I hope you enjoyed your break from the misogyny wars yesterday – I held off on commenting on the Ms piece in order to make it a real break – because the wars aren’t over yet.
I’m staggered by something I just read by Rod Liddle at the Spectator. I’ve been staggered by things Rod Liddle said before – way back in January 2010, for instance, and reposted here in October 2011.
And here I was fuming (or should I say bitching?) about sexist epithets and men who type thousands of words insisting that ‘stupid bitch’ is not sexist. Kind of puts it all in perspective. Except actually I think it’s (broadly speaking) all part of the same thing. I think both items are part of a broader culture in a lot of places that demeans women in a sexist way. I think the bizarro phenomenon of men who ought to know better verbally spewing on women whenever they feel like it is pretty much by definition part of a broader culture that demeans women in a sexist way. That’s why it shocks me that men give themselves permission to do that – it reveals that contempt for women is commonplace in areas where I would have thought it had gone out of fashion decades ago.
But no – apparently it’s still seen as hip and edgy and funny to treat women like dirt. Apparently sexism is being defined downwards so that it isn’t really sexism unless, I don’t know, it comes with a signed affidavit stating This Is Sexism. Rod Liddle apparently is of that school, unless he really didn’t post this on a Millwall fans’ website:
Stupid bitch. A year eight sociology lecture from someone who knows fck all. You could equally say that we were similar to any group which disliked a certain aspect of society, felt estranged from it but were sure we were right. The logical extension of her argument is that the status quo is always right, which is absurd, because if that were true nothing would change. Someone kick her in the cnt.
That’s Rod Liddle. This too is Rod Liddle, three years on, telling Mary Beard “It’s not misogyny, Professor Beard, it’s you.”
She went on Question Time, he explains. She said things there that he considers stupid and wrong.
Beyond the confines of the programme, Beard’s remarks were greeted with frank hilarity and in some cases anger. She was very quickly made ‘Twat of the Week’ on a non-aligned website and the insults started flowing. Most of them were accurate refutations of her vacuous argument, or expressions of annoyance at her middle-class, metropolitan insouciance. But it is true that some ridiculed her appearance as well.
Outrageous, tweeted Beard! (Yes, the Prof tweets, and that tells you something.) ‘The misogyny here is truly gob-smacking,’ she whined: all those comments were ‘truly vile’. She triumphantly listed the most graphic comments on her blog and concluded that the abuse would ‘be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public’. If only that were true in Mary’s case, but I strongly suspect it isn’t.
We’re supposed to think he’s “joking” there – he doesn’t really wish the abuse would put her off appearing in public. Oh really?
But there’s one other thing in the case of Mary Beard. How many professors of classics have you seen on BBC Question Time, other than Beardie? None. How many other professors of classics have been invited to take part in Jamie’s Dream School, or been invited to present a series on BBC2? None other. Just Beard. Why is this? Is it because she is so absolutely brilliant at the classics that they think she ought to be on a cooking show? Nope: it’s because of the way she looks. They think she looks like a loony. And the TV companies, the producers, love that. If they can’t get a hunk or a fox, they like an eccentric. It generates a reaction, not always entirely pleasant. And if Mary doesn’t grasp that her appearance is precisely why she — along with Grayson Perry — gets to be on TV, then she had best not look at what the genuine loonies have to say on Twitter.