This blog, above all else, is committed to the truth.
And, in that spirit of providing you with honest and accurate commentary, I’m not even going to look up the names of those two football people who got told off or fired or something for being sexist dicks.
If I started doing research like that, it might provide you with the misleading impression that I give enough of a shit about their names to look them up, or even to remember them after hearing everyone yammer on about them all day. So fuck research.
Whoever they were, they got caught saying some pretty demeaning things about women, and as such they have been widely castigated. I think at least one of them’s been fired. Seems jolly sensible. Sexism is bad. Can’t be having that.
Of course, there’s been a bit of a response from the other direction, too. The first hint of it that I noticed was when Michael Marshall tweeted:
RE Gray and Keys – are we also calling for the sacking of women broadcasters who’ve said ‘men are pigs’ or ‘men think with their penis’?
Just to reiterate, I don’t side with Gray. I’m just interested that we treat sexism by men more seriously than sexism by women, & wonder why
Some people took this idea further. In particular, Giles Coren wrote a piece for the Daily Mail, noting the common disparity in how certain topics are treated depending on the gender of the people involved.
Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question “What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?” by saying: “A dead one.” Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too.
I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead.
Anton Vowl thought Giles’s whole effort worthy of relentless parody, but I’m more willing to concede that the guy has a substantial point.
I mean… why is it okay to make those jokes about one gender but not the other? Remove the question from the context of any sanctimonious whining about how tough men have it these days, and just consider it on its own merit. The above joke is funny, but laughing at dead women is much more likely to be uncomfortable and unacceptable. What’s the reasoning behind it?
You can answer this in part by bringing up the general power balance present in the world. Women are struggling to gain full acceptance in many ways; men generally don’t expect to be discriminated against beyond the level of vacuous joking. Women being actually murdered by men is a more prevalent societal problem, and so joking about it is less acceptable.
But, even given that such an imbalance exists, is that really the way you want to redress it? Declare that demeaning jokes and insults are acceptable only one-way, to bring the more powerful side down to the weaker’s level? It seems like this way we both lose.
There is a difference between sexist jokes against men and sexist jokes against women, but it’s not simply that one’s okay and the other isn’t.
Prejudice against men isn’t simply identical-but-in-the-opposite-direction to that against women. The motivations behind it are different.
Misandry is presumably, for the most part, a reaction to the perception of male dominance. This doesn’t justify it – there are far better ways to respond to gender imbalance than to demean men in an effort to drag them down to whatever level women feel they’ve been reduced to.
But it comes from a very different place, and is motivated by different emotions, from misogyny, and so it merits a different kind of response.
One joke is funny, and the other sinister, because of the different assumptions on which each one rests.
Gender-based prejudice against men is implicitly justified by the assumption that they’re big boys, they can handle it, and it’s not actually doing anyone any harm, because men are still dominant and in control and powerful.
And there’s no doubt that this assumption is harmful and wrong. Whatever might be said about the general role of men in society, or “the patriarchy”, many individual men can feel demeaned and unfairly belittled as a direct result of exactly such careless bandying about of sexist stereotypes.
This is just a fact. Many men, for instance, feel insecure about the size of their penis, because unfair mockery and ridicule based on this arbitrary quality is socially acceptable. It shouldn’t detract from the similar prejudicial suffering of women (which is also very real) to point out that this does happen to men, and it is unjust when it does.
Gender-based prejudice against women, on the other hand, is implicitly justified by an entirely different set of assumptions. The unspoken undercurrent seems to state that women just aren’t as relevant as men to this discussion. Birds don’t understand football. Chicks are emotionally unstable and don’t have any rational opinions worth listening to.
Which also sucks, and is entirely unfair and causes a great deal of unwarranted pain, and is something actively struggled against by many compassionate people, while still being ingrained at some level in general social discourse.
In short: sexism against men and women both exist, and are both bad, and both deserve to be addressed. But they stem from different sources, and they need to be considered in different ways. We don’t need to act like taking serious notice of one problem means the other one “doesn’t matter”.
Giles is right about a lot of this. Unfortunately, he ultimately falls into the same trap that he’s bemoaning.
Many women have reacted to the deeply ingrained societal bias against them by making cruel and biased jokes about men – which, as Giles points out, are unjust, and would be far more obviously so if the gender roles were reversed.
But when Giles responds in turn to this unfair bias, he does much the same thing again himself: proposing unfair stereotypes about women, which fail to recognise the huge variety of experience that an entire gender is subject to.
He’s entirely right to deride the insane idea that “If women ruled the world, there would be no wars.” There are women around the world who hold some executive power, after all, and I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that they couldn’t be just as capable as men of fucking the whole place up if given half a chance. But how does Giles respond?
What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man.
If women ruled the world countries would be invaded because “she’s always been jealous of my feet” and because “she looks down on me for going out to work”.
Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage.
Not helping. It’s unfair when women go over the top describing how awful men are, so don’t make it worse by doing the same thing yourself. That was your whole point.
Have I done enough yet? I’ve lost the thread a bit. I’d be interested to see which aspect of this most people think I’ve got the most wrong.