If you're looking for a pint of Slater's "Top Totty" ale, don't head for the Strangers' Bar in the House of Commons, where the small independent brewery's beer has been withdrawn from sale. The pump clip features a waitress in bunny ears, bow tie, and bikini, and the naughty image paired with the jaunty appellation "disturbed" the Labour MP Kate Green, who was concerned with "dignity at work in Parliament".
The very fact that the offending product was removed from the bar within a mere 90 minutes of Ms Green's objection was a give-away: it didn't matter to the authorities.
I have been pressed numerous times on whether I consider myself a "feminist". My answers have been conspicuously inconsistent, and I bet I'm not alone in alternately embracing and eschewing the label.
Yeah, sure, I believe in equal pay for equal work, legal abortion, improved rape prosecution rates, affordable childcare (and blah-blah-blah). I've never been keen for chromosomes to define who I am, and I hated the way wearing a dress kept me off the swing sets as a kid. While in awe of how rapidly my gender has largely upended whole millennia of being treated like chattel, I don't regard the "women's liberation movement" as having summarily achieved its ends. Indeed, when a police officer from the Met muttered at me recently, "Stupid woman! Stupid woman!" — his inflection leaving no doubt that the "woman" bit was an epithet far more insulting than "stupid" — I was reminded of how far, on that deep, sneaky, attitudinal level, we still have to go. So on a strictly definitive level, I am a "feminist".
On the connotative level, however, the word gives me the willies, and it is little stories like Top Totty that make women like me uneasy about inviting the tag. Self-confessed feminists are, it is broadly accepted, humourless, earnest, touchy, on the lookout for slights, sexless, and probably ugly. They are party-pooping pills who don't know how to have a good time or take a joke. They are a big drag. Little wonder that younger women these days run a mile from the word.