08/07/2016 09:23 BST | Updated 09/07/2017 06:12 BST

In Praise of the Difficult Woman

Theresa May, we're now aware, is a "bloody difficult woman". Or so Ken Clarke says anyway. He was caught on camera discussing the Tory party leadership candidates with his old chum Sir Malcolm Rifkind, on Tuesday. He chuckled as he added: "But then you and I worked for Margaret Thatcher..."

Ken may have been unguarded - or fully aware that he was being broadcast, who knows? - but I sensed a slight admiration in his views of Mrs May. Was he using "bloody difficult woman" as a compliment? I hope so - because in my opinion being a difficult woman is exactly what we should all be aiming for.

Women, you see, are supposed to be quiet. Amenable. Agreeable. If we're not, then we're being difficult. Have a think about adjectives that are used to insult women. Opinionated. Strident. Bossy. Emotional. Hormonal. Shrill. Even ambitious. And now, difficult.

"You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, 'And are the men doing this, as well?' If they aren't, chances are you're dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as 'some total fucking bullshit'," writes Caitlin Moran in her brilliant How to Be a Woman.

And this approach doesn't just apply to doing stuff, or not doing stuff. It applies to words too. Words are weapons in the wrong hands. Do any of these 'insults' ever get used for men?

If a man gets annoyed about something at work do his colleagues raise their eyebrows and mutter about him being hormonal or emotional? Nope. If he offers his view on something is he told to stop being so "opinionated"? Do men who post their opinions on social media get shouted down and threatened with rape or death? Unlikely. If a man asks someone to do something, is he bossy? If he criticises someone, is he bitchy? If he raises his voice is he shrill? No. No. No.

And, if through ambition, hard work, intelligence and sheer brutal bloody-mindedness, he manages to clamber to the top of the greasy pole that is UK politics, would his workmates define him as "difficult". Erm, I'm guessing not.

Men are applauded for knowing their own mind, having the courage of their convictions (read, being opinionated). They're encouraged to be good leaders (being bossy), and to strive for success (being ambitious), while women are expected to stay quiet. In life and on the internet, women's views are silenced, and their achievements talked down. So that's why I believe we should all try to be a bit more "bloody difficult".

We should speak up, speak out, shout louder, about anything and everything. We should wear our ambition with pride, be bossy without apologising. Criticise when things go wrong and stand up for ourselves if we need to. If we feel like being annoyed, or angry, or critical, then let's do it without fear of our emotions being laughed at. Let's share our views and our opinions - be true to our beliefs without altering them if someone disagrees. If that's being "bloody difficult" then let's claim it. It doesn't sound all that difficult to me...

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