How does this get past an editor?


From a review by Roger Lewis of a biography of Dusty Springfield:

Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.

It is thus a tragedy that Dusty Springfield’s whole existence was blighted by her orientation, which explains ‘the silence and secrecy she extended over much of her life, and her self-loathing’. One glance at her chin should have revealed all — but the Sixties was not a fraction as liberated and swinging as people now assume. ‘Being gay was either a pitiable affliction or an actual mental illness,’ Karen Bartlett reminds us in this sympathetic biography. Victims were treated with aversion therapy and electric shocks.

My theory is that you can always spot an asshole by the thoughtless bigotry they say.


  1. says

    I don’t know anything about Dusty Springfield, but I do know that any article discussing a woman’s work — whether her contributions are artistic, scientific, professional, political, whatever — is required by law to begin with a disparaging comment about her physique.

    That way I, the reader, get to have the proper context. It lays the groundwork for the non-controversial notion that whoever Dusty Springfield was, whatever moved her to achieve, to love, to form opinions, to pursue dreams — it all goes back to her less-than-perfect chin.

  2. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    Holy fucking shit…
    What’s worse is that no doubt, this is yet another “enlightened, not at all homophobic liberal” with the best of intentions who’s totally fine with the gays, for real, like i don’t even flinch when they kiss or anything…I’m really sick of how fucking low the bar is for someone to genuinely think of themselves as non-homophobic. I’m surrounded by people who will proudly brag about how accepting they are and then say something horribly homophobic without even realising that that’s what it is….and don’t tell them, oh no….because that’s the worse crime. Saying homophobic shit out of ignorance or unrecognised prejudicial attitudes is just a silly mistake…even if it causes real harm to people…but telling someone they are being homophobic or that they have internalised homophobic attitudes they should work on, that’s the worst…how dare you? i’m totally not homophobic, you are just being a f*ggot!!

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    and you know Every Gay Man can be identified by his limp wrist. As my gaydar tells me all the time. Every gay man I see has a limp wrist.
    [hope I’m clearly being sarcastic, spouting old discarded stereotypes]
    Like the title of this OP, How can such thinking get past an actual editor?
    I suppose a review is pure opinion, so must be left completely unfiltered except for the occasional typos that must be corrected.

  4. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.

    Did this guy not only just assert that all lesbians have enlarged lower jaws, but claim an adaptive origin for it? “All lesbians have big jaws to aid with the rug-munching!” Seriously?

    Maybe he’s on to something? Ladies, clue me in: are people with bigger jaws actually better at cunnilingus?

    Leaving aside for a moment the horrific bigotry of assuming you can spot a gay person by their fucking chin… Dusty Springfield was gay? I honestly had no idea. Did she ever come out, or is this a revelation revealed in her biography?

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Meh. Wake me up when an author proves Springfield had a secondary jaw, like the xenomorph.
    And if she was lesbian, does that mean she is responsible for Zod sending an earthquake somewhere?

  6. viscaria says

    I’m not really comfortable calling you crazy, Roger, but I could definitely go with “douchebag.” Let’s try it out: hey everyone, Roger Lewis is an old douchebag physiognomist! Yup, works great.

  7. ethicsgradient says

    ‘Get past an editor’? This is The Spectator, the magazine that pretty much defines the British right wing. That kind of paragraph doesn’t just ‘get past’, it increases the chance of getting the review a mention on the cover.

    They’ve published ‘Taki’ for 38 years – a far right racist, anti-semitic playboy who supports the fascist Golden Dawn party in Greece. And as for the science ignorance about chins indicating sexuality, The Spectator enthusiastically denies global warming – ‘Global warming is all a myth’, according to the Spectator, Global warming’s glorious ship of fools, and much more. It was, unsurprisingly, a fan of The Bell Curve. And so on.

  8. mcfrank0 says

    Having no idea who is Roger Lewis, I had to check out his Wikipedia article:

    Roger Lewis (born 26 February 1960) is a Welsh academic, biographer and journalist. He has written a biography of Anthony Burgess, which prolific author and essayist Tim Conley described thusly: “Lewis at work here is like nothing so much as an adolescent publicly masturbating on the exhumed corpse of his father, and thinking this performance the acme of wit.”

  9. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @ PZ #6

    And Jay Leno must be Queen Lesbian.

    @ eamick #13

    Oh hey, he threw racism in the mix too! I should have spotted that. I know Sandy Toksvig is Danish.

    Bright side (possibly): assuming he’s not bullshitting, that’s another celebrity lesbian I didn’t know was gay. Am I just really out of touch, or are the media paying less attention to people’s sexuality these days?

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    umm, aint all men lesbian? as all men go after other women? ‘cept those fake men who go after other men, and do it all limp wristed *fabulous* (and that lisp is a ubiquitous giveaway).

  11. petesh says

    Dusty was out (at least as bi) as early as 1970, but only if asked directly; she was — not unreasonably — concerned about the effect on her career, which ironically was stalled by the relative failure at first of her best album, the great Dusty in Memphis. For those who hadn’t noticed, there was a big clue when her 1987 comeback was orchestrated by the Pet Shop Boys (oh, I suppose some folks didn’t know about them either). But what’s this crap about her chin? I mean, even aside from the absurdity of the the concept, she had a perfectly pleasant face and a really nice smile. Also a great, great voice.

  12. John Horstman says

    Ah, good old once-mainstream, racist, sexist, heterosexist pseudoscience! Those were the days! The days I’m glad I never experienced, not that we don’t have our share of bullshit at the present.

  13. says

    How the fuck does one become a “celebrity Eskimo?”

    Maybe the rest of that crap got past the editor because the editor was busy asking about the “celebrity Eskimo” bit?

    And excuse me for being shallow, but I really don’t see anything in her chin that’s radically different from any other white woman’s chin. It’s not even different enough to imply a deeper PHYSICAL difference, let alone a difference in sexual orientation or any other personality trait.

  14. mostlymarvelous says

    The other thing about Dusty Springfield, apart from her powerful voice, was her early support for soul music, black singers and for non-discrimination generally. Her tour of South Africa was famously terminated – her contract insisted on no segregated audiences, but that didn’t happen – but before she left the country she performed before an integrated audience in Capetown. And yah, sucks, boo to the South African authorities.

    Apparently she was always a bit of a perfectionist. hyper-anxious tyrant to herself and everyone around her. But when she got ill with breast cancer, she became the ideal, patient, persistent sufferer who didn’t allow her illness to get in the way of friendship and support. (I watched a documentary about her a couple of years ago.)

    An admirable woman in many ways and a fantastic performer.

  15. sambarge says

    Raging Bee @ #21

    How the fuck does one become a “celebrity Eskimo?”

    Keeping Up With the Kluutgqarks?

    This confused the hell out of me too. Sandi Toksvig (the “celebrity Eskimo” in question, it seems) is a Danish-English woman. Denmark isn’t north of the UK so I’m confused. I’ve googled “celebrity Eskimo” and even braved the Urban Dictionary (which is fucking ridiculous, apparently everything is slang for sex, it must be written by frat boys) and got nothing. “Eskimo” has sexual connotations as a slang term (see my mini-rant above) but none of those are lesbian in nature. So I can’t imagine what makes Toksvig a “celebrity Eskimo.”

    I’m a massive fan of Toksvig’s and I feel like I’ve either missed out on a program of which I’m unaware, where she goes to the Arctic Circle or I’m missing some public-school boy reference that only Spectator readers can get. If it’s the former, I want to know what the show is. If it’s the latter, I want to punch Roger Lewis in the face.

  16. says

    Sandi Toksvig (the “celebrity Eskimo” in question, it seems) is a Danish-English woman.

    Um…aren’t there more Eskimos in Alaska than in Denmark? If Toksvig is a “celebrity Eskimo” for being part Danish, isn’t Sarah Palin a “celebrity Eskimo” for being Alaskan?

  17. footface says

    Apart from the ridiculous and offensive Lesbian Jaw business, what is this guy even trying to say? “Lesbians have big chins. Therefore (?) it’s a tragedy that being gay harmed Dusty Springfield’s career. But if people had noticed her chin and been aware of Lesbian Jaw, they would have known she was a lesbian. In which case, her career would have been… um, good?” I… huh?

  18. says

    footface: I think the article was trying to say that if people had been aware of Lesbian Jaw (there’s a great plot for a really bad lesbian-porn movie!), then either Dusty’s career would never have got off the ground (thus sparing her the horror of getting something and having it taken away), or no one would have been surprised later when she was actually outed.

    Or at least that’s the only sense I can make of this stupid bigoted mishmash of an opinion-piece.

  19. militantagnostic says

    what is this guy even trying to say?

    Nothing apparently. He failed to adhere to the adage “if you have nothing to say don’t put it into words.”

    I can’t be arsed to read the rest of his blather, did he mention anywhere what a great voice she had?

  20. woozy says


    I seriously don’t think he meant anything at all. He simply thought his comment “I can always spot a lesbian by her chin” was simply made him a clever bon vivant. Then the rest of the article is just a review of the book. The “thus” in the second paragraph doesn’t serve any logical purpose except to connect his utterly unrelated bit of rascally rakish wit to the rest of the article.

    Did anyone catch ” I myself can recall heaps of furious married dragon-women in Wales, who wore wrinkle-resistant Crimplene trousers and sublimated their feelings working with horses or running Girl Guide camps”. What a wag! I think I’m going to be sick.
    So I googled “Sandi Toksvig eskimo” and got this weird response from a reaction

    I wrote a perfectly fine piece on Dusty Springfield, inter alia making the joke that lezzos all have big chins the better to go bobbing for apples – and this cunt Iain Dale, a man of whom I had never previously heard, comes out of the woodwork accusing me of all sorts! And me the biographer of Charles Hawtrey and the world expert on camp comics! What I hate about the man is his egotistical desire to be morally superior – no sense of humour, hence of proportion, like those Welsh language fanatics I always poke fun at and who foam at the mouth when teased.

    Imagine that! Presumptions of moral superiority to someone who thinks lezzos having big chins to bob for apples is funny. Heck, I could lick gum stains off the train station floor for hand-outs and be morally superior to that!

    But okay “celebrity eskimo”… Um, he’s been making that joke for years, calling her an asylum-seeking eskimo and in a 2007 he wrote “Gyles Brandreth called in for lunch on his way to address the Oswestry branch of Bingo for the Deaf. I asked him if it is true that Sandi Toksvig is an Eskimo ? The last time a celebrity visited Bromyard was in 1964 when Princess Margaret attended a church service, so this was a red letter day indeed. Gyles is always out and about public speaking and earning big bikkies doing corporates. Next week it’s the turn of The British Man-Made Fibres Federation’s dinner dance.”


    Anyhow, he did get sacked for this comment (from a year ago) apparently. Such a wit. Or rhymes with wit.

  21. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I think he’s lambasting the 60’s as being “Liberal In Name Only” [aka LINO(tm) ]. That Dusty would have had a much bigger career if she wasn’t afraid to display her lesbianism. That her fear was not pointless, that the hippies of the 60’s were just as bigoted against LGBT as XIAN Fundies. Then adds in chiding her, for trying to hide her lesbianism from the bigots of her day, cuz she is obviously Lesbian to anyone who looks at her jawline (if only they would look through his crystal clear glasses).
    pretzel justifications for bigotry is ~uhhh challenging

  22. woozy says

    He thinks he’s an irascable fly in the ointment bon vivant. His point is nothing more than “Ho ho, I can make jokes about lezzos, god love them; aren’t I so worldly yet irreverent.”

    As for the “professional eskimo” weirdness. This is just old-school british humor absurdist non-sequitors. It’s funny because “eskimo” has a “k” in it and english people don’t really think eskimos are a real thing. Nothing more. It began in 2007 when he wrote a “The Rudest Christmas Letter ever written by Roger Lewis” (get it? He, Roger Lewis, wrote it but he acknowledges it’s rude so he’s self-aware of his bad behavior? Isn’t that irrascable? What a fly in the ointment!) he wrote:

    Gyles Brandreth called in for lunch on his way to address the Oswestry branch of Bingo for the Deaf. I asked him if it is true that Sandi Toksvig is an Eskimo ? The last time a celebrity visited Bromyard was in 1964 when Princess Margaret attended a church service, so this was a red letter day indeed. Gyles is always out and about public speaking and earning big bikkies doing corporates. Next week it’s the turn of The British Man-Made Fibres Federation’s dinner dance.

    See? Get it? It’s a bunch of silly irreverent nonsensical off the wall comments that imply inside joke knowlege. What a socialite irascible wag!

    Since no-body apparently laughed the first time, he repeated it in his book of “Seasonal Suicide Notes” in 2010 and kept bringing it up in irrelevant (er, I mean irreverent) articles since. Such as: “Once they’ve finished apologising for slavery or women not getting the vote until 1928, there are some things future Prime Ministers will simply not to be able to look back upon and be adequately contrite about. That Britain’s highest-grossing film remains Holiday On The Buses is a particularly heinous crime. Prayers will need to be offered for centuries to atone for the career of Sandi Toksvig, the asylum-seeking Eskimo. And then there is The South Bank Show, then there is The South Bank Show, which for more than 30 years inflicted Melvyn Bragg on the populace without mercy.

    I think he’s hoping that eventually some-one is finally going to laugh.

  23. sambarge says

    I see. He’s an ass. Sandi Toksvig is both brilliant and funny. Even the Dawkins admiring ass wipes that watch QI admit that Toksvig is a brilliant panelist. I guess he thought calling her an Eskimo was a funny joke so he’s kept it up. This is something though:

    Biographer Roger Lewis, who has written well-received lives of Peter Sellers and Laurence Olivier, among others, has been sacked by his latest publisher for calling Danish-born broadcaster Sandi Toksvig a ‘celebrity Eskimo’ and claiming (in a Spectator piece about Dusty Springfield) that certain lesbians have ‘big thrusting chins… the better to go bobbing for apples’.
    Biteback Publishing’s managing director, Iain Dale, deploring Lewis’s ‘overt homophobia,’ says they were discussing publishing his next book. ‘He has just been told these discussions are at an end.’

    It appears that “cunt Iain Dale” is the managing direct of a publishing house that is not publishing this idiot’s next book after all.

    Lewis published his dribble on August 2, 2014 and Dale had announced that Biteback wasn’t doing business with Lewis by August 14. Not bad. Instant karma.

  24. Moggie says

    He sounds like Gretchen trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. It’s not going to happen.

  25. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia, #2:

    I’m really sick of how fucking low the bar is for someone to genuinely think of themselves as non-homophobic.

    Oh, is it that low? I was standing on the bar for someone to genuinely think of themselves as non-trans*-phobic trying to stretch my crutch up high enough to knock a jar of Jif Crunchy down here & I didn’t quite get it that it’s still pretty low.

    This comment brought to you by the department of taking a fun metaphor with which one agrees wholeheartedly and running with it, not the department of disparaging a metaphor with which one disagrees by trying to play Oppression Olympics. They can look similar, but trust me, these are very different departments with very different cultures. Those Olympians even got rid of Donut Fridays, would you believe? Something about getting in “competition shape”.

  26. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    @Crip Dyke
    Yeah, isn’t the world a supernice place full of candy smiles and pop-corn herpes?
    It’s pretty amazing how you can substitute homophobia for any other discriminatory prejudice in my post, and the only thing that changes is the height of the bar, everything else is the same. We are at the mercy of people who decide for themselves what level of “acceptance” we should be contempt with, how much abuse we ought to be prepared to tolerate even from those who call themselves our allies, lest they get a sad, and our status as fully human can be revoked at any time for any reason, like not being meek enough or daring to point out when we are being dehumanized. It doesn’t matter what the reason for oppression is, the movie always has the same plot, what changes is how much blood there is in it…