I said yesterday that “I don’t wanna” is a reason often given when people don’t want to give up something nice, such as unearned advantage, in favour of something not nice, such as not having an unearned advantage. Not in so many words, of course. And when the person using it has power, it can be expressed in smooth, calm words expressing a view that it would really be better to leave things as they are, or to make only minimal steps towards correcting the imbalance of advantage.

For the people who don’t have power, this can be one of the most bafflingly difficult responses to deal with, because it’s almost impossible to see it happening. You get told that what you are asking for just isn’t possible, sorry, without any real reason being given, leaving you with nowhere to go. And if you get upset at the continuing unfairness of your situation, you often get accused of being overemotional, of exaggerating, of being unreasonable. And if you get angry, as, indeed, why shouldn’t you, you’ve lost the argument right there, and can be dismissed with a version of “Calm down, dear!”.

It’s very clever, and very demoralising to be on the receiving end of, and it’s seen all over the place, popping up not just in cases of gender discrimination, but in all sorts of other places too. (The current portrayal of the poor, including the working poor, as “less than”, chavvy, drunken, feckless and irresponsible, is another version of this, which allows their perfectly valid views on their position in our society to be dismissed as coming from those who are incapable of correctly articulating an opinion on any situation, even when it’s their own.)

There are unfortunately very few effective solutions to this type of unpleasant weaselling, although it helps enormously to be able to spot that it is happening. This enables you to say to yourself “Aha! I see what is happening here! I am neither mad, bad, nor sad – I am being weaselled!” This is called consciousness raising, a wonderful, if outmoded thing, which, when it happens outside a gender context, is often known as socialism.

More tomorrow.