Sunday nights in my household are set aside for doing nothing – well, apart perhaps from taking the shoes off, flicking through the newspapers, grabbing a bite to eat and watching bland television.
Last night, finding myself in a bored mood, just passing time – unable to raise much interest in anything, including the moving wallpaper that is BBC1’s Countryfile – I was prompted by a review in The Sunday Telegraph, to seek out and watch last Thursday’s BBC2 documentary offering Kirsty Wark’s Blurred Lines: the New Battle of the Sexes via my cable supplier’s ‘Catch-Up TV’ facility.
In advance I was half-prepared to be outraged at another yet another example of a media insider – in my view, a world verging upon being dominated by women – stridently claiming that the male of the species is the fount of everything wrong in the world.
However, I was very impressed by Wark’s examination of how things had changed (or not) since the sexual and equality revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. She pointed out in passing that most technological advances – step forward the internet in particular – had been created by men for men and then went on to suggest that, despite what we might all have thought, some things (not least men’s attitude to women) haven’t changed as much as we might have imagined.
First witness called for the proposition was Germaine Greer. She claimed not only that things hadn’t changed much, but if anything had got worse. Men resented women gaining equal rights and then matching or excelling them in the workplace and elsewhere. Confused as to their own purpose in life in the 21st Century, they had retreated into a ‘male club’ atmosphere – all too readily available on the internet – in which ‘caveman’ attitudes were not just available but celebrated.
Wark then looked at examples of crude misogyny in YouTube videos, comedians’ stand-up routines and the music industry and discussed them with media commentators and ordinary young people of both genders.
Were what some might regard as misogynistic jokes actually ‘wrong’, or just humour?
One comedian suggested that you can either laugh at everything, or you can laugh at nothing – effectively suggesting that, instead of protesting about sexism, women should just ‘get over it’.
Another academic felt that these days the worlds of social media and newspapers fed upon each other in a circular descent into unacceptable/hateful comments and worse.
A group of young women were scathing about the effects of porn upon male teenagers’ attitudes.
One female gamer showed how a top-selling game Grand Theft Auto enabled its players – if they chose – to have sex with prostitutes and then beat them up or kill them with shocking brutality to get their money back.
It’s a confused world out there.
Nevertheless, Wark’s thesis seemed to withstand all examination – her script was balanced, well-argued and persuasive.
Despite my cynicism towards members of (what used to be characterised as) the successful, privileged, articulate Hampstead set protesting that things are not as they would like them to be – when in fact 85% of the population live in the real, very different, world and simply have to get on with it – my hour spent watching this programme was thought-provoking and rewarding. It certainly beat sitting on my sofa letting the Antiques Roadshow wash over me.