New sexism column in times2.

// 28 September 2009

I was pleasantly surprised to be sent a link to a new feature in The Times times2 supplement, encouraging readers to send in examples of everyday sexism. This is the kind of thing people who think feminism is now irrelevant need to hear about:

When I phoned BT to complain about a fault with my digital freeview box, I didn’t know which transmitter we were picking up our signal from. The woman answering my complaint advised me to phone back later when my husband was at home to help me. Thanks, BT.

– Jan Walmesley

I was chewing absentmindedly on a pen when my boss asked to borrow it. I handed it to him and told him to be careful because I’d had it in my mouth. He responded to this by unzipping his trousers, putting the pen inside his fly, wiggling it up and down and saying, “is this the closest I’m ever going to get”? The same boss loaded a pornographic screensaver on to my computer while I was out at lunch. I didn’t last long in that job, unsurprisingly!

– Lisa

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was the boss that didn’t last long in that job?

You can contribute by emailing janice.turner[at] Feel free to share any recent irritating events in comments!

Comments From You

Essen // Posted 28 September 2009 at 6:04 pm

I don’t think Janice Turner quite knows what she’s letting herself in for! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her email box didn’t explode within a few days. After all, this stuff is ALL AROUND US.

(My personal peeve today is newspapers using ‘had sex with’ when the correct term would be ‘rape’. “He was facing charges of having sex with a 9 year old” and so on. I can see that it’s blurred when (for example) a 19 year old has sex with her 15 year old boyfriend or girlfriend, but 9 year olds cannot consent to sex.)

Sarah // Posted 28 September 2009 at 6:44 pm

I agree, what a pleasant suprise!Just picked up my parents copy of the times and got all excited. Read the full article if poss-

if just for this paragraph!

“Somewhere in the free-market driven moral relativism of the past decade, we have lost the ability to say, without fear of being called uptight or fun-sucking, that selling sex on the high street, raunchy outfits for toddlers or scabrous attacks on female public figures based upon their looks just ain’t right. And our best weapon for changing things is exposure and ridicule. So send your clippings, quotes, anecdotes or ads to us. Feminism — or whatever you want to call it — is back, and we’re not going to take it any more.”

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 28 September 2009 at 6:55 pm

The second case is absolutely shocking and constitutes blatant sexual harassement. I hope Lisa took legal action.

In the first case I would have complained to BT customer service.

Liz // Posted 28 September 2009 at 8:20 pm

Much as I applaud this column, it will take more than that for me to give any money to rupert murdoch..

Liz Estabrooks // Posted 28 September 2009 at 10:04 pm

I was brought here by the Twitter posting “British Newspaper asks for readers experiences of sexism.” So glad I clicked on it and looking forward to reading and participating.

Far too often I hear comments about how sexual harassment and discrimination against women no longer exist. My son informed me that a teacher at his high school even said that. Every day these “little” things happen that, unfortunately, prove it is all around us an accepted as the norm.

Thanks for keeping the truth going and inviting us all in.

dizzy_sparkle // Posted 28 September 2009 at 10:30 pm

Just don’t read the comments unless you’re feeling brave. The very first comment kindly explains how us women degrade ourselves, and men won’t respect us until we all dress decently. Grrrrrr.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 28 September 2009 at 10:44 pm

On the subject of sexism how about the media’s mass euphemising of ‘rape’ which has now become unlawful sex with 13 year old girl. Roman Polanski has been arrested because he had fled the US in order to escape sentencing for the rape and sodomising of a 13 year old girl. Polanski drugged the teenage girl in order to facilitate his rape yet the media euphemises this into ‘unlawful sex with girl.’ No, it was not ‘sex’ but rape. Will be sending details to Janice Turner but I doubt if this latest piece of male excuses and hiding tactics will be printed.

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 9:25 am

@ Jennifer Drew,

I think the reason the media are using ‘unlawful sex with an underage girl’ is because this is the charge Polanski pleaded guilty to; the other charges of rape and drugging a child were dropped as part of a plea bargain. I’m more disgusted by all the people jumping up to defend him, as though his films make up for him raping a child.

Essen // Posted 29 September 2009 at 9:55 am

In the case of Roman Polanski, I understand that newspapers are concerned with a) space and b) being accused of defamation, but I caught quite a few ‘having sex with’ in reports yesterday. I can see that they can’t/won’t say ‘rape’, but is it too much to ask that they make sure they call it ‘unlawful sex’ at the very least?

Fiona // Posted 29 September 2009 at 10:00 am

Good to have a place to gripe about this stuff. In spite of the fact that I registered the accounts and pay the bills on cheques bearing my name only, likewise our mortgage, utility companies over time alter their records to list my partner’s name first on all bills and correspondence. I tell them if they want the bills paid, make sure they come to me. This has also happened to our electoral registration. I registered us when we first relocated, I complete the forms, they now come addressed to my partner. Yes, it’s everywhere.

JenniferRuth // Posted 29 September 2009 at 10:29 am

Polanski broke the terms of his plea bargain when he fled the trial.

Regardless, it was rape – you cannot have sex with a 13 year old girl. End of.

I have seen much worse than the media using the term “unlawful sex” – take this from The Guardian:

“Gailey was given champagne and drugs by the director, who then had sex with her.”

Had sex, had sex, had sex – it implies consent and I have seen it everywhere from people leaping to defend Polanski. I think the media know exactly what they are doing when they use this terminology – they are using it to defend him.

Rape culture – we’re soaking in it.

maggie // Posted 29 September 2009 at 10:54 am

Re Polanski:

He was convicted of Statutory Rape – i.e. unlawful sex with a minor.

It was certainly not as Duncan Campbell wrote in the Guardian today.

‘Gailey was given champagne and drugs by the director, who then had sex with her.’

I agree with Jennifer. This euphemism has to stop.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 September 2009 at 11:00 am

anyone else expecting over half the things to be sexism to men by anti-feminists and state presented as by feminists or all women?

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 11:15 am

@ JenniferRuth, I just read that too, it’s different from what I was talking about, and totally misleading, for the reasons you give.

maggie // Posted 29 September 2009 at 11:23 am

Actually Statutory Rape does imply consent but sex with a minor is illegal nonetheless. This was the lesser charge Polanski agreed to.

The transcripts of the court case as available on the Smoking Gun website (trigger warning), showed that Gailey claims the act was non consenual.

Sweetman // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:14 pm

Hope no one minds but I’ve been looking around for somewhere to have this rant re Polanski.

Is anyone else disgusted and angered by the sheer volume of people supporting the rights of a man who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl? Now Almodovar and Tilda Swinton among others have appeared in the media defending this. Grrrrrr.

JenniferRuth // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:49 pm

@Laura Woodhouse

I didn’t mean my comment to be in opposition to yours, but rather back it up. Sorry if it came across that way! The subject just makes me very angry.

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:51 pm

No probs, JenniferRuth, my bad: it’s easy to get defensive when modding sometimes!

Lisa Brown // Posted 29 September 2009 at 8:14 pm


I am not for a second comparing the two, but purely based on your fairly broad statement,

curious to know what you make of this case, in terms of ethics, etc:

JenniferRuth // Posted 30 September 2009 at 9:14 am

@ Lisa Brown

I’m not sure I really understand your question. Which part of my post constituted a “broad statement”? When I said that a fully grown man cannot “have sex” with a 13 year old girl?

Are you asking if the 13 year old boy was raped by the 15 year old girl? Because they would both be under the age of consent. Technically, there can be no statutory rape if neither person is an adult. Plus, as you said, the situation cannot be compared to a 43 year old man drugging and raping a 13 year old girl. Adults have a responsibility to take care of those that are not yet fully mature or emotionally developed and not to exploit them. Yes, this includes being 100% sure that they are not under the age of consent. “She looked of age” is NOT an excuse – although one might ask what a man in his 40’s thinks he is doing wanting to sleep with a girl so young. Those under the age on consent are generally legally and socially unequal to adults therefore placing the adult in a place of power. He is shirking his responsibility to take care of her and her emotional well-being in order to satisfy his own desires. This is clearly reprehensible.

By using terms such as “had sex” in the case of something that is clearly rape the words are trying to paint a picture where the victim was fine with what the rapist was doing.

If I have misunderstood your question I will try to clarify again.

Shreen // Posted 30 September 2009 at 10:34 pm

dizzy_sparkle: Just don’t read the comments unless you’re feeling brave.

It seems to have snowballed now. The level of ignorance and misunderstandings are just … breath taking, heart breaking, and deplorable.

By the way I’m reading the full article on this new feature, can be found here:

Helen // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:46 pm

Great idea about the sexism watch, however, it’s a pity about Janice Turner’s attitude in the original article (

[Quote]:When The Times published my article last month on how feminism’s silence over the past decade has ushered in a grim, sexualised culture, I was astonished by the response. Hundreds of women — and some men — commented on the website, many more e-mailed me directly. The message overwhelmingly was: thank God, someone is saying this — I thought I was alone. [End quote]

Get that? Don’t Blame the Patriarchy; it’s feminism’s silence which is responsible for the grim, sexualised culture. Leave the patriarchy out of it; what did feminism expect, going out dressed like that? It didn’t scream or try to run away!

It’s just that I’ve had it up to here with the “feminists have been silent about…” trope that springs up everywhere in the media both on line and off.

As far as daily life goes, in her anecdote about the newspaper editor, she illustrates beautifully the “not ruining the entire afternoon” and “not wanting to be the strident joy-killer” pressures that weigh on women and girls who are already conditioned to be nice and nonconfrontational. As well as the forces of “get over it” and “sense of humour” and “overreacting”, there’s the Concern Troll which sometimes appears when we do bring the topic of everyday sexism: Why are you blogging/writing talking about this trivia which is only the concern of rich, western white women? Why are you Silent about [insert preferred topic here]. As many of us don’t want to be entitled whingers, that shuts us up, too. It would be nice if Turner could have paid some attention to the pressures that silence us.

Turning to the writing thing, for one, most of us – unlike Turner – don’t have a platform in the mainstream media. Indeed, you don’t go out and force yourself into the mainstream media as an opinion writer; you get invited in, so how she could judge us as silent or not in the days before blogging is a mystery. It’s also a mystery why she should blame feminist “silence” instead of the much more likely assumption that the mainstream doesn’t like us and that a male dominated media company and editorial staff are likely to reflect that dislike. Most importantly, she demonstrates a lack of knowledge or disregard of just what has been going on in the online world for the last decade.

Turner could educate herself a little as to just how silent feminists have been by going through the archives at your site, Feministe, Shakesville and its predecessor Shakespeare’s Sister, Pandagon, Feministing, I Blame the Patriarchy, Hoyden about Town and of course I could go on (and on and on), but you get the idea.

Anna // Posted 1 October 2009 at 4:51 pm

Infuriating incident of the day: it seems trivializing and making jokes about incestuous sexual abuse and child rape is now the norm. Check out this post on a popular student forum:

So far, I haven’t yet seen one person say that a joke of that kind is wrong. It just makes you so frustrated. I wonder what all the people who found it funny would do if they had heard of something like that actually happening?

And people say we don’t need feminism!…

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