Silence will not defeat sexism

I gather there was an attempt on Twitter on Sunday to stop essentially sexist “trolls” through silence for 24 hours.

I doubt it worked, despite the fine intent.

In fact, I was quite alarmed by the whole idea. Firstly it penalised the victim, by restricting their free speech for a day. But secondly, far worse still, it gave the impression that sexism is confined to Twitter. It isn’t. It remains widespread and accepted to an outrageous degree, even in “civilised” society. Half a century from now we’ll look back with shock at horror at what we still allow women to go through.

Basically, women still can’t be professionals without ludicrously excessive reference being made to how they look. Car reviews by women habitually draw more reference to the presenter’s looks or potential “performance” than the car’s; women sports officials and reporters still have to allow a polite exchange of views about their looks habitually; even this year’s Wimbledon champion fell victim to it courtesy of a BBC presenter! To be clear, it remains permitted, even in the most civilised walks of life, for the first reference to a professional woman’s ability to be about her looks rather than her capacity to do her job well. This is not the case with men. So it is universal discrimination on grounds other than merit. Yet we all just stand idly by!

So, on sexism, it is long past the time for silence.

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12 thoughts on “Silence will not defeat sexism

  1. Jane Seymour says:

    Interesting – but this tyranny of looks thing – which is a bit different from the twitter rape threat issue – to what extent is it something women subject themselves to?

    i.e. in my own anecdotal experience it tends to often be other women who will rush to judgement about a prominent female’s appearance. And this would be somewhat confirmed by female reading material – FeMail, OK magazine – jam packed with assessments of celebrities dresses, shoes, ‘fashion fails’ and the like.

    My point is, alot of this body fascism stuff that females (rightly) complain of – is in fact, to some degree or other, self-subjected.

    The problem is not 100% from men. If women stopped judging each other by their looks, it could be easier for men to follow suit.

    • Thanks for joining us, great points.

      Firstly, I think the two are directly linked. By objectifying women based primarily on looks, threats against them then become “reasonable” to a greater number of (admittedly utterly pathetic) men.

      Secondly, your point absolutely stands about women being as responsible as men ultimately for the broader “looks” discrimination/sexism issue. Of course, those who have gained from it will seek to maintain the status quo.

  2. harryaswell says:

    Sexism is just bad! NO excuses. However, I agree with Jane Seymour in what she says. There can be no doubt that certain people with certain characteristics, such as jealousy, will always lay themselves open to sexist comment. Still, today, sports commentaries presented by women are haunted by the fact that the job is presumed better done by males. This is purely because it has never been done by women before. My wife tells me that this descrimination of women by men is because they are women, and if seen a successfull women, well, dear me!

    • harryaswell says:

      Excellent point here. From the article itself it could be said that it is easy to confuse these pictures with pornography, which of course, is easily obtained by all ages off the internet via a simple Google search! Not just naked models, but full sex in action. This does mean that both, or even all three, sexes are being descriminated against sexually. How does one stop that? Do away completely with the Internet? LOL!

    • Thanks for that link.

      It’s a strong argument.

  3. The Listener says:

    We must not overstate this. There are extremes, however in the case of sport it should be permissable to refer to the physical prowess of either sex, and with regard to business it might be said that the person is clever, and always smartly turned out, winsome personality, good looking, attractive etc. On the other hand it would be wrong, in respect of either sex to mention physical features of an obviously sexual nature, without good reason. In the latter case only where it is necessary for a news story, and in the public interest.

    It is difficult when we consider the traditional tabloid pictures, because the ladies who choose to portray themselves are to some extent showing off what they value as their attributes, which are seen by both sexes. They may be hoping for a modelling career, they may not think of the impact on males, from the male point of view. It is a fact that many males will appreciate the pictures for latent sexual reasons but probably only with fleeting enjoyment.

    The best way to tackle what is a respect issue, albeit it may not be sought by those who pose for the pictures, is to stress at school level during lessons about the “birds and the bees” and by parents upon those who are young and impressionable that relationships between the sexes should be based on respect and friendship, that serious relationships should start with friendship and mutual interests, otherwise marriages/lifelong partnerships may well not stand the tests of time.

    • I don’t disagree.

      My problem is that women and men are clearly treated differently. A male car reviewer, for example, would never have his physical attributes referred to consistently in subsequent commentary! Of course, the sexes are different and behave differently, but my point is a professional should expect to be treated professionally.

      For all that, two commenters have now put forward the view that men are by no means entirely responsible for this; perhaps not even primarily. That, to me, is the really interesting part.

      • The Listener says:

        Well there are mismatches in attitudes on either side. I remember driving my teenage daughte into town to meet her friends to go clubbing. I used to carefully try to mention to her that it was perhaps a little unwise to go to such events in quite revealing outfits, as young men could be carried away, especially under the influence of drink. I was always strongly reprimanded on the basis that it was reasonable for girls to wear that which they wished to wear and that males should behave themselves! Responsibility, it was stressed, was on males and males alone! I guess at 28 she still has those views. One of your commentators indicated that women to some extent dress to impress eachother, and thus for their own satisfaction. Perhaps sex education for the young should make some reference to a commonsense approach to dressing up, in certain volatile situations, and for girls some understanding of the likely young male mindset. There are no absolutes, growing up can be confusing, exciting and may just have to take its course.

  4. Martin J Frankson says:

    whilst the twitter trolling episode was appalling and disgusting, it is wrong headed to lump this in with passing ordinary comments about people’s appearance and lets face facts, are woman paragons off subjective virtue? How of term have I been at presentations where the male presenter is praised at coffee break over his nice tie, nice fingernails or criticised over not having shaved or being too small.

    One of the many things I have issue with modern day ‘liberalism’ is its humourless sanctimoniousness and its denial of human instinct. As a hetero male, I will make no apology for finding an attractive woman attractive nor making such a comment in a gentlemanly polite fashion to a male friend.

    So is my 82 year father who says ‘isn’t she a looker’ when an attractive weather girl appears on TV, a sexist demon who should be gagged and sent to a reeducation camp?

    This is not a free or liberal society and I have grave issues and concerns over the direction of this round headed neo Puritanism that is poisoning out minds and closing down conversations and expression.

    I remember buying teachers cigarette for them. We all took turns. No harm done. One of them even smoked a pipe in class. This is 1982. We didnt die off it. I remember sharing bottles of wine in the office on a FridAy afternoon when I worked in England in the mid 90s. That seems like a different plant in these body fascist times.

    This is is really the admonishment of earthy Everyman working class humour and outlook. The media and national conversion is dictated by a puritanical secular elite who masquerade as liberals who condescend to those who aren’t as ‘educated’ or as with it as they are.

    • The Listener says:

      Martin J Frankson has made moderate and sensible remarks approrpriate for moderate and sensible people. However I think Ian Parsley is discussing the extremes and associated offensive behaviour, either in a physical manner or the prejudiced ravings of so called, internet trolls. My remarks have been addressed to that, rather than the harmless remarks I might make to a female friend. However it is always a safeguard if you first well know the person to whom you make the remarks!! I think that with offensive, or foolish behaviour, the first measure must be found with education at an appropriate age.

  5. Martin J Frankson says:

    Excuse some of my atrocious spelling and grammar. iPhone and hurried typing

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