British tolerance for misogyny: The case of Philip Hammond

Misogyny and sexism are so prevalent in British life today, that they are regularly overlooked. A powerful example is a slip of the British Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who has reportedly joked at the Cabinet meeting, saying ‘even a woman can [drive a train, because it has become so simple]’. He was briefly told off, and the whole thing was forgotten within a day or so.

Now, here’s an exercise: Suppose a politician says something similar about, for example, Jews, instead of about women. Say, that he or she say ‘jokingly’ that ‘even a Jewish person’ or ‘even a black person’ are able to do a certain task/job. Imagine the raw that would follow in the political arena. It would be a very justified outcry, because we must be tolerant to everything but intolerance, and such statements must be met with strongest response possible. I imagine a subsequent demand for the said politician to be sanctioned by his party, and calls to step down, resulting in suspension or in leaving politics altogether. Even vague and debatable criticism of Zionism, which is now being outrageously treated as antisemitism, are met with investigations, suspensions and resignations. Many other racial ‘slips’ are also likely to result in political termination. 

But this is not the case with sexism. Hammond, who has already done this before, is off the hook again, and has paid no political price for his not funny hate speech. And others too. The fact that such infuriating ‘slippages’ are tolerated, and effectively condoned, speaks volumes about the docile acceptance of misogyny in today’s Britain.

Misogyny of women by other women

Finally, I think that the terms ‘sexism’ (or better, genderism?) and ‘patriarchy’ (which is different) are sometimes used to soften what is, in fact, anti-women, womanist, womenophobic, and misogynous. So perhaps misogyny deserves more presence in critical disourse.



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