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WEEKLY RANT: A politician, a columnist, another columnist and the language of misogyny

June 21, 2014


I was not going to comment on the whole Alibhai-Brown/Fabricant/Delingpole thing. Truly, I wasn’t. I have kept my gob shut for days and my fingers away from the keyboard. But there is something about Delingpole’s defence of Fabricant – about any logical fallacy, dressed up to be so reasonable looking – that sends me into a sort of intellectual anaphylactic shock.

The bulk of the argument, in his imaginatively and tastefully titled piece “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat”, is essentially that this is not about all women, but about a particular woman. This woman, he argues, is herself responsible for the anger she causes and, therefore, violent fantasies are just dandy. His point is severely undercut by language laced with sexism both in his piece, his Channel 4 News appearance and many of the comments in support. Language which seems to contain a drummer-like repetition of “screeching”, “screaming”, “hysterical”, “harridan”, “harpy” and related sentiments.

The other part of Delingpole’s argument is semantic and insidious:

It’s immediately obvious when you read the tweet that Fabricant is outlining a hypothetical scenario. Hypothetical scenarios, by definition, may never happen. And in this case… Fabricant has ruled out it ever happening. So it seems bizarre, to say the least, that Fabricant should be censured or forced to apologise for something he hasn’t done and will never do, but merely for something he thought and then rejected… Far from being censured, Fabricant ought surely to be praised for illustrating in his tweet the wise restraint which forms the basis of civilisation.

This superficially attractive approach is more problematic, because it tries to dress up one thing as another and possibly, if no further thought is given, succeeds. What if I tweeted: “I could never appear on a discussion prog with [a specific woman] I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by raping her on the way out”? What if I tweeted “I could never appear on a discussion prog with [a specific person of Jewish ethnicity] I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by putting them in a gas chamber”? Going by Delingpole’s logic these scenarios are just as hypothetical, just as innocent. I ought, indeed, to be praised for “the wise restraint which forms the basis of civilisation”.

Which is, of course, utter bollocks.

When people like Fabricant, Delingpole, Liddle – and countless threatened little men – get into trouble for crap like this, they run to the temple of Context and yell “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” at the altar of Free Speech. But free speech does not only enshrine your right to say every cockamamie thing that pops up like a weed in the fallow field of your imagination. It also includes everyone else’s right to tell you they find it objectionable and why. What Delingpole is really asking for is not freedom of speech, but freedom from criticism. And freedom from context.

Because context does not only go as wide as you want it; one can always find a convenient rung along the ladder from the specific to the abstract, to justify just about anything. Context in this case includes a man in California shooting half a dozen girls because they wouldn’t fuck him. It includes a schoolgirl in Pakistan being shot in the face because she had the temerity to want an education. It includes two teenagers being gangraped and hung from a mango tree in India. Whether you like it or not, this is the context within which your grotty little fantasy about violently shutting up women fits. In this context, for a man in a position of power to express – and by extension perpetuate and embolden – misogynist fantasies is plainly vile.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2014 12:25 pm

    I don’t follow Twitter or watch any MSM these days so this is the first I’ve heard of this scandal. It is disgusting and loathsome that in a so called ‘ civilized ‘ society any person – man or woman, could even think such vile stuff. I do love your description ‘ vile, threatened little men ‘ exactly what they are. The world will not be civilized until ALL men, not just a few like yourself, treat all women as equal. Thank you

  2. June 21, 2014 3:27 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. Mariana permalink
    June 21, 2014 5:55 pm

    If Fabricant made a similar comment about Rod Liddle, what percentage of zilch do you expect the reaction would be?

    • June 21, 2014 8:17 pm

      I think you must have missed the whole “context” portion of the above blog, which talked about the larger framework of violence silencing women, making the comment distasteful.

  4. June 22, 2014 12:10 pm

    I saw the tweet retweeted by a friend, and didn’t really take much notice of it. There’s plenty of people I’ve said/tweeted that I’d love to slap in their stupid faces etc before. And I would expect others to WANT to do the same to various people. I would never ever actually do it, and the majority of people I know wouldn’t either. That doesn’t take away the sheer escapism of dreaming that you could.

    And I think it’s quite sexist to treat the view different for a man to say about a woman than a woman about a woman, woman about a man, or man about a man.

    But obviously that’s just my opinion 😉

    • June 23, 2014 4:44 am

      I understand your points but they are misconceived. Had this been only fantasy you may have been right. But, then again, had this been only fantasy, we would have never known about it. This was fantasy, expressed by someone in a position of authority, in a public forum. And, as I explained, within a context of violence against women.

      Surely you must see the difference between you, in a fleeting moment, thinking you would like to punch your partner, and – let us use an extreme example to illustrate – the President of the United States publicly tweeting he would like to punch his partner. If you don’t, you don’t.

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