​There are more than 829,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary and more are added yearly.  A selection of those added on the 31st January this year include the following: smiffling, meaning ‘infectious’ or ‘contagious’; yampy, defined as ‘crazy’, ‘daft’, or ‘stupid’; hangry, ‘bad tempered when hungry’ and geg meaning ‘to join uninvited’.  How far we have come.  Makes one proud to be British.
Another word somehow deemed worthy of recognition in the English language in 2018 is mansplain.  The definition given is ‘to explain unnecessarily or condescendingly to a woman.’  As an asset to the linguistic world, these nine letters are as leaden as a block of concrete!  No matter.  Who needs an Oxford English Dictionary when one has access to the microchip?
That flat little word aforementioned, however, is relevant as last week marked 100 years since women won the right to vote.  I wonder what Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow suffragettes would think of the world today in the aftermath of their incredible achievement?  Returning to my dictionary, feminism is defined as the ‘advocacy of women’s rights, of the movement for the advancement and emancipation of women.’  It invokes, however, a wealth of connotations and nothing if not a strong reaction.   
I fear I should maybe avoid this topic like the plague but I do find it interesting or, at least, the strong opinions invoked.  For my part, as an intelligent, educated woman, I chose to stay at home and look after my children.  I loved my years at university, broadening both my mind and social skills.  Books and writing were my thing but I had no driving ambition to carve out a career, happy, rather, to be remunerated for a job I enjoyed.  Blessed with a secure upbringing and parents whose children were always their priority, my mother was at home for much of my childhood and we thrived on home cooked meals and the knowledge that she was always there in an emergency or if we were unwell.  I wished the same for my children but the nineties saw the tide turning and, for most women, their identity became synonymous with their job.  Whilst privileged to have the choice, mothers at home were, increasingly, in the minority and I shall never forget being a guest at a particular dinner party at which I was asked what I did.  I am sad to admit that I used the word ‘just’ in my answer!  Young and allowing myself to feel intimidated by supposed career women who somehow believed a job afforded superiority, it is something I regret to this day.  If I could only wiggle my nose …  Older and wiser, I realize now just how insecure they must have been.
Throughout my life, I have always valued the individual.  Never one to conform for the sake of it, I seek out those who know their own minds and who are not afraid to make choices.  Men and women deserve to be regarded not collectively but as individuals, each with his or her own intellect, character and skills and, most importantly, the ability to choose.  Of course, the same opportunities should be afforded to both sexes but it is up to the individual what he or she makes of them.  What does matter is merit and being rewarded for that alone, regardless.  Men and women are not the same, never have been, never will be.  Thank goodness!  Why this incessant need to emulate men rather than celebrate women?
Growing up in the seventies, the word ‘feminist’ to me will forever epitomise a militant, very masculine woman with short back and sides.  I imagine those who camped at Greenham Common in the early 80s protesting against cruise missiles being sited on said RAF base.  There was an inherent anger; an aggression.
Feminism has, today, moved on and is very much focussed on equality in the work place. Whether it be through necessity or desire, women work and are, of course, every bit as capable, intellectually, as men.  No dispute there.  However, it follows that something has to give.  One cannot have it all.  The empowerment of women has seen the demise of the family and the gentler side of life.  In its place, a world of breakfast and after school clubs, enforced independence and a breeding ground for bullying.  No longer the guarantee of a moral compass at home, partners replace spouses and time is the most precious commodity of all.  Women strive to dispense with everything men only in a bid for equality and take umbrage at the thought of a man picking up the tab.  Is this how Emily Pankhurst envisaged the future?
I happened to see Dame Helena Morrissey being interviewed by Kay Burley on Sky News last week.  Head of Personal Investing at Legal & General Investment Management, I was impressed.  Here was an intelligent woman, eminently successful in what is still, predominantly, a man’s world but who exuded femininity.  Eloquent and well spoken, her confidence left no room for aggression, seemingly content to rely on her intellect and ability.  The mother of nine children, her husband is a former financial journalist turned Buddhist priest who mans the home, as it were.  Perhaps they are the lucky ones who have it sussed.  She has written a book entitled A Good Time To Be A Girl – Kay Burley suggested that her use of the word ‘girl’ could be construed as demeaning!  With a pair of scissors and some adept handywork, Ms Burley would not have been out of place at Greenham Common.  If she embodies the feminist of yesteryear, Dame Helena is the success story of whom, a century on, the suffragettes would be proud.  I have a sneaking suspicion, too, that she would happily allow Cary Grant or Gregory Peck to open her car door or pay for her meal!  Sign her dance card?  No, that’s my dream! 
‘We know that when women are empowered, they immeasurably improve the lives of everyone around them – their families, their communities and their countries.  This is not just about women; we, men, need to recognize the part we play, too.  Real men treat women with dignity and give them the respect they deserve.’
Prince Harry.
This is Trish, signing off.