Joanna Lumley: 'Wolf whistling isn't sexist, it's a compliment. We're offended by everything'

Lumley suggests models had a far thicker skin in the 1960s and perceived insults as amiable banter

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Joanna Lumley has weighed into the debate surrounding everyday sexism by claiming wolf whistling is in no way “sexist” and should instead be perceived as a “compliment”.

The Absolutely Fabulous star suggested there is nothing wrong with wolf whistling and people are too easily offended in this day and age. 

Lumley argued people were altogether tougher in the 1960s and models had much thicker skin.

“How can wolf whistling be offensive to women? It’s a compliment,” the 70-year-old actress told The Mirror.

“They’re saying ‘Cor you look all right, darlin’. What’s wrong with that?

“We were tougher in those days. You knew someone would whistle in the street and you weren’t insulted. We have become more sensitive flowers nowadays, people are very offended by everything.”

In July, Nottinghamshire police became the first force in Britain to record misogyny offences. Under the new rules, wolf whistling, cat-calling, harassment, unwanted verbal contact and uninvited sexual advances can now be reported as hate crimes.

Lumley has garnered criticism for her remarks about wolf whistling on social media.

"Joanna Lumley's comments on wolf whistling & women being "sensitive flowers' really disappointing. We shouldn't be flattered by harassment," said one Twitter user.  "Next up, Joanna Lumley will be saying 'no' actually means 'yes' over 'girls are too sensitive' statement," said another.

"What Joanna Lumley fails to realise is that in 2016 it isn't actually a wolf whistle it's lewd comments & threats of rape & violence," said one more. "Sweetie darling no!" added another.

"Lumley thinks women were tougher in the 60s. Maybe they had to be - no equal pay, sex discrim at work, inadequate rape laws...great times!" said another.

Lumley also suggested models were better at taking insults in the 1960s, perceiving them as amiable banter.

“When I was modelling photographers were much ruder, they’d say ‘You look frightful, what’s the matter with you?’ ‘You look podgy, you look fat as a pig’.”

Lumley worked as a photographic model, notably for Brian Duffy, who photographed her alongside her son and as a house model for Jean Muir in 1964. Recounting the experience of being a house model, she said it was not remotely “glamorous” and tantamount to being a “living clothes horse”.

“People weren’t so mercenary or so self-obsessed," she said reflecting on the experience of being a house model.

Lumley also suggested models were altogether more humble in her day and had less airs and graces, saying that the growth of social media had made people increasingly self-conscious.

“It was less grand, everyone was much less grand, this Kardashian thing didn’t exist,” she added. “There was no social media, nobody took photos in nightclubs. It was much less self-conscious – now everyone’s self-conscious, they send out pictures of what they look like, what they like, what they think, even their food.”