Friday, 8 March 2013

NATIONAL WOMENS DAY - A TALE OF TWO BARBARAS

Happy Womens Day all you wonderful women!    Listened to Absolute Radio this morning and heard DJ Chris, who's funny but I find a bit old fashioned sexist, talking about how women always shop all the time and say everything was in the sale and that they're fine when they're not.   So no stereotypes there then. Then there's Chris Hulme's fragrant wife being found guilty of perverting the course of justice by taking her husband's speeding points.  And I think Mel C has just won Mother of the Year and Katie Price and Jodie Marsh and Kelly Brooke are bitching about boobs.   Mind you that was in the Daily Mail column of shame, so I don't know if that counts.  And women are supposed to not get on in business because they don't have an ambition gene like men do, according to some research somewhere by scientists - I wonder if the scientists were male or female. Can you ask that these days?    I'm sure there was some women somewhere who did something vaguely intelligent, compassionate, inspirational, considerate but they weren't written about.   Well, many years ago I had the opportunity of interviewing two women who were lauded in some way as being 'inspirational'.  I interviewed two Barbaras.  Both B. Cs - Barbara Castle and Barbara Cartland.

Barbara Castle was speaking at the anniversary of the Suffragette movement and it was one of my first assignments as a reporter to interview her. She was speaking at an event to 'commemorate' what Pankhurst et al went through in order to get women the vote. They went through a lot more than chaining themselves to the railings.   Although these days, what with Fifty Shades of Grey, women would do it for totally different reasons.   Whatever, she was signing copies of her autobiography and I waited for her to finish.  She had a glass of G and T on the floor and a few of the women (and it was mainly women) waiting for her to sign the books, had those little handbag dogs (they existed even then)  which proceeded to drink her drink.    She noticed and I got her another one, but held it while she finished the signings.  She turned to me and asked what questions I had for her.   About five minutes later we'd finished. I'd got what I wanted and she looked at me askance.  "Have you been a reporter for long?"

No, I hadn't.  It was my first or second week at the paper.

"I like the way you ask questions. You have a very good manner.   Women think they need to be tougher than men, more aggressive, nastier.  But they don't.  Stay feminine and strong and you'll get further that way."

I thanked her and she went on to speak to the group before the film was shown.  I had to file copy for the paper but I went up to ask her to sign the book. She looked at me and did so quickly and I had to go.   On the bus on the way home, I looked for her autograph.   She'd written 'Dear Sarah, never let it be a man's world. Best Barbara Castle.'  Mmm.

And then there was Barbara Cartland. A totally different kettle of fish although I wasn't expecting it to be quite so different.   We were filming her about her travels and went to her home.  An all male film crew were highly amused at her lecturing me about why women should never present the news, or present anything for that matter, as their voices are too high pitched and it had been proven that they lacked the authority to be believed.   And why wasn't I at home baking for my husband and looking after the children (I didn't have either at the time).  "But you worked on your books" I said, probably being naively impertinent.  "Ah, that's different." she replied.     I ignored her and smiled, continued to ask questions which she in turn ignored and give answers that she wanted to give.   We later had tea and she entertained the boys while I sat at the other end of the table.   Mmm.

I've always chosen to believe in Barbara Castle's attitude rather than Barbara Cartland. Women have as much right to make it their world as men do.  I believe this not because I've been told to, but because I believe it.   And probably because I can't and don't have that aching urge to bake.




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