This week, the BBC published an article entitled 'UN Woman criticises 'sexist' UK'.
My beloved BBC. I've stuck up for you when perhaps I shouldn't have done. When the Tory party and their press routinely bash you, and seize upon your admitted failures in order to undermine and ultimately eradicate you, I defend you as if you are as sacred as the NHS. And this is how you repay me. By writing a headline, and an article, that could have been published in the Daily Mail itself.
Let's start, shall we, with the headline. The 'UN Woman' in question is Rashida Manjoo, an investigator looking expressly at violence against women on behalf of the UN. But her job is not important, clearly - what is most important here is the fact that she has a vagina, making her a woman. Headline worthy stuff, right there. Maybe this is a new direction in headline writing? Maybe the future lies in this kind of thing; Man Goes on Holiday, for example, or Think Man Might Be Telling Fibs. Maybe not. No, definitely not. In fact, the day you see the BBC use the term 'UN Man' in a headline, I will eat my own knickers. Anyway, they mysteriously changed the headline this morning. I wonder why.
In the article, Manjoo is quoted saying that the UK's inherent sexism begins at school and is propelled by the British media's 'negative and over-sexualised portrayals of women'. She discusses the government's spending cuts and their catastrophic effect on vulnerable women. The article, of course, then ends with a government spokeswoman shutting the whole thing down. Because there is nothing wrong with the way women are treated in England... silly UN woman.
And then we come to the comments. As Izzy Choksey, a member of feminist collective Wolf Whistled, notes,
"the BBC does not allow comments on any of its "purely news" articles. They make a point of not letting people comment on anything that is just reporting a fact. No one, for instance, is allowed to comment on the Oscar Pistorius case, but the story of a woman paid to investigate how other women are over-sexualised and have to put up with a "boys culture" is open to comment. What this says, so clearly, is that women do not talk facts. They talk opinions that need to be commented on."
Of course, the comments on the article simply compound its overarching misogyny, particularly the 'editors picks'. One begins, "As a single father with sons and daughters, the only sentence in the report I agree with is..."; another, "No mention from her (or our Government) that violence also happens to men". One comment states that, "Man haters on here out in force today trying to give excuses for the poor 'research' of this woman."
Here's the thing, guys. No, actually, there are too many things to mention, so here are some of the things.
Firstly, as feminist blogger Anne Theriault very aptly puts it - prefacing a sexist comment with a gratuitous mention of your daughter, your wife, your sister, or your mother does not immediately redeem you of your misogyny. We all have a mother. Why don't you care about the marginalised life of yours?
Secondly, Manjoo is not examining violence against men, so why would she pass comment on that? Why is it always, always about you, men?
And thirdly, man haters? Are you kidding me? No, are you?
There is a problem in this country. Men feel hard done by. "There are all these women's centres!" they say, indignantly. "There are places for battered women to go! And they have crisis centres for female rape victims! And incentives to get women in to work! What about me! WHAT ABOUT ME!!!!!"
What about you?
Have a little think about women's centres. About who could have possibly set them up. Is it hard for your mind? Would you like me to do the work for you? OK, I will. It was women. Women set up women's centres. Women set up Rape Crisis. Women campaigned for Equal Work for Equal Pay.
"I've had a few women bosses in my time. You know what? The ones that were really good at their jobs were the ones that didn't have a chip on their shoulder and just got on with the job," says John in an 'editors pick' comment at the bottom of the BBC news article.
Oh John. John, John, John. I wouldn't call it a chip on my shoulder. I'd call it a crack in my heart. It deepens, has salt sprinkled in it, every time I learn things about the patriarchy and society's quiet complicity with it. I'm going to give you an example. Just the one.
Perhaps you've seen porn, John. Who hasn't? I have. Remember the vaginas in porn? I do. That's the thing about porn. It's specially formulated to stick in your mind, and then afterwards, you crave it. Like McDonalds. And meth.
So the vaginas in porn have been labiaplastied and shaved into unrecognisable, alien holes. They have been stripped of all mystery, so that they no longer have the Freudian attachment of terror, and boys no longer think them capable of castration.
I don't know if you're aware of trickle down marketing, John. But I am. It's the theory that when something is different and desirable, it is slowly adopted into popular culture until it becomes commonplace. Georg Simmel wrote about the concept as early as 1904. It can be applied to the porn vagina. Nowadays, the only acceptably desirable vaginas are hair free.
So women buy razors. And which razors do women buy? Why, they buy a Venus, of course, or a Wilkinson Sword Lady Protector. Have you ever wondered, John, why women get their own special razors? I bet you haven't. I'm going to tell you.
The reason why women have allocated, gendered hair removal products is so that the big companies can charge them more and the government can subsequently tax them more. I don't know if you shave, John, but if you do, four of your big manly razor blades cost 50p less than four of the pink dainty razor blades marketed directly at me removing my pubic hair for your viewing pleasure. In spite of the fact that your patriarchal society has dictated that my vagina must be hairless.
Women of Britain: we may still be marginalised in headlines, in the editor's specially selected comments, and in the shaving section of our local Superdrug. But this is a system, and we can screw it on so many levels. I suggest we start by buying a Mach 3.