Yes, there's even a glass ceiling in Middle-earth. Want to make it as a female Hobbit? Think again

From bishops to the biggest film release this Christmas, it's clear the patriarchy still has some way to slide. Also: a spot of free PR advice for George Osborne

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The Independent Online

When one watches the patriarchy at work – say, this week’s Twitter feud between hulking business gods Donald Trump and Lord Sugar – it’s tempting to believe for a moment that universal male supremacy may be on its way out. Don’t worry boys, it’s not.

For some days now, Trump and Sugar, egged on by bloke’s bloke Piers Morgan, have been reminding each other in public view how terrifying, wealthy, powerful and feared they are. It’s been a giant cyber willy-waving competition, testosterone crackling off their Twitter homepages. As a woman, I find it childish, crass, and embarrassing, but then I’m reminded again that this is a man’s world and I’m enjoying a front-row view of men in big business “getting things done”. Because it is a man’s world.

Males get very irate when I say this. But in a quite everyday, pedestrian week, I’ve found myself tactfully pointing out to one man that females in 2012 DO earn money so their posh cars aren’t always “their husband’s”; I’ve sat through a meeting with a male TV producer informing me that the perfect presenter to match with fiftysomething brainiacs Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross is Amy Childs because she’s “such a sweetheart and really takes direction”; I’ve groaned at a review of the pop star Pink at the O2 in which the male reviewer wearily questioned what her child must think of her “antics”; and I’ve watched sports genius and feminist Clare Balding on the red carpet being asked time and again how she juggles work and home.

Yes, I think the patriarchy has some way to slide yet.

Educated men tend to sneer “Glenda Slagg” at me for saying this, citing a nickname for women writers which was begun decades ago by a group of Oxford-educated white men in Private Eye magazine, still coughed up by today’s educated middle-class men every day of my career to silence my infernal racket over the patriarchy.

This doesn’t work as I am a small, determined creature who will traverse far and wide to bravely fight for what is true… in fact, I’m a bit like a Hobbit. Although, damn it, I can’t be a Hobbit because although the new movie – out this week – cost $250m to make, there are no female Hobbits either. Let’s consider this a second.

It must have taken hundreds of meetings to get that money signed off, and at every stage of the arduous slog not one single person stuck up for the idea that “Um, maybe we should stick some women in The Hobbit, so, y’know, women who buy tickets will, like, have characters they can root for or empathise with”. But they didn’t.

I’m sure some people in the process had daughters and sisters or knew great actresses but no one rocked the boat. And even if they did, I’m certain the same snoozesome rubbish would have silenced them: “We must adhere to the text.” (See also the case of “women bishops”.) “Women don’t want to watch other women!” “Women don’t like fantasy fiction!” “We tried using women but the studio didn’t like it. Believe me, I wanted it, it was all the other men, not me. I’m a good guy!”

If they were explaining it to my face, I’d probably get a pat on my head on behalf of womankind for the fact that the female-heavy movie Bridesmaids was actually very funny and did well at the box office. “This is really going to change things!” men said back then. Seriously, it changed nothing. But hang on, you say, Cate Blanchett has been at the premieres in a pretty frock? Yes, Cate Blanchett has five solitary lines in The Hobbit, playing some sort of pretty princess, during one scene and has been placed there for matters of fluff and making film premieres actually worth photographing.

There are oak trees in The Hobbit with more input than Cate Blanchett has. Give me one bloody wisecracking woman Hobbit with a sword and a sense of derring-do! Meanwhile, women ARE being represented in merry abundance in the TV ad breaks right now. It’s hard to tell whether the Morrisons Christmas advert is flogging turkey and Brussels sprouts or a 24-hour suicide-watch line as a bedraggled wreck of a woman wakes in bed and pulls herself through two weeks of domestic drudgery.

So, Morrisons – the supermarket of choice for the Northern working-classes – what a sweet message to give out to hopeful festive little girls! No mythical adventures for you, princess. Get the vacuum cleaner out, the pine needles have dropped again. “It’s hard work, but it’s Christmas and I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Mummy says. Good job, pet. You don’t seem to be going on any exciting adventures very soon.

Just what ‘lads’ do? I’m sick of it

Somewhere during the past 10 years, asking young girls to send pictures of their boobs stopped being the territory of the dismal weirdo with the green felt-tip harassing TV stars from his bedsit and became “just what lads do”. And bizarrely – much to the bewilderment of teachers and charity workers – young girls comply, readily thinking it’s a normal part of the flirting or dating process, before realising they’re ripe for blackmail, shame and depression.

I remember the late 1990s – around the birthdates of this generation – when lads’ mags began encouraging boys to send in “glamour” (ie, tits out) shots of their girlfriends. Until then, only top-shelf porn mags encouraged men to do this. Thank heavens for all this sexual liberation. Why does it feel like another prison?

Take a little hint, George Osborne

I thought I’d offer some of my own personal PR advice to the Chancellor George Osborne following the reported £400k he made from selling his constituency home – which has been part-funded by his MP’s expenses claims.

George, darling, it’s Christmas. You don’t need the money – you’re set up for life. Why not divide it up and give 400 inner-city teachers £1k each to buy toast for a year for their pupils who turn up each morning starving? Go on, George. Remember that Paralympics sonic wall of booing? Profile-wise, it’s all to play for.