Opinion: Parking my scepticism and celebrating beef

My friend, Nathan, is renovating an amazing Georgian farmhouse nearby. The house is going through its biggest change in 200 years. The barns have been undisturbed for decades since a farmer died there in an accident and it is like entering a time machine and travelling to a different age. 

Among many other curiosities was a heap of Farmers Weekly magazines from the 1960s and 70s in pristine condition.

One magazine, from 1970, had a full-page colour advert on the front featuring a sexy blonde lady wearing nothing but knee-high white leather boots and a plastic fertiliser bag. Her vital statistics were 15:15:19. 

See also: 25 pieces of advice for 25-year-old farmers 

The randy fertiliser manufacturer in question was Albright & Wilson, the name of whom is unlikely to ever ring in farmers’ ears again.

Matthew Naylor is the managing director of Naylor Flowers

The adverts in the magazine reveal how different life was back then.

One, for asbestos sheets, declares the product “Good-looking, curvy and easy to lay.” 

Another is for creosote and features a woman in a bikini being ogled through a fence by a peeping Tom. 

I can’t decide which is more shocking to modern sensibilities: the promotion of asbestos, creosote and eight stone bags of fertiliser as sophisticated products or the mortifying objectification of women. 

The Farmers Weekly from the 1970s makes the Carry On films look like a gritty social drama by Alan Bleasdale.

Today we have greater gender equality and fewer products that harm human health and the environment. Good. 

Positive discrimination

I predict, and hope, that we will continue to change even further in this direction. I would like to see more women into leadership positions in farming even if, at least for now, it requires positive discrimination. This might be some compensation for the way they were treated a few decades ago.

I recently joined the council for Oxford Farming Conference and “managing change” is going to be a key theme for the 2018 conference.

I am looking after the scholars programme and have been wondering if I can challenge gender stereotypes to encourage more women to participate.

I even found myself questioning the hetero-normative convention of issuing ties for boys and scarves for girls. 

It was a coincidence, therefore, that last week I should receive a call from Jilly Greed.

Jilly, as most of you will know, is a Lady in Beef. She had a bit of beef with me about my scepticism around my past criticism of generic marketing campaigns and my flirtations with vegetarianism. Jilly, and 150 other “Ladies in Beef”, are promoting Great British Beef Week from 23 April.

Jilly is a delight, she rebuked me for my comments in the loveliest way and set about trying to change my mind on generic advertising.

Positive change

She succeeded to some extent and she certainly made me think carefully about trying to influence changing consumers’ habits rather than just accepting them.

I admire the plucky Ladies in Beef for trying to bring about a positive change. These women put the sass in casserole.

It is much harder to make good things happen than it is to stop it from them from happening. On this basis, Jilly and her fellow ladies deserve three cheers.

So, as a feminist, I am happy to publicly park my scepticism for Great British Beef Week. A return to a roast dinner with British beef and lots of vegetables is one bit of 1970s behaviour that we don’t have to be ashamed about bringing back.

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