Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 28 March 2012

Women 1, world 0.

THERE are days when I despair for my gender.

Not just the women who are stupid, frivolous, shrill or hysterical. Not just the ones who are judged purely for what they wear and the size of their limbs or glossiness of their hair. Not just those who get invited on Question Time.

There are times when I think that to be a woman, in so many ways, means you must be a victim. That everyone, male and female, will see you as not just physically weaker but mentally and emotionally so too. That we only buy books with pink things on the cover, that we read magazines to find out about handbags, that all we really want is a more natural fragrance in our fabric softeners.

That it is all right to pay us less, to sell us less, to treat us as less.

Thankfully on those days an amazing woman or two comes along to show the world it's got things the arse-way round.

Captain Lisa Head was a professional soldier, a Yorkshire lass who volunteered to do a job which took her to some of the most dangerous places on Earth. She was a member of the Royal Logistics Corps and deployed with 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal regiment to Afghanistan.

Stop for a moment, and think now about women on the front line. We're officially not allowed in infantry and cavalry regiments because the pillocks who run the Ministry of Defence say we are not capable of killing the enemy, although we're as good at dying as anyone else.

In April last year Capt Head defused an improvised explosive device hidden in an alleyway in Helmand, just as she had done most days on her deployment. She went back to take some pictures for the intelligence guys, and a second device partly exploded, causing no injuries but creating more work for her. She had a couple of cigarettes, shared a joke with her colleagues, and said she was "going to crack on".

She went back in the alleyway and a third bomb blew off both her legs and both her arms. Her torso was also seriously injured. Her colleagues saved her life for long enough that she could be flown home and her family had a chance to say their goodbyes, and she died in hospital the next day.

She was 29 years old, and she didn't have to be there. She volunteered. How many of us - male or female - would stick our hands up for that ghastly, dangerous, life-saving job?

Soldiers are often reviled, and the war in Afghanistan is an horrifically pointless exercise, but women like that should fill us with awe.

On the same day that a coroner recorded a verdict Capt Head was unlawfully killed, another group of women who are normally criticised have done something amazing too.

Spain's economy is in a far worse state than ours, to the extent where there is a strong political movement of people who simply refuse to pay for the subway and instead jump the turnstiles every day in protest at fare hikes.

It's affecting all parts of Spanish society, which is a little more militant than ours about these things, and now the prostitutes have joined in too.

A group of Madrid's most expensive escorts has gone on strike and are refusing to have sex with bankers until they start lending money to struggling families and small businesses.

These girls normally get good trade from the bankers and charge them up to £250 an hour, but have put their knickers back on in outrage at the unwillingness of their clients to spend their money on the things they are supposed to.

A spokesman for the collective said: "We have been on strike for three days now and we don't think they can withstand much more."

Some clients who have previously told the girls they were bankers are now claiming they were architects all along, but if there's one thing I've learned over more than 15 years in this job it's that sex workers - while often damaged in so many ways - are as sharp as ferrets. You can't kid a kidder, and I'll bet my brush those bankers will be signing off loans again within a couple of weeks.

There are days when I despair of my gender, and then there are days when every woman on the planet ought to do a little fist-pump.

Today is one of the latter.

"Looking for a bailout love? It's £45billion and a pasty."

ADD: Capt Head's best friend Natalie Slade is raising money for a charity founded to help bomb disposal experts and their families. You can donate to the cause by clicking here.