Content note: this post discusses misogyny and domestic violence
I am going to start this post with some disclaimers:
- I’m writing this because dudes keep asking me for “evidence” that Owen Smith is a misogynist
- Just because I think Owen Smith is a bellend doesn’t mean I support Jeremy Corbyn
- Just because I’m pointing out the misogyny of Owen Smith doesn’t mean some of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t misogynists
- I didn’t think Angela Eagle was all that either
- Basically, the Labour Party is a wretched hive of scum and villainy
- This is not an invitation to honk like a sea lion “debating” whether this stuff is misogyny or not. It’s misogyny. If you don’t think so, you don’t care. And also, I don’t care what you think.
- I cannot believe The Discourse™ has got so puerile that I need to say any of this
Right, all that out of the way, let’s get on with why Owen Smith is a misogynist.
He opposes mandatory all-woman shortlists
All-woman shortlists are the weak, milky tea of feminism. If your feminism wants women in elected positions (as opposed to the abolition of this hierarchical system), they’re a way of addressing the structural misogyny and ensure a woman ends up in place. Recently, Owen Smith committed to using all-woman shortlists in targeted seats. The qualifier “targeted” here is potentially pretty important, in the context of his previous comments on all-woman shortlists. See, Owen believes (and as far as I can see, has not retracted), that local Labour parties should be able to veto all-woman shortlists if they want to. If a local party doesn’t want an all-woman shortlist, Owen reckons, they shouldn’t have to have one.
Let’s assume that the misogynist Momentum CLP infiltrators exist for the purpose of this. Under Owen Smith’s own assertions, if such woman-hating entryists take against the idea of an all-woman shortlist and kick up a stink, they don’t have to have one.
His “normal” life
Let’s remember that within the last fortnight, Owen Smith wasn’t just running against Corbyn, but also Angela Eagle, who is a lesbian. When asked if he was normal, Owen decided to explain that of course he’s normal, he has a wife and three children. Perhaps he was taking aim at Corbyn with this comment, simply forgetting about Eagle’s own domestic situation (a wife, no children). However, under patriarchy, it’s women who are hit hardest by this suggestion that they’re weird for not having children. Hell, just a week before Owen Smith made these comments, Theresa May’s leadership contender Andrea Leadsom was rightly called up on her internalised misogyny for having a pop at May for never having had children.
It’s 2016. Some women aren’t just ambulatory baby factories. Deal with it, Owen. It’s the new normal.
The leader of a political party only gets on TV because she’s a woman
Plaid Cymru is one of the major political parties in Wales. It’s led by a woman called Leanne Wood, who is, being the leader of a major political party in her country, on telly a fair amount. Owen Smith felt a little bit bitter about this, and was recorded sulkily saying she got on Question Time instead of him. Wood rather fairly pointed out that maybe this was to do with party balance, to which Owen Smith replied “I think your gender helps as well.”
This is a pretty classic case of sexist sulking. When women get more visible, men feel like the women are only getting these opportunities because of political correctness gorn mad, not because of, say, the kind of merit that got you elected leader of your party. Mediocre men think the sun shines out of their special snowflake bottoms, and do not realise that a lot of the time, there is a better woman there.
I recommend watching the short 30 second video in the link above, and listening to the tone he adopts as he says “I think your gender helps as well”. It oozes bitterness, and he spits the word “gender” as though it tastes bad to him.
“That was called a joke, Susanna”
Apologies for another video, but I find watching a man interact with women is one of the greatest indications of how he feels about women. In Owen Smith’s case, his behaviour appears to communicate disdain and contempt. This short video features Owen on a breakfast TV show recently, being asked if he ever took Viagra while working at Pfizer (let’s be honest, you don’t exactly go into the hard-hitting stuff at 6.30 in the morning). After giving an evasive first answer, the woman host, Susanna Reid suggests a more straightforward answer would have been “no”. Once again, Owen’s mask slips, as his tone goes from attempting to get people to like him, to your bog standard sexist creep. “That was called a joke, Susanna,” he says coldly, then immediately slips back into warmer tones as co-host Piers Morgan takes over in the questioning.
Again, this video is worth a watch, even as the dismissive “it’s a joke” defence, as though women have never heard of the concept of humour, will be painfully familiar to all of us.
The domestic violence reference
Owen Smith reckoned the Coalition government was like an abusive relationship, and decided to articulate this in the most flippantly insensitive way he could: “Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”
At the time, women’s groups called him up on it, and he backed away from his comments. However, he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson as just this week, he decided to bring out imagery involving violence against women once again.
Smashing Theresa May on her heels
I’ve seen defences of the phrase “smash her back on her heels”, and none of them sufficient. Some say it’s a common turn of phrase, but it sounds like something someone says on Catchphrase just before being told “it’s good, but it’s not quite right”. Apparently it’s so common that a google of it simply brings you Owen Smith’s comments. Here’s the thing: Theresa May is pretty famous for wearing heels (and her choice of footwear is an endless source of fascination for misogynists). Here’s another thing: it’s generally not considered good form to express a desire to “smash” a woman. And here’s one more thing: this wasn’t an off-the-cuff malapropism. This was a phrase in a prepared speech Owen Smith gave. A speech about equality. Evoking images of violence against women.
But don’t worry! Owen has an excuse. It’s just rhetoric! Is this the new political “just banter”?
He downplays the achievements of Black women (added 4th August)
Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes in the world, full stop. Her achievements resonate even more among Black women, because Serena is a shining example of Black women’s excellence.
What does Owen Smith think about her achievements? He reckons it’s unpatriotic to celebrate the sucess of this outstanding black woman athlete, especially because it detracted from giving cookies to a white man. He reckons it’s ~metropolitan~ to celebrate a Black woman dominating at a sport historically dominated by white people and men. Well, Owen, maybe if you stay away from any city ever, or indeed anywhere with a population of more than one, you too might avoid ever meeting anyone who is inspired by a Black woman sporting idol.
A gobstopper for Nicola Sturgeon (added 2nd September)
Continuing with his theme of wanting women leaders to just shut up, Owen himself tweeted this back in April:
Owen’s defence? The misogo classic of “just a joke”.
I also query just what in the name of fuck he means by “slice”.
He uses classic sexist defences (added 5th September; updated 6th September)
It’s finally hitting the point where Owen Smith’s misogyny is attracting attention. As well as using the “just banter” defence for his Sturgeon comments, Owen’s pulled the old “I’m not sexist, I hire women.” Yes, really. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Donald Trump say similar, and it was just as fucking feeble and pathetic then.
Thankfully, Owen seems to be being taken to task about his general sexism problem, with a woman challenging him on it publicly at a hustings event. His response was basically a checklist of the classic misogynist’s responses to being called out:
-Focusing on his own feelings, rather than the feelings of those who may have been hurt. Smith described his own experience of hearing the accusations as “the most mortifying experience for me”.
-Mansplaining how his comments aren’t sexist at all.
-“I’ve never suggested that women should be seen and not heard, which is how some of the other things I’ve said have been interpreted,”. This excuse puts the blame on women for misinterpreting, rather than him for screwing up.
-“painted as sexist” “portray me as being a sexist”: this is related to the above, except has started to imply some sort of murky ulterior motive as opposed to just being all hysterical.
-“decontextualised”. There is pretty much one situation in which words can be taken out of context to sound misogynistic, and that is in sentences such as “Alan said Bertha is a bitch, so I punched Alan,” being trimmed to “Bertha is a bitch”. Having the receipts for Owen’s misogynistic comments, they were not decontextualised in this way.
-“repeatedly apologised”. So fucking what? Saying sorry doesn’t magically undo the fact you made these comments. You need to win back trust by not keeping on bloody well doing it. Which seems like a big ask for Owen, and certainly not one he’s doing well at. Also, he hasn’t exactly apologised adequately: a textbook sorry-you-got-offended: “All I can do is apologise for any offence that’s been caused by any of the things I’ve said.”
He just clearly, obviously doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get why women are pissed off at him, and he doesn’t seem to want to get it. Owen Smith’s reaction here is a perfect guide in How Not To Respond To Being Challenged And Apologise.
He won his wife in a playground fight?! (added 10th September)
In a Mirror interview where Owen Smith was attempting to make people like him, and also go on like he’s credible, Smith claimed to have “fought off” hundreds of “lads”, saying, “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”
Ignoring the possible improbabilities with their being any girls at his school while he was there, since the sixth form only became coeducational in 1993 (when Owen would have been 22), this is yet another comment which is just skin-crawlingly sexist. As @keewa put it: “Owen Smith won his wife in a playground fight like she’s a fucking conker”.
Once again, we see him putting his virility front and centre. From the 29 inch penis comments to his insistence on not needing viagra, Owen Smith is pretty keen to show off that he is the manliest of all men.
I’ll likely add examples to this post as I see them. Also, heed the disclaimer. This really isn’t an invitation for debate.
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