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Jan 31 2013

Everyday sexism at the Beeb

BBC World does a thing where it reads a proverb as a little filler item. Yesterday’s proverb – which is currently visible on its Africa page – is a charmer.

Today’s African Proverb

“He who never saw his mother while she was young thinks his father wasted the dowry”

A Maragoli proverb from Western Kenya sent by H Essendi, Southampton, UK

Good choice. Well done, BBC.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    Aratina Cage

    Wow. That one is terrible: women are property you purchase, old women are worthless pieces of junk–even their sons think so.

  2. 2
    Stella

    This is the BEEB that can’t find women experts to talk on their radio programmes. The poor dears go to a Web site, see that the top person in the field is a man, and invite him to participate. They then moan that they have no way, no way at all, I tell you, to find women experts.

    Stella

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    The presenter who introduced the proverb when I heard it is a woman. She made a little joke of it, sort of uneasily – you know, “I hope no mothers are listening” or some such vacuity.

    Gah, I think the thing I hate most about it is the shittiness of the assumption that sons think their mothers are 1. ugly and 2. worthless because ugly. All sons. Just naturally. What a horrible world that proverb represents.

  4. 4
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    It’s even worse. The very idea that it’s normal to conceive of sons having an interest in their mother’s appeal as a sexual commodity that you could even joke about it. It’s depraved, and not because “ewww incest-y” prudishness.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    I know. It just ignores what one hopes is normal and universal – you know, love, and soppy shit like that. Mommy’s face. You don’t look at it and think “yuk, what a waste of money.”

  6. 6
    jenniferphillips

    I’m trying to imagine the look of horrified incredulity on my 12 year old son’s face when I share this little nugget of wisdom with him after school today.

  7. 7
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    And it’s not a proverb. It’s lad culture. It’s macho vulgarity. It’s bro-speak. It’s “locker room banter,” if you will.

    Just because something comes from an African country and can be transliterated into prose that sounds vaguely Weighty does not make it a “proverb” any more than “if I wanted your opinion I’d take my dick out of your mouth” is.

  8. 8
    jenniferphillips

    Now I’m imagining a dystopian future in which “If I wanted your opinion, I’d take my dick out of your mouth” is embroidered in needlepoint on every parlor wall.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    And in which the Beeb blithely recycles it on its global news program.

  10. 10
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’m sorry to be so disgusting, but really, that’s exactly that what this is.

  11. 11
    natashatasha

    And complaint lodged, thanks for bringing this up. I’m sure that if enough people complain, we can get a non-committal ‘mistakes were made’ e-mail.

  12. 12
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Josh, thank you for that little adage, shall I send the bill for cleaning my evening hot chocolate out of my computer directly to you? I’ve honestly never heard it put that way before (usually it’s been ‘when I want your opinion I’ll give it to you’), and I thought that I’d lived long enough to have heard just about all there was to hear by now.
    Please tell me you’ve never heard that said to anybody in seriousness.

  13. 13
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Send it to my lawyer, AoS.

    I’ve heard it tossed about among dude bros as “what I’m gonna tell that bitch next time she says blah blah blah.” That the sentiment exists at all is quite bad enough. Ugh.

  14. 14
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Ah yes, banter among the boys. I’ve seen a lot of it during my years as a pub/club bouncer. It never ceased to amaze me how the noisiest, most ‘laddish’ (read ‘sexist’) of men on ‘lad’s’ nights out were often the quietest, most deferential guys in the bar when their partners were with them.

  15. 15
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    “Wasted” of “wanted”?
    Repellent in either case, but it’s good to lnow.

  16. 16
    Acolyte of Sagan

    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d
    January 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm (

    “Wasted” of “wanted”?
    Repellent in either case, but it’s good to lnow

    That’s a good point, well spotted. I always thought that the dowry was supplied by the bride’s parents,in which case the ‘proverb’ makes no sense with ‘wasted’; ‘his father only wanted’ would make far more sense (though would still be repellent).

  17. 17
    natashatasha

    Got a response from the BBC; here’s an extract:

    “This proverb was sent in by a reader and its sentiments are in no way endorsed by the BBC.”

    Not endorsed. I mean, it was just shown on a major page in large text with no supporting information, but it wasn’t endorsed!

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh for fuck’s sake, Beeb – you endorsed it by broadcasting it!

  19. 19
    Lyanna

    Just because something comes from an African country and can be transliterated into prose that sounds vaguely Weighty does not make it a “proverb” any more than “if I wanted your opinion I’d take my dick out of your mouth” is.

    Quoted for truth. There’s a bit of racism thrown in here in addition to the misogyny. Anything African folks say is now a “proverb.” Because they’re all, like, deep and traditional and pass these things on for generations.

    Most people think their mothers are, if not beautiful, at least pleasant to look at. Even if the mother is plain-looking. Their mothers’ faces suggest comfort and safety and rightness in the world, and it wouldn’t really occur to them to evaluate their mothers’ sexual appeal.

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