Get out of the way. That woman boxer's really mad - she's got PMT

Glenda Cooper lame excuses of our time
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The Independent Online
There are only 685 days to the Millennium. We are in the last days of the 20th century, which has seen more advances than any other age, particularly in the area of gender equality. But in case women fall victim to complacency, remember the British Board of Boxing Control.

In an ongoing industrial tribunal hearing to determine whether Jane Couch, the British-born welterweight champion known as the Fleetwood Assassin, has suffered sex discrimination, the BBBC came up with a peculiarly novel explanation for denying her a licence to fight in her own country: PMT.

Advisers called by the BBBC made clear to the tribunal in Croydon, south London, that women and pugilism just don't go together because the poor dears' menstrual cycle gets them all silly and upset. If they boxed while premenstrual - for goodness sake - they might hurt themselves. As opposed to any other time of the month?

A letter from the board read out at the tribunal made clear this was true: "Unfortunately many women suffer from PMT when they are more prone to accidents, they are more emotional and more labile (unstable), which makes them more prone to injury."

One really has to conclude that this men's enclave, the BBBC, doesn't know too much about women. As far as I can see, premenstrual women would make far better boxers than women on an even keel who might realise how stupid this sport is.

Naked aggression, the desire to hit anything that gets in your way, the singleminded conviction that life is unfair and everyone is going to pay sounds like a recipe for success in the boxing world to me. You don't like the way your opponent's looking at your hair? Wham! Your partner is a low-down dog with the social niceties of a caveman? Bam! You don't really know what's bothering you but the world's a terrible place and it all seems to be going wrong for you? Kapow! The referee is holding up your hand and you have won the match. It's all so simple. Instead of studying the form ardent gamblers would be making 28-day calculations and promoters would be furiously arguing about the dates of matches.

Still as Dinah Rose, the lawyer representing Jane Couch, pointed out, this is not the first time that men have come up with unusual excuses to justify why women shouldn't do things. "It is like when they told women that they couldn't run marathons because their wombs would fall out," she said. Another finding that has been seized upon by men is that women's brains shrink during pregnancy. Dr Anita Holdcroft hit the headlines a year ago as the scientist who had proved what the man in the pub already knew - pregnant women really were a few cans short of a six-pack. Dr Holdcroft's paper said the brains of pregnant women appeared to shrink during late pregnancy, which offered an explanation for cognitive problems some women complain of before and after giving birth. The newspapers rejoiced. "Health warning: having a baby can shrink your brain", one headlined screamed. "Just as we thought. Pregnant women do lose their minds" proclaimed another. Curiously, a study says that age shrinks men's brains faster than women's. However that study, which proves that advancing age does indeed make men smaller-minded, has not been widely followed up. Maybe the memory loss had already set in ...

Other things women have been banned from doing over the years include voting - women were bound to be pacifists and the Empire needed manly and macho governments. Playing football was also frowned on - breasts would get in the way. And as for becoming a nightclub bouncer - well Jackie Winn in Bristol was told she should think about being a barmaid instead.

Only two years ago in a parliamentary debate on equal opportunities Hansard records that Sir Anthony Grant said, "I am wholly and absolutely in favour of equal opportunities. Women often do a much better job than men, except in rugby, but in virtually everything else they do an extremely good job ... I hope I do not live to see the day when the English ladies' 15 beats the English or Scottish men's 15." Don't we all?

To be honest anyone who decides to box needs their head examined. But if the BBBC is going to suggest that women become emotionally unstable and vulnerable during periods then I'll buy it. Just don't expect me to go near a cooker. I might hurt myself on the nasty hot hob. Or indeed damage myself with a sharp fruit knife due to my increased chance of being prone to injury. Maybe I'll just stay away from the weekly shop at the supermarket in case I become emotionally unstable with the till girl. I'll stay on the sofa, watch television and let men do dangerous things like looking after children. PMT? I'll have it all month thank you very much.

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