By JAMILA RIZVI
When it comes to sexism, it can be all too easy for us feminists to lose sight of the bigger picture.
If we take task with every offhand remark (which often have ignorance rather than malice at their core but are plentiful in number) and get outraged about it, then we risk wearing ourselves out and losing the goodwill of those who are listening.
It can mean that when the most severe crimes against feminism are committed – whether they be verbal, societal or physical – we are more easily ignored. In short? I’ve always been somewhat wary of becoming the boy who cried wolf on sexism.
But today I SAW A VERY BIG WOLF, WITH RAZOR SHARP TEETH AND EYES LIKE THOSE OUT OF A ZOMBIE HORROR FILM AND YES I AM GOING TO CRY OUT ABOUT IT. A LOT.
Retired journalist, Geoffrey Barker wrote an article in today’s Fairfax papers entitled ‘Switch off the TV babes for some real news’. Here’s a little taste of what he had to say.
I have a problem with commercial TV news. I don’t want it delivered to me via crimson lips and fancy coiffures. I don’t like the way the TV babes compress sometimes urgent and ongoing matters into a few barely coherent sentences that simply fail to reflect events with any semblance of their true complexity.
They are about as credible as the ads for the exercise machines with which they share the airways. They have neither the time nor the talent to offer trustworthy accounts of the matters on which they claim knowledge. They diminish the idea of journalism.
Now, my first thought was that I am very glad that Geoffrey is retired and he really should stay that way.
My second was that this is the most appalling and sexist rant that I have read in a very long time. I am completely gobsmacked that this pile of nasty stereotyping was able to make it into the public domain via such a reputable source. Why on earth would respected newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age think that it was acceptable to publish something like this?
Now, for those of you who wish to preserve your own sanity and avoid the desire to stab at your own flesh with a pencil because of sheer frustration: I do not recommend you read the remainder of Barker’s article. Having said that, I wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of the poorly evidenced, wildly insulting points that he attempts to make.
So let’s consider them one by one, shall we?
1.If you are young, attractive and female, then you must be stupid: “They have neither the time nor the talent to offer trustworthy accounts of the matters on which they claim knowledge. They diminish the idea of journalism.”
Right. Because never in the history of humankind has the world managed to produce a person who is both attractive and intelligent.
Memo to Barker: The two do not have to be mutually exclusive – and in the case of many of Australia’s outstanding female news presenters – they aren’t.
Yes. These women are hot. Yes. They are also young. But that doesn’t mean Barker is entitled to lump them all together under a single label and appoint himself as an authority on their collective intelligence and life experience.
Each of these women has her own story, her own background, her own perspective and her own knowledge and skill set that she brings to her news reporting.
But when you’re Barker and are conveniently brushing off every female news presenter off as being named ‘Sharon or Tegan or whatever they are called’, then it seems that respect for their individual talents, differentiation between their experiences or heaven forbid – even bothering to know their names – is unnecessary.