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18 December 2015

Furyous Sexism is not just down to Tyson

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman

Consumer Trends & Insight, Entertainment, Media

This week, BBC director general Tony Hall found himself once again defending Tyson Fury’s inclusion on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year.

Of course, the boxer’s views on gay people and women are virtually Jurassic in their datedness but the storm surrounding his comments has given me pause for thought. After all, even though it may often be delivered more subtly than Fury’s verbal uppercut, casual sexism still lurks almost everywhere – even in 2015.  We need only take a quick tour through the past year to confirm that.

There was scientist Tim Hunt claiming that women should be made to work in single sex labs for fear of distracting male colleagues with their alluring looks and emotional outbursts. Then Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall found herself being asked not about her leadership credentials but her waistline by Mail on Sunday ‘journalist’ Simon Walters.

Even the twitter memes about surfer Mick Fanning’s death-defying shark escape (remember that?) couldn’t help but fall back into hackneyed gender stereotyping – the implication of course being that to be a wimp is, by proxy, to be female.

‘Men at Work’ signs on our pavements. ‘Mum and Baby’ playgroups (yes, it works both ways). And even the questions my own highly talented and employable wife has faced this year during her return to work after maternity leave.

In a society where it’s perfectly normal to shop in a virtual supermarket, hear from your Granny on Snapchat or read the news in 140 characters, how is it that such old-fashioned notions are able to persist? The only answer I can come up with is that because they have always existed, they just, well, still do. 

In communications, we are lucky to have a genuine chance to help change this and luckily, there’s already plenty of great work being done. Campaigns like the superb #LikeAGirl from Always, which successfully challenged the ludicrous (but curiously deep-rooted) notion that to run like a girl is to flounce down the street with arms and legs flapping. Or Edelman’s own Womanhood Survey in partnership with Elle magazine that highlighted the renewed power of modern feminism.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that yes, society is right to condemn Fury for his cretinous remarks.  However, to really show we mean it, we have to stop lazily tolerating all that other stuff too.

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