DEAR men: why I am a feminist.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Every year, at this time, I hear the same dreary quip recycled: “When is it International Men’s Day?” 

It’s tiresome, but let’s get it out of the way. There is an International Men’s Day, which falls on November 19. Last year, its theme was “Working Together for Men and Boys”.

Personally, I’m sceptical. It’s like having an International Slave Owner’s Day to balance up Anti- Slavery Day. Or, like the Americans, staging a Subjugation Day to even out the Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations.  

Comparative to women, every day is men’s day. Let me explain. We may have formal equality laws, but that doesn’t mean women have achieved equality. In 1970, Westminster introduced the Equal Pay Act. Some 45 years later, the pay gap between men and women is £5000. For every £1 earned by a man, working women are paid 81 pence. At the current rate of progress, the gap will finally close around 2085. 

Across the world, about one in three women will be beaten or raped by a man in her lifetime. In the UK, 44 per cent of women will suffer physical or sexual violence. Statistics gathered by SafeLives – a domestic abuse charity in England and Wales – reveal that, right now, at least 94,000 women there are living at high risk of being murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Women in Scotland fare no better.

Feminists like me believe it’s a good idea that women organise themselves against this oppression. But the sight of women self-organising seems to get some men’s goats. Some men have even demanded to be involved in Women for Independence because excluding them is “sexist”. 

Let me spell it out. Male-only golf clubs reek of privilege. Self-organised women’s groups exist to challenge privilege. And to 

create a bit of safe space in a world that is frankly dangerous for women.

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have to weigh up the risk of rape when you go out at the weekend? To think, “I’d like to wear that outfit, but not these shoes because I can’t run in them”?

I can hear some of you say, “But I’m a good man.” I know that. Not all men are violent. But you all benefit, generally, in some way, from the inequality and fear that women experience. 

Have you ever wondered how your boxer shorts managed to make the journey from the bedroom floor into the drawer, all clean and fresh? Or marvelled at the fact that you received a thank you card for a gift you never bought? Or pondered how you ended up earning more than that girl at school who always beat you in exams?

It never fails to astound me when folk take umbrage at feminists talking about feminism. They remind me of those unionists who demand that everyone shut up about independence.  Like the Yes movement, women will eventually stop talking about feminism – but not before we’ve achieved our liberation. 

I COULDN’T have picked a worse weekend to visit Ullapool. The west coast was battered by storm-force gales and driving rain.

But as they say, every cloud has its silver lining, and the weather blew us, almost literally, into one of the cultural jewels of the Highlands. The Ceilidh Place is a cafe-bar, a restaurant, a meeting space and a bookshop combined. As I browsed the shelves, it dawned on me that I wanted to read almost every book on display, if only I had the time. It was as though the fairies had created a beautifully balanced collection of just the kind of books that appeal to me. I eventually bought a couple of novels that I’d never have stumbled across online.

As a technology addict, I have to confess that most books I buy these days are downloaded from iTunes. It’s convenient and cheap, but trying to discover books that you really want to read can feel like diving randomly into the ocean in the hope you might just find buried treasure. By contrast, visiting a good independent bookshop is like glimpsing and holding in your hand an exciting, unexplored world. 

And it’s not just the physical connection to real books that that we’re in danger of casting into history.By closing bookshops we are throwing away the knowledge, skills and experience of those in the trade who know a good book when they see one. We are disrespecting the ‘fairies’ that make it so much easier for us to enrich our lives by placing books in the right spot at the right time.  

“WORRIED about the future of the NHS? It’s safe with a No vote.” That was the exact wording of an official tweet from Scottish Labour the day before the referendum. 

It came on top of a prolonged campaign by the party to discredit those who suggested that the NHS in Scotland could come under threat from Westminster cuts. Phillippa Whitford, an NHS consultant and Women for Independence activist, was hounded by Labour and sections of the press for warning that Scotland’s NHS could be put in danger by a No vote. So too was Nicola Sturgeon. 

Fast forward six months, and Ed Miliband tells Scottish Labour’s Spring Conference that Tory cuts will mean £1 billion lost to Scotland’s health service over the next decade. “That’s the equivalent of 15,500 nurses and 3,500 GPs,” he warns.

No wonder people in Scotland are turning against Labour en masse. This is a party who insult the intelligence of the electorate. That hope the people are too stupid to notice their blatant dishonesty.

But folk won’t unlearn what they’ve already learned. 

That’s why Labour face wholesale humiliation in May. Hell mend them.