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Why can't men hear my voice when I ask them to get something done?

By Jane Graham

Published 21/08/2015

Titillating titles: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest is an example of this modern best-selling ruse
Titillating titles: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest is an example of this modern best-selling ruse

Hello, is this thing on? Sometimes I wonder if men working in the services industries have some kind of voice-pitch limiter inserted into their ears when they turn 45. Because it does seem to be men beyond that age who can't hear me when I offer information, issue an instruction, or express a preference.

I've had a load of these guys this week. First it was the chap who came to the house to fit broadband. Home technology is an area I'm quite savvy about, whereas my husband is shamelessly Luddite (or "delightfully old fashioned", as he puts it). However, when I explained that the crucial connection was behind a cardboard box in the bedroom, this man simply stared at my husband expectantly, until he lamely repeated what I'd just said.

After he'd found the leads in the location I'd specified, Mr Broadband proceeded to tell the man of the house's blank, then faintly panicky face, the details of our upgraded service. I asked several questions, all of which failed to stop him talking at my husband. If I'd shouted my inquiries through a megaphone directly into this guy's ears, I doubt he would have registered my presence. As a woman, I knew nothing about technology and had no authority to make a request. That was just how Mother Nature had made things (the self-loathing suck-up she is).

And so it was with the taxi driver who couldn't hear me ask him to take a short cut through a side street on Tuesday, then screeched to divert when my male companion made the same suggestion. And the handyman who, when I told him where I wanted the shelves, considered my words for a moment with a cocked head then said: "I'll just phone your husband."

I'm not very tall, a mere 5ft 3in. But I have quite a loud - certainly audible - voice. And I'm not nervous when I speak to these men, I'm pretty assured and articulate. But maybe that's what irritates them. Perhaps if I spoke to them like the gods of getting things done that they are, they'd be happier to acknowledge my validity as a cognisant human.

I wonder if this ties in with a strain I've noticed in popular culture lately - the popularity of the "Girl". I've lost count of the amount of books and films released in the last few years with "girl" in the title. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Online, The Girl (two of those), Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, Girl Missing, The Girl In Between ... I get sent a lot of books by publishers and this week alone, I found three new titular Girls in my post.

It's no coincidence almost all of these are crime stories. For some readers, it's clearly just an erotic thing; they want to imagine young, supple nubiles in peril. But there's more to it than that - generally, it seems, "girls' as victims of threat or violence are more compelling and more convincing than "women" who, in these times of rising young feminism, sound strong, in control, self-knowing. Loose Women, Independent Women, women who roar.

As far as publishers surmise anyway, thriller readers aren't interested in women with confidence and fortitude; they - increasingly it appears - want vulnerable, needy girls whose main function is to be attacked or seek protection. Women who don't know how to turn on a modem, which route to take home, or where to put a shelf. I'd probably get more attention from my handyman if I blushed when he spoke and asked him to "just choose one for me". The only problem is, I'd rather pull my eyelashes out than flutter them at him.

Tories betray the brave translators

I expect this Government to treat asylum seekers with suspicion and hostility; they have form on that.

But the cold-blooded abandonment of the Afghani translators who literally risked their life, and the safety of their family, to aid British soldiers fighting the savage natives of their own ravaged, knife-edge country, takes my breath away.

Even after a translator denied UK asylum was killed trying to escape the Taliban, David Cameron won't offer sanctuary to a mere 200 people whose courageous work undoubtedly saved lives, while endangering their own. No wonder British arrogance is still famed around the world.

More shaming of Stormont needed

Labour hopeful Andy Burnham was right to flag up "sexual and gender rights" as a primary area of concern in Northern Ireland.

His comment that we "need to take a major step forward" is an under-statement.

He picked up on the continuing ban on gay men giving blood, a policy long abandoned in the rest of the UK, and I'm pretty sure I can guess where he stands on gay cakes. Ditto Jeremy Corbyn. I just hope high profile figures from all walks of life keep piling on the pressure until Stormont is shamed into behaving like an open-minded, informed government of the 21st century. But I won't hold my breath.

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