Have you heard the one about four ugly girls and the sexist footballer?

Joey Barton's appearance on Question Time really wasn't his finest hour
  • @LucyH_J

To save you the trouble of sitting through a moment more than is necessary of a particularly dire edition of Question Time on Thursday night - skip forward to 12 minutes and 14 seconds and you’ll see Joey Barton expose himself as a sexist prat.

The footballer-cum-self-styled-philosopher was rabbiting away about the future prospects for Ukip, when he said: “So if I am somewhere and there were four really ugly girls, I'm thinking, 'Well, she's not the worst', because that is all you are, that is all you are to us.” Because what worse possible thing is there to be than a girl who hasn’t even got the decency to be attractive. But don’t worry too much, mingers of the world - as long as you aren’t the ugliest girl in the bar, Barton may still deign to shag you. Ah, “banter” - welcome to the political panel show.

In a week where a woman has been stoned to death by her family outside a Pakistan courthouse, another has given birth while shackled in chains on death row in Sudan for the crime of “apostasy”, two teenagers have been gang raped and hung in India, and a narcissistic young man has murdered six people in the name of misogyny, the moronic thoughts of a very average footballer would seem to be rather insignificant. But they’re not.

Barton tried to excuse his comment after the show. “Maybe I was a little nervous,” he said, and later tweeted three crying emoticons before: ”Should have left it at 'Best of a bad bunch' Ah well #imnewtothis”.

But Barton’s “joke” didn’t sound like a rushed, off-the-cuff analogy stumbled upon in a moment of nerves. It sounded like a well-rehearsed line, one that had been received with howls of mirth from his mates in the pub, and was then smugly pulled out as a trump card on Question Time, designed to make the big boys think he was cool. And this is from a man who tweets aphorisms from Seneca, Virgil and Nietzsche, who will start a philosophy degree at Roehampton University in September, who presents himself as something of a deep thinker. Is this really the best we can expect? 

Barton’s comment typifies the “lad” culture, which views woman as the punchline to a joke, objects who are designed to decorate and titillate on demand. His is another voice to add to the cacophony of sexism that forms the background noise women are constantly living in and fighting against.

And every voice matters. Taken individually, a lewd catcall or casual grope on public transport is a small drip of annoyance, but they add up to a relentless, overwhelming tsunami, a constant reminder of how society views and values you as a woman. Just look at the hashtag launched this week, #YesAllWomen, for a crash-course in what half the world face every single day.

Of course it’s not all men that are responsible, but by letting any man get away with it, especially when they have a public platform like Joey Barton, we are sending the message that it’s OK to treat women in this way, and inequality persists. So we must not let the small things slide; we must not let Joey Barton and his ilk think they are being clever. 

Because they do. Immediately after the show, the barrage began. “Wow Joey Barton!!! Probably the best question time ever!!! Footballer owned that UKIP cow JoeyBartonForPrimeMinister”, said one. “If you were offended by what Joey Barton said, you're probably an ugly woman”, added another. Ask yourself: are these really the kind of people you want in your corner?