Oh, Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy…

// 28 December 2008

Jeremy Clarkson courts controversy. It’s no secret. He’s forged a lucrative career for himself out of his capacity to offend. He claims to be a satirist, but he’s not. He’s just not clever enough, and so his infantile attempts to capture the zeitgeist of our social political climate more often than not results in the literary equivalent of someone farting in your face. It’s disgustingly funny at first, but once the pungent smell hits you’d rather not have to look at the felonious arsehole. I’ve always resisted the urge to find him offensive, precisely because I know that is what he trades on, and this makes him ridiculous – a misogynistic caricature like John McCrick, compensating for his lack of talent with clumsy polemic. That doesn’t excuse or dilute his erroneous opinions, but it does make him a repetitive bore.

However, his piece in The Sunday Times today (titled ‘Save the high street – ditch bad service and ugly sales girls’) is worthy of discussion, simply because it illustrates an attitude espoused by a large portion of the male population; that of separating women into two carefully delineated categories. We are either attractive or unattractive. Pretty or ugly. Beauties or a munters, who they would, or they wouldn’t do (not even with yours). We are defined and judged purely on the basis of our physical appearances; the nuances of our personalities are negligible. It’s fair enough that as human beings, men and women alike have a tendency to internally evaluate and fantasise about the ability of another to provide them with sexual gratification or pleasure. As sexually mature people it’s natural for us to be superficially attracted to some people more than to others (and, let’s face it, some men and women are just nice to look at). But whereas women are not particularly vocal about the fact they may find the balding men who ask them out physically repugnant men, like Clarkson, seem to take pleasure in defining some women as unattractive. Moreover, they feel that it is their duty as red-blooded males to make their opinions known, and that said opinions should be considered indisputable facts. It doesn’t matter that no one has asked, or actually cares, what they think; they offer their vitriolic assessments nonetheless.

Clarkson’s article was yet another shat out by the media machine to perpetuate the fear surrounding the continued decline of the national and international economy. According to Clarkson:

Retailers need to understand – and they really don’t – that while there are a great many people, usually those with bosoms, who enjoy mooching about in the shops because it’s safer and less complicated than shagging the gym instructor, the rest – those with zips down the front of their trousers – do not enjoy it much at all and would like the whole process to be over as fast as possible.

As always, he’s waded in as some sort of trouble-shooter, although instead of speculating about the likely effects improved fiscal policies could have on the British economy he suggests that the way to rescue crumbling British consumerism is simple; get rid of ugly sales girls and male (especially gay, apparently) shop assistants (because, of course, only women with good tits and a flawless smile should have the privilege of packaging Clarkson’s shoddy goods):

Finally, and I hope this is helpful, pretty girls cost the same to employ as ugly ones. There’s a shop in St James’s Street, London, called Swaine Adeney Brigg that sells lilac riding crops for £900. I have no use for anything like that but I buy one a week because the assistant is so pretty. In short, nobody likes to be served by a boot-faced crow. Or, and this is for you, PC World, a man in a purple shirt.

The average man could not afford to swan around London and spend £900 on a riding crop (financial crisis, or not) of a weekend lusting after pretty shop assistants while the wife is at home looking after the kids. The vast majority of people in Britain have to work hard just to survive. Satire is only funny when it humorously exposes a social truth, but someone boasting about his or her relative wealth is just tasteless. Yes, sales assistants cost the same to employ no matter what they look like. Presumably the same can be said for television presenters and journalists. I’m no great beauty, but neither is Clarkson. He is not a handsome man. He is not charismatic or generically attractive. So why does he feel able to cast aspersions on a woman’s ability purely because of her physical appearance? Beauty is such a subjective thing, how can Clarkson possibly think it is possible to employ women considered universally attractive? Is this the privilege of the older wealthy man? Does he see everything as saleable, as a product for his convenience, and thus wants top-notch goods made to specification? Something other people will look at and admire? Does Clarkson think that by being served by beautiful shop assistants he will in some way become more attractive himself? That this is a reflection on his attractiveness? That as his hand brushes that of a nubile lovely thing as she passes him his riding crop he will also become sexually desirable by some magical osmotic process? You won’t, Jeremy, and making women marketable commodities won’t change that anymore than it will precipitate an upturn in the economy. Personally, I was much more interested in Clarkson’s trip to Saigon, Vietnam, but unfortunately he was surprisingly tight-penned about it.

Perhaps the most pertinent thing to emanate from Clarkson’s piece is that national newspapers, even during this critical financial time, are still taking money from people to read articles that I wouldn’t consider good enough for my dog to shit on. If The Sunday Times really thought it suitable to publish a piece promoting the relative benefits of having pretty shop assistants as the answer to our country’s economic problems, then as a newspaper it really has no understanding of the devastating consequences the economic catastrophe has had on the population.

Comments From You

Aideen // Posted 28 December 2008 at 5:55 pm

ABSOLUTELY. SPOT. ON.

Rachael // Posted 28 December 2008 at 6:57 pm

Yes – totally agree! Can’t stand Clarkson’s smug, over-paid, woman-hating crap! Excellent.

JenniferRuth // Posted 28 December 2008 at 7:06 pm

Does Jeremy consider that sales assistants he considers attractive might not want him letching all over them? No, thought not.

Lauren O // Posted 28 December 2008 at 9:27 pm

Awesome piece. Your analysis is spot on, but I also feel I need to tell you that the line “It’s disgustingly funny at first, but once the pungent smell hits you’d rather not have to look at the felonious arsehole” is graphically hilarious.

Carolyn // Posted 28 December 2008 at 10:06 pm

I read this article too, and my first thought was “I wonder how long it will be before the F Word picks up on this?” So congrats on being so on the ball! And clearly yes, this is stupid and sexist. But I have to admit, I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to Clarkson. On the one hand, he says obnoxious things on a regular basis. But on the other hand, I do often find him funny. Also, I don’t believe that he is seriously suggesting that only pretty women (as defined by him) should be allowed to work in shops. He’s just saying it because it made him laugh, and he thinks it will make his readers laugh too. Does this make what he wrote OK? I’m honestly not sure. But I do think that, given that most of the media still believe all feminists to be hirsute humourless hatchet-faced harridans (hmm, can I copyright that phrase?), we should be wary about being goaded into responding seriously to his nonsense. Although obviously, I have just done exactly that…

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 28 December 2008 at 10:30 pm

The Sunday Times defines itself as a newspaper. But Clarkson’s article is not news reporting, neither is it an objective, intelligence piece of so-called ‘journalistic commentary.’ But Clarkson most certainly is being given financial incentives to publish incessant hysterical outbursts, detailing his contempt and hatred for women.

So, why then is The Sunday Times paying this arrogant, white male to write such blatant hatred and contempt for women. Could it be The Sunday Times has a hidden agenda wherein constantly portraying women as defective humans this neatly avoids addressing economic realities. Focusing on female sales assistants not all being men’s sexualised commodities serves two things. One it hides the fact it is primarily women not men who will suffer more due to this latest economic depression. Secondly, more women work as ‘Retail Sales Assistants’ or ‘Sales Assistants.’ Yes there are male managers but far more females are grouped within the lower paid sector than men.

But writing an article which provides an in-depth gendered analysis is way beyond the scope of The Sunday Times. Their sole interest is in promoting misogyny masquerading as ‘humour or irony.’ But then misogyny means hatred of women or contempt for women and so it is considered acceptable. Unlike racism or homophobia which supposedly only affects males.

Shea // Posted 28 December 2008 at 11:37 pm

Brilliant. Sadly I don’t think its just Clarkson. There seem to be a multitude of frankly repulsive men up and down the country who believe it is their right to look upon beauty in every sphere.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 December 2008 at 12:52 am

is love to see a review of his “MANifesto” advertised next to it.

i thought people like him thought women were the ones that did all the shopping, so wheres the sense in all these attractive women to decide where to buy? the comments seem to ignore that on a large part. a man doesnt want this or that, well maybe not but we arent just here for them. merh!

Jenn // Posted 29 December 2008 at 11:34 am

Could it be The Sunday Times has a hidden agenda wherein constantly portraying women as defective humans this neatly avoids addressing economic realities.

A “hidden” agenda? What are you talking about?

And you’ll find they address economic realities in other parts of the paper. They just have a ‘lifestyle’ section, much like any other newspaper. The Guardian do the same. Remember Beth Ditto’s column? Was that objective news analysis? Was it smart just because you probably agreed with more of it than Clarkson’s writing (and she seems like an all-round considerably less despicable person)? They just have celebrities like Clarkson write columns because they’re worth paying for regardless of what they’re spouting, apparently.

I mean, I think the “hidden” agenda you’re looking for is the fact that the Times are a right-wing paper. They might make you angry, but the only way they could make you feel betrayed or like they just lamped you on the head with some kind of hidden agenda is if you felt a sense of kinship with them in the first place, seeing as they consider themselves intelligent and so do you. And then they go and write something that doesn’t need intelligence because it’s rich enough to do without, i.e. any piece by a celebrity columnist.

There are several people who depend on this kind of thing. One, there’s Clarkson himself. Two, there’s the paper that pays him. And three, there’s young wannabe celebrity columnists who define themselves against misogynist male columnists, partly or wholly. No one else could possibly benefit from caring.

I mean, he says plenty of horrendously xenophobic stuff, you don’t see me writing 4000-word posts every time he says something bad about France. I’d never do anything else.

On the other hand, there is a problem with the fact that bumbling fools like him get power by virtue of the fact that they have money, in fact one of them is Mayor of London right now, and you’ll find that boardrooms are full of them also. There is a certain amount of institutional misogyny, as well as other stuff, supporting this, but the main reason for it is that these guys don’t want to be found out, so they appoint public school pseudo-aristocratic idiots who aren’t going to make them stand out as total bumbling idiots.

Among other things, this is one reason why wanting more women in powerful positions (in the boardroom, etc.) betrays a lack of understanding of the power structures in these places. But I’m digressing.

So, you know, Sherlock Holmes, I don’t think it takes an enlightened mind that has been struck by the lightning of feminism to point out any ‘hidden agenda’ there. Everyone involved knows about it. I mean, they’re not preternaturally stupid. They’re just okay with it.

Which is also what’s wrong with the evangelical stuff around feminism: making people see the light, enlightening them, turning them on… it’s basically reinventing the wheel, telling people stuff they already know, and already disagree with.

I’m digressing again, but the point is, it’s a waste of time ranting about or looking for hidden agendas within the work of Jeremy Clarkson, unless you’re a young freelance columnist or media person trying to make a name for yourself.

Chrissy // Posted 29 December 2008 at 3:59 pm

I’ve also always tried to avoid reacting with anything other than apathy to anything Jeremy Clarkson says or writes, because I know that’s precisely what he speaks and writes for. I’m trying to give this article the same sort of treatment.

I pity that riding-crop saleswoman…

juliette // Posted 29 December 2008 at 4:41 pm

Isn’t it funny how some men seem to think the whole world’s a Miss World competition – and they’re the judges??

Funny thing too – it’s always the ugliest gits on the planet Earth. Fellows who’d have a hard time getting a drunken sheep into bed without significant sums of money changing hands.

But obviously, if any woman points this out to them, then she’s ugly and jealous. And no red-blooded man cares about looking hotter than a manky little rhesus monkey the morning after the night before. That’s just gay.

And then these men wonder why they always get the thick and/or money grabbing bitches. And why there aren’t any decent women around.

Memo to Jeremy Clarkson and his ilk – there are plenty. They just duck into a handy doorway the second they see your ugly, saggy, misogynistic ass approaching down the street.

God almighty, the more I see of men, the more I like my rabbit :-O

Shea // Posted 29 December 2008 at 5:07 pm

@ Jenn- so essentially its not worth challenging misogyny and xenophobia when we come across it because it is so wide spread? Right.

Except thats a zero sum argument. The only way to stop bumbling misogynistic idiots, like Clarkson is to take them to task. Which is what Abby does here.

This is a feminist website, for discussing issues that interest feminists. Like taking down misogynists, really what were you expecting?

Francis Kydd // Posted 29 December 2008 at 5:11 pm

just ignore him – he just hates that!

The Times is owned by RM who owns the Sun – nuff said!

Anna // Posted 29 December 2008 at 9:16 pm

‘manky little rhesus monkey’

off-topic, but that is probably the best insult I’ve heard all year.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 December 2008 at 9:26 pm

I’ve been thinking about the arguments presented in the comments, both for and against writing about Clarkson, vs. ignoring him. I think both and neither are correct.

He’s like the ringleader naughty boy in your class at school. The one that grins when he’s said something rude because he knows he’ll get into trouble, but he knows he’ll gain a rep for it, and that people will think him funny. Ignore him, and he’ll escalate it, since even if you act disinterested, there’s always someone out there encouraging him. There’s something to say for ignoring troublemakers, but that only works in a small arena, where trolls will run out of steam and leave if unpublished/ignored. It doesn’t work in a huge forum where you will never get the entire world to ignore the problem. If we could, I’d be happy to ignore celebrity culture/misogyny/etc til the cows come home, but they happen no matter how much we try to ignore them.

Back to the naughty boy analogy. Criticise him and he pulls a face and carries on behind your back. He wouldn’t listen to criticism, because he believes what he is doing is funny. Why not? He gets people to laugh, gets paid well for it (like Brand and Ross, dear lord, what losers are we paying for??!!?) and he is big-headed enough to think he’s infallible and the smartest person who ever lived.

You can’t really win, but this isn’t about educating a throwback to the stone age. * It’s about showing other people out there that there IS a reply to these comments. That they are not acceptable, and that there are good reasons why. Like writing a reply to a troll, writing about Jeremy Clarkson isn’t to stop the perp or educate them, when we come down to it, but to show readers out there that there is another way to look at the issue.

*And no, Jeremy, that’s NOT a compliment. Contrary to your beliefs, we have gained more than just cars in the time since we reputedly lived in caves. If you appreciate the delights modern life has given us, the least you could do is not try your best to drag us back to a prehistoric era.

There are times when I believe the best action is to starve someone of the oxygen of publicity, (trolls, mainly. Nasty, vicious comments have no right to see the light of day) but where someone is already well publicised, I don’t feel ignoring them does anything, when there are so many people trumpeting how wonderfully ‘un-PC’ and clever they are. Since we’ve got nothing to lose by criticising (we’re ugly fat man-hating lesbians as the story goes, regardless of what we criticise) we might as well point out stupidity when we see it. Even one voice against a chorus shows that there isn’t a silence. Since people tend to believe silence is the same as agreement, sometimes this is the least we can do.

Jenn // Posted 29 December 2008 at 10:31 pm

@ Jenn- so essentially its not worth challenging misogyny and xenophobia when we come across it because it is so wide spread? Right.

Except thats a zero sum argument. The only way to stop bumbling misogynistic idiots, like Clarkson is to take them to task. Which is what Abby does here.

This is a feminist website, for discussing issues that interest feminists. Like taking down misogynists, really what were you expecting?

Well, to address the cause, not the symptom. And the fact that a babbling fool like Clarkson is given the time of day is most definitely a symptom. In fact, there’s not much point in “taking down” misogynists, especially when that’s not what I’m seeing here, I’m seeing more of a system of mutual support through mutually giving a crap about each other, one way or another.

On the other hand, there are causes that produce a symptom like Clarkson, so I’d like to see in-depth analysis of those. Especially considering the audience of the F-Word, it’s not like there’s any debate as to whether he’s right or not. Where does he come from? The only analysis of that I see here is that “lots of guys” think the same. But, why do they? Maybe looking at why Clarkson the brand exists could actually be helpful to us, so we shouldn’t be ‘taking him down’ at all.

I mean, we all know Clarkson writes misogynist stuff, the only point in reiterating it in (at a guess) 1500 words not counting a doubtless lengthy comment thread to come (“oh you’re so right” “oh, he’s terrible” “oh no, I remember he said something misogynistic once” “yeah, my uncle really likes him” “oh poor you, people are so terrible”) is to create a mutual masturbation snowball effect.

You know, fine for Abby, she’s a freelance opinion columnist, so this is her trade, but not so productive for the rest of us, I would have thought.

Jenn // Posted 29 December 2008 at 10:33 pm

Although my main contention was with Ms Drew and her “hidden agenda”. I mean, really, what’s so “hidden” about it? I wasn’t given any special femigoggles upon entrance to the charmed feminist circle, and I can still see it.

Carolyn // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:00 am

You weren’t? You mean you can’t see the unicorns?

Jenn // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:07 am

we might as well point out stupidity when we see it. Even one voice against a chorus shows that there isn’t a silence. Since people tend to believe silence is the same as agreement, sometimes this is the least we can do.

Sure, but what ever happened to considered reaction? Doing this on a feminist website, you’re basically telling a bunch of people what they actually agree with you about. You might as well be pointing out that they have noses in the middle of their faces. Take it somewhere it’s actually going to have an effect, and address the reasons that Clarkson exists, not Clarkson himself.

And besides, think about it, if Jeremy Clarkson or the Times said stuff you agreed with, that would be worse, right? I mean, what’s on the pages is only the surface of the operation, I think we agree the mission of a commercial newspaper isn’t to bring us news and thoughtful analysis, or only to the extent that it’s still profitable and you can put an ad for Cartier watches next to it. If they start co-opting your ideas, that’s infinitely worse than if they’re letting a naughty boy write stupid stuff, isn’t it?

Actually, the main point of us discussing it here would be to do something about it. Because where this is going is just “this is really bad” – “yes, I agree, this is really really bad” “yes, aren’t we right to think this is really bad”. Which leads nowhere.

I’m not advocating accepting it, you realise, my way of thinking would actually lead to more action, not less, and it would certainly encompass more than one pathetic little bullshit man.

rbrta // Posted 30 December 2008 at 9:13 am

jenn (& others) who don’t see the point of discussion here: I believe this blog is great as it gives me the amunition to supply a clever & witty to retort to people (men & women) when they say something offensive/mysogonistic. (Hope no one minds if I use ‘manky little rhesus monkey’ next time Clarkson’s name is mentioned?)

This blog helps me articulate my argument quickly – before the eye rolling (ogodshesabloodyfeminst) starts!

Jenn // Posted 30 December 2008 at 2:23 pm

jenn (& others) who don’t see the point of discussion here

But I do see the point of discussion. Just not discussion of Jeremy Clarkson and how bad he is. And also he’s such an easy target, this is pretty much just a back-patting exercise.

Oh well, fuck it, I don’t see the point now because obviously, aside from Jennifer Drew who has all these ready-made answers and conspiracy theories without ever even asking any questions, no one is interested in the reasons why a knob like Jeremy Clarkson wields so much power.

Plus I’d hasard a guess that a lot of our own power comes from the same sources – I mean, however much we hate all these power structures, we’re still a product of them, and they have got us into our current position. Yes, you might have to wear pink and not do maths or whatever, but at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world – I mean, you eat sufficiently every day and you have a roof over your head and internet access. So it would be pretty inconvenient to actually dismantle said power structures. Certainly 99% of our great feminist media figures are where they are for essentially the same reasons as Jeremy Clarkson. I mean, look at Germaine Greer – the only time she has an original thought is when she needs people to buy her books, the rest of the time it’s mostly cribbed from whoever’s controversial at the time. It’s who they are and where they come from that matters – what they say is largely irrelevant, which is why you will find them generally between the handbags and cookery pages of the Guardian: they’re advertising a commodity, same as the rest of those pages.

Ranting on about how Jeremy Clarkson is a festering boil on the arse of humanity, on the other hand, that makes everyone feel better.

And look at the other Jeremy Clarkson thread, still going strong now. If you took him and his brethren away, the F-Word would have far fewer comments, but the power structures that we’re supposed to be fighting against would still be in place.

Then again, I’m a bit of a moron for going on the F-Word to tell people this, but whatever, what’s done is done.

Shea // Posted 30 December 2008 at 3:58 pm

@ Jenn–“Oh well, fuck it, I don’t see the point now because obviously, aside from Jennifer Drew who has all these ready-made answers and conspiracy theories without ever even asking any questions”

Think you might have breached the conditions of leaving a comment. Specifically no personal attacks on another commenter.

“no one is interested in the reasons why a knob like Jeremy Clarkson wields so much power.”

Actually that’s pretty much the point of the whole website. To engage in a discussion of why the partriarchical and kyriarchical power structures exist the engender pathetic, iliterate morons to gain power and influence talking about cars, when the vast majority of the population aren’t even sure what human rights are. If you look at other posts on blog or the articles you will find a wide range of issues dissected from the serious to the amusing and trite. I don’t think this piece is exactly heavy in the analysis and yes it is a nice oppportunity to bash someone like Clarkson and just vent or create a “create a mutual masturbation snowball effect”!;-)

Because honestly if you want to take action against the Clarkson’s of this world try living the feminist ideal, giving money to women’s refuges and the Fawcett society, standing as a local councillor (BTW I’ve done all three before you start) or even at a push drapping yourself over the next Lambourghini Diablo and decrying the lack of female motorsport presenters.

Me? I have too little time and energy to focus my activism on Clarkson. I would rather be protesting against Israeli actions in Gaza at the moment or trying to ensure the right to safe, legal abortion is extended to Northern Ireland. In short trying to challenge the conditions that give rise to fundamental inequality in the first place.

How you choose to spend your time is up to you, but I’m not about to berate you for it.

Shea // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:23 pm

Sorry, just saw this little gem you tried to smuggle in there:

“Yes, you might have to wear pink and not do maths or whatever, but at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world – I mean, you eat sufficiently every day and you have a roof over your head and internet access. So it would be pretty inconvenient to actually dismantle said power structures.”

Ah yes we are all complicit in our own oppression, but of course. Except you know this is bullsh*t right?!?

First- nice little gender stereotyping to begin with. Because we girls must have to wear pink and be crap at maths right? We’re GIRLS! Wrong, so wrong. Out in the real world, men seem to look better in pink and yes, they can do so without throwing their masculinity into question, and horrors- women the world over are good at and enjoy calculus. What an unnatural creatures they must be! Back to the embroidery pronto.

“at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world – I mean, you eat sufficiently every day and you have a roof over your head and internet access. ”

This is a total red herring, lets not start on the oppression olympics ok? One type of oppression isn’t supplanted by another in another country. Because there are people starving and dying in Gaza, the fact that I’m paid 17% less than a man doing the same job as me is completely irrelevant? No, mine is a valid complaint, and an injustice and your attempt to place social and economic rights as higher than civil or political ones is frankly simplistic and disingenuous.

Feminists the world over recognise that the oppression and degradation of women in the West and the majority world is the symptom of a patriarchal, kyriarchical capitalist system that stacks the decks against anyone poor, coloured, gay or trans and most especially female. 70% of the poorest people in the world are female, don’t you see the intersectionality and connectedness of the thing? Can’t you see the bittersweet irony of having George W Bush talk up the tyranny of the burqa and the oppression of Iraqi and Afghan women, then not only steal their oil and send their countries infrastructure and political stability back to the dark ages, but with supreme moral relativism, then seek to cut funding for contraceptive providers and abortion services world wide, placing millions of women in the USA and abroad at the risk of HIV and/or unsafe abortion?

It’s the dismantling of said power structures in the first place with women’s suffrage and the right to vote which has led to the wide spread entrance of women into higher education and professions and the advent of women as wage earners. This has massively contributed to the standard of living in this and the rest of the western world. The very fact that the basic needs of our survival have been met, doesn’t negate the need for justice, fairness in society and equal representation in Parliament and the Judiciary, or the the very simple basic need that must constantly be defended from attack, which is the right of women to control their own reproductive system.

Listen if your Clarkson’s PA, or Clarkson himself I think you should just come clean. Admit it Jezza, you love to rile the feminists!

Qubit // Posted 30 December 2008 at 6:33 pm

I wonder though, although men would like to buy from attractive women I doubt it would work in PC or electronics shops as men tend to not trust women’s opinions on these things and would rather buy a man. The same often goes for women actually.

Sadly while I don’t like the advice I have to admit I think it is true, men would buy more if the shop staff were hot, female and not wearing many clothes. I am not sure how long it would have an effect before it normalised again.

Do the people on here who disagree think the statement is actually wrong (ie it would make no difference to how much is spent by men in general)? Or do they think Clarkson is correct but it is a sad truth? I have to admit I think it is a depressing fact of life and it is socially acceptable , I’m not sure women would do the same.

Anna // Posted 30 December 2008 at 7:16 pm

“Yes, you might have to wear pink and not do maths or whatever, but at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world”

Absolutely. I might not be able to do maths and wear pink; oh, and let’s not forget the fact that what I look like will always be seen as more important than what I do.. and then there’s the tiny matter of wanting to walk down the street without being harassed due to my gender.. oh yeah, and that tiny-weeny thing about the fact I spend my days in a tiny room smacked out of my head on antidepressants because I’ve never recovered from being raped and the police who dealt with my case said that I asked for it (in those words!) because obviously, my being a woman is an implicit invitation to rape me, and due to the attitude of the police, the crown prosecution service, and the public in general to rape victims the men who raped me weren’t charged..

but hey. I was born in england. ENGLAND! small price to pay, right?

chem_fem // Posted 30 December 2008 at 10:26 pm

Quibit, I think he is wrong. If men deliberately went to places where the staff were always hot and almost naked we’d be over run with Hooters and topless bars. I think that these places rather fulfil a niche than represent what men want all day every day.

If shops had pretty and half dressed women staff they’d be visited for a laugh, or a bit of fun, but not taken very seriously. Some men might go there all the time, but most would see it as the shop needing the women to sell substandard stock and some would find it offensive or embarrassing.

Men like women will shop for the things they want, I just think that there are more shops geared towards women (or the stereotypes of what we want). My partner loves books and while he hates shopping he’ll quite happily visit a bookshop every week (which is more than I shop for clothes by a mile).

Anyway, even if he was right, there aren’t enough hot women to go around. The vast majority of us are plain average at best :)

Anne Onne // Posted 31 December 2008 at 12:04 am

”Yes, you might have to wear pink and not do maths or whatever, but at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world”

Jenn, Whilst I thank my lucky stars that I’ve been given the chance to live here, with free and relatively uncontroversial access to abortions and opportunities among other things, rather than in the poor part of Europe I was born, I don’t appreciate the use of the ‘you actually have it easy compared to starving people in Africa’ card. It should be on the anti-feminist bingo card (and probably is). Wait, it’s on Feminism 101 so if you’re not sure why we’re up in arms, check it out.

We know that people, especially women around the world have it bad. Sometimes from the internet or news, sometimes from personal experience. The F word reports on many issues. Yes, we all have privilege, and can be blinded by it sometimes, but when we’re discussing a particular Western problem or a ‘small issue’ that doesn’t mean we don’t care about anything else.

The existence of bigger wrongs does not mean that lesser issues shouldn’t be discussed, because they are part of a continuum. All of them deserve to be discussed, whenever the blogger feels they can do them justice.

Often, the ‘be grateful’ tack is used to shame people for complaining about wrongs. I don’t think it’s pointless for us to remember we have things to be thankful for and appreciate, but pointing it out when we’re focusing on things which are still relevant, in a topic about that is disrespectful. You don’t wade into a topic about abortion and start talking about strip clubs.

I do think you have good points (yes, we’re all part of the system and have internalised the heirarchy, no I don’t believe we will free ourselves of it, etc) but this is normally a talking point used by anti-feminists, and it’s generally a good idea to not co-opt their rhtetoric, because it’s designed to silence.

All I’m gonna say about the ‘should we be discussing this’ issue: not every discussion needs to lead to life-changing action. We’re people not revolutionary machines. Sometimes feminists need to organise and cause direct action. And sometimes we just need to blow off steam, discuss a ‘lighter’ topic and focus on something smaller. Yes, it’s not going to cause a huge result, but we’re within our rights to rant as much as anyone else, and as long as it’s related to feminism, it fits the F word.

The F word isn’t JUST about action as far as I know. We don’t go to an individual blogger’s site to tell them that they should be focusing on more important issues, because that’s trollish and it’s their blog, their rules. The F word is a blog with many contributers, but that just means that it can present many tones. Some of action, and some of comedy or pure ranting. The netiquette of a topic or thread is simple: keep on topic, respect the person who wrote the topic, play nice.

I don’t think anyone’s crossed the line here, and I’ve learned a lot from you all, but I think it’s worth pointing out and remembering that even reinforcing the point and ‘preaching to the choir’ has its place for people. Lots of people see the F Word as a refuge, somewhere were they know they will find feminist discussion, people who agree with them, unlike the world at large.

Jenn // Posted 31 December 2008 at 11:00 am

Shea,

@ Jenn–“Oh well, fuck it, I don’t see the point now because obviously, aside from Jennifer Drew who has all these ready-made answers and conspiracy theories without ever even asking any questions”

Think you might have breached the conditions of leaving a comment. Specifically no personal attacks on another commenter.

I didn’t personally attack her, I was calling into question the methods by which she arrived at her conclusions, which I think show more dedication to a specific dogma than intellectual integrity. I’m sure she can take it like a grown-up instead of seeing it as a ‘personal attack’. I mean, boo hoo.

“no one is interested in the reasons why a knob like Jeremy Clarkson wields so much power.”

Actually that’s pretty much the point of the whole website. To engage in a discussion of why the partriarchical and kyriarchical power structures exist the engender pathetic, iliterate morons to gain power and influence talking about cars,…

Then why aren’t we doing that? Because trusting the evidence of my own eyes here, I’m mainly seeing a bunch of discussion of how bad and sexist everything is. It’s a start, but then the logical step would be to (among other things) combat sexism, by seeing where it comes from and dealing with the causes, or by studying it simply because it’s interesting. Instead, what I see here is a fight to not be upset by sexism. And that’s different: you take away the signs and symptoms but the oppression remains.

…, when the vast majority of the population aren’t even sure what human rights are.

Oh, how stupid they are, thank god we see the truth. Of course the majority of the population know what human rights are. You’d notice what you were missing if you got up at four every morning to go clean shit off someone else’s toilet for a living, just the same as you notice what you’re missing now. Feminism isn’t about a few wonderful enlightened women educating the rest because they don’t know stuff.

Feminists the world over recognise that the oppression and degradation of women in the West and the majority world is the symptom of a patriarchal, kyriarchical capitalist system that stacks the decks against anyone poor, coloured, gay or trans and most especially female. 70% of the poorest people in the world are female, don’t you see the intersectionality and connectedness of the thing? Can’t you see the bittersweet irony of having George W Bush talk up the tyranny of the burqa and the oppression of Iraqi and Afghan women, then not only steal their oil and send their countries infrastructure and political stability back to the dark ages, but with supreme moral relativism, then seek to cut funding for contraceptive providers and abortion services world wide, placing millions of women in the USA and abroad at the risk of HIV and/or unsafe abortion?

It’s the dismantling of said power structures in the first place with women’s suffrage and the right to vote which has led to the wide spread entrance of women into higher education and professions and the advent of women as wage earners. This has massively contributed to the standard of living in this and the rest of the western world. The very fact that the basic needs of our survival have been met, doesn’t negate the need for justice, fairness in society and equal representation in Parliament and the Judiciary, or the the very simple basic need that must constantly be defended from attack, which is the right of women to control their own reproductive system.

Great, like I even called any of this into question. If you think that I was, you should stop using the word “kyriarchy” like you think you know what it means.

Yes, I see how these systems of oppression intersect, that is exactly what I was getting at. And no, I don’t think you should be happy to be paid 17% less than your male counterparts just because women elsewhere have it worse. I think the 17% less pay is just as wrong however you look at it. However, it’s also a relatively easy pill to swallow if you have it good otherwise. Read Betty Friedan or Simone de Beauvoir, or Mary Wollstonecraft even, and I think a lot of what they wrote resonates today – the vast, vast majority of it in fact. Middle-class women live in a gilded cage, they have security and a bunch of stuff but it comes at the price of them basically embalming themselves within their own homes. Okay, so middle-class women now go out to work, but the “embalming” comes in other forms – the beauty myth, and so on. Yes, I’m aware of all of that. And the thing about it is, it’s internalised, and it’s very comfortable, and I’m seeing the signs everywhere that a certain type of feminism actually reinforces it. But I’ll get to that with your next point.

Sorry, just saw this little gem you tried to smuggle in there:

“Yes, you might have to wear pink and not do maths or whatever, but at the same time you enjoy a standard of living that is far superior to most of the world – I mean, you eat sufficiently every day and you have a roof over your head and internet access. So it would be pretty inconvenient to actually dismantle said power structures.”

Ah yes we are all complicit in our own oppression, but of course. Except you know this is bullsh*t right?!?

First- nice little gender stereotyping to begin with. Because we girls must have to wear pink and be crap at maths right? We’re GIRLS! Wrong, so wrong. Out in the real world, men seem to look better in pink and yes, they can do so without throwing their masculinity into question, and horrors- women the world over are good at and enjoy calculus. What an unnatural creatures they must be! Back to the embroidery pronto.

Oh, so you disagree that women have to live up to a bunch of harmful stereotypes then?

And look, I didn’t say women are “complicit in their own oppression”, you’re using a strawman argument by translating my words into some dumbass phrase you’re used to arguing against. I’m simply making a point that many feminists have made before me – Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, to name only two.

As for how it relates to feminist journalism and Jeremy Clarkson – let’s compare him with Germaine Greer for a while longer. First of all, let’s deal with the idea that Germaine ever brought any new, original ideas to feminism. She didn’t, and I doubt whether she would claim to even. Her job description is to sell books, and to do this she gets regular columns in the papers that suit her image. Also, let’s deal with the idea that she actually believes any of what she says – very little of it makes any sense, a lot of it is there for shock value.

Now, how does she sell books and get in the papers? Well, she has to impress exactly the same people as Jeremy Clarkson does. Newspaper editors, but also a bunch of advertisers and so on. And where the sexism comes in – it’s actually extremely difficult for women to be actually be serious journalists of that sort. You wouldn’t get a female Charlie Brooker – she wouldn’t have his career path or his job. As for a female Louis Theroux – impossible again under the current conditions.

The thing is also for specifically feminist columnists, they’re going to have to care about Jeremy Clarkson and guys like him. I mean, shit, Germaine Greer and John McCririck in the Big Brother house together? I’d watch that. They get a lot of their currency from caring about Jeremy Clarkson. But what Jeremy Clarkson says is unimportant. It’s what he represents that is important. And, trust me, you will get far more ammunition against him and everyone like him this way. After all, you focus on his words, it’s up for debate whether he’s joking or not. But, you look at who he works for and what he represents – wall to wall despicable stuff.

Listen if your Clarkson’s PA, or Clarkson himself I think you should just come clean. Admit it Jezza, you love to rile the feminists!

Hahahahahahaha. Yeah right, you come to a feminist website, make some points that Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir also made, and get mistaken for Jeremy Clarkson’s PA. We’re in trouble! See, this is why I’m leaving the feminist movement for good. Pull out some arguments from The Feminine Mystique or even The Personal Is Political, and people think you’re a horrid troll that stabs babies for pleasure. Or something.

Anne

Wait, it’s on Feminism 101 so if you’re not sure why we’re up in arms, check it out.

Yes, thanks for directing me to Feminism 101, I clearly am new to feminism and fundamentally against it because I don’t know what it is, otherwise I would think that media feminists are a great thing and also that discussing sexist adverts and why Jeremy Clarkson is terrible is universally a good thing.

The existence of bigger wrongs does not mean that lesser issues shouldn’t be discussed, because they are part of a continuum. All of them deserve to be discussed, whenever the blogger feels they can do them justice.

But did I say any of that though? See what I said to Shea – feminine mystique, blah blah, I don’t want to repeat myself. But what you’re both missing here is that it is actually a lot, a lot more harmful to Jeremy Clarkson himself and everything he represents to attack what he stands for, and not what he says. What he says is largely irrelevant to whether he exists and has any power.

And, where I think that is inconvenient for media feminists, and wannabe media feminists, is that they are counting on the same channels as him to get where they want to go, they are counting on the same oppressive power structures remaining in place so they can achieve this. They have to impress the same people that he impresses, go to the same parties, go on the same talk shows… besides, it’s crappy for them because they turn themselves into a freak show, and feminism gets turned into “the case against Jeremy Clarkson’s personal brand” instead of “the enfranchisement of women and an end to sexist oppression”. Which is a little bit of a problem, I’m sure you agree. So, really, what Abby is doing here is enriching her personal brand as an up-and-coming young journalist.

Actually, the concept of personal brand is useful here. It’s like the fight against sexism in advertising. Do you really want the sexism that exists behind the adverts to be hidden? Personally, I’d hate for ads to not be sexist, because it shows the values of the companies they represent, and it gives you more ammunition against them. Besides, on a personal level, if all adverts start showing Patti Smith lookalikes whipping out copies of Women, Race and Class, I’m going to freak out – and hopefully, wake up!

Anyway, to sum up, I am a feminist (thanks, you don’t need to ease me in gently via copies of Full Frontal Feminism and It’s A Jungle Out There), and I think that every time a lifestyle columnist describes herself as a feminist between the handbags and cookery sections of the Guardian, or engages with something Jeremy Clarkson says on Comment Is Free, is a blow against feminism. I think the cumulative effect of those blows has been disastrous. I think we need to stop engaging with the ennemy on its own terms and engage it on ours instead.

I also think that the feminist movement as epitomised by the F-Word and a bunch of activist groups such as Object and London feminist Network is a crock of carreerist bullshit.

I am sick of the way that a very small bunch of women has co-opted the idea of women’s rights and women’s enfranchisement, and they appear in the papers and talk about it as though they own it and are the sole representatives of it.

I think all the genuine women’s rights activism at the moment is far outside of the feminist movement. It’s largely non-partisan, and very unglamourous, and it’s gruelling, hard work. And I’m not going to assume that all of these community organisers, volunteers, charity workers, and local activists don’t know what human rights are just because they don’t identify as feminist or even think of themselves as feminist.

I think we who work full-time in the movement tend to become very narrow. What is happening now is that when non-movement women disagree with us, we assume it’s because they are “apolitical,”[…] I can’t quite articulate it yet. I think “apolitical” women are not in the movement for very good reasons, and as long as we say “you have to think like us and live like us to join the charmed circle,” we will fail. What I am trying to say is that there are things in the consciousness of “apolitical” women (I find them very political) that are as valid as any political consciousness we think we have. We should figure out why many women don’t want to do action. Maybe there is something wrong with the action or something wrong with why we are doing the action or maybe the analysis of why the action is necessary is not clear enough in our minds.

By that definition, I am proud to now consider myself an “apolitical” woman. All the more so since I took a bunch of completely fundamental feminist theory to the F-Word and got jokingly mistaken for Jeremy Clarkson’s PA.

I’ve also learned a lot here. I’ve learned that the feminist movement isn’t the place for anyone who really gives a shit about human rights. Or anyone who doesn’t want to suck the strap-on cocks of a few powerful career-minded women.

And on that note – I’m out of here. Bye.

Michelle // Posted 31 December 2008 at 1:04 pm

Jenn’s making some very valid points here.

I agree with those who say we should be taking to task the misogyny & bigotry spouted by the likes of Clarkson and forums such as The F-Word do provide a space to do that, a space women may not otherwise have to express their anger & frustration with stuff like this; and I don’t think we should apologise for not always tackling the ‘meatier’ issues.

However – and this is where I have to agree with Jenn, and I’m talking about contemporary feminism as a whole here, not The F-Word alone- the lack of attention to some of the weightier issues, the lack of analysis of the causes and underlying structures that contribute to women’s oppression, of why Jeremy Clarkson gets to say what he does, is disconcerting, because if we don’t start doing this, we can’t really push our feminist analysis & action forward.

Perhaps one of the reasons why posts like this, which decry the obviously sexist, are the most popular is because we find it easier to articulate our anger around that which we are most familiar with. I get that, I do it myself.

However, I am concerned by the fact that someone has been criticised in this thread for merely wanting to extend the criticism displayed towards Clarkson here beyond the obvious and towards an examination of why? and how? Clarkson says what he does and the position he holds.

Why do we see this an attack? Why are we so bothered when someone challenges our well-worn responses to sexism (in this case, those towards Clarkson?) Why do we see it as a threat & a challenge to our feminism when somebody asks us to think around and underneath an issue, as Jenn did here?

I didn’t see Jenn’s points and questions as an attack or anti-feminist, I think the points she raises are crucial for feminists if we really want to deepen our politics and get to a point where we can actually do something about what we seem to revel in complaining about so much.

There’s as much to criticise and question about feminism, as there is about anything else, and we shouldn’t be afraid to do that, or feel that it is a betrayal of our feminist politics to do so. It’s imperative to feminism to ensure it’s relevance and effectiveness.

Saranga // Posted 31 December 2008 at 2:28 pm

I largely agree with Michelle and Jenn. I would write an explanation as to why, but I think they have both, especially in Jenn’s last post and Michelle’s immediately after, but they have done so in way more articulate way than I could, (especially, now at work, on new year’s eve).

I debated whether to write this, because what is the point if I’m not adding anything new, then I decided that yes it is important, because voices and views need to be heard, especially if they criticise or offer a variant point of view.

Jenn // Posted 31 December 2008 at 4:43 pm

I didn’t see Jenn’s points and questions as an attack or anti-feminist, I think the points she raises are crucial for feminists if we really want to deepen our politics and get to a point where we can actually do something about what we seem to revel in complaining about so much.

Well, if feminism has become a sort of Jeremy Clarkson for girls, as I’m seeing from here to Woman’s Hour to My Beautiful Cervix and much of the feminist blogosphere, and many feminist organisations also, then I’m going to have to actually position myself as anti-feminist.

Anyone who wants to be taken seriously and get any work done would almost have to. Because, in order to really be taken seriously (and, being taken seriously and gaining column inches are different things – and I’m not seeing much of a difference between a 19-inch Guardian column and a 19-inch penis as promised in my spam box the other day around here), you have to work hard and do unpleasant stuff, and you can’t sit around pissing about because Jeremy Clarkson is (brilliant Holmes) rather sexist.

I’d say none of what I said was an attack, also, but if we’re really on the path to being liberated women that should be obvious. But if you (Shea, Anne, people who thought I was some sort of anti-feminist troll) find debate threatening and see any attempt to carry one out as an attack, then it’s quite obvious you don’t want anything to change. If sexism vanished over night, you’d lose a huge part of your identities.

Anyway, I see my italics tabs got messed up up there – hope it’s clear where Shea’s words end and mine begin, I wouldn’t want to be claiming her work for my own after all.

What I also find a little disturbing about this is that, since I didn’t specifically identify myself as a feminist on entering the thread – and I emphatically don’t identify as feminist anyway – my politics got interpreted completely differently than if I’d come in wanting to join in the smoochfest about how terrible everything is and how great we all are. In other words, you guys were more interested in whether I was the right kind of person than in what I had to say. You’ve had more respect for Clarkson than anyone else, all along. That’s where it’s obvious where some of you really stand.

Anyway, I’m really out this time. Thanks again to Anne and Shea for trying to educate my ignorant anti-feminist arse about feminism and intersectionality, and also for trying to educate the majority of humanity about human rights. Keep fighting the good fight! I especially appreciated being directed to Feminism 101 – maybe go take a course yourselves, eh? Now Thag go bang two stones together, make fire. Cheers!

Shea // Posted 31 December 2008 at 4:54 pm

@Jenn– Ill keep it brief as your going…

“Oh, so you disagree that women have to live up to a bunch of harmful stereotypes then?”

No but I see no point in perpetuating them, as you have done.

And look, I didn’t say women are “complicit in their own oppression”, you’re using a strawman argument by translating my words into some dumbass phrase you’re used to arguing against. I’m simply making a point that many feminists have made before me – Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, to name only two.

Your exact words were: ” it would be pretty inconvenient to actually dismantle said power structures.” How is that me exaggerating what you have said? There is no strawman argument being made or “dumbass phrase”. If you dont like the implications of your words, choose them with a little more care next time.

So your apolitical and a feminist right? Interesting. I would saw on the topic of strawwoman arguments your railing against a popular stereotype of feminists as priviledged, white middle class women only concerned with their careers who have never done a decent days work in their lives, I suspect thats behind the “youve never had it so good so dont complain” argument you wheeled out. Well, Im not white, or middle class and I have done plenty of drudge work in my life– even cleaning shit off toilets as you put it.

It doesnt matter that you have read the entire canon of feminist literature, you are not always right, and there is a massive amount to be learnt from other feminist blogs. Perhaps you could appreciate the different perspectives and learn from them instead of throwing a hissy fit, because someone pointed out the flaws in your argument?

As for this:

“All the more so since I took a bunch of completely fundamental feminist theory to the F-Word and got jokingly mistaken for Jeremy Clarkson’s PA.”

It was a light hearted attempt at humour. Although you wouldnt be the first MRA troll to swing by here and try to “educate” us on what being a feminist means.

“I’ve also learned a lot here. I’ve learned that the feminist movement isn’t the place for anyone who really gives a shit about human rights. Or anyone who doesn’t want to suck the strap-on cocks of a few powerful career-minded women.”

Hilarious. You were challenged over the use of damaging stereotypes and an anti-feminist argument designed to silence and you take offence and descend to puerile and jejune imagery.

Well so long, dont let the door hit you on the way out.

Anne Onne // Posted 31 December 2008 at 5:16 pm

Jenn, you were making a point very similar to one many antifeminists make to derail feminist commentary of any sort, and I felt it better to point out feminism 101 than assume every commenter here is well up on feminist theory.

I do think it’s unfair to assume everyone who reads here or identifies with ‘mainstream’ feminist theory has no interest in human rights, simply because feminism is a diverse belief and that all of us will disagree. We’re all human, we all misinterpret other people, we all have our own interests in different areas, and ways in which we contribute. There will be areas in which we may agree, and others in which we don’t. We’re a diverse bunch of people overall, but especially on a site like this, so there’s going to be disagreement and frayed tempers.

We often see disagreement from within the group of people with similar beliefs as an attack because we’re used to attacks from without pretty constantly anyway. We’re used to trolling and jibes and people trying to twist our words.

Especially online, it becomes hard to see when someone is geniunely trying to open up discussion, and when someone is trolling, because wording can be very similar for both. Both the writer and the reader can have an off day, or phrase something badly, or write something they later regret.

It’s a part of discussion that people will often be at cross-purposes or end up arguing even when they basically want the same thing. Maybe they see the means of achieving it as being different, maybe it’s more complicated. But I would hope for a movement where everyone can contribute what they can, and where we can have discussion between groups.

I may disagree with some feminists about many things, but I certainly see them in a very different light to trolls or those who are blatantly anti-feminist. We may disagree, but I trust that we basically believe in the same thing, and that we have enough in common to warrant trying to discuss things. Sometimes it won’t work, but sometimes it will.

I do think what Jenn is saying is important, and that we need action on many fronts. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough about that. I just don’t see things as an either-or situation.

jane powers // Posted 31 May 2009 at 11:52 pm

I derive some pleasure in knowing that having to pay £900/whip to look at a pretty assistant is likely to be as close as he’s going to get an attractive shop assistant..unless of course he manages to court one…knowing all the time in the back of his mind the only reason one would consider it,is because of his money..after all he’s just a boot-face old cronie himself!!..I just hope they’re paying Hammond as much as him on top gear..after all you can employ a looker for the same as a boot-face…I know which I’d rather look at.

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