Seth MacFarlane's Oscars opener was a great, steaming misogynist turd

"We Saw Your Boobs" teaches us a lesson about postmodern irony and the appreciation of tits, says Glosswitch.

I have in my time been called a “humourless feminist”. Obviously this is something of which I’m very proud. I think if you’re not called humourless at least once – preferably by someone who’s also speculating on where you are in your menstrual cycle – then you’re doing feminism wrong (this rule applies regardless of whether or not you’re someone who actually menstruates. I’m pretty sure my partner’s been accused of having PMS in his time, although clearly not by me).

Much as I appreciate the “humourless” accolade, I’m not however sure I’ve truly earned it. I’m actually bloody hilarious, me, once I get going. Or rather, I do try. I’m not a comedy scriptwriter or anything, but I think I see the funny side in things. Perhaps I’m the only one who thinks this, though. That’s the trouble with humour; it’s so personal (for instance, the thing I still consider to be the funniest thing EVER is my partner giving his dad a hat for Christmas in 2002 and ACCIDENTALLY writing “Hatty Christmas” on the gift tag. Over a decade later, I’m still pissing myself about that, for reasons even I don’t understand).

*waits for hysterics at the memory to subside*

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, humour. I reckon that feminists do tend to have a sense of humour. God knows, they need it. At the same time, I can see where the “humourless feminist” stereotype comes from. Humour is just such a great vehicle for sexism it stands to reason that some will see attacks on sexism as attacks on humour itself (by “some” I mean “sexist idiots”, but there are a lot of them about).

Humour is used to undermine women, and by that I don’t just mean the content of specific jokes, but broader understandings of the way in which humour functions. Women are continually told that they are “less funny” – less intelligent? less creative? less engaging? – than men. Failing to laugh at a person’s jokes is a powerful put-down, and this happens more to women than to men – because they are “less funny”? Or is it the delivery? The high-pitched voice? The fact that we don’t empathize with other women quite so much as with men? It’s hard to tell. Certainly humour is linked to power in ways which are hard to deconstruct (and totally unfunny should you try). Panel shows such as Mock the Week will include their token funny woman but she’s rarely amusing; you sense her subordination right from the start. Often she seems to be there to legitimise the rest of them, the “real” comedians. Someone makes a sexist joke and the camera focuses on her face, as she’s the only one grimacing politely rather than laughing; her expression alone is somehow seen to be an adequate response to the same old boorish crap (“see, we got someone to show disapproval for you!”).

Of course, unamusing as the jokes may be, unless you’re actually aiming for humourless feminist status you’re not going to want to be the grimacing woman. You’ll want to be one of the lads, to show you have the requisite joie de vivre and maturity not to be offended by anything. Laughing at jokes which are apparently sexist is a sign of sophistication. It shows you “get” it, although “it” never has to be explained (that would just spoil the effect). It’s all to do with postmodern irony or something. Postmodern irony and the appreciation of tits.

As a pre-identified humourless feminist, I’m thankfully in a position to say I thought Seth MacFarlane’s 2013 Oscars opener, "We Saw Your Boobs", was a great, steaming misogynist turd. I’m allowed to say this because I’ve nothing to lose. I’m not clever enough to rise above this humour, not resilient enough to find it funny. It makes me feel uncomfortable, in the way that so much Hollywood misogyny makes me uncomfortable, but to a greater extent because it’s so direct and concentrated (that’ll be the irony, I presume. Alas, it’s whooshed straight over my head). The thing is, though, if I – and a great deal of others – don’t find it funny, doesn’t it mean it is less funny? Or are we, the humourless, once again at fault?

The defence often presented for MacFarlane (and others such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone) is that their humour isn’t a specific attack on anyone. As long as you’re a self-styled misanthropist who hates everyone equally, you can’t, so the story goes, be accused of racism or sexism. I have to say I don’t buy this. The “everyone’s as shit as each other shrug” implicitly supports the status quo and it’s a status quo which benefits the likes of MacFarlane. Family Guy might purport to be even-handed in calling out the hypocrisies of left and right, but it’s overly presumptuous in its claim for neutrality. It’s still an able-bodied white man’s view of the world. You don’t earn the right to indulge in damaging stereotypes and prejudices just because you’ve promised to be mean to everyone else. Your bold decision to occupy the moral low ground isn’t enough to make you a person who’s pre-empted all criticism. You’re still picking and choosing your targets and so can everyone else.

What looks like sophistication and edginess is actually a lack of nuance and the fear of doing anything that’s genuinely risky, such as holding an opinion that isn’t just an implicit backing-up of the dominant positions that you’re claiming to debunk. I think for a long time programmes such as Family Guy threw me, as the domestic set-up and message seemed so Daily Mail, yet the tone didn’t. But it’s just that, the tone. And then the problem is, does offence at MacFarlane’s sexism stay focussed on the sheer Daily Mail-ness of it, or tip over into classic slut shaming (“he did a thing about boobs!”)? I wouldn’t know. Anyhow, I’ve not even watched the rest of the Oscars ceremony. I trust it deconstructed the racism and sexism of Hollywood in a way that would amuse racists and sexists, if no one else. Alas, I just don’t have a good enough sense of humour for these things any more.

PS I’m disappointed because to be honest, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Brian. I imagined he was a dog I could totally hang out with, drinking martinis and being pretentious. I bet he’d even laugh about Hatty Christmas...

This post originally appeared on Glosswitch's blog,, and is crossposted here with her permission.

Seth MacFarlane hosting the 2013 Oscars ceremony. Photograph: Getty Images

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.