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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Actor Zac Efron  

Keep your shirt on Zac – we'd all be better for it

Howard Jacobson
Author of Adrian Mole: Sue Townsend  

Errors and Omissions: A protagonist is one thing that doesn’t travel in pairs

Guy Keleny
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit