Warning: This Post Contains Sexism 46

The ridiculous panic that the media is trying to induce over flu, reminded me of this passage from Murder in Samarkand, p 217:

“We became the chief contact point for the EBRD permanent staff in London. of whom some scores of Brits were coming out for the Conference. This was also the height of the panic over the SARS epidemic.

…One female member of EBRD staff emailed me from London:

“Should I wear a face mask in the conference hall?”

“I don’t know,” I typed back, “How ugly are you?”. “

On Saturday I was invited to address Stop The War’s annual conference. This has shrunk down to what I might call a hard left core, with the other groups that used to be a prominent part of the coalition almost completely evaporated. The most obvious sign of this was the near complete absence of Muslims. But the christians, pacifists, environmentalists and others had mostly gone too. It is probably true that the Hard Left are the ones I am least at home with.

My speech centred on the recent fake bomb scare in the North West, and the relief it had temporarily provided the government from terrible headlines over the death of Ian Tomlinson and over Jacqui Smith’s expense claims. I threw in the following line because a speech needs jokes, and because I like to tease the left sometimes:

“You know, I make no claim to being politically correct. So I can say that, if I were married to Jacqui Smith, I would probably use a lot of porn too.”

Most of the hall laughed, but the feminists got most upset and started to interject. Points of order followed. When I had finished, a speaker from the floor said that my speech was such an important denunciation of the attack on civil liberties in the UK, that it should be copied to DVD and given out on tube stations. Then someone stood up and demanded that I withdraw my comments on Jacqui Smith.

I stayed and listened to an interesting talk on Iraq by Sami Ramidani, but when I left I was harangued on the stairs by a young woman who made Jacqui Smith look positively alluring. She told me I was a sexist disgrace. She seemed very proud of being the Chair of Glasgow Stop the War. I expect it too has a rapidly declining membership.

Anyway, the Stop the War Coalition has now put up videos of its conference keynote speakers on its website, but not including me. I shall take it I am not wanted in future.

Issues of gender equality arose at the Dundee University Court meeting on Monday. The University is in discussion to open a satellite campus in a Gulf state. It is potentially both interesting and a major source of revenue. However it seems that lectures would have to be segregated. There were two views on University Court. Some felt that we should respect local culture, and that the important thing was that women had education of equal quality. Others felt that segregation was so far removed from our values as a university that it was not something with which we should associate.

I feel strongly we shouldn’t do it. The issues are interesting, and cut across feminism. I expect that a few of the feminists who harangued at me at Stop the War would be quite happy with women being kept away from men. My thinking is not particularly feminist. I think mingling with all types of people is much more important to the university experience than anything a dull old lecturer will tell you. And I also pointed out to Court that, if a woman insisted on her right to attend a “Male” lecture, we could be in the position of enforcing segregation.

I have never been a fan of cultural relativism, so the argument of respecting local values cuts little ice with me. But I realise other will have a different view.


A view on the Stop The War controversy by someone else who was there comes on the Daily Maybe


I have no idea why they treat HOPI so badly. Do they get Iranian money?

On the “sexism” issue more generally, I added this comment in the debate below – I thought it might stir people’s brain cells a bit more:

Actually, I am against all forms of disadvantage on grounds of race, gender etc.

Where I differ is that I view sexuality (as opposed to gender) as simply another attribute and as open to use and to humour as any other.

As a teen I shovelled coal on a coalyard at weekends. In the course of the day men might easily lift and carry fifty tons of coal on their back, in hundredweight lots. I do not view that as any less exploitation of their bodies than the work a prostitute does. And I don’t view clerical drudgery as essentially different.

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46 thoughts on “Warning: This Post Contains Sexism

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  • Jon

    I don’t want to stray too off-topic from the point of the post, but am interested in the point about the fall-away of ordinary support from the anti-war movements. Is that just because those folks have felt that after protesting a few times, with no resultant British withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, that they might as well give up? I guess the reasons might be many and varied, but it’s the only one I can think of.

  • JimmyGiro

    “@JimmyGiro – you forgot a third category. What would be the position of people who are both feminists *and* fathers? :o)”

    Under the thumb?

  • dreoilin

    ‘If I were married to Jacqui Smith, I would probably use a lot of porn too.’

    If I were married to Jack Straw, I would probably make extensive use of a vibrator.

    What on *earth* was all the fuss about?

    I like the sound of Mary Wollstonecraft. That’s the kind of feminist I was back around 1970. Very different from the man-hating, aggressive types I see on the net today (many of them in North America for some reason.)

  • eddie

    Jon As of today we are out of Iraq so you could argue that STWC is 50% there – not that their point of view made a blind bit of difference.

  • Dr Paul

    The Hands Off the People of Iran is not in good odour with the Stop the War Campaign leadership because it (HOPI) is, within its opposition to military attacks and economic sanctions on Iran, very hostile to the Iranian regime, which it sees as repressive and unpleasant to the population of Iran. This, for some reason, upsets the people at the top of the Stop the War Campaign.

    In a sense, it is a squabble amongst people on the hard left, but, as a HOPI member, I feel that it is necessary to condemn the Iranian regime whenever it oppresses workers, women, national minorities, etc, etc, alongside opposing Western military and economic action against Iran.

  • Anon

    I no longer see female executives on the motorway, copying men in powerful cars, usually with a slightly flat tyre to remind us of their underlying vulnerability, and maybe a few less well-heeled young ladies in the middle lane oblivious to all as they gossip on their mobiles. The recession has resulted in essential-only journeys: family visits and people going to work.

    The politically incorrect are having to mind their p’s and q’s now just to get employment. Maybe the scarcity of people at the stop the war coalition meeting is because Obama’s peace slobber has temporarily confused the punters, especially those colourfully dressed Quaker ladies who believe in the power of that kind of talk.

    Having been involved with some of the above types of women I can tell you that a Muslim wife is an asset of pure gold, definitely another species to the likes of sour Smith and barmy Blears.

  • anticant

    Who cares what “the people at the top of the Stop the War Campaign” and the addlebrained SWPers and other ‘hard left’ groupuscules think? These people are mosquitos on the political elephant.

  • McDuff

    I think the question really is, does it help or hinder the broader points you’re making if you intersperse them with asides, however brief, that essentially come down to: “also, my political opponent is ugly and I would not have sex with her. Haw haw.”

    You’ve been a public speaker long enough now, I presume, to realise that it can be the little throwaway asides that get lodged in people’s minds. That might not be the intellectually optimal outcome but it sure as shinola is an accurate reflection of the way people think. Why resort, in the middle of a speech that everyone present agrees with, to the kind of schoolyard rhetoric which you must have been aware would cause a ruckus.

    Being “PC” in the parlance of the tabloids is what we used to call “basic politeness” before the white male backlash had its way and convinced a generation of privileged people that personally insulting people based on their class was a mark of intellectual courage. You wonder why comments like that can upset people so? Because from their point of view it says this: “I may well have presented a cohesive viewpoint that seems to be on your side, but when it comes down to it I still have no reservations with defining a woman in terms of whether I would have sex with her or not.” Militant and ugly or not, we always throw up our hands at this because it’s not necessary and it does nothing except point out that you think there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a bit of sexist banter now and then – just for fun, though, right?

    You say it wasn’t her physical appearance you were referring to, but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that is how it would come across. Criticising people for not getting the many levels of subtext buried beneath a petty insult smacks of sour grapes.

    And “it’s just a joke” can’t excuse everything. Had you made a joke about Barack Obama loving him some fried chicken I’m sure you would have come in for just as much public opprobrium. More importantly, I hope you’d realise that such a joke would be outside the bounds of good taste and therefore not suitable for throwing in as an aside to “tease the left”, no matter how funny or light hearted you believed it to be.

    The problem is, and this is something that a lot of men don’t necessarily *get* because it doesn’t happen to them, is that “minority” classes struggle to deal not just with their reputation as private individuals but with the reputation of their class. Driving is a quick and easy example. If you see a man crash his car into a wall the natural response is rarely “pfft, male drivers, eh? They should stay in the shed.” Women – and blacks, muslims, homosexuals etc – constantly find themselves under scrutiny not just for what their actions say about them but what their actions say about everyone they are being lumped into. Thus when a person takes offense that person is lumped into a discounted group, those “angry” feminists who are insufficiently quiet and who have the audacity to tell men that they’re being rude. And when confronted by such a person, the natural reaction appears to be to lump that person into the group with Jacqui Smith – “her point may have been valid or invalid, but before we get to that, did I mention that I wouldn’t have sex with her?” And we needed that information why, exactly, to help us with our value judgement of her personality?

    I hope you see what I’m driving at here. Maybe not. I’m sure JimmyGiro will come in to point out that I am “under the thumb,” “sex hating” or possibly some variation of not a real man or something, but then, he seems to have some kind of autistic spectrum disorder that keeps him as a kind of petulant man-child, spouting nonsense about he’s soooo underprivileged, because everyone knows the mark of equality is when you can insult someone and they can’t tell you that you’re being rude.

    But really, what you did here was stand on a public platform and said you wouldn’t send Obama out to pick your watermelons for fear he’d steal them, and then described the people who criticised you for it as uppity. Think about it in those terms. Still just a funny joke?

  • anticant

    I am vehemently against “hate speech” laws and PC-speak excesses, but I also deplore bad taste. Surely it is taste, and the wish not to offend gratuitously, which is the mark of the civilised person (dare I say “gentleman”?)

    As I belong to at least two minorities who are commonly insulted and treated with opprobrium (gays and atheists), am I not entitled to protest at rude jibes about either? It’s not a matter for censorship; it’s about tolerance and social justice.

    I really don’t understand why an idiot on another thread thinks it’s useful or relevant – whether true or not – to accuse Craig of being a closet homosexual. What interests me about Craig is his politics, not his sexuality. He can enjoy having sex with three baboons whilst hanging from the ceiling for all I care. I would think no worse of him for it.

  • inane heffalump

    Boys you really need to go lie down somewhere very quiet and stay there til you get over the “feminist” who turned you down! Its alright the world won’t end just cos a couple of women forgot our place and expressed an opinion critical of an important man


    I don’t understand what you’re moaning about? If you make a sexist remark at the annual conference of a coalition to the left of politics in this country, expect to get challenged over it.

    What you shouldn’t do is repeat such bullshit on your blog, along with the frankly abusive remarks above about a young woman’s looks and insinuating that women who are angry about your views are just ‘mad feminists’.

  • JohnB

    A racist comment would not have been tolerated, and nor should a sexist comment. Sorry Craig, I think you’re a remarkable and courageous person, but really you should know that a remark of that nature would not go down well on the left who treat sexism with the contempt that it deserves. You should have apologised, or explained that no sexism was intended if that was the case, but instead you have come away with a slightly bruised ego and chosen to make further offensive comments about females at the conference. What a shame. I am sure you are not ‘persona non grata’ in the eyes of Stop the War (I don’t believe they are that foolish) but obviously this will cause a rift if it can’t be nipped in the bud now, and infighting benefits nobody but the warmongers and the torturers.

  • JohnB

    “but when I left I was harangued on the stairs by a young woman who made Jacqui Smith look positively alluring.”

    Whilst I agree that the reaction to your speech was indicative of a lack of a sense of humour, the above remark seems merely gratuitous.


    Agree with this. Very disappointing rhetoric from Craig Murray and a million miles away from the qualities that has made him a hero in the eyes of so many. Please stop this now.

  • lenin

    I’m not going to feign shock-horror at Craig’s comment. Not just because it’s a relatively trivial incident in itself (hardly the basis for a split in the antiwar movement) but because everyone who has read his book or just read the newspapers knows that he is not “politically correct”. There are less flattering ways to put that, but the point is that I’m not surprised that Craig would make a joke like this. I am bit surprised he would make the mistake of presenting it to an audience of leftwingers, and not expect someone to challenge it. And also a bit depressed by the stock response to being challenged on this sort of comment by a woman (which is to impugn the appearance of the challenger: cf., Billy Connolly joking that his response to a feminist was: “I thought you were the plumber”). I do think this reflects a feeling that many men have of being entitled to sexist jokes, to the extent that they expect not to be criticised for it.

    Even more surprising is the jurassic quality of some of the comments in this thread. It is very easy, and obviously very tempting for some, to lampoon offended responses to sexism as just the humourless hysteria of the hard left. Such was the typical response to serious anti-racist and anti-sexist activism during the 1980s: you can’t say anything with the loony left breathing down your neck. It was probably a good alibi while it lasted, but I don’t think anti-sexism is the preserve of the hard left any more. I can imagine any Guardian-reading liberal, and probably quite a few Tories for that matter, being just as offended. Atrocity tales about Trots and radical feminists are no longer as potent as they were.

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