6 Aug 2014

Women flounce, men ‘storm out’ – yeah, right

The Daily Mail says Baroness Warsi “flounced” out of government over Gaza. Sexist? Don’t be silly! From William the Conquerer to Putin, some of the most “macho” men have a grand history of flouncing.

Barack Obama

When President Barack Obama exited crucial debt talks with the Republicans in the United States in 2011, pushing the country ever closer to hitting is debt ceiling and financial ruin, what was that? Was it an abrupt departure, behind which lay sensible and well-considered principles? No. It was a major-league flounce.

Russell Crowe

He paints himself as a pretty masculine kinda guy. His band is called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. He even played a Gladiator. But that doesn’t mean Russell Crowe isn’t prone to the occasional flounce, like the one below, when a BBC interviewer suggested his accent for Robin Hood had “hints of Irish” in it. (He also stormed out of the Golden Globes when he didn’t win best actor. And apparently he once bit someone in a club. And his response to a fan who tried to take his picture once was: “How dare you take my *** picture? Who gave you ***** permission?” We could go on).

Quentin Tarantino

He didn’t actually leave, but when Channel 4 News Presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy dared to ask him questions about his hyper-violent films, Quentin Tarantino hardly took it well. “I’m shutting your butt down,” he responded. A verbal flounce if ever we saw one, although not widely-described as such at the time, even by those as, ahem, enlightened as us. Watch the interview below.

Hugo Chavez

A former paratrooper, he was been accused of “testosterone-pumped politics” and often reminded voters of his manliness (hombria). Hugo Chavez, the late leader of Venezuela, loved a good flounce though, notably during a famous incident when he and the president of Colombia hurled insults at each other at a summit in 2010.

Mr Chavez accused Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe of planning his assassination by a paramilitary squad and threatened to walk out (not flounce). Mr Uribe apparently shouted: “Be a man! These issues are meant to be discussed in these venues. You’re brave speaking at a distance, but a coward when it comes to talking face to face.”

Mr Chavez replied: “Go to hell!”

Incidentally, have you noticed a pattern emerging here? Turns out that manly men flounce just as much as women. In fact, anyone can flounce! Who knew?

Mr Darcy

One of English literature’s greatest romantic heroes. Also a pretty serious flouncer.

When he first proposes to Elizabeth, not particularly politely – going on at length about “her inferiority – of its being a degradation – of the family obstacles” – she says no.

He responds curtly: “‘Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.’ And with these words, he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house.”

He does come back, as romantic fiction lovers will remember, but it takes him a while.

William the Conqueror

When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, it was arguably all down to one of the biggest flounces of all time. William had been promised the throne by King Edward, because they were distant cousins. Harold, at the time (1051) had sworn to support him. Then Edward died, and Harold changed his mind, and crowned himself king.

With, probably, an almighty cry of “It’s not FAIR!”, William flounced right into England, did some battling, and took the kingdom right back.

Of course, there are some other examples of flouncing which were accurately recorded as such. Even The Daily Mail has noticed that some men flounce too, as International Editor Lindsey Hilsum found out on Twitter.

Other examples include Michael Heseltine’s departure from government after a row with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the Westland helicopter affair in 1986. That was widely described as a flounce – although the good people of Wikipedia are worried about it, with editors asking if the word was a bit emotive.

Incidentally, the etymology and the negative connotations of flouncing are a bit murky. It probably has some links from the Norwegian word “flunsa”, to dash, plunge or flop, and in English mixed in with the spelling of “bounce” and became linked to ideas of anger or impatience in around the eighteenth century.

But wait! What’s this? The prime minister himself accused of flouncing?

It’s true: in June this year, talking about the EU presidency row, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “In the past we’ve seen David Cameron flounce out of the European negotiating room to little effect.”

So perhaps, by now, we have reached a place where the world is open to anyone flouncing, man, woman or child, regardless of gender and free of controversy.

On the other hand, when the UK’s most talked about newspaper accuses a woman of leaving her role at the heart of government over one of the most serious and heartrending conflicts of the modern age, though, as merely “flouncing out” – perhaps not.

And what do you mean, this article is silly? How dare you! I’m not standing for that…!