Robert Sutcliffe: Sisters at war: feminists battle it out over sex, men, alcohol and drugs

Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray takes an unsisterly jab at young female writers

Bryony Gordon from her days as a 3am Girl with the Daily Mirror and, left, her critic Jenni Murray of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour

Few men can resist a catfight.

And it’s been a few years now since the less fair sex enjoyed watching the sisters taking lumps out of each other in the spectacular bust up between the Australian feminist Germaine Greer and journalist Suzanne Moore after the latter falsely claimed the former had undergone a hysterectomy at 25.

The latest hair pulling saga comes after Telegraph hack Bryony Gordon wrote an eye-wateringly candid confession, The Wrong Knickers, about her life as a single girl about town.

Its subtitle: A Decade of Chaos is not far wrong.

There are some hilarious vignettes in it such as the time she gets “left out” of a threesome, a sexual liaison with a man who is more anxious about watching Newsnight than concentrating on the task in hand, and a man who has a bizarre obsession with Lurpak butter and who throws her someone else’s knickers in the morning – hence the book’s title.

It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, perhaps, the casual sex, equally casual drug use and alcohol-fuelled nights, but as someone who has followed her writing on the Daily Telegraph for several years it’s little surprise to find that all along all she ever really wanted was someone to love her and settle down and have children, all of which she has now happily achieved.

The reviews were by and large kind but there’s always someone who can’t resist putting the knife in and on this occasion it was no less a figure than Jenni Murray the esteemed but rather frumpy presenter of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Perhaps it was Bryony’s confession that she allowed a man to snort cocaine off her breasts or the affairs with married men that particularly irked her, but sounding like someone out of the last century, she complained that these kind of works constituted an “abandoning of dignity and self-respect.”

In her why-oh-why piece for the Daily Mail about women such as Bryony being rotten role models for young girls, she adds: “Once there were some things a woman would take with her to the grave.

Now even the most embarrassing exploits are worn as badges of honour in the name of ‘honesty’ and being ‘real’.” Wow!

Poor Caitlin Moran, The Times columnist and acclaimed author also comes in for a kicking too for the crime of writing about her career in music journalism which included copious amounts of drink, drugs, sex and self-harm.

Who’d have thought it, eh?! And pop star Lily Allen gets dragged in for a bashing too. Her unspeakable crime? To have spoken about attending illegal raves in her teens... Gosh.

As if Bryony didn’t have enough to cope with it was then revealed that the Government minister Michael Fallon had committed an almighty faux pax by unwittingly insulting the winsome writer at a party near Westminster.

The Independent’s account ran thus: ‘If you work at the Telegraph, do you know that slut who writes that Single Girl About Town column at the back of the magazine? What’s her name? Bryony Gordon?’ ‘The room seemed to fall silent. ‘Yes,’ I managed to respond. ‘I know her very well, because that slut is me’.” The MP “blushed crimson” and spent the evening “apologising profusely” to Ms Gordon.’

Fortunately Bryony’s friends have hit back at both Fallon and Murray. In The Guardian, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett describes Murray’s reaction as “strange” and memorably imagines her muttering away stood at her net curtains.

And Sunday Times columnist India Knight asks: “Just why are people so weird about young women having young women’s lives?”

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