Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mock Their Ignorance

Did you hear what happened today in “Mock The Week”? Me neither. But I have twitter, so I don’t have to know.

Apparently they made some sexist jokes. I know, knock me over with a feather.

At any rate, feminists on twitter called them out on their crap, and a “twitter-debate” followed. I caught this much:

Mock The Week: “we're just saying that gender does not matter to us when we book a comedian”

Ellie Cumbo: “It should matter. You are failing to cater to the experiences of over half your audience”

Mock The Week: “are we? We've millions of female viewers who keep watching”

Let’s put aside the, frankly, unjustifiable claim that “gender does not matter when we book a comedian”. So, how do comedians audition? Behind a screen and with a voice distorting machine thingy?
If gender really didn’t matter, there would be more female comedians. End of.
Speaking of which, why doesn’t Shappi Khorsandi have her own programme already?

What I want to focus is on their defence “argument” that “we have female viewers who keep watching”.

It turns out, for those who may not be aware of it (like me, 10 minutes ago), that “Mock the Week” is produced by an independent company and is then broadcasted on BBC 2.

Allow me to make a huge mental leap here and conclude that the show is, effectively, bought by the BBC. With taxpayer’s money.
Now the BBC is a “public service broadcaster”, supported by the public. Which means that it’s there to serve the public. And the public should have the ultimate say into what goes on.

So if the public is saying “oi! Sexism!”, what should the BBC do? That’s right: it should respect the will of the public and do as the public says. At least that is what should happen if we truly lived in a “democracy”.

See, I talk endlessly about the “free market” and nobody listens because it’s not a “hip and cool” topic. Unfortunately, though, it’s precisely what underpins most of our problems with mass culture.

So despite the fact that MTW is, effectively, financed by the public, Mr MTW Twitterer has the nerve of coming out and defending its sexist actions under “well, customers buy our product”.

No. It doesn’t work that way. Because the BBC is a public service paid by the public.

For a similar example, imagine what would happen if we all complained about sexism in the NHS and Mr NHS representative came out and said “well, customers keep coming”. We would probably laugh in his face. The NHS is a public service paid by the public. Which means that the public gets to decide what happens with it. NOT THE “CUSTOMER”.

*sigh* I really don’t know how to make this clearer.
Public service: paid by the taxpayer because we all agree that it’s a public good. And because we pay for it, we decide what happens with it.
Private service: paid by “customers”. What happens with it is somewhat decided by whether customers buy a certain product or not. If they don’t, the company loses.


Now there will be people who try to apply a “private service” or “free market” mentality to MTW and try and defend the show on the grounds that “female viewers keep on coming”.

Here’s the thing: the public not always knows what is best for themselves.

Does that sound paternalistic? Perhaps. Unfortunately, under the current political system, the choices are either “free market” or “estate paternalism”.

The NHS is supported by the public, and it’s the public who (ideally) has the ultimate say. However, not everyone’s opinion will carry the same weight. For example, it doesn’t matter if most members of the public smoke: the NHS’s approach is to treat smoking as a silent killer. That’s because there are doctors and specialists who know better than “the public” what is best for “the public”.

And we are all cool with that. Because, ultimately, we can’t all be doctors. And so we trust doctors to know what’s best for us.

Similarly, there is one group of people who are experts in what constitutes sexism. They may not be regular consultants for the BBC, but they should be. Can you guess who they are?

That’s right: feminists. It matters little whether most women “don’t notice” the sexism in MTW. Because if they did, they would be feminists. And they would be calling it out, like we do.

Most women may or may not be “feminists”, but that shouldn’t be here or there. When it comes to noticing sexism, feminists are experts. And if we say “oi! Sexism!”, it’s because it’s there.

And it shouldn’t be.


Anonymous said...

'So if the public is saying “oi! Sexism!”...'

Is the public saying that, then? Or is it just a couple of people on Twitter? You didn't even see tonight's show, and apparently the feminists you are referring to have all stopped watching it previously anyway.

Miscriant said...

I think that there is a lot more to this than meets the eye - I'm a woman, I watch and enjoy Mock the Week to the extent I have it series linked (modern technology eat your heart out). I also belive in womans rights, equality, no sexism etc and I can say that I have never noticed a recurring trend (and that is important - the odd comment may slip through unintentionally which is what I believe happened yesteday but that is down to the comedian, not the programme) in MTW being sexist against women. British comedy has statistically more men than women in it, therefore it is statistically more likely that comedy shows will have more men than women on them. So should an independent programme take action over the shouting of a few women over 1 incident that the majority did not even see first hand and are merely jumping on the sexist bandwagon, or should they focus on the show and ensuring that the are still maintaing viewing numbers - which appears to be the case. That is a good way to ensure that Licence payer (not tax payer) fees are well spent.

Mary Tracy said...

Miscriant, I would argue that a public service (like the BBC) should aim to do more than "maintain viewing numbers". Otherwise, why bother having a publicly owned broadcasting company? Fox does precisely the same thing and it's private.
Then again they gain their viewership mostly by fuelling a mass histeria over immigrants and taxes.

One of the first goals of a public service should be to benefit the public. That means the BBC has a duty to reverse the trend of sexism in comedy, because less sexism is a public good.

Meg said...

Fantastic post :)

Mary Tracy said...

Be honest, is it rally understandable?