Posts Tagged ‘Sandi Toksvig’

No, Toksvig, Sometimes Testosterone-Fuelled Jokes are the Only Appropriate Response

December 2, 2017

Sandi Toksvig, the presenter of Qi, former presenter of Radio 4’s News Quiz, and various game shows on BBC TV, was in the I last week. She and her same-sex partner, a BBC radio presenter or manager, are the founders of the Women’s Equality Party. She came out to say that there ought to be an equal number of women on panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes.

I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I might be misjudging her. But I found it odd that she could say this, after she very publicly gave her endorsement in the elections last year to Hillary Clinton and Theresa May. Because they were both girls going after the top job. It didn’t matter that Killary has earned her nickname because she’s a vicious warmonger, who has never met a war she didn’t like, and fully backs the American imperialist machine. And if you want to see the kind of horrors that has inflicted on the peoples of the Developing World in the decades since the Second World, I strongly recommend you look at the videos Abby Martin has made about the subject over at The Empire Files.

But warning: you need a very, very strong stomach for some of this. It doesn’t dwell, but neither does it shy way from describing the sexual mutilation of women and men, and the rapes committed by the South American Death Squads trained by the American military at the base formerly called the ‘School of the Americas’.

Both Killary and May are, in terms of their policies, profoundly anti-woman. They have nothing to offer working people, except more poverty, exploitation and disenfranchisement. And women perform the lowest paid work, and so are at the sharp end of this. Both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn actually have better policies for women, and are probably better feminists, despite both being men. Which is why Killary and his supporters in the Labour had to manufacture accusations of misogyny against them. As well as attacking women, who weren’t going to vote for their fave female candidates as ‘traitors’.

Which shows how much respect these self-proclaimed, middle class corporate feminists really have for women and their ability to make their own minds up.

If you want something closer to proper feminism, you could have voted for the Green Party. It’s presidential candidate was Jill Stein, a medical doctor. Part of her platform was Medicare For All. She made the point that women particularly needed it, and was seen discussing the issue with a group of ladies in one of her political broadcasts. I put it up here, so it should be on this blog somewhere.

Likewise the British Green Party. They were, briefly, the left-wing alternative to the Labour party when it was run by the Clintonite fanboys, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then followed by Ed Miliband, who still adhered to their policy of trying to copy the Tories in the hope of winning over swing voters. The Greens are very hot on feminism and equality. I don’t whether it’s still true now, but they used to have a joint female-male presidency, where both a man and woman were in charge of the party together.

But this would have been a bit too radical for Toksvig and go. They want a nice, respectable type of feminism. A feminism that gives women access to the top jobs, but which otherwise leaves the class structure intact. A type of feminism that won’t frighten true-Blue Conservatives with terrible visions of boiler suited lesbians with degrees in sociology telling kids they should be bisexual. Or whatever stereotyped nonsense the Scum, Heil, Torygraph and Star are trying to push.

Now the argument that there should be a better gender balance on panel shows is a good one, and it can stand alone. It doesn’t really need a ‘because’. You can simply make the point that women are half the population, and so should be given half the places on these game shows. To support it, you need only to say that there are very many talented women, who are being passed over because of gender bias, or who provide a different, fresh point of view.

Toksvig’s statement that they’re needed on the panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes is in some ways strange, and actually rather reactionary. It’s misandrist, in that it sees men as being rather nasty, and who can only be restrained and civilised by women. It’s also very curiously old-fashioned, as if Toksvig hasn’t quite come round to understanding how women can also be lewd, crude and coarse.

In general, women do prefer a less coarse type of humour, though that’s true of a fair number of men as well. And I think that an awful lot of men, who don’t like that kind of humour being made in front of their wives also really object to it themselves, but as we’re supposed to be roughty-toughty blokes we aren’t supposed to show it. So we project it onto the memsahibs and use them as an excuse.

But women can also be very coarse. I’ve known women, who were far cruder than I was, and every bit as vulgar as any man. I’m not saying all women are like this. But it’s true of some. And there is the feminist argument that says that women should be free to do so, and talk explicitly about sex, without being condemned as whores.

And since the 1990s there have been any number of female comedians telling very sexually explicit jokes. Or further back, if you count Joan Rivers. The female led, and directed film Bridesmaids won critical acclaim the other year, but the crudity of its humour was remarked upon and did cause some controversy. I also remember a review of evening of stand-up comedy by the gay community in London. This feature a female comedian traumatising the men in the audience with a monologue about her cervical smear. Well, it was the 1990s, the age of Topless Darts and other crimes against television. You can also go and look at Absolutely Fabulous if you like. It’s witty, funny and very well done. But much of the humour is based about sex, and it doesn’t shy from talking about issues that would have Lord Reith spinning in his grave, like homosexuality. One of its heroines, Edina is a man-hungry, champaign-swigging selfish monster, while another of the characters, who runs a PR agency, uses the type of language that would make a docker blush. And when BBC 3 was still around, and orienting itself as da yoof channel, some of the programmes presented by women had coarse language in their titles. Like ‘F*ck Off, I’m a Hairy Woman’, which was presented by a female comedian attacking the beauty industry that demands women pluck and shave their bodies.

But there is also the argument that sometimes, very harsh, cruel, dark humour is the only appropriate response to a particular subject.

For example, there’s the late Bill Hicks, and Frankie Boyle, both known for their bitter political humour. Hicks’ humour was sexually explicit, and could be quite foul. There was an element of homophobia there, particularly when he told his audience that George Michael was gay, and if you ladies loved him, then you were too. But in coarser language. Some of it was simply about porn, the inauthenticity of contemporary rock stars, and getting drunk and stoned.

But he also used his vicious wit against Reagan’s super-patriotic America. In one monologue, he described Reagan’s Attorney-General Ed Meese as a serial killer, who would one day cut his wrists in the bath. Then they’d find the skins and clothes of all the children he’d murdered in his attack.

But Reagan was responsible for backing Fascist Death Squads in Central America, who committed horrendous atrocities. And so there was a point when he said that he’d pay ‘an extra nickel, just to have little brown kids not clubbed to death like baby seals’. It’s shocking imagery, but it was true. And he was one of the greatest protest voices in the media against such horrors in the ’80s. Channel 4 actually gave him his own show. I don’t think we’d be that lucky now.

Now on to Frankie Boyle. Boyle’s humour is too dark, extreme and tasteless for many people, irrespective of their gender or sexual identity. He was a member of Mock the Week, a satirical panel show presided over by Dara O’Briain, but was too extreme for the Beeb. But there was a point to his dark, vicious jokes. What got pulled from one episode was a joke he made about calling up the Ministry of Defence, and getting ‘the Department of N*gger Bombing’. I don’t doubt that this was pulled because it contained the ‘N’ word, which is highly offensive coming from Whites. But arguably, Boyle was quite right to use it, and right about the joke. He explained to Richard Osman at the Edinburgh Television Festival one year that he made it, because he had read about comments from British generals during the Empire’s heyday that said they were all about ‘bombing n*ggers’. He was factually correct. And it was a curt, but pithy remark on contemporary western imperialism under Bush and Blair. Or whichever mass-murderer was in power then.

It was offensive, but it was an accurate reflection of an even more offensive reality.

So while I can see where Toksvig is coming from with her comments, I think she’s wrong to condemn all dark, weird and brutal humour, simply because it offends her delicate sensibilities. Sometimes you need the extreme and tasteless to reveal and comment on an even more horrific reality. One that Toksvig, it seems, with her backing of Killary and May, wants to deny exists, or is perfectly comfortable with.

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Sandi Toksvig’s Public Schoolgirl Feminism and Support for Theresa May and Hillary Clinton

October 15, 2016

Sandi Toksvig, the comedienne, author, and host of Radio 4’s News Quiz in this week’s Radio Times. She is, apparently, due to take over from Stephen Fry as the host on QI. She and her partner also took time off the other year to launch the Women’s Equality party, and this is one of the topics covered in the interview. She particularly discusses her support for Hillary Clinton and, on this side of the Atlantic, Theresa May.

I have had very mixed feelings about Toksvig for a very long time. I’m not taking issue with her feminism – far from it. Women aren’t given the same status and opportunities as men, and there is widespread agreement that this is an issue that demands to be tackled. Moreover, while she is a lesbian feminist, she’s not the stereotypical misandrist. She makes it very clear in her general demeanour that she doesn’t hate men. She has a son, whom it is very clear she dearly loves, and indeed, she also talks about how her party has the support of many ‘wonderful men’.

On the other hand, I gave up listening to the News Quiz years ago for the same reason I stopped watching Stephen Fry on QI: I got heartily sick of the more or less constant sneering about religion every single week. And it is her endorsement of the above two politicians that I take issue with now.

Toksvig states that she believes that Theresa May is the right person for the job of Prime Minister. She claims that she was not responsible for the current economic crisis the country is in. She makes the point that the men, who were responsible all stabbed each other in the back, and then swam off as quickly as their blood loss would allow. it’s a lurid metaphor, but accurate for the way Boris, Gove and Cameron all betrayed each other over Brexit. She then goes on to state how she is not one of those people, who are immediately opposed to something because it’s Tory. Then she went on to talk about her support for Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps this shows my own narrow political views and prejudice, but it’s at this point that I gave up. Whatever their other merits, Theresa May and Hillary Clinton aren’t the right people for the job. Theresa May is a Tory, and she shares all the Thatcherite, neoliberal, corporatist views and policies of his male predecessors. This involves further cuts and privatisation, the dismantlement of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS. These are hurting, and in many cases killing, the poorest, most vulnerable sections of our society.

Ditto for Hillary Clinton. With Bill, she has also participated and backed government cuts on what little America has of welfare support. The anti-drug laws she introduced were devised by the right with the specific intention of targeting and incarcerating Blacks. She has also shown herself every bit as bloodthirsty and hawkish as her male colleagues, backing the Iraq invasion, and deliberately re-defining the coup in Honduras so that Obama’s regime could continue giving military aid to the military dictatorship running the country. This is a Fascist regime, that is imprisoning and murdering leftists, trade unionists and indigenous activists. She has also publicly endorsed and cosied up to Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s foreign policy advisor, who’s responsible for a whole raft of coups and genocides from South America to Asia. Among other horrors, Nixon and Kissinger backed General Pinochet’s Fascist coup in Chile, gave the nod and armaments to Pakistan’s massacre of about 3 million people or so in Bangladesh during their war of independence, and was responsible for the mass bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia in the Vietnam War. While Kissinger certainly didn’t back the Khmer Rouge, his bombing of Cambodia created the condition that thrust Pol Pot and his murderers to power. And there are others. Many, many others. Kissinger has been publicly told what he is – a war criminal – at demonstrations and protests by people like the young women from Code Pink, who disrupted a Democratic rally at which he was speaking. But this is the man Shrillary has publicly endorsed, who appears at her rallies to show his support for her, and with whom she and her husband have stayed.

Trump, of course, is certainly no better than Hillary. He’s a lecherous, sleazy, racist buffoon, who could easily bring America to the brink of a nuclear war. Clinton, by contrast, is a clever, calculating businesswoman, with a long record of public service. She is also a murderous butcher, outright Neocon, and could well bring to the point of nuclear war.

These are not the right people for the job. The right man for the job in the Democrat party was Bernie Sanders, who wanted to expand America’s welfare network and give the country the single-payer healthcare system over half of its people want, and which Hillary Clinton and her corporate backers vehemently oppose. He was stabbed in the back by a corrupt political establishment in the Democrat party led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just as Jeremy Corbyn was stabbed in the back, and is stabbed in the back, by a corrupt Blairite clique in the Labour party.

With Bernie gone, the best woman to run the country is Green Party leader Dr. Jill Stein. Not only is she an environmental activist, while both Trump and Clinton either deny climate change and environmental damage outright, or minimise the legislation against it on behalf of their corporate backers, but she’s also very involved in women’s and children’s health issues. She has also made it very clear that she backs a single-payer healthcare system, because America needs it. And like Bernie Sanders, she’s also shown an interest and solidarity with America’s indigenous peoples. Sanders would turn up on reservations to talk to First Nation communities about how their conditions could be improved, and the issues that matter to them. He did so when no, or very few other politicians did so. A few weeks ago, Jill Stein turned up to give her backing to the Sioux peoples in their campaign against the Dakota Pipeline, which threatens to destroy the water quality and the ecology of part of their tribal lands.

The fact that Toksvig backs these two shows the flaws and dangers in her brand of feminism. She wants women in power, and while that’s a noble aspiration in itself, it’s here coupled with an attitude that wants them in power, regardless of their personal suitability for the task. It’s a case of ‘my gender, right or wrong’.

On the other hand, there is also the possibility that the very qualities which make Theresa May and Shrillary Clinton absolutely repugnant candidates to anyone else with a sense of decency, are precisely those that appeal to Toksvig. Toksvig is an ex-public schoolgirl from a very elevated background. Privately educated, she’s the daughter of the Danish ambassador. Thus, despite some of the left-wing noises she made on the News Quiz with Jeremy Hardy and Francis Wheen, she’s very establishment. And from this is appears that she holds the very middle-class views the establishment wants everyone to hold: accept the wonders of privatisation, despite the fact that privatised services are rubbish and don’t work. Accept the privatisation of the health service and destruction of the welfare state, which will leave you faced with grinding poverty and a real danger of starvation, as well as sick, and receiving expensive, substandard treatment for your ailments. But the one per cent who run the big businesses want their tax cuts, and while it’s terrible for you, it’s what they want. And they make the rules, and are the only people that count. The rest of us don’t.

And so Toksvig is quite happy to back May and Shrillary, as they’re rich, establishment girls like herself, and they want to clear the way for further rich and establishment women in power. While at the same time keeping women from the lower and lower middle classes down, along with the rest of their class. And I’m sure that all the women in the countries America has invaded in the past few years, like Iraq, and those of the countries in the next war she starts will be terribly consoled when the bombs are raining down on them , and killing their daughters and sons, husbands, mothers and fathers, that the glass ceiling has been breached and there’s now a woman in the Oval Office. And all with the support of Sandi Toksvig and other media figures at the Beeb.

Because regardless of gender, it’s all about what the establishment wants.

A New Parlour Game: Obsolete Words to Describe Iain Duncan Smith and the Government

May 16, 2015

Earlier today I posted up an article about an obsolete term I’d found in the Dictionary of Historical Slang, which I thought pretty accurately described the current head of the Department for Work and Pensions. This was ‘Gentleman Ranker’, which referred to ‘a broken gentleman, serving in the ranks of the army’. In other words, this was a middle or upper class man, who had lost his money. Unable to buy a commission, he was forced to serve in the ranks as an ordinary squaddie.

This indeed suits Iain Duncan Smith, as unfortunately, although he has retained his wealth and landed property, he is rumoured to have been Returned To Unit after failing to pass the officers’ exams at Sandhurst.

Since I posted it, I got this comment from Maxwell 1957. He says that there’s another obsolete term, ‘Wancel’, which also aptly describes IDS. This is 18th century slang for a person, who was so incompetent that they were beyond redemption.

This could be the beginning of a new parlour game!

Older readers of this blog may recall the BBC panel game, Call My Bluff. This was a how on BBC 2 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which two teams competed to try and deceive each other over the meaning of obsolete words in the English language. The teams gave three definitions of a particular old, and now disused word, only one of which was correct. The opposing team then had to guess which was the correct answer. It was somewhat like the round in the Griff Rhys Jone’s show, The Quizeum, on BBC 4, where the two teams each have an object, and try to deceive them by offering a false explanation along with the object’s correct identity.

The show was led by that stalwart of British comedy, Frank Muir and with Patrick Campbell, heading the opposing team and they were accompanied by various guest celebrities. The questions were set by Cliff Michelmore, Muir was later joined by Dennis Norden and Arthur Marshal on the music quiz, My Music, and a similar game show, My Word. In the first quiz, they were asked to identify various pieces of music by the question master, Steve Race, and were joined by a Scots opera singer, whose name unfortunately now escapes me.

And in My Word, Norden, Muir and co competed to offer various shaggy dog stories to explain well-known quotations from literature. For example, they once gave a very long, and entirely spurious tale, to explain that the line from Pepys’ diary, ‘And so to bed’, really was ‘And saw Tibet!’

‘Call My Bluff’ ran from 1965 to 1988, but was revived in the late 1990s with Sandi Toksvig and then Fiona Bruce. The panellists included the great satirist and editor of Punch, Alan Coren.

So, if you know any further ancient and obsolete terms that fit Iain Duncan Smith, his massive ego and even greater incompetence and rapacity, please feel free to send ’em in. It’ll be interesting to see how many terms describe this poltroon, before the more obscure byways of the English language are exhausted.

Here’s a clip of the show from the 1970s, with Cliff Michelmore, Patrick Campbell, Edward Woodward, Frank Muir, Joan Bakewell and Mr Blobby’s criminal accomplice, Noel Edmonds, to remind you what it was like in its heyday.