LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
8 August 2016
Choosing Sides

It’s official. Sexism in sports is de rigueur. Quelle surprise! A massive study of
Olympic articles has shown that women are classified according to their
personal lives. Oh you know. Married, unmarried, children, older, aged. I
particularly liked the choice of ‘aged’. Terribly sporting. Athletic abilities,
prowess? Irrelevant apparently.

Revered men were: “fastest”, “strong”, “big”, “real”, “great”. Great. As well as:
“mastermind”, “dominate”, “battle”. Women were: “compete”, “participate” and
“strive”. Head in hands here.

So you’re surely saying: “What about Jessica Ennis Hill”? Well, what about her
having recently had a baby. See. You knew about that didn’t you? Remember -
researchers have gathered the data. For example Cambridge University Press
discovered infantilising women in sport by referring to them as ‘girls’, while boys
won’t be boys as often. And then there’s ‘ladies’ while men were men rather than
‘gentlemen’.

Cambridge University Press experts found that men are three times more likely
to be mentioned in relation to sport than women. Do despair. And in general,
non-sport specific reports, men are referenced twice as much as women. Lest
we ignore: ‘ladies’ singles’ ‘women’s football’ and ‘woman golfer’. Well, we
wouldn’t want any confusion would we?

Hmmm. I’m thinking female athletes wearing tiny, tiny pants while their male
counterparts wear shorts – often to the knee – or trousers rather than bikini
bottoms. Just saying.

Tell me why we want to zero in on female attributes – ie; bottoms - rather than
female abilities. OK. It’s a man’s world. It’s a man’s libido. It’s men in power and
control. Men rule. And they certainly do a brilliant job of it, don’t they. I know.
Blah, blah, blah – right?

You could say, “Oh it’s the Summer Olympics. Summer: sea, sand and sun.”
Well forget beach volley ball – oh please do – and recall the Winter Olympics:
skaters. Even as a kid I thought to myself: “Why are those skaters wearing those
tiny pants?” Even then. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, don’t you
know.

On a ‘reasons to be cheerful’ note: US sports photographer, Elsa Garrison, was
informed by a male student when studying photo-journalism at university: “Girls
can’t shoot sports.” Her response: “…I was like, ‘Oh really?’…I wanted to stick it
to that guy.” And she clearly did as this is her second summer Olympics. “The
way I carry myself is: ‘Don’t mess with me – it’s not going to end well for you.’”
Words to heed in the photo scrum guys.


This Silly Season is Hair Raising

Who let the cats out? The fur flies at Number 10. And it isn’t the politicians. It’s
their cats. Palmerston and Larry are not just scratching each other. One armed
officer and one of the press were bloodied when trying to separate the two
fighting felines. Larry and Palmerston have had their "most brutal fight yet"
according to a bloodied political photographer.

“The next thing we heard there was this terrible screaming. We turned around
and they were fighting outside Number 11 literally ripping fur off each other.
Palmerston's ear is in a terrible mess and has a clump of fur missing and Larry
has lost his collar. Larry had to have veterinary treatment for a sore paw.” Ouch!
“I went and broke them up, and as I broke them up I got scratched on the leg. I
was wearing long trousers but the claws went through to my skin”. Ditto ouch! “In
the end they stopped, they were just exhausted"… Evidently the declared cat
conflict has been going on for weeks and weeks.

"They are going to end up killing each other - they were brought in as a PR stunt
and now it has gone too far. No one seems to care - it's happening outside
Theresa May's window! There now even are rumours the Cabinet Office is going
to get a cat - it's cat madness on Downing Street as they are all fighting over a
small space." Are we thinking ‘metaphor’ here?

Ring the experts! RSPCA suggested a period of separation. Clever. A cat
welfare expert suggested a timeshare system. “When two cats view the same
area as their territory, disputes, fights and ‘cat wars’ can ensue.” No, really? I’m
liking ‘cat wars’.

Battersea’s Head of Catteries, Lindsey Quinlan suggested: “It’s not uncommon
for felines to get catty with each other which is a normal part of predation, play
and social conflict.” Head of Catteries! Purrfect. Sorry but could you have
resisted? These cats are meant to be Chief Mousers. The offices of these
waring chief cats? Those of PM and Foreign Secretary: Teresa and Boris.
Larry and Palmerston were both adopted from Battersea Dogs and Cats home;
Larry in 2011 and Palmerston earlier this year. They are soon to be joined by
another male cat from Battersea - the Treasury has adopted Gladstone as their
Chief Mouser. In 2012 Freya, First Moggy of the Treasury was exiled to the
countryside soon after being installed. Guess. She and Larry didn’t hit it off and
hit each other instead.

All this naturally leads to the inevitable: it’s cat-astrophic…it’s claw-ful…it’s cats
with a cat-itude… Goodness me. I foresee fur flying.


Fear the Worst

Off putting? Way off. Robocops trooping round London. No it’s not the filming of
the latest total annihilation film. It’s been suggested that we go up to and say ‘hi’.
No, no, no. Wrong. All wrong. Clearly the public will feel more nervous,
threatened, terrified. It’s provocative. Obviously. And what about the response of
dogs and children?

Isn’t it all about immediate response and gathering intelligence? So. Not a good
move. Not a good look. Not a good decision.
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