Sunday, January 23, 2011

Misogynistic quote of the week

So, the cover story in Guardian Weekend yesterday (yes, I am that desperately middle class) was an interview with Laura Hall, who apparently 'became the poster-girl for Booze Britain' after getting an alcohol asbo last year.

Having missed that vital bit of news myself, reading this feature over breakfast was really just a way to haul my sleepy brain into the land of the living via a nice cup of tea. But it did yield a good hit of righteous indignation (which, after all, is what your average Guardian reader is going for on a Saturday morning) when I got to this little gem:

“Last year district judge Bruce Morgan said of her 29 drink-fuelled convictions: 'I don't think I have seen a more deplorable record … A female with a record like this – it's absolutely despicable and represents all that is rotten in society nowadays.'”

I'm sorry? I mean, I know your stereotypical judge is a crusty old dinosaur who thinks it's ok to say things like this, but seriously? The quiet misogyny of it was just breathtaking: the idea that violent alcohol abuse might somehow be acceptable from thrusting young men, but when a 'female' starts doing it – not even a woman, mind, but a female – well, then clearly something is very wrong indeed and she should probably be burned as a witch. And these are the people in charge of administering justice in this country! Sigh.

Incidentally, the fact that the journalist was quite happy to blithely quote this remark and move on without further comment really does make me wonder. Apparently, he (or his editors, I suppose) figured we'd all be more interested in gasping at how many pints she could down over lunch, so the article ended up reinforcing those prejudices rather than challenging them. I mean, yes, I get that it was a personal profile and not a piece of political commentary. But you'd think that with 3,000 words to play with on this supposed symbol of 'ladette culture', they could have found just a bit of space to ask why she's achieved such notoriety basically for being female whilst in charge of an alcohol problem.


  1. Yes! I was similarly bewildered, both by the judge's bizarre comment, and the journalist's lack of comment on the comment..
    Still, nothing like a bit of righteous indignation over breakfast!

  2. You could regard his comment as being insulting to men - i.e. women are supposed to know better, but drunken, loutish behaviour is no more than you would expect from a man.
    If he had said "A white man with a record like this...", would you have said he was insulting white men?

  3. Of course it's insulting to men - my point was that there's a double standard at work here, and yes, the idea that this is ok for a man is just as wrong as the idea that it's not ok for a woman.

    I'm not sure how to respond more specifically to your hypothetical question, because the whole point is that he wouldn't have said that, because that's not the way the underlying prejudices at play here work. In theory, I suppose, the answer to your question has to be yes. But in practice, I'm not sure it's relevant.

  4. My point was about misogyny. If he had said: "Your behaviour is bad, but that's no more than is to be expected from a woman", that would have been offensive to all women, and would have been misogynystic. What he actually said implies that he expects higher standards of behaviour from women. This is, as you point out, applying a double standard, and is unfair to the woman he was addressing, but it doesn't show a dislike of women. Nor does it suggest that he thought her behaviour would be OK in a man, only that it would be unsurprising.
    As for my hypothetical question, I would have said the statement was offensive mainly to non-whites because it implies that poor behaviour is to be expected from them.

  5. Ah, right, I think I understand your point a little better now. I was rather confused about how the race thing was relevant, I see where you're coming from now. And perhaps misogynistic was a poor choice of word (it's certainly a bugger to spell at 11 o clock at night) - but I do still stand by the claim that the comment was offensive to women as well as to men. Because I don't think it implied that he expects higher standards from women because he thinks women are awesome and mature and worthy of respect - to me it sounded much more like he expected different standards from women because he thinks women should be ladylike and well-behaved.

    In other words, I look at that quote and I see a man reprimanding a woman - or, as he disparagingly called her, a 'female' - for not conforming to his standards of what a woman should be like. Maybe misogynistic is the wrong word, maybe paternalistic or even patriarchal would be better, but I still think it betrays an offensive attitude to women. And, obviously, I'm not particularly trying to defend women's inalienable right to get pissed and smash things up - it's the underlying attitude that grates on me.