Filipino VS Cumbrian women - how sexism is still a socially acceptable prejudice

BBC Cumbria asked an offensive question on Twitter about women, and it shows how we still see sexism as normal practice.

Share

“Don’t make such a fuss…” “It’s not a big deal…” “Stop overreacting.”

These objections are a huge part of the reason why gender imbalance remains so entrenched in UK society. We do not take it seriously. We are not prepared to listen to its victims. We would rather dismiss its very existence than tackle it at its roots.

A recent entry to the Everyday Sexism Project reads: “I have become so used to cat-calls, offensive jokes and even being followed that it doesn't really register as a serious thing to me any more. I've been trapped by guys who have pushed me up against walls or grabbed my wrists in order to get attention. You can't go out without being grabbed or have comments made about you or your friends. Even writing this now I am embarrassed because I feel like I'm making a big deal about nothing.”

A YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women Coalition earlier this year revealed that nearly half of young women in London have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. And yet, in a country where 400,000 women are sexually assaulted every year, a popular daytime television program ran a debate last month asking whether men pinching women’s bottoms was actually just “a bit of fun”.  That an activity that some victims would clearly describe as sexual touching without consent, (the UK legal definition of sexual assault) can be debated and potentially dismissed as ‘harmless’ on national television in this flippant manner is testament to the public acceptability of sexism.

Meanwhile even as the BBC grapples with claims of a former culture of endemic harassment, its Cumbria division saw no problem with producing a debate this week on the topic “If you could have a Filipino woman, why would you want a Cumbrian one?” Confronted with hundreds of complaints, it still took the broadcaster hours to issue an apology, which utterly missed the point, expressing regret not for the topic itself, but merely for the lack of context: “Our earlier tweet was inappropriate. It did not explain the context of the programme and was offensive. We sincerely apologise.”

Producer Steven Greaves even helpfully elaborated, explaining “it’s come from a Cumbrian man…he thinks…that if he stays in the UK and uses dating sites all he’ll end up with is a 50 year old widow with six kids. Filipino girls are…better and younger. He can get himself a 20 year old.” Using no quotation marks, these explanations suggested that for the publicly funded broadcaster to entertain and debate the racist and sexist premise was not offensive in itself – as long as listeners understood the opinion was that of an interviewee, not the corporation. Greaves later tweeted: “I apologise for causing offence today on Twitter. I did not intend to cause upset and they were in no way my personal views or the BBC’s.” Yet it was the very act of picking up the prejudiced notion and suggesting it was a valid opinion for public debate that was so offensive, something the BBC utterly failed to acknowledge.

In the same week, a new Playstation Vita advert appeared in a French magazine, featuring an image of a woman with two pairs of breasts, one on her front and one on her back. The advert’s creators clearly felt a head was surplus to requirements. Meanwhile, Ryanair launched a new series of adverts near-identical to those ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland just nine months ago, featuring an image from its all-female bikini cabin crew calendar, with the tagline “Red hot fares and crew!” And ASDA unveiled its Christmas television advert, with the tagline “Behind every great Christmas, there’s Mum”.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Austin Mitchell directed public sexist abuse towards former MP Louise Mensch in a tirade reading: “Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn't disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn't lie about why she quit politics”. The message appeared on the politician’s Twitter feed, Facebook page and official website, yet despite the horrified reactions of hundreds of voters contacting the Labour party there has been no public apology or withdrawal. Indeed, Mitchell later tweeted his apparent amusement at the public anger, saying “Calm down dears”; presumably a deliberate reference to David Cameron’s sexist comment to Angela Eagle in the House of Commons. He later added “Has the all clear siren gone? Has the Menschivick bombardment stopped?”

Not all of these events are devastatingly serious. Objections to several of them might meet with the ubiquitous “Don’t make such a fuss…” “It’s not a big deal…” “Stop overreacting.” Yes, the TV show discussing bottom pinching might have gone on to have a sensitive discussion defending women’s rights; BBC Cumbria might have showcased opposing views in its show; Mitchell might have been making a dismal attempt at ironic humour. But what other prejudice could be aired so clearly and frequently with so little redress? It is hard to imagine Mitchell’s ‘joke’ going un-rebuked by his party leaders had it featured a comparably vitriolic class slur (such as that which led to the recent resignation of another Mitchell), or the Wright Stuff debating whether or not a crime like theft or drink driving was just a ‘bit of fun’.  A week like this one is unremarkable. It simply confirms that sexism is a socially acceptable prejudice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

This week has shown why Yvette Cooper is the right person to lead Labour

Mary Creagh
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea