BBC 2 had a show about misogyny a couple of days ago, and the New Statesman has a review by Rachel Cooke.
She starts by saying misogyny is nothing new and she’s not sure it’s worse now than in the past.
I see, though, that in one sense all of this is irrelevant. What matters is that women feel misogyny is on the rise, there being so many exciting new outlets for the expression of woman hatred.
Well no, that’s not right, because it’s two different things. If women feel misogyny is on the rise when it isn’t, then it’s worth explaining that it isn’t. But the fact that there are so many exciting new outlets for the expression of woman hatred is not just a feeling; it’s reality. So there’s no need to make concessions to subjectivity and fee-fees, because the fact that there are lots of new outlets for misogyny means that there is more misogyny around now. Because of the outlets, you see.
It’s in our faces (or perhaps I mean on our screens) like never before. In her excellent and often shocking documentary Blurred Lines (8 May, 9.30pm), Kirsty Wark thankfully didn’t get too bogged down in trying to ascertain whether misogyny really is growing. Instead, she focused on the impact of the internet (and, to a lesser degree, the media) on both women and men, whose more sexist impulses it may validate.
It was disappointing that she allowed the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle to talk so flabbily about how men get trolled as horribly as women – apparently, we should just “man up” and deal with it – without ever asking him why he thought it was acceptable to write of the deputy leader of the Labour Party: “So, Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober.”
Rod Liddle is a shameless, indeed boastful misogynist. I did a post about that once, years ago.
Wark’s material was cold-shower sobering. The unstoppable vileness – from Frankie Boyle telling “jokes” about vaginas to a Stirling University men’s hockey team singing songs about inducing miscarriages on a public bus service – seemed even more than usually shameful, piled end to end in this way. We all know what followed when Mary Beard appeared on Question Time but Wark had thought to look at social media responses to all women guests on the show over the course of the first three months of this year. Dear God, it was ugly. Does this stuff keep some women from public life? Yes. For my part, there are pieces I avoid writing for fear of what will follow on Twitter and “below the line”.
Well then it’s the women’s own fault, right?! They should just toughen up – or else they should get off the internet. Oh wait…
Germaine Greer reflected on the prescience of her statement that (I paraphrase) most women have very little idea how much men hate them. Say what you like about the internet; at least it has given us a bracing slap round the face on this score.
Yes, but I’d rather it wasn’t true. I’m naive enough to wish fewer men did hate women.
Our friend Maureen Brian watched the show (the programme for you UKnians – never let it be said that I try to force everyone to speak and understand American!) this evening and gives this report (in the present tense because she was reporting while watching):
KW is a pretty competent journalist and is asking the right questions but she’s meeting a hell of a lot of people who are either deeply brain dead, totally confused or refusing to engage with the question. Heading that last list is the execrable Rod Liddle. There have been stars – a psychologist whose experiments show that e.g. tolerating sexist behaviour does indeed encourage those who are really sexist to go out and do it some more! Surprise!
Also a linguist countering the “but the internet isn’t real” meme by tracing the feedback loops between trolls and mainstream media and public life. Also Laurie Penny is on the ball.
Finally we get to the shift in the balance of power – Germaine Greer not sure about this – and the immaturity of the adolescent male. How this is being addressed in the very best sex & relationship education which not everyone gets.
Now we have Steubenville and more confusion. Balanced by the thought of using the changes in technology to power the fight-back.
It’s mystifying that they had Rod Liddle on that show (programme) at all.