I'm writing a series of books THE A TO ZEN OF… focusing on conventional subjects and examining them in an unconventional way - as in how each impacts on our emotions - namely nine in particular.
Ranging from anger, greed, vanity, impatience, loneliness, heartbreak, jealousy, envy and lack of focus, I've used the thinking tools of Edward de Bono to identify who and why these subjects influence us in such a powerful way and how to deal with these emotions - something the English (thanks to our stiff upper lip or other extreme - bare all in public culture) are particularly bad at. So far, so good.
Each book, I've been able to write diligently, even the one on sex which I found disturbingly quite easy to write. On men, money and fidelity, fine. On time, love, life, fine. On women. I stopped.
Researching this book made me angry and upset, because when I started to interview men and women, and also read research both by psychologists and business people I realised how little has changed. I remember interviewing the late MP Barbara Castle when I was writing for the Londoners Diary Evening Standard, and had only been working there a few months. She stopped me at the end of the interview and said 'how long have you been a journalist?" I thought, omg, I've said something wrong, but no.
"You're a very good interviewer. You ask questions, listen to answers, you are feminine and don't believe you have to be hard or aggressive to get answers. Women journalists believe they need to be harder, tougher more ruthless than men to get on. They don't. They just need to be women." Another Barbara I interviewed a few years later for TV told me off for doing such a job. "Its no place for a woman in front of the camera. People can't concentrate on what you are saying because they are looking at what you are wearing." So is that the fault of the woman or the people watching? That Barbara was the late Barbara Cartland.
I watched the programme 'The Ascent of Women' last night on BBC2, which illustrated the first novel ever written - by a woman - was by a Japanese woman who wrote about how a womaniser turns the many lovers he has into 'nuns'.
The presenter, Dr Amanda Proudman, visibly moved as she looked at the inkwell the woman had used noted her name had not been kept for posterity, only a name given to her by her father, what he did and where he came from. The programme went on to illustrate how the only powerful woman in Chinese history - the Dragon Empress - was portrayed as an evil woman killing all who got in her way. The history books were written by men. They still predominantly are. Confucion was shown to keep women subservient to men, even women wrote rule books for women on how to behave.
In my travels I've come across similar instances, none more striking than when I visited Buenos Aires several years ago with my son. Eva Peron I had heard about, how she had slept her way to the top, how she liked fine dresses. How she was ruthless. History books focus on the irrelevance. In reality, she was phenomenal. She legalised abortion, rights for women, allowing them to divorce. This is in a Catholic country and she did it before the rest of the world caught up. She was an incredible woman. Even as I learnt from the BBC2 programme, so was the Dragon Empress who gave women a lot of rights and freedom they would have never had under a male emperor.
So I was intrigued by the comments following the abuse and support being shown toward the female barrister who thought the comment inappropriate and sexist. She is currently working on subject matter for her Masters, which really goes into the nitty gritty of sexism and misogyny at one of its most atrocious outlets (genital mutilation). I can just imagine the sort of research she is privy to at the moment. Mr Silk should have recognised that before sending such a stupid text.
So she was right. He was wrong. Although he won't believe he did anything wrong - although actually - he did realise he was being un PC (he put it in writing) so actually he did realise he was wrong. Does that mean she can sue him?
It was probably the tip of the iceberg, but the law, just like the media, just like the city, is riddled with misogynists who have been validated to behave the way they have. And they are at the highest level, lauded as examples of professionalism and diligence. They are establishment, and have no reason to change their ways because on a financially functional level they work. They may be married and have children and on a social level appear grounded. But they are not. They are emotionally broken. I don't know how else to put it. I won't put it like that in the book because I don't think my publisher will allow it. Even studying psychology I realise a lot of the research is done for men, by men about men. Only recently there was research to 'prove' women are more immoral than men based on the 'fact' many fathers are parenting children unaware that the child is not theirs. Not that you could do a similar test with men of course.
I do not hate men. I like them and love some of them deeply. And I have a son, but researching the book I realise men have been emasculated not by women but by the social constructs which tell them they should be and feel this and that. So you've got extremes. Keeping everything in, then letting it all bellow out - usually onto their partners, lovers, anyone they trust to take it who won't tell them where to go. Or they break down, suicide, depression. As a qualified yoga instructor, I teach both men and women. The women carry their anger in their hips and boy are they angry. The men carry fear in their shoulders, and boy are they afraid. But they have different ways of dealing with their emotion. The women bury it until they either become ill, or let it go. They cry, they scream. Men drink, take drugs, have sex, get angry, run, run, run. But they don't let it go. They dump it into their partners or get ill themselves. But they never learn and they never let it go.
That's the difference. And our culture - the British culture - is particularly anal. As is the American which is completely the reverse. Everything is out there - seemingly. Their fear and anger on show; dumping it on the rest of the world on every level - politically, commercially and historically.
Both are unhealthy, out of balance and cause issues which ripple out and have psychological consequences - all of which our children observe and absorb.
I have experienced so much of this sexism over the years, and I have been blamed for it. Because I'm open and friendly and I should be more guarded. I once was able to interview a very hard to reach celebrity and I was told by someone, a male who is extremely high up in establishment the only reason I got the interview was because 'he wanted to sleep with me'. I don't talk to that person any more. He devalued himself with that comment. As have all the men, married, who have approached me over the years. They devalue themselves. We have become so use to misogyny we are told its just misconstruing compliments. But its not. Women and men are equals. We are, psychologically remarkably the same. We both are angry and afraid, we both need love and affection, although we may find it fulfilling from different sources (men from their partner, and women from their children, and children loving and being loved - the most unscrewed up of the lot until we teach them otherwise.), but we both need to love and be loved. We are equal, despite what establishment and social constructs dictates. When we realise that we can breathe easy. We will automatically treat each other with respect, the same respect we treat ourselves (that is much of the problem - we don't respect ourselves - and that's men as much as women), and enjoy life rather than suffer for it. Women will get paid the same as men because they are equal to them. And men will do the same amount of child rearing and domestic work as women because they are the same as them. If you've suddenly gone cold or laughed by reading that then you've fallen into the illusion that we are not equal.
Men and women are equals. Rudyard Kiplings 'If' is as much relevant for women as it is for men.
Barbara Castle was only part right. I don't believe it is a man's world. I don't know what it is. But it's not a man's world. Ironically, if it were, they would treat women as equals. Because the real men I have met in my life, all do.