In Ms Oakeshott’s column, “Strong women don’t need to whine about sexists calling us totty,’ for the Daily Mail she said she was “amazed” by the way Hardman - a political lobbyist and assistant editor for The Spectator - handled the “trivial” incident.
Hardman told her near 70,000 followers on Twitter on Tuesday that she had reported an unnamed MP, who when opening a conversation with her said he “wanted to talk to the totty”, to the Whip. Hardman said she decided to tweet about it as a warning to the “small number of other MPs who also behave like this to know that it’s not on either” and to take a stand for other female political journalists subject to sexism. The MP has apparently since apologised.
However, Oakeshott, who co-wrote the infamous unauthorised biography of David Cameron ‘Call Me Dave’ last year, said Hardman does not speak for her and suggested she could have handled the incident differently instead of going public on Twitter as well as reporting the MP, which she likened to “telling the teacher”.
“The trouble is, at best, her reaction looks humourless. At worst, it looks attention-seeking and I know she is not like that,” Oakeshott wrote while also appearing to defend the MP who she said probably “meant it as a light-hearted compliment to Hardman, rather than a slight to her impressive professional credentials”.
This is something Labour MP for Walthamstow Creasy disagreed with and criticised her for “blaming women” by suggesting “it’s for women to be better at responding, not men to stop”. Oakeshott responded denying she “blamed women”.
Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also criticised the column, telling Oakeshott “confronting sexist behaviour isn’t whining except in the Mail”.
Channel 4 News reporter Cathy Newman also lambasted Oakeshott’s “poisonous article”. Recounting her experiences of reporting in Westminster, Newman discussed in a blog post the time a “noble Lord” touched her bottom, as well as mentioning other instances of sexism.
“I never complained about any of it when I was working in the lobby five years ago. But I wish I had. It reflects badly on me that I didn’t.”
Newman also said the incident involving Hardman was symbolic of everyday sexism in the workplace in many industries: “This might seem like a storm in a Westminster tea-cup, but it’s symptomatic of what women are subjected to up and down the land,” she wrote.
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