Poldark causes feminists to get their knickers in a twist, again

Way back in October 2016 The Backbencher wrote about the hypocrisy of feminists denouncing the portrayal of an ambiguous sexual encounter but then celebrating the act of a woman striking her husband. Najma Zaman reports on how it’s all happening again…

Two weeks ago, Mariella Frostrup discussed the double standard where women can lust over men but when the situation is reversed, men are accused of sexism.

The Guardian’s Zoe Williams responded with a – quite frankly – poorly written piece, explaining that Mariella was wrong about this being a problem or double standard. She gave some pretty special reasons why…

Her first argument was that “men are never framed as the gatekeepers to sex who merely put up with it in order to control or appease insatiable women”, “whereas women are routinely portrayed that way.” Routinely? Where? Looking over the past few decades, we’ve had Madonna telling us, in more ways than one, that women love sex. Joan Collins portraying Alexis in Dynasty, made it pretty clear that women enjoy sex. In fact, there were plenty of women in Dynasty and Dallas making that known. Even in more ‘realistic’ soaps, such as Eastenders, we have seen and continue to see women wanting sex, not putting up with it. Then there was the infamous Sex and the City which ran from 1998-2004. For decades feminists have been telling us that women are portrayed as merely putting up with sex, yet we’ve seen women doing everything but, and letting us know quite clearly that women want and enjoy sex.

Ms Williams then focuses on older women, such as herself, saying that it’s regarded as “inherently repellent for us to desire anyone.” Oh come on! Not only did we have the likes of Dynasty’s Alexis Colby letting us know how glamorous it is for older women to desire someone… and the desires of the Sex And The City ladies were hardly seen as repellent. Add to this, a number of other characters who are even older, such as Penny in Miranda and many women in various soaps. But fiction aside, we see and hear of older attractions and desires without any reactions of repulsion for either sex.

Mariella argues that we are losing “our sense of proportion as we throw every act of perceived sexism into the #MeToo basket”. However, this double standard existed way before any allegation was made against Harvey Weinstein. For decades, men have been accused of objectifying women, and thus of sexism, whereas women doing the same as them have been let off, merely regarded as expressing their admiration or lust. And whilst we’re on the subject of #MeeToo, let us not forget how this movement has despicably ignored male victims of sexual harassment. And then there was 19-year-old Benjamin Glaze who came to audition on American Idol only to have Katy Perry force a kiss on his lips. Imagine if her fellow judge, Luke Bryan, had done that to any woman on the show. But even this incident is mild compared to the kind of harassment some men have faced from women in the workplace.

ABC/Mark Levine

Zoe Williams claims that “In a way, a woman on Front Row feting the beauty of the cast of Poldark is acting as a good role model to any proto-Weinstein: this is how to appreciate the physical attributes of someone else, someone unattainable, without exploiting or violating them.” Although she quite rightly makes the distinction between verbal appreciation and sexual harassment, she is still in favour of disallowing men from celebrating female beauty verbally. And she doesn’t regard this as a problem or a double standard.

Zoe has a dig at clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and his talk of ‘enforced monogamy’: “whether or not the world would be better if women were allocated to men, having no sexual agency,” linking to this dishonest article about him in the New York Times. This article appears to be her major, or possibly only, source on all things Peterson. She clearly hasn’t actually heard the man speak. Professor Peterson states exactly what he means by “enforced monogamy” in this video. He starts off by saying “I don’t mean taking innocent women at gun point and handing them over to useless men, which is essentially the accusation.” “What I meant was that monogamy as something that’s socially valued appears to be essentially a human universal.”

Continuing with her misconstruing of Jordan Peterson, Zoe writes “Anything you can do to resist this, up to and including passing remark on Aidan Turner’s torso … you ought to do. You owe it to the sisterhood, and to your daughters, to do it.” Nobody is stopping women from doing this! And the vast majority of women don’t do this kind of thing as a way of resisting this non-existent female oppression; they do it because they find Aiden Turner, and various other men, attractive. Mariella Frostrup quite rightly thinks men should be allowed to do the same about the pretty actress who plays Demelza, and any other woman for that matter.

Forget ‘the sisterhood’ which is generally a term used by feminists to refer to other feminists. We owe it to our daughters to encourage them to listen to Jordan Peterson, read the articles about him and then make up their own minds. We owe it to our daughters to be examples of real equality, not make excuses for double standards or lie about something not being a double standard. And we owe this to our sons too.

As for Zoe Williams’ view that this one rule for men and another for women lusting over the opposite sex is not double standards, what does the dictionary say about double standards? Miriam Webster, Word Central, The Free Dictionary and Collins all say that double standards are to do with applying principles and standards differently and unfairly between two individuals or groups or more harshly to one group than another. No exceptions. So even if Zoe was correct about the way women are portrayed and viewed in terms of sex, this is still a double standard. And, double standards are – for the most part – a problem.

Double standards do nothing to help change other double standards – such social engineering is only going to annoy and anger people. People are unsurprisingly going to find it hypocritical for anyone to want equality in favour of women whilst simultaneously dishing out inequality towards men. In short, if you want equality then practice it.


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