Mary Berry goes all contrary with a simple recipe: take one part ignorance, add poison, and stir well

The celebrated presenter of The Great British Bake-Off has made clear her aversion to the victories chalked up by feminism. She clearly doesn't know much about it

Share

Oh Mary, Mary Berry, why did she have to go all contrary suddenly? The 77-year-old is a legendary cook, still dresses to kill, and has impeccable TV manners which appeal to millions. Having coolly surfed the huge waves of success on The Great British Bake Off, she is now on the BBC recounting her life story. She’s been awarded a CBE, and will, I predict, soon be a Dame.

But now, suddenly, we discover that the fragrant lady of the cakes has a bitter centre, some pretty poisonous views, all seemingly arrived at without the burdensome reading of serious texts or heeding of authoritative voices.

Where to start?

In a newspaper interview, she declared feminism a “dirty word” and went on: “You’ve got to persuade them [men] gently to do things, and of course when they come back they say ‘oh wasn’t that fun?’”  Do try it tonight ladies. Tell your honey-bear to wash the clothes, dry and fold them, cook the supper, clear up the kitchen, and feed the baby. Ask him sweetly, kiss him lots, promise him sex afterwards. And sit back, with your feet up, sipping a glass of wine, while he gets on with it and comes and tells you what fun it was. And do the same the next day and next. If he refuses, do not shout at him – Miss Berry hates shouty, un-ladylike females.

And, what’s more, she deplores “women’s rights” and despises those young women who work, go off and have babies and demand maternity leave! The hussies! As an employer, these decent policies make a dent in profits. In 2008, Rosie Boycott, once a pioneering feminist writer, also attacked flexitime and other entitlements which irk small businesses. Meanwhile, websites such as Netmums assert feminism is “aggressive” and that modern women don’t see men as the enemy. Where does one start with such startling ignorance, such backwards bilge?

My 93-year-old English mother-in-law knows just how much feminism has improved lives, and remembers the terrible old days. We should too. Until 1857, divorce laws were cruel and wholly pro-father and not even aristocratic women could challenge those. In Downton Abbey, in the early 20th century, Lord Grantham’s American wife is shown surrendering her fortune and having no say on how he squandered it. Women, until the 1960s, had no autonomy and their earned cash belonged to the husband. They could not escape abusive relationships or save their children from abuse. Babies born outside marriage were taken away and brought up in cold, soul-destroying  institutions.           

I am a feminist, as are all my close friends. We are married to good, loving, feminist men, have children (including sons), love clothes and make-up, are happy homemakers but are never complacent. We have a long way to go before women in our society feel safe, achieve gender parity, have their human rights protected.  Power still rests predominantly with men and too many (with helpful damsels and dowagers) are aggressively pushing back advances, and reclaiming masculine primacy and supremacy.

Punished for audacity

Females are being punished for their audacious hopes. In spite of the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid nearly a third less than men doing the same or equivalent part-time work; full-time female workers get around 15 per cent less. Although self-employed women are doing well and young women are proving themselves in higher education, the UK, abysmally, still keeps its top echelons white and male in both the public and private sectors. And boorish bosses like Alan Sugar and some on Dragon’s Den have become modern icons by speaking out against fairer deals for women. One big reason why redneck Tories and Ukip want to get out of Europe is because gender rights are protected and promoted by the EU. 

Between 1991 and 2008, the numbers of reported rapes rose by 247 per cent, and conviction rates have plummeted (Home Office figures reported in The Economist, October 2006). I do worry that our modern, pornified culture – which Diane Abbott brought up recently – is leading to some of this violence. Almost every week a woman is murdered by the man she married, lived with or loved. And their children are too.

The figures are appalling and haven’t, to my knowledge, enraged Mary Berry types, because, well, nice ladies don’t do rage. They just take it, get on with it, hide their scars. Even the star Carole King was repeatedly beaten up by her partner, Rick Evers, in the mid-Seventies when she was top of her game. I know a talented young mum who goes through the same today, because she doesn’t want to lose the father of her young son. It is heartbreaking to see her preparing herself for that moment when he walks in through the door. She dresses up, cooks, makes sure the baby is bathed and still, two or three times a month, he goes for her, leaving bruises on her alabaster skin.

Will these facts make Mary Berry think again? I don’t expect so. Her invective has desecrated the memories of all those women who have struggled so hard for the vote, for justice, for the right to be treated as equals to men and as part of the human race. And the best cake in the world cannot, now, redeem her.   

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook  

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot