Kirsty Moore said she decided to join the RAF at the age of 13 while watching the Red Arrows loop the loop in the Lincolnshire sky above her home. Luckily she didn't know that the RAF didn't allow women to fly fast jets at that time – the excuse being that the G suits weren't "female friendly". And equally luckily, the kit problem had been sorted out by the time Kirsty was old enough to apply. Now, at the age of 32, Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore is the first woman to break 45 years of male monopoly and join the Red Arrows.
She has flown Tornados on combat missions in Iraq and has been an inspiring trainer at RAF Valley in Wales. Soon she will be flying "Red Three" at speeds of 400mph only six feet away from her neighbouring Arrow in the world's most skilful aerobatic team.
And – as if all that wasn't enough – she's also been named role model of the month by my favourite feminist campaign, PinkStinks. PinkStinks aims to counteract the enduring media obsession with women who are famous, thin, rich or married to famous men, by celebrating women they see as inspirational, important, groundbreaking and motivational. They also, as their name suggests, despise the culture of pinkification – that is, the world of putrid pink princesses and ponies that young girls are subjected to during childhood – at what PinkStinks calls "the pink stage".
The campaign is a timely response to evidence that body-image obsession is starting younger and younger in girls. The seeds are sown during this "pink stage" when children receive narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl. The board game Monopoly is now available in a pink edition. The dog, thimble and shoe player pieces have been replaced with flip-flops, a handbag and a hairdryer. Instead of houses and hotels there are boutiques and malls and the utilities are beauty salons. It all comes packaged in a box that can double up for jewellery.
"It's all a bit of fun," say the makers of some squishy high-heeled shoes for babies (yes – that's babies who can't even walk yet) – but a report from the American Psychological Association shows how sexualisation harms girls, not just in that it makes them aspire to the wrong things, but that it actually compromises their brain function.
One study showed how anxiety about appearance does just that: girls were asked to try on a swimsuit or a sweater in a private dressing room, supposedly to give their opinion. While waiting they were asked to do a maths test. The girls wearing swimsuits did much worse than those comfortably clad in sweaters. The anxiety they felt about their bodies – the negative thoughts they were having – actively undermined their intellectual self-confidence.
There are some terrible websites. "Are you ready to become Queen of the Bimbos!?!" exclaims MissBimbo.com. "Become the hottest, coolest, most intelligent and talented bimbo the world has ever known!" MissBimbo, it turns out, is a virtual fashion game and community. You're invited to look after a Bimbo character as she "goes through life". Scarily MissBimbo boasts 1,931,773 "registered Bimbos!" They might talk of being intelligent and talented, but last time I looked, bimbo meant an empty-headed woman.
It's mind-boggling. They've taken a term of abuse and sold it back to young girls as if it were a badge of honour. And don't tell me they've reclaimed the word like some black people supposedly reclaimed "nigger". There's no "girl power" in lipsticks, handbags and mini-skirts. There's just the tedious reality that there are still far fewer women in top jobs than there should be.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission reported on the snail's pace of women's progress. At the rate we're going, it calculated, it will take 200 years for women to be equally represented in the UK Parliament – almost as long as it would take a snail to crawl the length of the Great Wall of China.
Girls need strong, independent women as role models – not bimbos. Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore is a great candidate. Her arrival as a Red Arrow has already triggered queues of girls looking for signed photos at publicity events – and that's exactly what's needed to counteract the stink of pink. Moore has said she hopes girls will hear about her appointment and think they can be part of the RAF too. "They should go for it," she says.
Moore's father taught her to aim high and go for what she wanted. He is a retired Tornado navigator and he took her to the air displays as a child. But if his daughter had looked up into the sky at the age of 13 and seen not a team of exhilarating acrobatic fighter jets but a pink princess on a pink cloud putting on pink lipstick, would she be joining the Red Arrows today?
More to this family feud than meets the eye
Angelina Jolie is reportedly healing the rift with her father, the actor Jon Voight. They haven't spoken for nine years, having fallen out over Voight's commenting to the press that Angelina had mental problems – although Jolie has also cited the fact that Voight was unfaithful to her mother as one of the reasons that the father-daughter relationship has been difficult.
Jolie has said that blood bonds don't make a family. She says that familial love is earned by time spent together – she's bringing up three adopted children alongside the three she gave birth to. I know what she means, of course, but the reference to blood immediately brings to mind the vials of blood that she and second husband Billy Bob Thornton famously wore around their necks at the height of their passion. I guess blood didn't do it, though. The marriage ended pretty much overnight – by Jolie's own admission.
It's reported that Jolie's partner, Brad Pitt, is supporting her in the reconciliation attempt – the implication being that he's provided the impetus to end the feud.
But is that really it? Andrew Morton has a book out soon about this former wild child. It reportedly alleges an affair between Jolie and her mother's boyfriend when Jolie was 16. Jolie's mother is now dead but Jolie doesn't exactly come out of all these rumours looking the dutiful daughter. And she can hardly take the moral high ground with her father if there's any suggestion she cheated on her mother too.
Even with addiction you can see the funny side
This week, Rapt, the charity that takes 12-step recovery for addiction into prisons, has launched 19 Raptures – 19 health education and self-help leaflets rewritten by the likes of Will Self, Tracey Emin and Sebastian Horsley, among others, to give their own personal – and amusing – take on the pitfalls of addiction.
Emin's leaflet, entitled A Brief Guide for Professionals (a rewrite of a leaflet for addiction counsellors), describes a catastrophic night of her own "professional drinking". There is a wonderful moment when her toe gets caught in her crocheted rug and she trips over some lamb hearts she was having earlier for supper.
Such insights into the life of our most fashionable artist. What with the crocheted rug and the offal it sounds more like the sort of evening my grandmother might have been having – although Emin did fall against the wall and crack her head open.
The next morning she wakes up to find blood smeared every where. What the hell was I doing, she thinks. Then she remembers about the offal. She was eating lamb hearts, apparently, because she'd been ill and they're meant to build up strength – not, as I'd hoped, as part of some kind of angry and sensational Brit Art installation, performed alone and in the privacy of her own bedroom.
My favourite leaflet, though, comes from Julian Keeling. His is a rewrite from his own life of a series of dry questions meant to help you establish if you are an addict:
Were you among the five top customers that your heroin seller (Massud) invited to a movie and supper to celebrate his birthday?
Have you found tablets in an envelope behind the cistern in the loo of a pub in Hammersmith and, obeying the logic that if they're worth hiding, they're worth taking, injected them?
Are you on first name terms with the guys (Sami and Raj) at the all-night pharmacy?
Can you sleep standing up with a knife in your hand?
Humour and misogyny – who can resist?
The DVD box set of Californication is out. Now that's what I call a guilty pleasure. Californication – in case you haven't seen it – is an American TV series starring David Duchovny as a sex addict novelist living in LA and suffering writer's block. Anything as witty as this show about the trials and tribulations of writing is always going to be a pleasure – to this writer, anyway. But here's the guilty bit: Duchovny is very sexy – it's just a shame there's a tinge of misogyny in his storylines. My head says no but my heart says yes.Reuse content