Oxford don criticised for claiming women's dresses should look like a 'stormable fortress'

Robin Lane Fox made the remark in a gardening column for the Financial Times

The eminent Oxford classics professor Robin Lane Fox has come under fire for claiming that “a woman’s evening dress should look like an apparently stormable fortress”.

The comment, which was made in a gardening column reviewing an exhibition examining the links between clothing trends and gardening for the Financial Times, has been criticised for being sexist.

Speaking to the student newspaper Cherwell, Oxford University's Women’s Campaign Officer Lucy Delaney said that Lane Fox’s remark was unacceptable.

“I feel that these comments are misogynistic and reflective of the view that it is acceptable for men to govern the way women dress for the sole purpose of their own sexual gratification,” she said.

“His negative reaction to the Valentino dress on the grounds that it seemed impenetrable or not 'stormable' is aggressive and unacceptable.”

Lane Fox used the term in reference to a Valentino garment on show at the Fashion and Gardens with Nicola Shulman exhibition at London’s Garden Museum .

The Daily Mail reported that Lane Fox claimed he had been referring to a quote made by the famous designer Alice Rawsthorn.

But, speaking to The Independent, Ms Rawsthorn said the credit was incorrect.

“I have no idea why Robin Lane Fox attributed the phrase to me, as I did not write it. Nor do I know who did,” she said.

The row is unlikely to impress his daughter, Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox, who is a vocal advocate for women's rights and on the board of directors at Marks and Spencer.

In the same column, Lane Fox also claimed that being a woman would be his “worst nightmare”.

“If a vengeful flower fairy realises my worst nightmare and turns me into a woman, I will choose to wear flowery dresses,” he wrote.

When asked by the Daily Mail whether he thought the description was sexist, he is reported to have said: “I know absolutely sod all about fashion, but the phrase was stuck in my head.

"Nobody wants to be stormed."

The academic has been a Reader in Ancient History at Oxford since 1990 and has published major works on Alexander the Great and the relation between the pagan and early Christian religions of the Roman Empire.

Professor Lane Fox wasn't immediately available for comment.

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