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Why it would be a novel idea to give women the odd bit of credit

By Jane Graham

Published 14/08/2015

Swift action: singer Taylor’s songwriting has been questioned
Swift action: singer Taylor’s songwriting has been questioned

Have you ever wondered - especially when it's particularly brilliant - if it is really I, Jane Graham, who writes this column? When the deep-ringing wisdoms, charming bon mots, and discombobulatingly hilarious witticisms are coming at you thick and fast, does it ever occur to you to ask if a woman could really be responsible for such gems?

You wouldn't be terribly unusual if you assumed my best jokes had been stolen from my husband, either with his generous goodwill, or in the hope that he won't get round to reading this column.

Neither would it be a first if you had a niggle that, while the breezy observations about pop culture might originate with me, it's likely that forays into more philosophical territory came from a male mentor. After all, Percy Shelley was the real writer of Frankenstein, wasn't he?

Taylor Swift spoke recently about this phenomenon. Even though her songs are highly autobiographical, rumours that they were really written by men went from a whisper to a roar when her sales began to go through the roof.

"If someone has studied my catalogue and still doesn't think I'm behind it, there's nothing I can do for that person," she said.

"They may have to deal with their own sexist issues, because if I were a guy and you were to look at my catalogue and my lyrics, you would not wonder if I was the person behind it."

Swift is not alone - MIA and Solange Knowles have suffered similar fates. Even Bjork, a fiery, brilliant woman you'd really have to be very self-assured and gobstoppingly stupid to challenge as a bone fide songwriter, has experience of this strange instinct.

"After being the only girl in bands for 10 years," she explained, "I learned the hard way that if I was going to get my ideas through I was going to have to pretend that they - men - had the ideas."

Men, huh? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Many of us assumed this problem had faded not long after Mary Ann Evans called herself George Eliot to get her little musings out to the public, but maybe the best way to deal with it is to simply pretend to be members of the not always so fair sex.

It can't be too hard - find out about Liverpool's new striker, share some banter with some great bunches of lads down the pub, gaze into the middle distance and reminisce about our boyhoods after we hit 40, change our name to George.

It worked for Mary Ann, and last week writer Catherine Nichols revealed it had worked for her, too.

Nichols had pitched her novel to 50 literary agents and received responses from two of them. So she changed her name to George, sent the same pitch, and got replies from five out of every six agents, including 17 manuscript requests.

"(George) is eight-and-a-half times better than me at writing the same book," she noted. "One agent who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George's book, but asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent."

Nichols' experience is the ultimate shut-up to those who claim that less women than men get books published simply because women aren't as good as men.

But we know there are people out there who will believe this, deep down, until the day they die.

How naive we were to ever believe the ground was levelling out. Despite the copious amounts of female best-sellers in every artistic field, the field itself is as lopsided as ever.

Naked truth leads to an ugly scene

It’s a nervous moment for women who wear make-up, the first time a new beau sees you fresh of face.

And you have to confess that the girlish rosy glow, the long shiny black lashes, the rosebud mouth, are really little works of enhancing art, beneath which lie a Celtic complexion the colour of muddy dough.

Revealing the naked truth is an act of trust, so imagine the feelings of the bride of the Algerian man whose response to seeing her without make-up was to sue for £13,000 of “psychological damages”.

Ah well, the course of true love never ever did run smooth.

Chilcot needs a rocket over Iraq

It’s now six years since PM Gordon Brown nervously announced to a hostile House of Commons that the enquiry into the Iraq war was going to take a whole year. The Chilcot enquiry is still not among us, and no publication deadline has been set.

The last hearing was four years ago — the latest hold up is to give those named and possibly shamed, the chance to challenge its conclusions.

The whole thing is a disgraceful, embarrassing travesty of justice, and I hope the families now threatening to take legal action put a rocket up Chilcot and wake the old boy up — pronto.

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