Staff writer Laura Purefoy discusses recent displays of misogyny in the media.
The subject of misogyny in the workplace and the gender pay gap has come up frequently in the media over the past few weeks. It all started with a controversy at GB News, where Laurence Fox used sexist language to mock a female journalist. This sparked a subsequent Sky News debate on the issue of free speech where Moya Lothian-McLean learned that, unlike her male opponent, she was not being paid. Such strident displays of misogyny are starting to become the norm in the media, so will this be the time when the whistle is blown? Will it finally result in a firm stance being taken on ensuring the close of the gender pay gap and eliminating misogyny in the media?
The Controversial Issue
The heated issue in question was brought to light on 26 September on Dan Wootton Tonight, where Lawrence Fox and Dan Wootton were discussing comments political correspondent Ava Evans had made on BBC Politics Live earlier that day. During the BBC programme, Evans emphasised the need for a mental health minister, which would be all-encompassing and “not be specific to men”. Although touching on a difficult subject where opinions are divided, the conversation was held in a sophisticated manner with each party listening and respecting the other.
So when Fox, who was not involved in the original conversation, decided to but in and voice his thoughts in a belligerent and sexist manner, it caused outrage. He stated “show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman, ever, ever. That little woman has been spoon-fed oppression day after day after day, starting with the lie of the gender wage gap.” Firstly, the sexualisation of Evans in this belittling and demeaning manner on live TV is despicable. The issue which Fox was commenting on had nothing to do with her sexual appeal or physical attractiveness. Why does this prominent male figure in the media need to dimmish Evans simply to her looks rather than the points she brought up? Fox had an opportunity to voice his views on the subject in a constructive way, which could have been beneficial to both parties, but instead decided to say: “who would s**g that?”
But, what in some ways was more distressing was the lack of agency from presenter Dan Wootton, who simply sat back and smirked at the aggressive and misogynistic comments being made. Ultimately, people like Wooton are why a glass ceiling which halts feminist progress exists- his passive misogyny reflects a wider issue. Within places of work, bystanders of misogyny and sexism are just as much to blame as the actual perpetrator.
Since these incidents, both Fox and Wootton have been removed from the air, with Fox being fired by GB News. Unsurprisingly, the incident resulted in a huge backlash from viewers and Ofcom. So, is this the beginning of workplaces taking a stance against this behaviour in these environments or is it just another empty punishment?
Fox’s denial of the gender pay gap then sparked another debate on Sky News involving Moya Lothian-McLean and Connor Tomlinson. It should also be noted that Lothian-Mclean the debate was explicitly told it would be a conversation. However, minutes before air, Lothian-Mclean was told that she would be taking part in a debate on the limitation of free speech instead of on the issue of misogyny. The debate was unorganised with Conor Tomlinson raising points which seemed unrelated to the subject at hand and speaking in a somewhat demeaning manner asking Lothian-Mclean for a history lesson on the patriarchy. But things got interesting when Tomlinson said “I’m sorry you’re so exhausted to be paid to go on air” leading to an exclamation from Lothian-Mclean who said “I’m not being paid for this interview”. This was the moment where Tomlinson’s argument- that misogyny and the gender pay didn’t exist- came crumbling down. There could not be more concrete evidence of misogyny and the gender pay gap in action. Lothian-Mclean put it best in a video posted after the controversy, saying “man gets paid £200 to deny that structural misogyny exists, woman gets paid nothing”. There is simply no way of denying the blatant sexism entrapped in our system.
How in 2023, are big news platforms such as Sky News getting away with this gender inequality, and in reference to Lawrence Fox, why is a woman’s value still rooted in her attractiveness? The issue of the gender pay gap stems from deep-rooted societal pressures and gender roles which therefore shape the career path that women choose, with this pay gap widening with age. To truly deal with this endemic, it has to be done from the source: the entire view of women within society needs to be altered. This is being done by organisations such as beyond equality, who are disrupting these harmful norms and rethinking masculinities.
But will this recent controversy change anything to the age-old issue of misogyny and the gender pay gap, or once the dust has settled, will a blind eye continue to be turned?