of women’s lib has done much for real women.
For sheer insensitivity how about this. Ms Greening can see no reason why a man who thinks he is a woman shouldn’t work in a Women’s Refuge. A Women’s Refuge is a place where you go to escape extreme physical violence and abject terror in your home. Imagine arriving at what you trust will be a place of safety and peace to be welcomed by a hulking male assuring you he’s really a woman.
Sadly it’s not just political women who say daft things. Women bishops are as bad. The latest nonsense from an episcopal pulpit comes from Bishop June of Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff.
“But isn’t it inspiring that social history is changing in front of us? If you think back to Florence Nightingale, she would probably have been a bishop had she been allowed.”
Come to think of it perhaps that’s not so bizarre. One bishop tipped to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury is an ex-top Nurse, now Bishop of London. Given Florence Nightingale’s decidedly unorthodox views on Anglicanism, these days she’d probably be a prime candidate. Except that I think she would have aimed much higher — Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, more like.