Is Helen Mirren right to say it’s wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?


Dame Helen Mirren hit on a touchy subject by saying she hated to see men with arms “slung around their girlfriends’ shoulders”.

The actress said it was a gesture of ownership – and got a whole lot of people, well, up in arms.

Dame Helen, 70, who is married to director Taylor Hackford, also 70, said: “When you’re young, you want the guy to take your hand and look after you.

Is Helen Mirren right to say it's wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?
Possession or affection? Mirren’s comments have sparked an intense debate

“But when I see girls being leaned on, I want to say, ‘Tell him to get his damned arm off your shoulder’.”

Some branded her rant feminism gone mad, while others said Dame Helen had a point.

So is it an ’armless display of affection or should women tell their blokes: Paws off?

We asked two women their views.

NO – ‘It makes me feel protected, loved. It is not a sign of ownership’ says Mirror columnist and Loose Women star Coleen Nolan

Getty Is Helen Mirren right to say it's wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?
Too far: Coleen Nolan

Is Helen Mirren out of her mind?

When I read she gets irritated by men walking around with their arms “slung around their girlfriend’s shoulders” claiming it’s an act of “ownership”, I was speechless.

I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s a sign of “we’re a couple” and “we love each other”. Why read any more into it than that?

Whenever my husband Ray puts his arm around me or puts his hand on my back to guide me across the road, it makes me feel protected and loved. I’ve never once thought like he’s trying to say he owns me.

It’s feminism going too far.

I didn’t agree with lawyer Charlotte Proudman either. Her reaction last week to Alexander Carter-Silk’s compliment on LinkedIn was completely over the top. If she was so offended why didn’t she just send him a private message telling him so? Why splash it all over Twitter?

I would hate to be a bloke these days. They can’t tell a woman they’re attractive because it looks sexist. They can’t whistle at you in the street as they can be done for that. And now, according to Helen Mirren, it’s annoying to put their arm around their girlfriend.

I walk up and down the street waiting for someone to whistle at me… but it never happens. When I was younger and builders whistled, I was mortified. But it’s only as you get older and they stop, you think, “I didn’t appreciate that enough.”

Is Helen Mirren right to say it's wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?
Hugs: Coleen says most women wish their men were more affectionate, not less

Obviously, I don’t know what all women want, but from my point of view, an arm around me is lovely.

I’m a fan of Helen Mirren – that’s why I was so disappointed – but we’d have a good debate about this.

Just because I don’t agree, doesn’t mean I’m the little simpering woman (I’m the main breadwinner in our family). But it does make me think, “Does Helen Mirren think I’m really weak because I let my husband put his arm around me?”

If we’re not careful we’ll lose sight of the main issues of feminism – equal rights and equal pay.

It’s going to be a sad day when a woman walks into a room and men don’t stand up to offer her a chair. I’m not saying that they should, just that they should be allowed to without anybody screaming ­feminism at them.

To me, putting your arm around someone you love is human nature. If all of a sudden it stops and we’re frightened to do it, that’s very sad.

It’s a horrible world right now, so when I see people looking happy, putting their arms around each other, it gives me hope that there’s still some kind of love out there.

YES – ‘Some men still treat us women as little more than life support systems for a pair of breasts’ says bestselling author Kathy Lette

Getty Is Helen Mirren right to say it's wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?
Go Helen: Author and commentator Kathy Lette

What we often forget is that before women got the vote, we really were the property of men. Literally. When a woman married, her property used to become his.

So a proprietorial drape of the male arm around a woman’s ­shoulders can be a reminder of this subservience.

Helen Mirren’s message to young women is to stand on our own two stilettos and not wait around to be rescued by some Knight in Shining Armani.

And she’s right because women are still second-class citizens.

It is some 100 years since Emily Pankhurst tied herself to the railings but British women still don’t have equal pay – we’re getting about 75 pence in the pound.

We’re also getting concussion hitting our heads on the glass ceiling – and we’re expected to clean it while we’re up there.

So, yes, we are definitely runners-up in the human race.

Females face a second glass ceiling at home, as 99% of all child care and housework is still done by women. It seems a woman’s work is never done. Not by men anyway.

Of course, things are even worse for women in the developing world, where they are fed last and fed least, married off as child brides, cut, kidnapped, honour killed etc.

Whether it’s an inappropriate flirtation on LinkedIn like lawyer Charlotte Proudman suffered from an older man, the running commentary on Jennifer Aniston’s honeymoon weight, or men being overly touchy feely in public, it’s clear women suffer from facial prejudice.

Is Helen Mirren right to say it's wrong for a man to put his arm around girlfriend?
Not property: Girls should stand on their own two stilettos says Kathy

The predatory, proprietorial way some men treat women does makes us feel we’re little more than a life support system to a pair of breasts.

I understand what Helen is getting at as I grew up a surfie girl in Australia. We girls were little more than human handbags, draped decoratively on a boyfriend’s arm, while his other big muscled arm lay possessively across our shoulders.

We cut their names out in paper and sticky-taped them to our stomachs so we’d get a tan-tattoo in the shape of his name. If ever I get cancer I’ll have a melanoma called Bruce. I’ll have to have a Bruce-ectomy to get rid of it.

So, Helen does have a point. But being too earnest about it gives ammunition to the “she can’t take a joke/feminists have no sense of humour” brigade.

I think we should just reverse the power play by allowing women to objectify men for a change, and fondle blokes freely in public.

So, let’s have a Page 3 for women, featuring the opposite of topless girls – bottomless blokes. It’s our turn to be pervy and proprietorial. Now that really would be equality.

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