DUNCAN BARKES: Is the sisterhood taking offence for the sake of it?

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Being a man in the 21st century is a minefield that confuses and bemuses.

I believe in equality; everyone should be treated equally regardless of their sex. But I am helpless when it comes to defining what constitutes sexism.

Pinching a woman’s bottom, suggesting copulation in a lewd manner or marginalising a woman because of her sex are clearly forms of sexist behaviour, but there are many grey areas where a man can end up being branded a sexist.

But I believe there is also a growing number of women who look for what they perceive to be sexist behaviour,

and who are creating problems that do not exist.

Interestingly, it is a Conservative female MP (the country’s sports and equalities minister) who sparked the latest so-called sexism row.

She suggested that British women be encouraged to take up ‘feminine’ sports such as cheerleading and ballet.

You can imagine the screeching outrage from various feminist campaigners, including the Everyday Sexism project which predictably condemned her comments. The MP has since said her remarks were taken out of context.

But does it matter even if this were her belief? She is not suggesting women are incapable of participating in other sports, but rather that there is another possible focus. Where is the harm?

I am sure those more naturally inclined to being outraged could tell me, but to me it rather smells of taking offence for the sake of it.

Which leads me on to how to survive as a modern-day man without being branded a sexist pig. I work in an office with a predominantly female staff. My often cheery greeting when I arrive in the early evening is ‘Hello ladies’, which I consider to be rather pleasant.

It appears not. I learn to my astonishment that such a remark can be interpreted to mean that I believe some women are ladies and others are not! Evidently I have made a distinction and judged one woman over another!

The sisterhood operates in a warped way, just as it does when it condemns a man who calls a woman he may not know ‘darling’, ‘sweetheart’ or ‘love’. There is no sexist intention, they are just everyday terms used right across Britain.

Perceived sexism is a generational thing and from my experience it seems to be that younger women are the most likely to be offended.

I do not see myself as sexist, but I refuse to be browbeaten into living my life in an extremely politically-correct way over the trivial use of words.

Genuine sexism, sadly, exists in society, but in order for it to be taken seriously and conquered, sensible rationality is required.