The Feminist Crystal Ball Was Accurate, As Usual

So, you might remember me getting hugely fucked off  a week or so ago because of the whole ha-ha-Roman-Polanski-rapes-children thing on Have I Got News For You. If you’ve got a very good memory, or if you scroll down to the post before this one, you might also remember that I complained, and that I was taking bets as to what kind of response I’d get. It turns out, in fact, that the email I got was less full of bingo-squares than I expected, but there has to be a winner in the what-the-BBC-said competition, and that winner is Cim, who suggested a variant on “the show caters to a broad audience and so not everything will appeal to everyone”.

For a bit of perspective, I’m posting up the complaint I wrote.

“The “joke”, a throwaway comment – which appeared to be scripted – was made by Alexander Armstrong in relation to Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a fifteen rating but Polanski swears it was an eighteen”.

There is nothing funny about the rape of a child. There’s nothing funny in knowing that as a girl, or a woman, you have over a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. There’s nothing funny about knowing that if you are raped, you have only a 6% chance of seeing your rapist convicted for his crime, and there’s nothing funny about Roman Polanski being one of those men, and *still* evading punishment.

And there’s certainly nothing funny about being reminded of this while trying to relax in the evening by watching Have I Got News For You.

I expect better of the BBC.

I don’t expect to find all of the jokes made on HIGNFY funny. I *do* expect that they won’t normalise rape by diminishing its gravity. That’s harmful to everybody.”

It was a difficult thing to write, and I struggled to express the way I felt in terms that could be understood by somebody who hasn’t taken Feminism 101. But either I failed, or the BBC failed to engage with the problem I had with the “joke”, because the line that won Cim the bet, just after the pleasantries, was: “As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour.”

Would you like the whole email? I bet you would. Have the whole email:


“As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour. We believe that there is no single set of standards in this area on which the whole of society can agree, and it is inevitable that programmes which are funny to some will occasionally strike others as poor. The only realistic and fair approach for us is to ensure that the range of comedy is broad enough for all viewers to feel that they are catered for at least some of the time.

Nevertheless, feedback like your own helps to inform the discussion about a programme’s tone and content and the reactions of our audiences are closely studied by our producers and senior management to ensure the right judgement is being made about what is acceptable to the audience in general.

With your complaint in mind I can assure you that I’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.”

I’m struggling now with how (or whether) to respond to this. I don’t want to leave it, really, because I feel as though they’ve ignored the important part – the part about how it’s really not nice to be reminded about how prevalent rape and rape culture is. If anybody has any advice about how (or whether) I should respond, please, let me know. I write a lot, but right now, I’m not sure I have the words.

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Things I Don’t Expect To Hear On The BBC: Rape Jokes

Well, the title says it all, really. Last week’s episode of Have I Got News For You featured a hilarious deeply inappropriate “joke” on the subject of Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a 15 rating but Polanski swears it was an 18”.

Yeah. Rape culture. Rampant sexism. Hell, let’s go all-out humourless-feminist: the patriarchy. Just what I want to be reminded of when I’m winding down of an evening. Except for how it isn’t. If it was, I’d watch Mock The Week. Or anything with Russell Brand in it. It’s difficult enough as it is to take off my feminism-glasses – HIGNFY seem to have some weird unofficial policy of having either a woman (white) or a black person (male) on the show, if they have to, but not both at the same time. It doesn’t help that Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are always there, which is already middle-aged white men filling two of the five slots. (Wikipedia tells me, of course, that my impression of the show isn’t completely accurate – they did once have Shappi Khorsandi on as a panelist. I went to see her perform live once; she described herself as “the box-ticker”, since she’s a female Iranian comedian.)

So, because as a woman I have no sense of humour, I wrote to the BBC to complain. I’ll post their reply when I have it. And I’ll award myself 10 points for every bingo card box I can fill. Filling in the “it was a joke!” square is pretty inevitable, I reckon, but I might also get “why are you so aaangry?!”, “I’m sorry that YOU were offended”, “it got lots of laughs”, “there were women in the audience who didn’t complain”, “yes, it was awful, BUT…”, “he didn’t mean it to minimize the severity of rape, so clearly it didn’t”…… and so on.

I’ll take bets in comments as to how many bingo cards I can fill.