Slip on a frock chaps, and be a top 100 woman by Janice Turner in the Times 27.09.18

The original article is here.

What is a woman? The dictionary definition, “adult human female”, was deemed hate speech when posted on a Liverpool billboard and taken down. Perhaps the Financial Times might offer a new one: “Person of either sex who dresses in stereotypically feminine attire.”

It has been noted that Pippa/Philip Bunce, the cross-dressing Credit Suisse banker, appeared on the FT’s Top 100 Female Champions of Women in Business list. But at No 95 was Nicci Take, chief executive of the marketing company m62 vincis, self-described as a “corporate drag queen” who “sometimes goes into work as a man so she can bully people better”.

Neither of these people are trans women living and working permanently in the female gender. They are that now unfashionable term, transvestites, like the artist Grayson Perry, who in order to express their full personality sometimes assume female garb. Grayson becomes a little girl called Claire; Pippa is a boardroom hottie in a pink mini-dress. And good luck to men breaking down stuffy gender clothing rules. Guys, enjoy heels, stockings, sexy dresses! (Many women sure as hell don’t.)

But Bunce and Take are not, nor do they even claim to be, women. So why has the Financial Times put them on its women’s list? As gender-nonconforming biological men, shouldn’t they be on the male 1ist? It seems the FT defines “woman” as “person of either sex who is not a stereotypically masculine male”. Womanhood is just a costume. So what happens when top female business leaders assume Savile Row suits and fake beards on, say, Mondays and Thursdays? Do they go on the FT men’s list and maybe get a pay rise?

In Liverpool I came across an idea, just a seed right now but with the right climatic conditions to grow and flourish in a few years. Should the next Labour leadership election have an all-women shortlist? At a Fabian meeting on female representation, the question received a mighty “why not?”.

The left has a problem with female candidates. Besides possessing the usual talents, they must be unimpeachable feminists. Of course we’d love a woman leader/mayor/president, comes the head-shaking lament, just not this one. So the search goes on. And on.

But John McDonnell has already said that the next leader should be a woman. A posse of female Corbynites — Angela Rayner, Emily Thornberry, Rebecca Long-Bailey — jostle for prominence. The party has been male-run for its entire 118 years. Should men swallow their ambition to right an historical injustice? Jezza supports all-women shortlists, so he’d find it quite hard to argue against. And frankly will Labour, with its legion of self-righteous bros and male trade unionists, choose a woman any other way?

Labour Party conference merchandise is a useful barometer of internal mood. Last year in Brighton every single bag, scarf and garment featured Jeremy Corbyn’s face. “Imagine if we’d put Tony on a T-shirt,” a New Labour MP said to me then. “People would have thought we’d gone mad.”

This year Jezza’s image is on some items but there are new sweatshirts bearing words with broad, consensual appeal. Is the party trying to find common ground and realising that this boils down to the concepts “Solidarity” or simply “Vote”? Has Peak Corbyn happened? Or maybe everyone who wants one has already bought a Jezza T-shirt.

In my conference hotel room the maid leaves a little handwritten letter. “Dear Guest!!! I hope you have a fabulous stay with us . . . Best regards, Sylvia, Housekeeping.” After changing sheets and cleaning the bathroom, some poor, time-pressed woman had to sit down with a pencil and in best handwriting address an impervious, careless stranger. Instead of making me feel welcome, it just made me melancholy.

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