Last week, I was sitting on the tube, when I became uncomfortably aware of my body. In the thick of the suffocating heatwave, I was wearing a vest top and a floaty skirt. But I had noticed that the man opposite me – and his teenage son – were both giving my cleavage not-so-furtive side-eye.
I hoisted at my boobs (a truly horrid verb that only other well-endowed women will be familiar with) to try and cover them up with more vest and avoid unwelcome stares. Then I realised my skirt wasn’t doing its job either. I’d left the flat in a rush, so had only shaved up to my knees, which was fine when I was upright, but sitting down meant the fuzzy truth was out there. And god forbid I should expose the general public to my stubble.
Meanwhile, to one side of my hoisting and my apologetic looks, sat a man in the region of 18 stone, topless, hairy back and beer belly out, bold as brass with no one staring at him. There was nothing wrong with this at all – it was a boiling hot day. But then I looked at the woman next to him – obviously heading into a smart job, her obligatory nude tights like torturous sausage casings, her enforced face of slap sliding down her face – and I thought: there seems to be a discrepancy here.
There’s no other way to put this: summer gives men an easier ride. Summer is sexist, and if the seasons had an HR department, I would be lodging a formal complaint.
Here’s another gripe – barbecues. Is there anything more likely to make boastful, competitive, willy-waggling buffoons of otherwise well-adjusted men than a barbecue? The way they preciously obsess over the coal like possessed pyromaniacs, one-upping each other’s designer tongs and home-brewed marinades. Instagramming obscure, self-carved cuts of cow and – most maddeningly – insisting that the over-charring of a burger is ‘a man’s job’, is absurd. They shoo us away doing their best caveman act when, in reality, all they’re actually doing is making an overpriced burnt lunch that takes four hours. Meanwhile, all we’re entrusted to is arranging buns and emptying bags of salad.
Men also seem to get an easier time of it when it comes to prep for a holiday. It’s not a work presentation or an exam, it’s seven days of lying horizontal with a best-selling paperback on a lounger – how much mental or physical preparation does that really need? And yet, our prep includes exercise, waxing, a spray tan, a haircut, a pedicure. When was the last time you remember a red-faced male colleague rushing around on a lunch break searching for a post-swimming-pool hair conditioner?
A new survey shows that, on average, we spend over £200 on new clothes for a holiday – yet the value of women’s holiday wardrobes averages £5,500, while it’s only £3,200 for men. That two grand difference is basically a trip to the Maldives. If we spent less anxious money on looking good for a holiday, we could skip Magaluf in favour of Mauritius.
So, this summer, I say it’s time we levelled the playing field. Dig out the old bikini and save the pennies for a piña colada, push the blokes on to bun-arranging duty while you claim the tongs and let everyone deal with a flash of fluffy thigh. Because we don’t bow to sexism anywhere else in our lives, do we?