Not just a bit sexist if you looked at them funny

Sarah Ditum wonders why there’s an expectation of privacy for misogyny but not for the women who are its targets.

Public life is full of men with manifest habits of misogyny, but whenever this is challenged, one excuse is reliably rolled out: that was private, it doesn’t affect his job. Men, it seems, are the champions of doing two entirely contradictory things at the same time.

That’s been the consensus around Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore’s misogynistic emails. And yes, they were misogynistic – not just a bit sexist if you looked at them funny, not “private banter” (as the headline of India Knight’s Sunday Times column described them), but absolutely misogynistic: Scudamore discussed women’s breasts, described women as “irrational”, and called women “gash”, reducing women to a grotesque image of their genitals. This is the language of someone who doesn’t even think women are people. In fact, Scudamore had so little respect for women that, according to Rani Abraham (the PA who leaked them), he sent these missives through a work email account that it was her job to monitor. One of the women discussed so crudely was a Premier League employee – and was copied into the emails. (Abraham says she left the job because she could not tolerate working for a man who used such language.)

That reminds me of something – it reminds me of one of Carrie Poppy’s tweets under #NotAllWomen:

Because my old boss adopted a little girl’s voice to impersonate me crying over my own assault.

Carrie too left the job because she could not tolerate working for a man who used such language.

Scudamore left no daylight between his professional life and his sexism. Yet it has been insisted in every outlet from the Times (Leader) to the Mirror (Carol McGiffin) to the Guardian (Marina Hyde) that emails sent at work, through a work account monitored by an employee, about and to colleagues should be classed as a private matter. (And yes, I noticed how many of those pieces were bylined to women. Maybe working in a massively sexist institution like a newspaper skews your sense of what is acceptable.) If these emails had been on any other topic, the idea of classing them as “private” would be laughable: it’s only because they’re misogynistic that people are anxious to separate them from Scudamore’s public role.

So this is an example of the same thing, I take it. Racism? Not acceptable. (Can be directed at men.) Homophobia? Not acceptable. (Can be directed at men.) Misogyny? Protected. (Is directed only at women.)

The hideous truth is, though, that you can do worse than call women “gash” and still have it tucked away as a private matter. In Kirsty Wark’s Blurred Lines documentary on the new culture of misogyny, Rod Liddle is shuffled out to provide the contrarian point of view, arguing (in the face of all evidence) that women experience no worse abuse than men, and what women do experience is neither specific to gender nor related to violence. Liddle has repeatedly attacked women for their looks in his Spectator column, so he’s certainly no neutral in the sex wars, but there’s also something even more concerning in his history – something which, I think, should permanently rule his opinions on the abuse of women out of contention.

In 2005, Liddle accepted a caution for common assault against his girlfriend, who was then pregnant. Liddle later denied wrongdoing and claimed he only accepted the caution “because it was the quickest way for him to be released”, but nevertheless, there it is: a man with a criminal record of violence against women, being invited to give his professional opinion on the abuse women experience. The caution was not mentioned by Wark. Presumably, it has been dismissed to the realm of the private where men are imagined to be capable of operating an entirely different – even contradictory – set of values to the ones we like to imagine they hold in the course of public decency.

Jesus fuck. I did not know that. They got a guy with a conviction for violence against a woman to talk on a documentary about misogyny, and did not disclose the conviction.

Trust no one.


  1. says

    While there have been some feeble attempts at defending Donald Sterling’s racist comments as being a private conversation, the defenders don’t seem to be as adamant about it being a “private matter”. Probably because it doesn’t feel right to them to defend a racist, but they have no problem defending a misogynist.

  2. Pen says

    This is surely something someone must have done a study on. Whether the tendency to tolerate demeaning jokes and insulting language against a specific group actually translates into discriminatory practices. I would be surprised if it didn’t but evidence is always nice.

    What’s shown very clearly here is that it produces differential outcomes even if the person who makes the remarks doesn’t discriminate actively. That’s because when the veil of privacy fails, as it almost inevitably will sooner or later, the targets of the remarks are negatively impacted by hearing them. They will try to get the offender removed from their environment if powerful enough, or remove themselves, or, if forced to stay, become demotivated.

  3. Bernard Bumner says

    The sexist emails were already discriminative practice – directly targetting a female colleague, and inadvertantly directly driving another from her job.

  4. deepak shetty says

    Exactly what I was thinking – and most people support the NBAs actions – public,severe,punishment for a severe privacy breach – No one cares about the severe privacy breach.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Not to go making excuses or anything – but if my name was Rod Liddle, I’d have a lot of sex-related issues too.

  6. latsot says

    Liddle is awful, but a favourite of the BBC, bewilderingly. He was editor of Radio 4’s Today, somehow, and was regularly hauled into the BBC Breakfast programme to state his blithering opinions about current newspaper articles of his choice.

    He has a long history of saying misogynistic and racist things then claiming it was satire or that he was ‘engaging in debate’ as if that’s a magic ticket allowing him to hateful things without criticism. He’s made some dreadful documentaries about atheism and immigration and has posted horrible (in this case, racist) things on the Millwall Football Club site using a pseudonym. His excuse that time was that his account was compromised but he was later forced to admit that he was lying. He’s an anti-Semite, as well.

    He apparently cited some office catastrophe to cut his honeymoon short in order to continue his affair with another women. Then he publicly accused his wife of being a ‘total’ slut and a slattern. When he was off and about fucking someone else on their honeymoon.

    And then he admitted to assaulting the woman he was fucking on that honeymoon. Then pretended he only said that for expediency.

    Anyone else see a pattern?

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