A light-hearted piece I wrote on Facebook last Friday, celebrating the remarkable achievements of the women from Team GB who are exceptionally feminine and known to be heterosexual, unleashed a torrent of abuse against me and what I wrote – the likes of which I have seldom encountered.
Nowhere in my piece had I suggested or implied that lesbians were not necessarily feminine or incapable of winning trophies, but the gist of it was that being heterosexual and oozing femininity gives you the same level of excellence in sport as those who adopt a more masculine role.
A debate is always the measure with which we associate democracy and free speech. Ignoring the absurdity of political correctness is a fundamental tenet of it. But guttural abuse should never be part of the equation. A healthy exchange of ideas and beliefs is the cornerstone of a civilised society and it would be catastrophic if we failed to uphold it.
Hence my utter shock and dismay when, as a result of my well-meaning, light piece, expletives such as ‘knob’, ‘dickhead’, ‘arse’, and other such words were used to describe my status, under the guise that those who use such vitriolic language are merely defending feminism. Among them even were a bunch of men who joined in the chorus, as if trying to shield their sisters from a rampant misogynist as well as a bigot, and using antideluvian terms which are rather alien to me.
It is sheer hypocrisy by those who often shout the loudest in order to hijack the feminist cause at this late hour while, quite frankly, they have nothing tangible to show for it. Were they perhaps hibernating when women suffered discrimination for decades past, and what have they done to combat this injustice?
Women today have made tremendous leaps within the very fabric of our society. Not only do they compete with the once traditional male role but have more often than not beaten him at his own game. It is a sheer joy to see women climb the ultimate ladder of success and do it with such immaculate style.
As my own credentials prove my commitment and admiration of women, I therefore totally disregard this abuse for the abusers are often lacking in self-respect and are not, in my estimation, worthy of note.
In 1977, I co-founded The Women’s Press, with Stephanie Dowrick, a feminist imprint that became a byword for women’s emancipation. We both fought interminable battles to encourage, promote and publish works by women when the cause of feminism required their voices to be heard loud and clear. I spent millions of pounds over the years to bolster these beliefs.
To be called a knob and a dickhead is, to say the least, a travesty of what the imprint achieved. I can take solace in having been the co-creator of the imprint and I am proud to have contributed to the evolution of women in the best way that my resources permitted. The satisfaction of having been involved is enough reward in itself.
Before they throw down the gauntlet, these irresponsible protestors who accuse me of being disparaging to women are well advised to do their homework properly.
Putting The Women’s Press aside, Quartet Books was an imprint that I acquired in the summer of 1976 and expanded it to become a formidable force in the publishing world. Not, I might say, because of its size but mainly because of its pioneering spirit in publishing books that the Establishment never dared to do. Its original founders’ policy was to highlight injustice. Quartet thus became the champions of displaced minorities and the underdog in our society wherever she happened to be.
Its biggest gamble however was to liberalise sex by defying the Establishment and publishing The Joy of Sex. The battles that ensued with the authorities are well documented and legendary, as are the controversies which grew around a series of books defending the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.
In 1981, I wrote and published Women, under the Quartet banner, in which I interviewed two hundred and eighty-nine successful women from all walks of life about issues facing them. The Times serialised the book for an entire week, advertising it on television and promoting it extensively. I was subsequently invited to produce a French version by interviewing an additional thirty French women, to be followed by an edition in Japanese.
Quartet’s list of books through the years are so varied and certainly bereft of any sexual prejudice to make the claim of this lynch mob utterly laughable.
As for lesbians, I believe some of them are deliciously feminine as well as being attractive to both sexes. A recent book we published, Chelsea Wives and their Mistresses by Sarah Bramley, is a case in point.
My plea to those who, since last Friday, have sent a bonanza of abuse is they should pause and reflect before making wild statements which have no foundation whatsoever. A sense of humour is obviously badly needed to diffuse this nonsensical rhetoric that has by now run its course.
Having concluded this piece with an olive branch offered to my detractors, I am nevertheless adamant in resisting these misguided minorities in our society, whose sole desire is to stifle our sacrosanct right to free speech and render us some sort of morons, to manipulate to order.