Misogyny is finally hitting the headlines. It’s about time. Misogyny is everywhere, every day, for every woman. And it’s unacceptable.
It perpetuates the gender pay gap. It pushes women off social media. It means women aren’t taken seriously by medical professionals in life-threatening ways. It damages career prospects. (In our industry alone, the stories are shocking. This article is tough reading but read it. https://zoescaman.substack.com/p/mad-men-furious-women.) It contributes to the UK’s disgraceful rape conviction rate of 1.6%. (Take a look at Why Women Are Blamed for Everything: Exposing the Culture of Victim-Blaming to understand how deeply it runs through our society, even in how women think about themselves and other women – yes, internalised misogyny is real.)
Yet misogynistic attitudes and behaviours are stubbornly unyielding and often go unchallenged.
“Don’t be that guy”
But just lately, misogyny is being talked about more directly.
This popped up on my (SFW) Twitter last week. At last, an ad making it crystal clear what misogyny sounds like and how it behaves. This is great script writing as the language is painfully familiar.
This ad is powerful because men calling out other men is vital to initiate change. Women can’t solve misogyny on their own. History proves this.
The next day, this turned up in my Twitter feed from FA Wales.
Hearing professional footballers read these comments and seeing their reactions highlights how awful this abuse really is. These aren’t just throwaway comments on social media. They contribute to making misogyny seem normal and acceptable. And these are a handful of comments that were ‘safe for work’. (Things get a lot uglier than this for women on social media.)
These comments reveal what really goes on in the minds and hearts of the men who make them. It’s so entrenched and so widespread. And this shows the fight we’re facing.
But maybe we’re at a tipping point
When Panorama gets involved, you know it’s bad. And very recently, Panorama screened “Online abuse: Why do you hate me?” This programme looked into the rise of online abuse of women and why the police, government and social media companies aren’t doing more to stop it.If you don’t have 30 minutes to watch the documentary, this is the article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-58924168. It’s another difficult read. Panorama’s investigation showed that social media platforms have damning questions to answer. In particular, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – all shown to serve up misogynistic content yet remain ‘reluctant’ to change their ways or their algorithms. I wonder what percentage of the people on the boards of these businesses are women? Most likely, not enough.
Long time coming
Over the past 10 years in the UK, there have been moments of pushback against a prevailing culture of misogyny. @everydaysexism appeared on Twitter way back in 2012, yet 9 years on, people are still reporting the same blatantly misogynist behaviours.
Around 2014, “Dapper Laughs” was making a living by making jokes about “moisture” until he told a woman she was “gagging for a rape”. An online petition eventually gained 68,210 signatures with the hashtag #CancelDapper and asked ITV to end the series. Which they did. Then there was #metoo. Although Tarana Burke coined the phrase in 2006, it was on Thursday, October 5, 2017 that it blew up and eventually took down 201 misogynists.
Yet, somehow all the moments didn’t build into a cohesive movement that everyone could get behind. So, here we are in 2021, still facing misogyny every day. And it comes from the top.
The PM doesn’t get it
Boris Johnson has never been on the receiving end of any misogyny. If he had, he would have thought twice about taking this stance.
If you want to know how out of touch our male ministers are on the subject, let me just quote Dominic Raab, who actually said this out loud:
“Insults and misogyny is of course absolutely wrong whether it’s against a man against a woman, or a woman against a man.”
When this is the tone set at the top, institutions like the Police have no reason to eradicate their own misogyny. And this leaves women in a perilous position.
Surely adland is no longer making sexist ads?
Sadly, an article in Marketing Week from earlier this year shows that adverts are still telling women what’s acceptable. To quote:
“The tide has also shifted from focusing on how women need to fix their appearance to how they can improve their behaviour and attitude which, while often well-intentioned, can be equally damaging.”
Then there’s this:
“Just one in 10 ads feature a woman, despite women being responsible for three quarters of all consumer purchases.”
No quick fix but let’s keep calling it out
I’m angry that women are still dealing with all the insidious and blatant forms of misogyny – at work, at home, on the street, on social media. But I sincerely hope that we’re seeing the beginnings of a serious and sustained uprising against it, where many different voices from across the gender spectrum call it out and demand change. It’s overdue.