Stiff upper lip v misogyny


Last January the first meeting of the All-Party Women’s Group in the UK Parliament met to discuss “The Media: A Female Politician’s Worst Enemy?” Well there’s a subject, eh?

British women no longer apologise in a whisper: they blame themselves and each other in loud and strident voices, refusing to admit or allow any vulnerability, and advocating nothing more to counter misogyny, sexism and gender discrimination than an upper lip so stiff even Brief Encounter’s Celia Johnson would have balked.

“Have you all finished whingeing?” Janet Street-Porter shouted at the rest of the panel of female politicians and leading journalists. “What you lot have to get your heads around is that we’re our own worst enemies. That you get the press you deserve. And that this stuff you hate, is bought by other women.”

You get the press you deserve? Because the world is fair and no one ever throws verbal shit at women just because they’re women? Oy.

Back on the floor, there was more women-blaming to be done. Lady Gillian Shephard, a former secretary of state for the environment, transport and the regions, berated speakers who had dared to admit being upset and intimidated by things the media wrote about them and other women.”One really should not get hung up on the stuff you read about yourself in the papers or be enticed into victimhood,” she snapped.

“Women today are, I have to say it, inclined towards victimhood. [When I was younger] I didn’t know about feminism, I just thought I would get on with it.”

And that’s all there is to it, because there are no barriers to “just getting on with it”; it’s simply a matter of trying harder.

And there you have it. No matter that the media’s laceration of women might have something to do with the fact that just 17% of David Cameron’s 121 ministers are women; that women make up just 15% of UK board members; or that contributions from women on Radio 4’s Today are so few and far between that, on any one day, listeners can go two hours without hearing a female voice.

No matter that this environment enables us to remain a nation of teenage boys who, confronted by a clever, eloquent woman prepared to put her head above the parapet of public life, will stare at her shoes, giggle at her cleavage and gossip about her waistline before we listen – if we ever do – to the words coming out of her mouth.

And no matter that this all culminates in a media climate in which, as the Leveson inquiry heard this week, newspapers routinely engage in inaccurate, prejudicial and victim-blaming when reporting violence towards women, as evidenced by the headline in which a gang rape is called an “orgy in the park”.

No matter to all of that. According to the first all-party group set up to tackle these issues, the answer is almost too simple for words: if you can’t stand the heat, just get your kitten-heels out of the kitchen.

Tits or GTFO.


  1. 'Tis Himself says

    Shorter Lady Shepard: “When I were a lass, we don’t worry about nowt. We just became cabinet ministers and life peers.”

  2. says

    I apologise profusely for being grossly off topic, but I can’t find any other way to contact FTB.

    I have in the past been registered to log in to comment on FTB. I try to recover my password and I’m told I don’t exist. I try to create a new account, I am accepted and told to look at my email, but nothing turns up. I do this under two different names (very close to my real name, though it won’t accept my real name) with two different email accounts.

    I’m an occasional commenter here, very innocuous, and I don’t believe I have been banned.

    Please, Ms Benson, could you refer this to someone who is in a position to help me?

    My apologies again.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    Keith Harwood,

    You appear to be logged in as shown by your ability to post here.

  4. MichaelD says

    Actually you can post without being logged in as I am now. There’s a little login or… on most of the FTB giving you the option to post with an account or as a guestish thing. PZ needs you to login for example but this blog for example doesn’t.

    Other then that I assume you’ve checked your junk? Other then that I really don’t have any advice for you Keith hopefully someone else can help.

  5. callistacat says

    Hey Keith, I’ve had that same problem. My password won’t work for some reason and I can’t recover it. But that’s just for blogs like Pharyngula where you have to sign in w/ your email or wordpress account, you can just post straight on B&W without an account.

  6. R Holmes says

    Well I managed to kick the ball uphill and score a goal, so there’s nothing wrong with this so-called uneven playing field.”

    – Successful women, equating a desire to address systemic inequality with “victimhood” since far too bloody long.

  7. Dave says

    Janet S-P is of course at least partially right. One does not win a war by sitting down and complaining about how mean and nasty the enemy is, one smites hip and thigh…

  8. ismenia says

    Partially right, maybe. But you don’t solve a problem by telling people to shut up about it. That has been one of the biggest obstacles to women, those who try to call out sexist behaviour are silenced in various ways. This applies both to those who object to casual sexism to those who report rapes.

  9. Dave says

    Indeed, but she was talking to “the All-Party Women’s Group in the UK Parliament”, all of whom are in a better position to get on with the smiting than most.

  10. Katkinkate says

    Women have always been the most enthusiastic critics of other women who dare to question the status quo.

  11. says

    Women have always been the most enthusiastic critics of other women who dare to question the status quo.

    I dunno about that. I think men have always been the most enthusiastic critics of women who dare to question the status quo. Anyway, nothing that those women were saying about other women seemed particularly enthusiastic. Exasperated, maybe, or sneering, or indignant criticism of other women, but it doesn’t sound like the critical women are having much fun. I wouldn’t say they were enthusiastically trying to maintain the status quo or even particularly happy with the status quo or think it shouldn’t be questioned. They just disagree on how to overcome it.

    But that’s a nice one-sentence dismissal of the seriousness with which women perceive and approach these problems, turning it into some kind of cat fight thing, calling them enthusiastic critics like that, and suggesting women hurt each other more than anyone, like it’s women’s fault they are in the position they are in. Encapsulates that idea very succinctly.

  12. Amy Clare says

    Maybe some women find it easier to blame other women, rather than admit they are getting bad treatment from men. It’s perhaps unconscious, but it gives an illusion of control, that if only we were all to stop ‘letting’ men/patriarchy/misogyny get to us, and just ‘get on with it’, we would progress a lot more. The alternative thought, that there are people out there more powerful than us, who do not want us to progress, and who we must fight if we want to change things, is a lot more scary.

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