The paper's misogyny is matched by its condescension towards working class men
I don’t know about you, but whenever I want to read some thoughtful commentary on sexual politics, I turn to the pages of the Sun.
Imagine my horror this morning when I opened the paper, only to read a defence of wolf-whistling – whereby a group of men jeer and whistle at a passing woman – and an attack on bossy feminists ruining everyone’s fun.
The column by Sun writer Katie Glass argues that 23-year-old Poppy Smart, a marketing co-ordinator in Worcester who called the police after weeks of humiliating abuse by builders on her way to work, should lighten up.
Glass says she’s ‘infuriated by people now insisting wolf-whistling intimidates all women’. She sometimes likes it, and sometimes doesn’t. But she’s ‘not down with a culture that infantilises and patronises women, telling them to feel constantly fearful, teaching us we can’t stand up for ourselves’.
Nor with ‘telling women that anyone attracted to their appearance has reduced them to a sex object’. And who is telling women all this? Why, feminists of course!
“And yet who is really doing this? Not builders shouting sunny offerings, but feminists frightening women, beating their sexuality over their heads.”
Ms Glass doesn’t name any feminists, so the piece might as well have said ‘witches’. (Is Ms Smart one of ‘them’ or is she merely under their spell?)
She also accuses women of ‘sexist double standards’ for leering at boys outside their office, adding: “If we’re going to ban boys from cat-calling, will we ban women from publicly perving over Poldark?”
On the double standards point, there ought to be an obvious difference between liking a picture of Poldark and jeering at someone in person as they walk down the street. (Looking at someone through a window is similarly a false comparison.)
Missing this point is very revealing, since the Sun has been criticised by ‘feminists’ over its running pictures of naked or semi-naked women. It suggests the paper associates feminism with not liking pictures, which is arguably a greater indictment of some feminists than the piece offers.
Ms Glass goes on to cite an unnamed study ‘showing 54 per cent of women love receiving wolf-whistles’. If true, this means nearly half of women do not. Still, Glass concludes:
“A statistic, not just surprising but begging the question, ‘Why do we never hear from these girls?’
Perhaps the answer is that it’s not builders who they’re afraid of.” (emphasis original)
So women are being harassed and bullied – but by feminists. And there was me thinking feminists campaign for equal pay, abortion rights, the right not to have their genitals mutilated, and so on.
It’s worth pointing out that the piece is not only insulting to women, but to men who work on building sites, who are usually working class. Ms Glass writes:
“The best cat-call I’ve ever heard was from the foreman of a building site shouting at me: ‘Oi you! Stop sexually objectifying my lads!'”
I don’t believe this happened. But that ‘Oi you!’ is no less irksome than the phoney prole-speak in some poems by Rudyard Kipling. I mention it because it’s of a piece with the column’s depiction of working class men as knuckle-draggers who can’t help but make animal noises when they see a woman.
As with the Sun’s front page story yesterday hailing ‘white van Dan’ – who favours deporting ‘uninvited’ migrants – as representative of ordinary blokes, the rag perpetuates an image of women as giggling babes and men as crude but good-natured lads, who might be a bit sexist, but it’s all harmless fun.
It’s hard to believe this double insult has nothing to do with the Sun’s business model, as the paper helps to nurture the kind of readership it claims to be reflecting.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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