Laura Bates criticises BBC's Today show for trying to provide two sides to Donald Trump's leaked sexist comments

'I think it matters that someone at the Today programme has heard these comments [...] and gone: ‘Let’s have a debate about whether men should be able to have a safe space to be able to say things about women'

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The Independent Online

The founder of one of the biggest social anti-sexism movements has criticised the BBC for even asking her to participate in a Radio 4 debate asking whether men should be able to have “locker room talk” in response to sexist comments made by Donald Trump.  

The eleven-year-old ‘Trump tapes’ released on Friday have threatened to derail the Republican candidate’s campaign as a number of senior party members have distanced themselves from Mr Trump in the wake of the comments. 

In video footage, the then-60-year-old could be heard making several misogynistic comments, including boasting that he could use his fame to “grab [women] by the p***y”. He has since issued somewhat of an apology while also dismissing the remarks as “locker room talk”.

Discussing the premise of “locker room talk” – which has been disputed by a number of high-profile athletes who spend a considerable amount of time in the locker room – Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates clarified the distinction between banter among men and talking about “sexual violence”.

“It’s important we’re unequivocal about the fact that Donald Trump was discussing sexual violence, he was talking about using his privilege to get away with sexually assaulting women and what he’s tried to do is to deflect that using this ‘banter’, ‘locker room excuse’ to suggest this is natural and this is just the way that men talk which I think is really insulting to the vast majority of men and it mustn’t be conflated,” Bates told BBC Radio 4 Today.

When Justin Webb then asked the women’s rights activist if “the rest” of what Mr Trump said was acceptable, Bates said she found it “fascinating” she had been asked that question. 

“Clearly there is a relationship between describing women in that way and the suggestion that women’s bodies are there for men to do as they would like with,” Bates said.

When Webb then accused Bates of saying descriptions objectifying women are equal to an assault, she replied: “Of course that’s not what I said, there is clearly a connection between the discussion of women in this very dehumanising way that describes them as objects there for the taking and the fact that the conversation immediately segued into a discussion about doing just that.”


Bates later condemned the BBC programme again, saying: “I think it matters that someone at the Today programme has heard these comments, these outrageous comments, made by Donald Trump and gone, ‘Hey, let’s have a debate about whether men should be able to have a safe space to be able to say things about women'. And the reason I say that is because that’s why someone like Donald Trump can get away with this kind of thing and still be on the verge of becoming the most powerful man in the world because we mitigate it, we downplay it, we brush it under the carpet.”

Bates was praised for repeatedly pushing the distinction between banter and talking about “sexual violence”. Some reactions also criticised the programme over the “disappointing” and “unpleasant” debate. 

The segment included a visit to a football club in south London to ask the players what they talk about in locker rooms. The general consensus was while they might talk about women they find attractive, Mr Trump “made it obscene [...] it was uncensored, it was morally wrong and it’s a shame”. 

“We as men, we hate the fact that he’s a man,” one remarked. 

Representatives for the BBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.