Our Acceptance of Blurred Lines
Hey BBC, you did good.
I watched Kirsty Wark’s programme on sexism in 2014, and it was brilliant. It explored how deep rooted sexism is, how easily it can ignored. Most importantly it showed Kirsty’s disgust and the darkness that exists across our society when you stop to actually think about that joke, that lyric or that advert. It clearly made people uncomfortable and sexism should make people uncomfortable. The show analysed the sexism that happens every week after Question Time. Each time Stella Creasy, Mary Beard, Harriet Harman, or Ruth Davidson get asked on (which is rare enough) they are abused in the most abhorrently misogynistic way across social media. It is vitally important that this is highlighted and people are made to feel ashamed of their conduct. These are misogynists hiding behind anonymity, silencing women out of public life. Well done to the programme for revealing that this silencing of women is the responsibility of everyone and that just because it happens on Twitter, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in real life.
You can watch it here.
The programme importantly highlighted how normalised sexism and misogyny is today, and what it reveled was that when you accept even one aspect of sexism, you are more likely to accept the next level of “up” of inequality. Go to 21.30 minutes and we hear from a psychologist who tells us that a man who holds some sexist views perceives sexual harassment or “humorous” sexism as acceptable and even empowering. These individuals were more likely to accept the under-representation of women in parliament, a decrease in women services and inequality in the sharing of household chores. Kirsty Wark excellently explains that when we laugh along, dismissing it as a joke, as bystanders, we endorse the sexist views some men hold and therefore reinforce it to be stronger.
But there is another dimension. It isn’t just “some sexist attitudes” that we may be reinforcing, it is a sexist society we live in. Having some sexist views is the norm, in fact seeing everyone as equal and being free of prejudice is actually an abnormal mind to have. Because everyday we encounter sexist messaging; we are brought up in that environment and we are normalised to it. To divide people as definitely not sexist or definitely sexist and therefore more impressionable, is actually pretty disingenuous.
The part that left me speechless (not an easy thing to do) was the longest standing editor of Loaded Magazine (yes, it’s hardly a surprise). He said that Loaded “celebrated” women (to which, much to my happiness Kirsty Wark shook her head and laughed), he then said he believed people were intelligent enough to decipher that the magazine is not endorsing objectifying women…right.
Kirsty Wark showed said editor the Blurred Lines video, to which he said “I don’t think that’s so bad”, when she showed him the “we saw your boobs” clip from last year’s oscars he responded “that’s not funny, that’s why that’s not ok”, He was shown a “I’m feeling rapey” t-shirt and said “that’s not funny, that is misogynistic” But here’s the problem, it’s not about how funny it is (aside from that being pretty subjective) it’s about what it says about women, whether someone laughs or not.
The former editor of loaded magazine also goes on to say essentially poor men feel bad, that’s why it’s happening. Wholly missing the issue of why women are made to blame for that feeling or indeed why that feeling exists at all.
There is a continuum here, which is a nuance missing from some of those objecting to the idea that sexism exists today. What is ok and what is not ok, in fact is essentially one in the same. All we are doing is increasing our tolerance to what is not ok. Let’s take a look at sexism according to that editor:
Loaded magazine – ok
Loaded magazine content – ok
Blurred lines video -ok
Blurred lines lyrics – ok
T-shirt with domestic abuse – ok
T-shirt with explicit rape joke – Not Ok
When you put it in a list like that, that definition of “ok” and “not ok” is pathetically redundant. Every single aspect of what comes before the “Not Ok” plays a role in developing a culture of tolerance to sexism and misogyny. From rape jokes by unimaginative comedians, to the latest music video, from rape threats on twitter to killing prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto; all of this contributes to a culture where the “not ok” is becoming further removed and more misogynistic every day. The tolerance level to sexism is already dangerously high and those blurred lines, when you think about it, are not actually all that blurry.
Amazing work Kirsty Wark. Can we have a programme like this every week? Please?