Now there is the retro craze that newspapers have embraced in the last few years for promoting any study, no matter how inaccurate, that proves that we lovely, cutesy women like pink because we're genetically programmed to pick berries, talk for hours and hours every day, can't park, can't do maths, can't do anything really except look after babies, cook and clean. Many of these studies have been disputed by experts, but "girls will be girls, and boys will be boys" makes an entertaining headline, so we're now using biology to underpin many of the inequalities still present in our society. The argument becomes: "Sorry, no point in trying to change it, it's in the genes." Walter's new feminism is an attack on this new fatalism.
Living Dolls is hard for me to read without scepticism. I'm a 23-year-old who grew up in Southend surrounded by glamour model hopefuls and who went out scantily-clad and pole-danced with the best of them at Mayhem (not as an employee, mind you). I know that this doesn't therefore mean that I don't have a brain, or a future, or any morals.
Actually, not every girl wants to be, or look like, Cheryl Cole or Jordan, and not every guy finds the plastic look the height of sexiness. Women have sold their bodies forever and the WAG/glamour model is just its new guise and the temptation to move into this industry is often more of a symptom of our get-rich-quick-and-become-the-next-Z-list-celebrity culture than of hypersexuality. And although Walter might find it odd, some women do find a WAG's life more appealing than that of a Guardian journalist.
Unfortunately, there is a slight problem. People often make the mistake when thinking about this subject, as I did, of believing that choosing to be a glamour model, or a lap dancer, or even a prostitute is fine because it is exactly that — a personal choice, and one that we don't have the right to question in modern life. However, it cannot only be a matter of choice when women are still unequal in so many important areas of life: in 2007, women made up only 11 per cent of directors of the FTSE 100 companies; 14 per cent of editors of national newspapers; and fewer than 20 per cent of MPs. In 2007-2008, the pay gap between women and men actually widened; and women working full-time do an average of 23 hours of unpaid domestic work each week compared to eight hours for men. This isn't a matter of choice, it's a matter of having fewer opportunities.
Walter is right to argue that we need to fix these inequalities before we can claim that women sell their sexual allure just because they feel like it and because it's fun. Maybe the most effective way to do this is to attack the fatalistic articles in magazines and newspapers that argue that women are programmed to fail in other jobs, to attack a culture which ignores the omnipresence of internet pornography because it's already widespread, and to challenge fashionable views that argue that pole dancing, glamour modelling and high-class prostitution are largely fabulous and pain-free. When we've overcome these barriers, then we can strip and seduce with gay abandon.