Saturday, 27 December 2008

Daftest column of the holidays?

Pity the poor Christmas holiday columnists, having to slave away over the word processor to provide pithy and topical reflections for us to fall asleep over.

With no Guardian published yesterday I had more time, while at the in-laws, to spend with both The Independent and The Times. And what a strong early contender for daftest column of the holiday season from Magnus Linklater, whose experience of a dinner party leads him to herald the splendid return of the Victorian tradition of "sending out the ladies".

I don't know whether the dinner party will survive the recession - I've been to so few recently that I wonder if it has survived into the 21st century. But if it has, it may be reverting to the customs of the 19th century. At the last one I went to, the ladies retired after dinner, leaving the gentlemen over the port - and instead of causing ridicule and outrage, the thing was judged a huge success.

Now, we may have to ignore that Linklater may have broken a key columnar rule here: I had understood that three anecdotal observations were needed to legitimately declare a social trend.

His main point is that, while the practice fell away because it used to be thought rather sexist, it can now be brought back safe in the knowledge that this would not now be sexist at all. Hurrah!

I think this is going to be hard to beat.

Unless, of course, you know better.


Lewis Cooper said...

I think you’re a bit hard on him, Sunder. He has in fact made some remarkable insights. Despite popular belief to the contrary, it turns out that we live in a “post-sexist age”, where “the balance of sexual power has swung the other way”. Who knew?

I suppose there might be a couple of people working in marketing, advertising and the pornography industry who will need to be informed. And I think there are a few women working in the sex trade who haven’t yet been told. But that’s by-the-by.

Linklater also offers some fairly strong arguments in favour of the women leaving the table after the meal. It “gives you the chance to nobble the chap diagonally opposite you, whom you understand to be the only hedge-fund manager to have made money in the past six weeks, but who is locked in conversation with a limpet-like blonde.”

So send out the ladies so that the “limpet-like blondes” do not get in the way of us men doing business. Somebody less thoughtful than our writer might see this as somewhat sexist, both in its portrayal of blondes (and perhaps even other women), and in terms of the latent sexual discrimination it represents.

Luckily, our author knows better.

Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks! Alternative nominations are welcome, but this still looks like a worthy winner