Whilst possessing a sexist streak wouldn't be part of his job description, as a columnist for the Mail, it's unlikely to hurt Piers Morgan's job prospects. Earlier this month Morgan was so offended by the sight of Susan Sarandon's cleavage, he took to twitter to give her a public dressing down. Yesterday, his guns were pointed at Kim Kardashian and her naked selfie.
Morgan's atavistic rants about Madonna's "age inappropriate" antics are as perfidious as they are pernicious. There's something inherently unedifying about a middle aged man lecturing women on what they should and should not wear. It's hard to imagine that Piers Morgan was once a national newspaper editor. As a journalist, words are his craft and there is an expectation that he should employ them to better effect. Rather than articulate a case to illustrate a point, he resorts to the sloppy short hand of prejudice.
Morgan's personal attacks on women's appearance, using patronising, value laden adjectives like "tacky", "inappropriate", "grotesque", "embarrassing", pollute the social media landscape. There's no basis for his invective except his own disapproval, making his comments seem like old fashioned bullying.
I'm not going to defend Kardashian's naked selfies. As someone who spent the last 8 years covering lads' mags with copies of Good Housekeeping every time I went to the shops, it pains me to see women reduced to the sum total of their body parts. Twenty year old actress, Chloe Moretz, made a legitimate point when she tweeted Kardashian, "I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies".
As a feminist, journalist and therapist who has worked with women made ill by sexism, I would argue that portraying women as sex objects perpetuates gender inequalities and that objectification is dehumanising. That's the point. It's much easier to abuse (or discriminate against) a non-person reduced to mere body parts. The sex industry, which includes lad's rags, has vested interests in normalising the objectification of women. To them women, and girls, are just commodities.
Last year it was reported that half of school girls were considering plastic surgery to make themselves thinner and prettier, 90% of eating disorders are amongst females, teenage gang rape is on the increase and one in three girls have reported unwelcome sexual touching at school.
There were so many crucial issues that Morgan could have used his column (which was published on IWD) to highlight.
Yesterday Labour MP, Jess Phillips, stunned parliament into silence when she read out the names of 120 women killed by men they knew in the past year. On average, two women a week are killed each year by a current or former male partner and 25% of young women (aged over 13) experience physical violence.
According to End Violence Against Women, nearly a quarter of young adults aged 18-24 report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood (31% of young women and 17.4% of young men), 90% are abused by someone they know and 66% are abused by other children or young people under 18. In 2012-2013, 22,654 sexual offences against under-18s were reported to police in England and Wales with four out of five cases involving girls. The UK is a significant site of internal and international child trafficking. The vast majority of trafficked children in the UK are aged 14-17, with many girls trafficked for sexual abuse and exploitation.
The internet has broadened the ways in which women and girls can be sexualised, dehumanised and exploited. Piers Morgan could have used his column to expose these, and any of the above, evils but he didn't. He chose instead to be part of the problem women face on social media, not the solution.