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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk