I'm fairly sure that David Cameron was only intending to be boorish, arrogant and dismissive to Angela Eagle yesterday, rather than sexist, and when he did his (rather poor and incomplete)
Michael Winner impression I'm sure he thought he was being hilarious. He was certainly visibly nonplussed at the vehemence of the negative reaction he got. He may not even have realised the sexism inherent in the original commercial; this is a function of his vast privilege, being white, male, very rich, able-bodied, hetereosexual, etc. etc. etc. In just about every group where there are privileged and marginalised, Cameron falls on the former side. This makes it really hard for him to notice when he is being a total cock, as he was yesterday.
NewsThump, sharp as ever, have done a particularly good piece on this
“David is trying to make himself seem more like one of the ‘people’, and that’s how the people speak, right? With a bit of casual racism and condescension to women?”
“He’s simply following in the footsteps of some of the greatest comedy minds our country has ever produced, like Michael Winner.”
Cameron probably thought he was being just like an ordinary person. The problem with that is, given his vast priveledge, he has no frame of reference with which to try to be like an ordinary person, other than what he has seen on the telly. And he thought that the Michael Winner insurance commercials were funny because he comes from the same hyper-rich white male social group as Winner; it simply hadn't occurred to him to think outside that group.
The trick to not being sexist (or racist or ablist, or whatever) is not
to learn a list of set phrases that
you're not allowed to say any more
- for instance I am sure Cameron would not have told Angela Eagle not to worry her pretty little head about things because that is fairly well-known as a hair-trigger phrase now - but to actually think about what you are saying. Are you putting down someone who is already lower down the pecking order than you with what you are saying? If so, that's unnecessary, hurtful, and makes you look like a bit of a cock. The test is not
do I think this is hurtful?
if I were the butt of this joke, and I have already spent my entire life being the butt of similar jokes, and I have much less power than the person making the joke, would I find it hurtful?
If that sounds to you like I am over-egging the pudding a bit, examine your discomfort. Is it just because you don't want to think that you
fall into the Offenders group rather than the Offended? Because I know for a damn straight fact I have been in both in my time...
If you offend somebody, what you do is apologise, say you didn't mean to offend them, and then use it as an opportunity to learn
why what you have said is hurtful and offensive... It may turn out that the person has no reasonable reason to be offended, and I am fully behind the right to cause offence if it is necessary. But more likely, you will have said something thoughtlessly offensive without even realising it, and if you learn
from it then you become a better person through more knowledge.
Of course, Cameron has compounded his error by refusing to apologise and using the
I was only joking
defence. As I have said before
If you thoughtlessly (or even purposefully) say something sexist or racist or whateverist, and someone calls you out on it, and your instinctive response is to say "but I was only joking!", think what you are saying by saying that. You are saying "Not only do I reserve the right to be inconsiderate of your feelings, but when I hurt you, I will compound that by making out that you should expect to be an object of fun". How does that make things better? Why is it funny to pick on people who are weaker than you and then laugh about it? That's not humour, that's bullying.
Now, given Cameron's upbringing and education, and the fact that he has risen to the top after receiving them, it's not surprising that he's a thoughtless sexist bully.
Today is one of those days when I am really ashamed to be in the same coalition as him.