Elaine Paige: 'Come on, girls, if a man puts his hand on your knee or your bum, then deal with it'

Hannah Furness
Elaine Paige - Andrew Crowley

Elaine Paige, the singer and Radio 2 presenter, has encouraged young women to “just deal with it” if a man “puts his hand on your knee or your bum”, saying life would be dreary if they are discouraged from flirting.

Paige, 70, said she had “of course” been hit on by predatory men, joking she would be “really embarrassed” if she had managed to avoid it.

But while rape and sexual assault are “completely unacceptable”, she said, other behaviour should be treated with “perspective”.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine, which made reference to the Me Too movement, Paige also said she objected to being called a diva because it is “sexist”, and was “very hot” on the issue of equal pay.

Asked if she had endured advances from “predatory males”, she said: “Of course I have! My God! I would be really embarrassed to sit here and say that it never happened to me.”

Elaine Page in Cats

She added: “Listen, we've got to get all of this in perspective. Rape or any sort of assault is completely unacceptable. But come on, girls, if a man puts his hand on your knee or your bum, then deal with it.

“Are we really wanting to get to a stage when a man never flirts again? What a dreary life!

“In fact, I'm thinking of getting a badge made saying: #Cooee! I'm over here. It's not too late.”

Elaine Paige (right) at the London Palladium in 1987 Credit: Rex

The broadcaster, who rose to fame in musical theatre with roles in Hair, Evita and Cats and now hosts Elaine Paige on Sunday on Radio 2, said she was a firm believer in equal pay.

“Oh, I'm very hot on that,” she said. “If you're doing the same job as a man, you should be paid the same.

“That Mr Humphrys on the Today programme made disparaging off-air remarks about his female colleagues' pay and I found that absolutely appalling.”

Elaine Paige Credit:  Andrew Crowley

She also objects strongly to being called a “diva”, despite her singing talents, saying: “I think the word is overused - and it's sexist. No one ever called a man a diva.

“I'm also called feisty but I find that a bit sexist, too. Again, have you ever heard that word applied to a man?”