Show Hide image

2012: The year in sexism

Twelve months of disgraceful discrimination.

January. It is reported that on average a measly two out of ten speakers on the BBC’s Today programme are women. (Later in the year, John Humphrys is reduced to asking a man to “imagine” he is a woman in an all-male panel on breast cancer.)

February. The US radio-show host Rush Limbaugh calls the student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking in favour of contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans. But at least he finally provides a decisive answer to the question: “How much of a tool do you have to be to make 67 firms pledge never to advertise on your show again?”

March. The infamous Uni Lad website returns after a brief hiatus and promptly begins spewing the same misogynistic vitriol about “smashing wenches”. (Minus its previous advice that low rape reporting rates represent “good odds”. So that’s better.)

April. The Sunday Times TV critic and noted Adonis A A Gill claims that the classicist Mary Beard is “too ugly for TV” and “should be kept away from cameras”. She gently points out that he has accidentally “mistaken prejudice for being witty”.

May. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Gaining Weight While Pregnant Shocker. The media and thousands of fans lambast the Indian actress for failing to shed the extra pounds immediately post-partum. Special mention to those who accused her of “betraying her country”.

June. Two issues of Now magazine appear side by side on newsagents’ shelves. One reports that the model Abbey Clancy is “dangerously thin” and girls are starving themselves to look like her. The other offers diet tips to get her figure. Meanwhile, the European Commission launches a breathtakingly patronising video aimed at encouraging women into science: a masterpiece of dancing and giggling, with a pink background and make-up montages.

July. The blogger Anita Sarkeesian faces a viral hate campaign after merely proposing research into the tropes of women in video games. One geek feels so strongly that there is no problem with the portrayal of women in the medium that he creates an online game where players can punch Sarkeesian in the face.

August. In the US, the Republican science enthusiast Todd Akin proclaims that women’s bodies are magically able to ward off pregnancy in cases of “legitimate” rape. (To be fair, his research efforts were hampered because Mitt Romney had the binder full of women that day.)

September. “No More Page Three” campaigners are stunned into humiliated silence when the former Sun deputy editor Neil Wallis stymies them with the shock revelation that there are other problems in the world. Admirably, the Sun covers these important issues on page two, which incidentally doubles as the crucial buffer zone between the outraged anti-Jimmy Savile campaign on the front page and the teenage tits on page three.

October. Netmums pronounces feminism dead, on the somewhat amusing basis that only one in seven women self-defines as a feminist – giving it a nationwide “membership” numbering just under 4.5 million . . . more than ten times that of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties combined.

November. PlayStation decides it’s a great idea to advertise its new Vita console using a picture of a woman with two sets of breasts and no head. I’ll just repeat that one. They advertise it using a picture of a woman. With two sets of breasts. And no head.

December. Just as I’m worrying that nobody will be stupidly, noteworthily sexist enough in the first few days of December to meet my deadline, FHM rides to my rescue in spectacular style with its astounding, assaultnormalising advice that readers shouldn’t borrow socks from their girlfriend/mother/victim. Cheers, FHM! Job done.

Author’s note: potential entries from Mail Online’s “sidebar of shame” were regrettably omitted from this article, amid rising concerns over the NS ink budget

This article first appeared in the 24 December 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Brian Cox and Robin Ince guest edit

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.