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The Wench Front Interviews Churchill On This, His Fiver Hour.

Until fairly recently, Sir Winston Churchill’s “outstanding contribution” (to use The Bank of England’s endorsement) was indubitable in the eyes of academics and the nation alike.

Yet, his unfavourable view on women, in both his personal and political lives, well that’s never been bridled with such an amorous bias. He’s renowned (and readily accepted) as an unmitigated misogynist. Bouts of sexist hostility are part and parcel of Mr Churchill’s looming iconography, along with the cigars, the booze and the V sign. So much so, that rather than a hideous character defect, his stance on women is considered a queer little eccentricity. Something which often warrants the response “yes, but he was a GREAT man” or “he was JUST a product of his time”.

Now when we heard that Elizabeth Fry, the only woman currently fronting any of our banknotes, was being retired in favour of a man, we didn’t think it could get much worse. But to be faced with the possibility of her replacement being a man who didn’t even want women to have the vote, well it peed us off. And since his advocates at The Bank of England have been reluctant to respond in any real depth, we crawled into the deepest recesses of our sarcastic little minds and decided to interview the late Sir Churchill, to see what he might have said about his moneymentous achievement, on this, His Fiver Hour.

WARNING: Only parts of the following conversation are imagined. A massive, horrifying chunk of the words we put in Churchill’s mouth were based on, inspired by or snippets of actual quotes.

The Wenches: Churchill, thank you for coming.

Churchill: Good to be here. {Cough}.

The Wenches: I guess the first thing we want to ask you is – how do you feel about the progress women have made in politics since you were in office?

 Churchill: What a ridiculous tragedy it is that our strong Government, and my party, which has made its mark in history, has given into Petticoat Politics. And I know what I’m talking about; I was the Prime Minister you know. {Cough}.

The Wenches: {Astonished silence}.

Churchill: {Cough}. It’s ruddy well awful. Having women in Parliament has made politicians more mealy-mouthed than in my day. And public meetings are much less fun. You can't say the things you used to. {Cough, COUGH}. I’m glad I never had to endure these atrocious constraints on the scale that my successors have. War was bad enough.

The Wenches: Er. I guess that shouldn’t come as a shock to like, anyone who’s studied GCSE History. You were ardently anti Votes For Women.

Churchill: Yes, well. They were violent militants you see. {Cough}. I don’t advocate militancy. Or violence.

The Wenches: It’s funny you say that. In November 1910, a suffragette rally at Westminster was met with pretty extreme brutality at the hands of the Metropolitan Police, and several women were injured. The incident became known as Black Friday. Though you were not personally present at or responsible for Black Friday, we know that as Home Secretary you rejected all allegations against the Met and refused to launch an inquest. Why is that?

Churchill: That’s because they’re the police. Not some silly, hysterical Suffragettes with nothing better to do than stand outside Parliament shouting. {COUGH, SPLUTTER}.

The Wenches: But it wasn’t just the Suffragettes, or even the Suffragettes’ tactics you were opposed to, Mr Churchill. In 1912, the Cabinet debated whether or not to introduce a franchise bill for universal suffrage, and you were dead set against it…

Churchill: I see exactly where this is going. Yes. I was against it. We already have enough ignorant voters, and I don’t want anymore.

The Wenches: Ignorant?

Churchill: Yes. Ignorant. What do women know about politics anyhow? The role of women has been the same since the days of Adam and Eve. {Cough}. Why should it change? Women are represented well enough, by their fathers, their brothers, their husbands.

The Wenches: Wow. {Collective rolling of eyes}. But you eventually came round to the idea of women voting – what made you change your mind so dramatically?

Churchill: The war, of course. It changed everything.

The Wenches: You’re referring to the First World War?

Churchill: Yes. {Cough}. The Great War put a stop to all that ruddy window smashing and finally mobilised masses of impassioned women for a decent cause.

The Wenches: You mean the Home Front?

The Churchill: Yes the Home Front. We’d have been lost without the little poppets. Us men were fighting. We couldn’t sew our own parachutes or collect tickets on busses. I mean, women weren’t entirely put to use like they were when I was Prime Minister – did you know I was named greatest wartime leader of the 20th Century? It’s because I saw potential in eve -

The Wenches: We’ll get to that.

Churchill: Oh, sorry dears. Where were we?

The Wenches: Do you think women were treated fairly after WWI? Many lost the jobs they’d been actively recruited to take on by the government, and were now expected to return to the way their lives were before the conflict?

Churchill: They ruddy well got the vote, didn’t they?!

The Wenches: Well yeah, but there were quite a few restrictions put in place. Women over 30 received the vote but they had to be either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, or a graduate voting in a University constituency. And they still couldn’t vote on equal terms with men.

Churchill: I really don’t see what the fuss is about. We weren’t just going to give women the vote. We had to test the ruddy water, see if they could be trusted first. And it didn’t take long for them to start infiltrating politics; women started cropping up everywhere!  It was only a few months later that Nancy Astor become a member of the House. And the ruddy woman threatened to poison me! Women were everywhere I tell you – working, voting, holding seats in Parliament. Some of them were even Ministers! You’re forgetting that I let women have men’s job when I took over in 1940. As Prime Minister, I -

The Wenches: YES. Er, ahem, sorry - yes, your supporters often champion you for your inclusion of women in the war effort. Women In War: From The Home Front To The Front Line, edited by Celia Lee and Paul Edward Strong, suggests that the Second World War forced you to embrace sexual equality. Is that a fair statement?

Churchill: Ha! Cough. Dear old Paul, what a hoot! That woman he allows to work with him, what’s her name? Yes, Celia. They run a Women In War group for the British Commission For Military History, and they’ve been studying several areas in which I, the Prime Minister, personally encouraged British women to undertake jobs that had, up until the 1940s, solely been done by men, therefore freeing up British men for the frontline. Under my instruction, Women were able to fulfil such positions as secretarial work, telephone operating, cyphering, accounting, even typing. We had lady transport vehicle drivers, and of course we needed women to take on domestic tasks, like cooking, stewarding and waitressing.

The Wenches: We’ve got to be honest, that doesn’t sound particularly liberating…

Churchill: It ruddy well was! The Nazis retained their Home and Hearth ideologies throughout the war, and never utilised or encouraged women to the extent that I did.[i]

The Wenches:  Right. So, to summarise, your attitude to gender equality is favourable only to Hitler’s?

Churchill: Not just Hitler’s. Stalin’s too.

The Wenches: Much better. What about as leader of the opposition? What did you do to redress the massive inequalities that women faced despite getting the vote and despite being “allowed” to work in traditionally male sectors?

Churchill: {Cough}. {Silence}…

The Wenches: Mr Churchill?

Churchill: {More silence}… They voted me out. Apparently I wasn’t the right man to instigate post-war social reforms. And something else… Something about peace and transitions? Oh I don’t know. Anyway. Women were the last of my worries. I needed my power… I mean position back. {Cough}.

The Wenches: And what about your second term in office? What policies would you say particularly bolstered the rights and interests of women?

Churchill: What dears? {Cough}.

The Wenches: Lets move onto your personal life. You’ve been quoted as saying that your greatest achievement was convincing your wife, Clementine, to marry you.

Churchill: {Wistful look}. It truly was. {Cough}. {Pause}. I had to ask four women to marry me before one said yes!

The Wenches: Yes, it’s common knowledge you had a weakness for beautiful women…

Churchill: {Cough}. I have no weaknesses. Never has so much, been owed by so many, to one man. Like me.

The Wenches: What about your childhood? You grew up in an aristocratic family, and rarely saw your parents. You particularly missed your mother, and as a young boy wrote letters begging her to visit you at your boarding school or to allow you to come home. Psychoanalysts might say that your cold detachment to women stemmed from these early experiences?

Churchill: {COUGH}. Poppycock. {Cough, Cough}. {Cough}.

The Wenches: Okay. One final question; How do you feel about your latest homage from The Bank Of England? And do you feel at all guilty that Elizabeth Fry, the only woman currently to be honoured on any British banknote, has been removed in your favour?

Churchill: {Cough}. Fuck Elizabeth Fry. She didn’t win a war.

The Wenches: Thank you, Churchill.


The Wench Front is dedicated to rewriting the wrongs of a phallic-centric history, one brilliant woman at a time.




“Don’t make me laugh, the tears run down my leg” – comedy and continence

- Elaine Miller

I reduced my nether regions to rubble by having three giant headed babies in four years.  The bed collapsed during the birth of the last one, which didn’t help.  Falling off a bed during labour caused a spike of intra-abdominal pressure which was of sufficient force to eject the baby from within –  my son was, literally, air born.

So, I wasn’t too surprised to find I needed to cross my legs when laughing with my friends over a glass of wine.  But, by the time my kids were in school, and I was still wetting myself it was time to admit that I wasn’t so much “leaky new mum” but, nearer to being a “smelly old lady”

Luckily, I’m a physiotherapist, so I knew all about what a pelvic floor was and what I needed to do to fix it.  I’d just never bothered – but, pissing all over my coir “welcome” mat in full view of my neighbours (why do keys hide in handbags?) turned out to be the motivating experience I needed.

I did the exercises at traffic lights and in queues.  I did them during the adverts, and I did them every time I shouted at my kids, thought an evil thought about my husband or craved a glass of pinot grigio. 

Three months later, I could go on a trampoline and had a new welcome mat.

I am entirely typical - a third of women aged 35-55 wet themselves when they cough, sneeze, laugh, run or jump.  Did you read that?  A THIRD of your peers are miserably sitting on pads.

Women do have a vague idea about what their pelvic floor is, and they faithfully do their exercises every single time they hear the words “pelvic floor”.  Twice a year isn’t enough,  people!

These muscles are like any other – they strengthen with training and lose power with disuse.  Evidence shows doing pelvic floor exercises, three times a day for three months will improve most cases of simple stress incontinence .   And, the happy side effect is that having a strong pelvic floor enhances sexual function.

The reason for that is that the nerves which supply the pelvic floor muscles also supply your tickly bits.  So, if your orgasms are weak the chances are your muscles are too.  

You should not just shrug their shoulders and accept that satisfying sex is now beyond you.  Or, that having control of your bodily functions is something that you can live without. Or, that it is ok to live with a wearing physical condition that grinds down their emotional well being was ok.

There is help available, and, if you do nothing then the organs sitting on your pelvic floor can, well, fall out.

That’s what a prolapse is – a bit like a hernia in your vagina, so your bladder, rectum, intestines or uterus isn’t properly supported and hangs down into it.  Which can be helluva uncomfortable, to say the very least. 

There are wider public health issues.  Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK, but, sometimes, zumba’s not pretty (ask me how I know!).  Stress incontinence can be an absolute barrier to exercise. 

A third of people with continence problems also have clinical depression,  having less control over your bladder than your toddler has doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.  Indeed, incontinence can break your hip – eldery women who keep needing to get up for a pee in the night can slip in a puddle, and there’s nothing funny about that.

Your pelvic floor isn’t a very good bit of mechanics.  There are layers of muscle which attach onto the bone and ligaments of your pelvis.  Their job is to lift, that action supports the neck of bladder against the force of your intra-abdominal pressure.  Unfortnately, as you age the ligaments stretch, or you might sustain injury to the muscles – so they can’t lift or lose power.

The lift is a tiny movement.  Imagine you are trying to create just enough space for a folded £50 note to be slipped into your gusset.  That’s a mental image which grates against every single one of my feminist principles – but, it is effective.  You’re doing it right now, see?

I teach three exercises.

The first one is a simple clench.  Imagine you’ve got a huge fart brewing, but you are on a first date with someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.  That clenching you are doing round your bum hole is you working your pelvic floor.  Hold it for a count of 10 seconds.  You should feel a “drop” when you let go, no “drop” and you’ve lost the contraction, so will have to work on it.

The second exercise is doing 10 quick clenches in a row.

The third exercises is a bit odd – imagine you’ve got a lift in your vagina.  Take it to the first, second and third floors and then back down to the second, first and ground floors.  And, relax.

The “relax” is important.  Sometimes tightness in your pelvic floor can mimic weakness.  If you experience pain when you are doing your exercises, during sex or whilst pooing – show your pelvic floor to your GP or women’s health physio.

Otherwise – repeat after me: “we won’t pee with a 10, 10, 3”

Hold for 10, 10 quick flicks and up three floors and back down again.  Three times a day, every day, for three months.  And then, once a day, every day, until you die.  Sorry about that, if you stop doing them you lose all benefit and will be back to pissing on your doorstep within a matter of weeks.

Stress incontinence is a debilitating condition which interferes with everything.  People laugh and joke to disguise how relentless and wearing it is.

“Oh, I laughed until the tears ran down my leg” led to my mixing my hobby of stand up comedy with continence advice.  Delivering the information in a social setting, and making it funny, bursts the taboo.  I encourage compliance by using twitter -  @gussiegrips “when I tweet, you twitch your twinkle”.  Follow me,  I promise to remind you to #doyerblardyexercises.

The feedback is encouraging.  I am presenting Gusset Grippers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (shameless plug: 1-25th August, 1200 at The Newsroom, free, non-ticketed) and will gather data from the audience for a study.

Meanwhile, please just #doyerblardyexercises.  I mean YOU.  Now.  10, 10, 3.  Go on, then!

Elaine Miller is a physiotherapist, comedian and recovered incontinent.  For further information see www.gussetgrippers.weebly.com

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