Is the BBC guilty of sexist double standards in the way its presenters speak about men, asks Glen Poole?
Can you imagine if Mary Berry turned to an Asian contestant on the Great British Bake Off who was licking freshly whipped meringue mixture off the end of her finger and quipped: “I know, Pakistanis have a lot of perverted desires but yours is the sickest”?
The BBC switchboard would light up with disgruntled calls from unamused cake fans quicker than you could say “my spotted dick has got a soggy bottom”.
How about Bruce Forsyth turning to Bruno Tonioli, the gay Italian judge on Strictly Come Dancing, and responded to a comment about “loving a nice tight rumba” with the words: “Darling, I know homosexuals have a lot of perverted desires but yours is possibly the sickest”?
The liberal media would be calling be for his toupéed scalp long before he’d grabbed Tess Daly to close the show with the words “keep dancing”.
Has political correctness gone mad?
So what about if The Fixer, Alexi Polizzi, said to one of the struggling business owners she was trying to rescue, after he had showed her his shiny new plant machinery: “I know, darling, I mean, men have a lot of perverted desires but yours is possibly the sickest”.
What would happen then? Well this is exactly what Polizzi said to the male owner of a Devon microbrewery this week and nothing happened. The BBC broadcast this comment on 1st September 2014, during the opening episode of the latest series of The Fixer and I have yet to spot a single raised eyebrow amongst the nation’s self-appointed guardians of moral correctness.
Let me pin my colours to the mast here. I’m not an anti-liberal traditionalist who thinks that political correctness has gone mad and needs to be chucked in a straightjacket and locked in a padded cell for its own safety. I happen to have great respect for the good intentions (you know, those things the road to hell is paved with) behind attempts to promote worthy concepts like equality, diversity and tolerance.
What I can’t tolerate is hypocrisy.
I’m not a fan of UKIP, for example, but if Godfrey Bloom had said to a female acquaintance “women have a lot of perverted desires but yours is possibly the sickest” it would have been front page news. Yet when a woman says it about men, nobody bats their hypocritical little eyelashes.
I’m not a regular Top Gear view, but if Jeremy Clarkson had travelled to Mexico to meet a collector of Triumph Dolomites and told him: “Mexicans have a lot of perverted desires but yours is possibly the sickest”, there’d have been complaints from the Mexican embassy, opinion pieces in the liberal press and left-wing comics would be performing acerbic satire about the issue. Yet there are no ambassadors, columnists or comedians talking about the woman who labelled men as perverts.
I’m no apologist for sexist sports commentators like Andy Gray and Richard Keys, but if they interviewed a gay couple from Fulham who supported Fleetwood Town and concluded: “lesbians have a lot of perverted desires but yours is possibly the sickest”, they’d be in for the high jump, the sack an the firing squad all in the same day. Yet when a woman says it about a man, she’s not even subject to a gentle verbal warning.
Does equality mean treating people equally?
If you believe in people being treated equally then one of two things is happening here, either we’re being oversensitive about what we can say about women, black people, gay people and so on, or we’re being under-sensitive about what we can say about men.
Taking the view that it’s the latter, let’s consider why it wouldn’t be appropriate for a BBC presenter to say that women or blacks or gays “have a lot of perverted desires”. The reason, quite simply, is that while “some women”, “some blacks” and “some gays” may well “have a lot of perverted desires”, it clearly isn’t the fact that “all women”, “all blacks” or “all gays” are perverts and to say so is not only inaccurate, it’s also offensive.
So why is it okay for the BBC to suggest that all men are perverts? It can only be for one of two reasons. Either the BBC believes it is factually accurate to say “men have a lot of perverted desires” or they simply don’t think it’s offensive because men and boys, unlike women, gay people, black people and every other “special interest” group you can imagine, are not worthy of protection or concern.
Under the Equality Act, the category “sex” (and that includes men as well as women) is a “protected characteristic” and the BBC has a duty to protect men from being treated unfairly because of their sex and to foster good relations between people of different characteristics, eg men and women, different ethnic groups and people of all sexualities.
It may never be possible or desirable to treat all people equally, but we should expect the BBC to treat all people equitably. By tolerating the inequitable treatment of a group as large as men and boys (which includes males of all ages, ethnicities, sexualities, religions and disabilities), the BBC is fundamentally failing in its duty to foster good relations between men and women (both those who have perverted desires and those who do not).
Have your say:
Readers who have access to BBC iplayer, can view the comment here (it’s at the nine minute mark) and decide if you want to notify BBC complaints. If you see examples of casual sexism against men in public life or popular culture that you think we should write about please let us know at [email protected].
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
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