Listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 last night, I was disgusted by the patronising, sexist statement that one of the panellists put forward as fact; OneMonkey was incensed and has brought it up a couple of times already today. Female readers are no doubt already filling in the blanks, and nodding sagely, unless they heard the broadcast and are wondering what I’m talking about. The statement in question, by a Lib Dem Baroness from the House of Lords, was that ‘men can’t help being male chauvinist pigs’.
Now I have unfortunately met a few men who fall into that category, just as I’ve met a few women who are fond of snide generalisations, but thankfully not many. If the lone man on the panel had begun any sentence, in such a condescending tone, with the words ‘Of course women can’t help but…’, whether he went on to say something positive or negative he’d have been rounded on by the women in the panel, probably booed by the audience and then flamed on the listeners’ response programme, Any Answers. Humour would not have been a valid defence for him, whereas I imagine ‘I was only joking’ would be seen as acceptable here. If anyone were to complain, which few will do.
If I wrote a male character who was indifferent or borderline unpleasant to women around him, questioning their motives and competence at every turn, he would be seen as a boorish misogynist. Substitute a woman in that role and she’s a strong, independent feminist. Sexism is sexism whichever way round it is, and on both sides it’s the vocal minority that give their gender a bad name. It’s about time the double standards ended, and everyone indulged in a little humanity.