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“When boys be talkin’ ‘bout their bitches”

Peter Mullen

A bishop has praised the pop star Lily Allen for her feminist songs and claimed that misogyny is “still very evident” in the Church of England. The Rt Rev’d Martyn Snow, our youngest bishop, said Allen’s lyrics on the single Hard Out Here “poignantly” capture society’s sexist double standards. He commends the song to his thirteen-year-old daughter.

The edifying ditty goes like this:

“If I told you ‘bout my sex life you’d call me a slut / When boys be talkin’ ‘bout their bitches no-one’s making a fuss… Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits / It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard out here for a bitch.”

Just the thing for the bishop’s pubescent offspring to sing along to.

Bishop Snow refers to Allen’s lyrics in what he calls an “essay” reflecting on his daughter, Roxanne’s thirteenth birthday. This “essay” is worth quoting at length, not least for its literary merits:

“The passing of this particular landmark has caused me to reflect a little on the world my daughter is entering and in particular the effects of the so-called feminist revolution.  In 2010, Lily Allen won an award for her song The Fear which brilliantly captured the manipulation, insecurity and fear which is at the heart of consumerism. Four years and two babies later, Allen has returned with a song  which angrily and poignantly captures how far the feminist revolution has not brought us.  Allen highlights the double standards in private sexuality and public work. It’s fine for men to boast about their sexual conquests while women are blamed for being loose and free.”

He concludes: “None of this is new, of course. Indeed, it is depressingly familiar. But it is worth stopping to think about the way the feminist revolution, while bringing huge gains in some areas, has had almost no impact in others. Far more women may go out to work now than they did fifty years ago, yet a woman is paid £82 for the work a man will be paid £100 for. By now, you may be asking how a bishop in the Church of England would dare to write about feminism. After all, it has taken us twenty years to accept that women can not only be vicars but can also hold senior leadership positions in the church.  We are hardly the model of equality. And my female colleagues are very clear that even as the first woman is appointed as a bishop – expected in the next few months – misogyny is still very evident in the pews of our churches. So the church is no better than the rest of society but at least we are moving in the right direction.”Can I play at teachers and pupils for a minute and mark the lad’s “essay”?First, it has not taken the church twenty years to get around to ordaining women. It took 2000 years and many wonder why it was ever attempted.

Secondly, the phrase “We are moving in the right direction” is a meretricious slogan where reasoned argument would be more meritorious: who says we’re moving in the right direction?

Thirdly, “It’s fine for men to boast about their sexual conquests, while women are blamed for being loose and free.” Hasn’t the lad noticed that scores of women journalists fill the papers with reminiscences of their sexual exploits, and get well paid for it? There’s a word somewhere for that profession.

Fourthly, has he considered the spectacular success of Lily Allen by which she becomes the living refutation of the feminist manifesto?

But the most amusing aspect of the lad’s “essay” is the remark about the church’s alleged misogyny. Hasn’t the lad also noticed that actually the church has become terrifically feminised? Or did I only imagine that I have had to sit through all those services – ululations, more like – conducted by women and featuring night lights, mawkish prancing about the chancel and God addressed as “She”?

What more can I say? Beta minus, Snowy lad.

And end by adapting a line from the great Lily Allen’s song: Forget this balls and grow… Grow what?

How about up?

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