Caption in The Times: Kathy Staff’s Nora Batty from Last of the Summer Wine was no-nonsense
A piece by Chris Smyth, Health Editor, in today’s Times:
It’s enough to make Nora Batty reach for her broomstick: the counsellors’ and therapists’ professional body has issued guidelines suggesting that women are emotional and concerned with their appearance — unless they are from the north of England.
Guidance on gender, sexual and relationship diversity issued by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) said that northern women, by contrast, are aggressive and strong. It was accused of using “ludicrous” stereotypes to define men and women.
The guidance says: “It is important not to assume, for example, that being a woman necessarily involves being able to bear children, or having XX sex chromosomes, or breasts. Being a woman in a British cultural context often means adhering to social norms of femininity, such as being nurturing, caring, social, emotional, vulnerable, and concerned with appearance.”
However, it added that “not all women adhere to all these things”, citing women on the autistic spectrum who might struggle to express emotions and adding: “In some northern working-class contexts femininity is associated with strength and aggression.”
After Twitter users joked about being “trans northern”, Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, wrote: “This is ludicrous and dangerous. Particularly citing autistic women as a first example of what’s not a typical ‘empathetic/concerned with appearance’ woman which further entrenches ‘difference’. This is the damage that leaves so many needing counselling.”
Last night, the reference to northernness had been edited out. The BACP said: “We, of course, apologise if anyone is offended by the content in this guide. This is not something that we would ever intend to do.”
The guidance, written by Meg-John Barker, an “activist-academic” at the Open University, adds that “being a man in a British cultural context often means adhering to social norms of masculinity, such as being competitive, ambitious, and caring about their work”.
You can subscribe to The Times here.