Many men today think sexism is a perilous concept to get their heads around. Guys, it isn’t.
Simply don’t treat women as a lower human category to you and you’re fine and dandy. Several famous men have messed up recently with woeful chauvinist blunderings. Let’s examine where they went wrong.
No balls please: the BBC’s John Inverdale’s comments about Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli’s looks were gloriously oafish. Bartoli is one of the greatest tennis players in the world, and this required a lifetime of practice, and sacrifice. Bartoli is a sportsperson: nothing in this job spec requires beautiful eyes or an ability to look shaggable in a bikini. That, John, is the job of a Nuts glamour model or the women entertaining the morally adrift in lapdancing bars. Yes, some attractive sportspeople – men and women – do maximise on their beauty with promo deals, but most don’t. For Inverdale to gaze upon Bartoli’s stellar career and reduce it to a tragic “plan B” she grabbed at after realising she’d never be pretty enough to satisfy men like John is quite extraordinary.
The History Boys: And then in bumbles David Cameron congratulating Andy Murray on being “the first British player to win Wimbledon in 77 years”. Murray is the first British man to win the men’s. Virginia Wade won the women’s title in 1977, Ann Jones in 1969 and Angela Mortimer in 1961. If you find women get exasperated about being Tippexed out of history books in this way, it’s because it’s been happening FOR EVER. Mumbling, “Oh, well, you know what I mean” doesn’t cut it, because what you mean is, “Oh stuff the women’s tournament. Let’s face it, it’s just not as important.”
Calm down dear: As Cameron should know, telling a woman in the workplace who is making a point to “Calm down, dear” isn’t massively offensive, but it’s certainly sets out your stall as a unconsciously sexist tosspot. “Calm down, dear” rankles us as it’s the sort of thing said to a gibbering 1970s sitcom wife getting in a flap about the vicar’s visit. At work we face this tiring, age-old sexism continually. Are you the man who bellows, “DON’T GET HYSTERICAL!” if a woman is trying to make point? Or if a female colleague raises a problem about another woman, do you cry “OOOH IT’S A CAT FIGHT! MEOW!”? Congrats, you’re a sexist berk. See also:
The constantly tiresome gardener: Alan Titchmarsh on women “whingeing” about their TV careers being cut short post-40. “Men in television tend to last a bit longer at the end of their careers, but it is women who make hay at the beginning,” he said. “They don’t complain in their early days when they are disporting themselves on sports cars.” What Alan’s done here is confuse “young models who work as promo girls at motor shows” with “all TV reporters, presenters, news anchors with a vagina, whom he believes must have enjoyed a spate of near-naked modelling”.
Don’t have nightmares: Are you an armchair rape expert like Nick Ross from Crimewatch? “Half of all women who have had penetrative sex unwillingly do not think they were raped and this proportion rises strongly when the assault involves a boyfriend, or if the woman is drunk or high on drugs: they led him on, they went too far, it wasn’t forcible, they didn’t make themselves clear,” says Nick in his new book. “For them, rape isn’t always rape and, however upsetting, they feel it is a long way removed from being systematically violated or snatched off the street.” I’ll wager that if Ross were anally penetrated by someone against his will, he’d probably just settle for the word “rape”. Not an “exuberant cuddle” or “confused sex”. Rape.
And there’s more: Oh God, Ross again. A masterclass in victim-blaming. “We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door,” Nick says. “Not even in the licentious days of the Charles II Restoration in the 17th century was it acceptable for women to dress as provocatively as they have done in Western culture since the 1960s.” Nick, women have been lectured on their transport plans, skirt length, alcohol intake and who we shouldn’t speak to for centuries. Here’s an idea: why don’t men stop being rapists? It’s a simple plan. Stop doing rapes. And if that’s annoying, imagine how we feel being told to worry every time we leave the house.
Ding-dong the witch is dead: Were you that good little liberal climbing the side of the Brixton cinema to unfurl your “The Witch Is Dead” banner after Thatcher died? Matthew Hopkins – The Witchfinder General – back in 1646 killed scores of women he found a tad gobby, weird or over-intelligent. Almost 400 years later, we’re still using it as a misogynistic slur.
The very bad PR man: “I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way.” Voilà! A masterclass in misogyny. Saatchi has been cautioned for a domestic violence incident, yet Nigella’s at fault for not sticking up for him. Modern men: try simply not being like Charles Saatchi. Also, if you have a filthy smoking habit that requires your wife to eat outdoors, why not try getting a Nicorette patch and growing up.
Thicke by name: Pop star Robin Thicke’s recent perilously catchy hit single “Blurred Lines” revels in offensive, women-loathing lyrics. Its video centres around what appears to be an apartment full of date-rapists and their age-inappropriate quarry capering about in knickers, while Thicke quacks on about “bad nasty bitches” getting their “asses ripped in two”. The title “Blurred Lines” is the type of phrase you hear muttered by the defence in rape trials. If you agree with all this but still quite like the song, that’s fine. It’s a good song. If you’ve read this and think I’m a nasty bitch who needs your penis to shut me up, well, you’re probably a sexist.
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