Voices: Boris Johnson allowing a ‘Sexist of the Year’ award would come as no surprise to anyone

·4-min read
Culture is set from the top of organisations and from the top of our country (Getty Images)
Culture is set from the top of organisations and from the top of our country (Getty Images)

‘Sexist of the Year’ must be such a competitive award to win. Whoever was allegedly awarded it from the staff at Number 10 during an illegal shindig in Christmas 2020 should feel rightly proud of their achievements in an incredibly crowded field.

I’ve yet to hear the prime minister’s response as to why the award of “Sexist of the Year” was apparently being given out at a lockdown-busting party – I suppose the person who won it may very well feel that they were ambushed with the award unknowingly.

Perhaps the defence is that it was actually an exercise in public shaming of the sexist fella in the office and is part of equality and diversity training to show that this stuff will be called out? I imagine the main response I will hear from right-wing commentators is that it’s just a bit of fun and we shouldn’t get our knickers (which we flash to win power, apparently) in an unnecessary twist.

Women who complain about sexism are always painted as not liking a joke, which – as someone who is without doubt, a bit of a class clown can tell you – is simply not the case. I love a gag. I just prefer them when they are funny. Call me picky, but don’t call me humourless.

The problem for me is not the award itself (though I do think it smacks of public school “bantz” that I would not find amusing at all), as I guess I am not in on the joke. Sexist idiots will be sexist idiots, and when you deal with rape, sexual exploitation and women’s low pay every day, as I do, you realise you have considerably bigger fish to fry than worrying about ultra-posh boys and their little party games. What I am bothered about, however, is that those party boys run the country. Sexism is writ large in their politics and the things that they care about.

It is not an accident that 99 per cent of those accused of rape get away with their behaviours. It is not an accident that a police officer named by their fellow office colleagues as “the rapist” was allowed to repeatedly offend without consequence before he went on to brutally rape and murder Sarah Everard. It is not an accident that women were hit hardest by job losses and insecure finance during the pandemic. It is not an accident that the government are spending more on a fancy trade boat than they are spending on domestic abuse refuges.

Culture is set from the top of organisations and from the top of our country. I don’t give a toss about funny office awards – I give a toss that the people who operate in No 10 have used that same sexism to see the biggest transfer of money from the purse (women’s finances) to the wallet (men’s finances) with the removal of family and child tax credits; and the invention of universal credit which is paid to one person in the house.

It was not until campaigners like me intervened that they even thought about the need to provide victims of domestic abuse with split payments. When you let a bunch of people run your country who think it award-worthy to be a bit of a sexist, what you end up with is policy that repeatedly forgets women’s life experiences – and furthers a situation where women have less.

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When the prime minister takes to the airwaves to talk about being tough on crime and security, he may very well think he is; because when he thinks about the safety and security of “our nation” he thinks about men in uniforms atop tanks. I’d be willing to bet he never stops for a second to think about what safety and security means for women in their homes, workplaces and on the streets.

I am currently waiting for much promised action on women’s safety and security. I am waiting for the government to make a preventative duty about sexual harassment in the workplace. I am waiting for them to finally finish the guidance for the Domestic Abuse Act. I am waiting for reviews in to non-disclosure agreements for when women and girls are assaulted in universities or schools. I am waiting for them to do anything at all about the tens of thousands of women fired for being pregnant every year.

Women are always waiting for some sort of action that gets promised when there is a hideous or famous case in the media. The trouble is, it never comes to fruition – because there is no political will or action to see it through. The reason for this? Clearly it’s because the prime minister’s office is too busy giving out boorish, boyish awards for the “Sexist of the Year”.

The jokes don’t matter. The outcome of letting the jokers rule is the real problem.

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