Top Gear's latest ad boldly goes where the 1950s went, like, all that time ago

The ADgenda: this week's most offensive advert.

For a show striving towards boldly going where no man has gone before on four wheels, Top Gear’s latest advert has gone where many men have gone before – 1950s gender stereotypes. In the newest trailer, the men are shown getting up to their usual manly antics revving through mud and knocking giant balls around while the women, inexplicably reminiscent of a housewife stereotype, whine about the mess the boys have made of their clothes. Meanwhile, a young and pretty woman is polishing the Stig’s helmet. And suddenly all the gender stereotypes the media has been gently edging away from for decades are blown back in our faces.

Top Gear hasn’t been the greatest feminist advocate, it’s true. Jeremy Clarkson’s presence alone is enough to burn straight through to the “banter” hashtag on twitter. But there’s something about how unsurprising this is as a Top Gear advert that makes it so much more surprising. Of course the excitement of rallies and rugby would be contrasted with mundane womanly housework. Of course there would be a pretty girl to show how cool they are and how uncool women over 30 are. And, of course, its fans would advise a “sense of humour transplant” to anybody criticising a single frame of the show;  under Lorraine Candy’s article in the Daily Mail is scrawled a plethora of attacks guarding their beloved show from the cruel hand of a “dried-up old feminist”. But we could probably use a few dried-up old feminists scrubbing the misogynism out of the trio’s muddy reputations. 

Instead of desensitising ourselves into a “sense of humour” bland enough to find misogynism funny, maybe The Boys should work on the absolute minimum requirement of sensitivity that it takes to avoid association with the #everydaysexism tag. It doesn’t take that much out of you, I swear. 

Photograph: Getty Images
Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.