THE BLOG

Young Women Don't Get Politics? A Response to Fox News' Kimberly Guilfoyle

24/10/2014 16:16 BST | Updated 24/12/2014 10:59 GMT

The recent on-air comment by Fox News reporter Kimberly Guilfoyle, that young women don't understand politics and should stick to social media and dating sites, exposes just how far the familiar cultural denigration of female ability continues unabated. Despite the fact that the age of voting for women in the UK was lowered from 30 to 21 in 1928, decreasing further to 18 in 1970, Ms Guilfoyle's recommendations would appear to return us to a "dark age" of Feminism, where young women are perceived as intellectually incapable and focused far more on frivolities. No matter that these very women are legally entitled to vote, and are being represented by parliament; no matter that girls regularly outstrip boys in achievement at school and university, and are forging the way as leaders in international business, finance and the arts, all are tarred by Ms Guilfoyle's derogatory brush.

Her argument turns on the question of life experience. Using the example of older women "paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, crime, education, healthcare," Guilfoyle rejects the notion that young women have anything to offer the voting system, nor should they serve on jury panels, but should instead "go back on Tinder or Match.com." This condemnation appears to be specifically reserved for girls: apparently young men possess all the life experience they need to be able to vote at the age of eighteen, just by virtue of an accident of gender. In the light of recent troll campaigns to silence prominent women online, which in some cases have succeeded in the deletion of their accounts from Twitter following death threats, this statement is more than irresponsible. It is negligent and Guilfoyle's future career as a presenter should be questioned.

Is it worse that a woman has expressed this view? We've become used to various crass and insensitive comments about women's rights that have been uttered by male public figures over the years, but such ignorance isn't the preserve of one gender. While Guilfoyle may attribute stupidity to young women but not men, such a statement would have been damaging whoever had uttered it, especially from the forum of Fox TV. But yes, I do think it is worse coming from a woman. Presumably Ms Guilfoyle was recalling her younger self, in comparing her accrued experience with that of her youth; presumably she is also thinking of girls she knows now, or of one façade which they might present to the world. Presumably this is a throw-away comment that is borne out of ignorance about the abilities of young people, or both genders, and the ability and commitment evident in many of their lives and activities.

Or perhaps I presume too much. Perhaps this is part of a far more sinister culture, of which Guilfoyle has also become the victim: the overwhelming attack on female intelligence, identity and integrity that prevails at Fox News. With commentators frequently having to make public apologies for sexist commentary, the network projects the atmosphere of the boys' locker room. Far from being the responsible adult in whose hands the vote should be trusted, Guilfoyle has not been smart enough to realise she been co-opted by a misogynistic culture, being made the mouthpiece for a worrying trend which she was in a position to reject. Luckily, the sort of young women whose experience she distrusts, often prove to be far more savvy when it comes to equality in the media.