Sexism, like racism, should always be named

by Rachel Bell on January 30, 2011

While our women’s football teams perform better than our men’s, the men’s game is elevated to ridiculous proportions in our culture and its sexism usually permitted to grow unchecked. ‘Casual’ sexism exists all around us, and should always be challenged, not laughed off

The football sexism row, which has seen Andy Gray and Richard Keys lose their pointless jobs, has brought sexism into the Sun and Sky TV-consuming mainstream, and despite the hypocritical coverage from these pornographers, naming and shaming sexism is long overdue. Since Loaded made idiotic laddism cool and funny, naming sexism has been deeply unfashionable. And with some women joining in with their ‘empowering’ stripping, boob jobs and Katie Price-style aspirations, it’s become easy for simplistic-minded men to lazily tell themselves that ‘women are choosing it so it’s alright.’

We don’t tolerate racism or incitement to racial hatred, why isn’t sexism afforded the same gravitas? Shame then that when so few women are given a media platform – unless they’re eye candy for men – Question Time gave its valuable slot to a lapdog of blokedom, reality TV ‘star’ Kate Hopkins. Much of Hopkins’ comments suggest she hates her own gender. She said that women couldn’t handle equal treatment if they got it, and kept repeating how ‘it’s a tough world out there.’

What’s with this emphasis on ‘toughness’? It’s a cartoonish quality wrongly assigned to boys and men. Handy for extreme environments but success in work, which should be a civilised environment by law, usually results from intelligence, vision, drive, understanding your area, people skills, that sort of thing. The evidence is there that women in senior positions equals a company that performs better. Hopkins’ views suggest she doesn’t read too good, so here’s a sample for you Kate.

One study of America’s fortune 500 companies found that the one quarter with the most female executives had a return on equity 35% higher than the quarter with fewer female executives. On the Japanese stock exchange, companies with the highest number of female employees performed nearly 50% better than those with the lowest. As Kristof and Wudunn put it in Half the Sky: How to Change the World, ‘Companies who are innovative enough to promote women are also head of the curve in reacting to business opportunities. That is the essence of a sustainable economic model. Moving women into more productive roles helps curb population growth and nurtures a sustainable society.’

Hopkins calls herself a businesswoman but has she even considered why China is doing so well? She seems to think that a male dominated, sexist workplace, indeed world, is inevitable and unchangeable, and that women must put up or shut up to fit in. Feminists are striving for a world that is better for women and men, for society, not simply an invite to the chauvinist party. Reality TV stars aren’t known for challenging the status quo I guess.

Hopkins wants sexist ‘banter’ to be part of the cultural landscape. She thinks if we don’t like it we should get a sense of humour. It’s traditional to excuse sexism and belittle anyone who opposes it by calling it a ’bit of fun’. But the two men who’ve been sacked weren’t making jokes. They weren’t laughing. They want to believe that a highly experienced lineswoman or referee doesn’t understand the offside rule simply because she is a member of a group, women, which they view as inferior. They seem to think that the offside rule is a great, intellectual secret that only man can understand, and are allowed to own. Well didums. Andy Gray’s and Richard Keys’ role was to chatter about some men kicking a ball around. Hello?

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