Cartoon in today’s Independent

// 30 March 2009


The Independent ran this cartoon about the scandal over Jacqui Smith’s expenses., meanwhile, runs a story quoting Vivianne Westwood’s son saying that Smith’s policies on lap-dancing, prostitution and extreme porn have been pursued because she’s a “puritan” who is enacting legislation “so that she can restrict her own husband”.

Whether you agree with all, none or some of the legislation Smith et al have been pursuing, the dual attempts to ridicule her simultaneously by:

a) depicting her as stripping, and

b) calling her a puritan for legislation which, whether you agree with the effects/efficiency of it, is clearly intended to address violation of women in the sex industry,

is pretty interesting, isn’t it?

The jokes about Smith’s “golden globes” are just the icing on the cake.

Weirdly the fact that Smith is married to someone who watched a few quid’s worth of porn and was obtuse enough to endanger his wife’s political career by doing it on a TV package linked to her expenses, looks more likely to lead to her resignation than the stuff about claiming thousands and thousands of pounds for a second home allowance.

Thoughts, anyone?!

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 30 March 2009 at 10:41 pm

Once again the focus is not on the fact yet another male viewed pornography without his female partner’s knowledge but instead the magnifying glass is firmly focused on Jacqui Smith.

There are innumerable men who routinely view pornography without their female partner’s knowledge but oh no, all the ridicule and misogynistic contempt is being levied at Ms. Smith.

Now if Ms. Smith was the one viewing pornography then there would be grounds for claiming she is a hypocrite but the ones who are hypocrites are men such as Ben Westwood who is pro-porn and claims feminists who oppose pornography because it is dehumanises women are all ‘prudes.’ Clever using words such as ‘prude and puritan’ because it is a deliberate attempt to nullify the fact pornography is all about the sexual dehumanisation and reduction of women and girls to men’s sexualised dehumanised playthings.

Ben Westwood is deliberately using the fact Ms. Smith’s male partner viewed pornography in order to claim Ms. Smith is a hypocrite. Clever is it not, claim Ms. Smith is a hypocrite when in fact Ms. Smith rightly has proposed legislation against the sex industry. The sex industry was set up and is maintained by men for men and any legislation reducing men’s pseudo male sex right to women and girls is seen as something which must be stopped because it goes right to the heart of men’s sexual, economic and social power over women as a group.

Men’s right to reduce women to sexualised playthings must not be challenged, which is why the article writers have not asked the pertinent question as to why Ms. Smith’s male partner viewed hardcore pornography not once but twice within two days. Also, Ms. Smith’s partner viewed this porn when he knew she was safely away from the home. Doubtless he knew she would not approve of his liking for hardcore pornography.

If anyone is to blame it is Ms. Smith’s partner for indulging in viewing hardcore pornography.

donald // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:06 pm

I’d just like to point out that it wasn’t her husband who tried to pass off her expenses, she tried to claim her TV package along with her web package (she probably is with Sky or another provider that does both services) and they had paid for many films, 2 of which were adult in nature. Trying to get the taxpayer to pay for the TV package is bad enough (why should we pay so she can enjoy Sky Movies and Sky Sports at her second mansion?), but it was the adult films that propelled it to the front pages, so they are both at error here (if you can call ordering an adult film an error).

Of course, Westwood’s comments on her motive behind the introduction of her ‘puritan’ laws are laughable, at best.

However, I honestly would not view this as an anti-woman story; this is just another scandal in a long line of scandals in the expenses row.

Amy2 // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:29 pm

The predictable screechy reaction to a powerful woman who’s involved in, like you say Jess, clear attempts to tackle the issue with women in the sex industry.

Our feckd up media no- likes it- and coulda been waiting for this with baited breath.

David Abstract // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:47 pm

Thoughts are:

Who is Vivianne Westwood’s son, that we should care what he thinks?

– quick google search reveals he’s a pornographer, although probably unlikely to be affected by the extreme pornography laws.

There needs to be a new, simpler and probably slightly less generous system for MP’s expenses.

Why was Jacqui Smith claiming for the TV package as well as the phone bill?

Tony McNumpty should go – I know it’s not relevant but damn it I hate the man! Every time the government does something horrible it’s him or Hazel Blears on TV to announce it…

The Anti-Violence Against Women laws, I generally agree with, and more should be done for victims of domestic violence and rape (perhaps by dumping the ID card scheme? How many shelters and rape crisis centres could we maintain for that much money?)

If I thought Jacqui Smith going would bring those policies in I would be all for it. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem likely – so I merely sink back into cynicism and apathy with the rest of the public…

Hannah // Posted 31 March 2009 at 2:30 am

This whole story is making me very angry, and I can’t help feeling that the motivation behind the leak, and the focus of the coverage of it is very cynical, I hope someone in the feminist blogosphre writes something about it soon, because right now I’m too angry to articulate on how many levels, and why I feel it’s problematic.

tom hulley // Posted 31 March 2009 at 8:27 am

It is very sad. Jacqui Smith is the first Home Secretary to take the matter of violence against women seriously. With others, like Harriet Harman, she is part of a significant shift towards making society fairer.

Regrettably she got herself in a mess with expenses by being part of New Labour arrogance. Women who progress in politics tend to accept a lot of nonsense on the way -but does it corrupt them?

I have difficulty reconciling her opposition to domestic violence with the acceptance of the (illegal) mistreatment of others through war and asylum policies. A higher percentage of female MPs than male MPs supported the war. It has been enormously disappointing but on balance I hope Jacqui stays to keep an important agenda rolling.

As for press coverage of women politicians and public figures, well, it is both consistently misogynistic and infantile. So if I am disappointed in some women I remain appalled with most men.

Kez // Posted 31 March 2009 at 10:32 am

To suggest that Jacqui Smith wants to enact legislation purely in order to “restrict her own husband” is obviously laughable, but sadly a little reminiscent of that old chestnut – that women who object to lap dancing clubs, page 3, beauty contests etc only do so because they are ugly old bags who are jealous of “more attractive” women. You know – that every woman would secretly love to be a lap-dancer/porn star if only she was young and sexy enough and to say otherwise is just sour grapes. Amazingly, you still hear people coming out with this rubbish. As if women, even senior politicians, are unable to have a viewpoint or pursue a policy on something that isn’t directly a result of their own personal relationships/insecurities. Or to put it another way, those things are only right and natural, and women who argue otherwise (poor hysterical things) are deluded by their own personal problems and issues.

Lara // Posted 31 March 2009 at 10:52 am

That cartoon is utterly appalling. What exactly is the message here? ‘Jacqui Smith. Not as hot as those chicks in porn, eh?’?!

It’s pretty typical of the reductionist argument used so often by the pro-porn lobby.

Kez // Posted 31 March 2009 at 11:12 am

Another thing (I noticed this with the Tessa Jowell husband controversy, too) – I keep hearing “why didn’t she know what her husband was up to?”. Well, hello? Since when did being married mean you have to stand behind your loved one’s shoulder scrutinising their every move? Especially if said loved one is actively trying to conceal certain things? Smith’s husband is employed as her constituency secretary, as I understand it – presumably it’s not unreasonable to expect him to carry out competently the duties attached to that without having his wife peering over his shoulder every five seconds.

harpymarx // Posted 31 March 2009 at 12:31 pm

It is indeed a grotesque and deeply misogynistic cartoon. Instead of reducing Smith’s politics to looks is demeaning and offensive…and double-standards are at play as it wouldn’t happen to a male politician.

But the problem I have with Smith is that I don’t give a damn what she or her husband look at in the sanctity of their own home but what I do give a damn about is charging it, whether mistakenly, on the public tab. And along with her ‘second house’ (I mean, c’mon, 88pence for a bath plug…..).

I also think Smith has a social authoritarian agenda which is hypocritical but it should be about arguing the politics and not degrading and objectifying her in this utterly sexist manner.

Again, this represents the vile sexism in the media.

I mean, what about McNulty…? He has been caught out.

Actually, MPs fiddling their expenses etc. while the economy burns reminds me of the dying days of the Tories.

Qubit // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:11 pm

I believe it is generally considered normal to claim at TV package provided you claim it is for work purposes. Whether you think this is wrong or not doesn’t change the fact Smith did what is fairly standard behaviour. I imagine the films were on there because she didn’t bother to check the bill. There were 2 porn films, 2 non-porn so it is hardly like the thousands of film other commentators have suggested.

Even if she was the one watching porn I can’t see why this makes her hypocritical. Any moves made against the sex industry by the government hasn’t as far as I know opposed the porn industry in general.

I am surprised she is being attacked over something so small but wouldn’t be surprised if she was forced to resign over this. Yes I think there is a lot of questions of what should be allowed but the point is accept for a few movies watched by her husband IT IS allowed and therefore someone shouldn’t be put under so much pressure. It strikes me that it is odd how much women have to take responsibility for male sexuality, ie it was her job to stop him watching porn, she shouldn’t have let him have an affair, she shouldn’t forgive him etc.

As for the whole jealousy issue, I find it odd. There is no way to prove you aren’t just jealous so it invalidates all women’s arguments unless they are particularly conventionally hot and even then it is still likely to be used. I think there is jealousy though. Not against ‘hot’ women but against men who don’t have these problems. Whose opinion will be respected whatever they look like and who won’t be considered emotional or selfish for expressing their opinion. I think it is very hard not to be jealous of that.

Pineapple // Posted 31 March 2009 at 5:42 pm

Exactly Kez, Quibit spot on

The misogynistic comments around this… all fall back to her doing a little too much for women than people are comfy with. (There, I said it).

This is frustrating, almost too predictable and IF SHE WAS A MAN this furore would cease to be.

Alex T // Posted 31 March 2009 at 5:58 pm

I really hope she doesn’t resign – as others have said, she’s not the only one fiddling her expenses. Whilst she may have committed some wrongdoing in this area of her professional life, I can’t see how it really impinges on the reasonable job she’s been doing as home secretary. It would be a ridiculously small thing over which to resign from such an important job.

Jess McCabe // Posted 31 March 2009 at 8:16 pm

@Alex T Hmm, well, I don’t know if I’d say she’s been doing a good job.

She’s done plenty of messed up stuff, such as detention without charge for 42 days, etc. I personally support the proposals on prostitution, but that’s about it.

I’m never sure, though, how much control the home secretary really has in setting the agenda. It feels like the job of home secretary is inherantly to fuck things up, given that the job involves pushing the anti-immigration agenda, pushing for more police power and control over citizens. Loads of politicians who were bloody awful as home sec have later seemed alright. Maybe the post needs to be dissolved entirely to get rid of these things…

Jaime // Posted 31 March 2009 at 8:36 pm


I don’t think she should resign, not over this, over her awful policies, yes, but not a few dirty films.

maggie // Posted 31 March 2009 at 9:02 pm

I thought the perpetrator was a middle aged man having a wank over pornagraphic images. Perhaps this scene was just too close to home for all those hairy necked journalists and cartoonists.

The cartoon depicted is a disgrace. Once again women can’t be allowed to age because it spoils the fun…and obviously we are meant to see why Mr Timney had to resort to porn.

Karen // Posted 31 March 2009 at 11:06 pm

They had some porn star with the same name spouting comments (doubtlessly really spoken by the paper’s editor) about this issue, thus further degrading Ms Smith. Anyone else think that this is a deliberate attempt to undermine a woman that has become more powerful than a lot of men are comfortable with? I’m no big fan of politicians per se but this is ridiculous. If it was a bloke, they would be saying nice one, bit of a laugh ad nauseum. It wasn’t even her, her spouse has a lot more to answer for than she does. The cartoon wasn’t so much revolting as typical of the male view of the woman that frightens them with power and brains rather than the obvious ‘charms’

Alex T // Posted 2 April 2009 at 4:42 pm

Yep, I know what you mean, Jess – it took me a long time to settle on the word ‘reasonable’! I think I just meant it would be out of proportion and if there are reasons for her to resign then her TV package shouldn’t be one of htem.

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