I have often been described as a misogynist, an unfair description I feel as my favourite sister is a women and even Mrs JJ was of the so called fairer sex.
Labelled with this tag, it surprised me to be selected to make a speech in celebration of one hundred years of the Women’s Institute.
It surprised me even more to be booed off the stage and to have a rotten tomato thrown at and hitting me square on the nose. What sort of person carries a rotten tomato around anyway?
I feel I have a lot left unsaid about the Women’s Institute I and would like to share my look at the WI with you here.
The Women’s Institute was originally founded in Canada in 1897 by Adelaide Hoodless, a woman with evidently too much time on her hands who would have been better employed making herself a hood. It is pretty cold in Canada and her pretty little ears must have been quite chilly.
It spread to the United Kingdom (the Women’s Institute, not having pretty little cold ears) and in 1915 was started in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll , Wales – (spell check is having a break down at that place name.) They claimed to have two clear aims, to give an new lease of life to rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the War. Speaking from a purely male point of view, it is probable that a brother or son of one of these ladies thought up these aims retrospectively as I am fairly sure that women in 1915 were not capable of thinking such lofty thoughts. I would suggest they just wanted to have a get together and a chin wag once a month and needed an excuse. With the men folk away, they were bored. Nothing more, nothing less.*
The WI plays a very important part in giving women opportunities and encouraging women to go to work. I do appreciate there are some menial jobs that are better suited to women. Cleaning, toilet attendant, shelf stacker – all jobs that require no real thought and little commitment, real jobs would be unsuitable for woman as they have neither the temperament nor the skills and would be too afraid of breaking a finger nail or mussing up the lipstick.
It was with horror recently that I opened the door to the boiler man to find that it was a boiler woman (and a pretty little thing she was too,) and I am still wondering why she slapped my face and reported me to British gas when I asked to see her credentials.
The WI also gives the chance to learn new skills and encourages further education, yet I fail to see why women really need an education. They have us men and they have Google! What will they need men for if they know everything?
As for learning new skills, as far as I have been able to ascertain this means learning new recipes for making jam. The WI motto should be ‘why buy a jar of jam from Tesco at 84 pence, when you can get the fruit, the pectin, the sugar, the jar, the label and the fuel to cook it, for only £6.29??’
The WI is also well know for it’s campaigns. I had first hand experience of that as a ten year old when my WI member Granny slept under canvas with us for a fortnight. Campaign? No Granny was a Camp Pain!
Campaigns that they fight are wide ranging but seem to exclude us poor men entirely. How unfair is that? Examples of recent campaigns are, No More Violence Against Women, Women Reaching Women, Women and Climate Change, Fast Fashion, Mission Milk, Excess Baggage (most women I know carry a lot of that). A campaign that has been mooted this year follows the award winning chef Matt Gillan famously serving Billy Goat as a main course for WI centenary banquet, which would be fine except for the reason he chose that meat.
It was to save the Billy Goats from slaughter.
(Think about it.)
If the good ladies are not making jam and saving old goats they are singing about Jerusalem. Jerusalem! They live in Leeds and Bristol and Mevagissey yet they choose as their theme song a song all about somewhere they will likely never see and would be too hot for their delicate health any way.
I am still wondering about the sexual nature of the line ‘Bring me my arrows of desire.’ I am not sure that women should be allowed to sing songs like this. It may bring on a head ache. Every mention of anything of a sexual nature to Mrs JJ always brought on a head of migrainous proportions. As for the line ‘ Among these dark Satanic mills‘, if Edward Bulwer–Lytton had written those dreadful lines instead of William Blake, they would have been mocked, parodied and criticized as purple prose (or maybe purple poetry) and the poem would never have been set to music at all.
To sum up my original question, what did the WI ever do for us? Did they do anything? Anything to improve the lives of us men? I think there are two very great positives.
The first is one night a month when our good lady does not have time to do what all good ladies do and cook us our dinner, which allows us the freedom to go to the chippy to enjoy cholesterol and carbohydrate. We then get to spend an hour alone in the house with a six pack and a computer game without the nagging to get on with the DIY.
The second is the Calendar Girls calendar, a much thumbed copy of which is in my locked desk draw for reference purposes of course. Just for reference.
Pirelli Calendar 1989
Mediaeval queens jam recipes : Philippa Gregory.
***Richard III’s knight in: Dr Don Ashtray Pill
* Now in 2015 the WI has more than 212,000 members in over 6,300 WIs all getting together once a month to exchange jam and have a natter like women do.
** There wasn’t a two ** reference so you can stop looking now.
***(This new title by Dr Pill is a look at one evening from the perspective of Richard III when Queen Anne went to a local WI meeting).
Jeff Jefferty Jeff is currently writing his memoirs: ”The confessions of a Jeff” working title ”How being part of Double History has brought a new lease of life to Jeff’s sex life.”
© Jeff Jefferty Jeff 25/11/15