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SUNDAY 21 JULY  2024

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Mysogyny, bullying and sexism — that was a woman’s lot in the ‘good’ old days

Yesterday Once More

Tales of the old Express by Retro Rambleshanks

Police, fire service, the NHS, the top echelons of government. Even the fucking Red Arrows. What have they all got in common? They’re fetid pits of mysogyny, bullying and sexism.


But was the Express in the dying days of Fleet Street any different? Ahem, ‘fraid not.


Unconscious or decidedly conscious slights, put-downs and exclusion from hearty male cliques were all something women had to be man enough to accept. 


They were also subject to innuendo, aggressive teasing (where’s your fucking sense of humour?) and, sometimes, obvious public ridicule.

I’m guilty, too, in a minor way. Referring in the Drone recently to over-refreshed reporters rushing back to work on the night of the Lockerbie disaster, I named  a female hack trying to type a story and looking like Frank Bruno doing watch repairs in his boxing gloves. Cheap laugh. Taking the piss, you see. Why not name one of the men, though? Inbuilt. I didn’t realise I was doing it.


And we all recall the glamorous reporter who, subs said, was employed just to sashay through the newsroom in her short skirt to give the lads a thrill. 

Women usually held their own in features. A bit frilly, don’t you see? But hard news, on the road, on the doorstep, in the pub, was an unforgiving challenge.


Yet, some women made great strides on the Express between the early eighties and nineties. First female Sunday editor (Eve Pollard), first female news editor (Philippa Kennedy) first female news sub (Maggie Thoms).

It wasn’t easy, though. Eve must have had her difficult moments, glass ceiling-wise. Philippa and Maggie certainly did. The latter, a genial Kiwi, was shunned by a few senior news subs; some, to their eternal shame, refused to sit near her. Unbelievable. There were a few ‘conversations’ about that, I recall. 


But it was the ‘girl’ reporters who had the really hard time. Trying to compete as an equal when you’re being talked down, yet propositioned for sex, made working life impossible.


As one confided to me, they soon discerned which of their male colleagues had the smallest willies: those who were the most boorish, bullying, sexist, undermining, intimidating ankle-tapping and plain nasty.

Those shits know who they are. And, I suspect, the rest of us do, too