When a reasonable view prompts a torrent of sexist abuse
When I wrote earlier this week about the dearth of women on the Conservative front bench during prime minister’s questions, I didn’t think I was being particularly controversial.
To me, it was a statement of the obvious that seeing a sea of blokes in dark suits illustrates the absence of female MPs and ministers on the government benches.
Judge for yourself about what I said here.
What’s surprised me is the torrent of abuse I’ve got for airing what seemed to me perfectly reasonable views. 519 comments and counting, many articulating (if that’s not over-dignifying the kind of vitriol hurled at me) the kind of views I’d assumed had gone out of style in the last century.
Here’s a few to amuse you. “Warmingmyth” opined: “If Cathy Newman is an example of the type of woman that is being suggested, then we need less women not more or indeed perhaps we need none at all.”
“Petrovitch” fumed: “The rightful place for a woman is… wait for it… having babies and looking after the family. Whatever some women would prefer is irrelevant here, it is undeniable that women are designed to have babies.”
“Colliemore” struck a similarly reproductive note. “At least there are no wimmin frontbenchers been shown breastfeeding their baybeez, as no doubt they would demand their sacred right to do so,” s/he spat.
“Corimmobile” got personal: “As for Cathy Newman I would say that she has achieved an overly high station in life when compared with her obvious gender prejudice and apparent lack of intellect.”
As did “Aethelflaed”: “Cathy Newman, as a woman, I have nothing but the deepest contempt for women like you, who think the best interests of society are served by elevating incompetence just because it wears a skirt.”
And “allchange”: “Cathy, you’re not bad looking – that’s why you read the news. Best leave the real journalism to professionals, be they male or female.”
Of course, you’ll notice immediately that none of these “commentators” used their real name. Which seems to me the root of the problem. If you can’t put your name to a comment, don’t make it. If you’re writing something you wouldn’t say to my face, don’t write it.
I don’t always look “below the line” at the comments, but after Jon Snow tweeted outrage (see below) at the views expressed on one of my previous blogs, I thought I’d check them out. Fortunately I’ve got a thick skin, so the abuse doesn’t trouble me personally. It’s not that I mind criticism, and I’d actively encourage a difference of views and a healthy debate.
A distressingly foul thread of responses to Cathy Newman’s blog in the Telegraph re leaving Sally Bercow alone. Ms Newman has it right
— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) February 5, 2014
But as a professional woman I find it somewhat disturbing this kind of sexist abuse remains so prevalent.
As a social being, I like to converse with people who want to converse with me. I’m often asking people on Twitter what they think about issues we’re covering on the news. And I try and respond to as many tweets as time allows.
If you’ve got something to say, please tweet me on @cathynewman. And be warned, I block people who are personally abusive.
Follow @CathyNewman on Twitter