misogyny on the radio: the kyle sandilands episode
Late last week Kyle Sandilands, a well-known Australian breakfast radio host, made headlines all over the country.
In response to a news article by a female journalist about the unpopularity of his new television show, Sandilands launched into an on-air rant:
Some fat slag on news.com.au has already branded it a disaster. You can tell by reading the article that she just hates us and has always hated us …
… What a fat bitter thing you are. You’re deputy editor of an online thing. You’ve got a nothing job anyway. You’re a piece of shit …
… This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of news.com.au online. You’re supposed to be impartial, you little troll …
… You’re a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job. Your hair’s very ’90s. And your blouse. You haven’t got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.
Within days 20,000 people had signed an online petition calling for sponsors of Sandilands’ radio show, and also the radio network on which it appears, to drop their support. So far at least 16 sponsors have pulled out in varying capacities.
Much has been said about this event in opinion columns throughout the weekend, so I will not add to the cacophony.
What I do wish to add however is some thoughts about the underlying misogyny reflected in Sandilands’ comments.
I made note of Sandilands’ misogyny on my social networks early on when this story first broke last week. A few people responded to such comments claiming that Sandilands was not, in fact, a misogynist* since he has previously launched similar on-air tirades against men.
But the nature of Sandilands’ above comments goes beyond simple anger or offence. Previous anger levelled against men by Sandilands has not ventured into the realm of sustained ridicule regarding physical appearance.
In reality misogyny is not simply about verbally assaulting women more often than men (nor is equality about dishing it out evenly).
Misogyny is literally (and obviously) about hating women. So does Sandilands hate women? Certainly his comments reflect some form of hatred against women. Allow me to explain.
Sandilands’ stated disgust at Stephenson’s shape, hair and breasts implies an objectifying view of women, one steeped in the perspective of magazine covers. Her figure is not like that of a one-in-a-billion supermodel, her hair is not styled according to the most up-to-date fashion, her breasts are not large enough. (I do not even know if these things are true since I do not know what Stephenson looks like, but this is irrelevant.)
The problem of course is that magazine pictures are not real; they present not reality but falsity. Still, Sandilands is implying that women should look something like those Photoshopped wonders.
Is it not the case that to insist upon women matching up to this impossible falsity is to hate what women truly are in reality? Isn’t this precisely the essence of misogyny; to implicitly desire an imagined form while expressing disgust at real female-ness?
Shouldn’t we collectively assert that this has no place in the public sphere?
In addition it was pointed out to me by a friend that Sandilands’ comments about Stephenson’s appearance are completely irrelevant to her competence in her job. Instead she is objectified and sexualised in order to humiliate her. As my friend aptly argued, “No woman in the world is under any obligation to be what turns (Sandilands) on just to get his approval.”
Sandilands is certainly not alone in such attitudes. I very much doubt he consciously sets out to propagate misogyny, though there is an underlying attitude to women that deems them somehow inferior, somehow deserving of sexual objectification and a more humiliating standard of achievement than men.
Even many women acquiesce in these attitudes; the objectification of women is so potent and enculturated that Kyle Sandilands’ female co-host Jackie O can simply giggle along with his misogynistic rantings without protest.
Certainly out contemporary entertainment industry colludes in such attitudes. Even in Christian subcultural expressions of entertainment (think worship music etc.) it appears that attractive women have a better chance of “success”. Why is that?
The Bible is often thought to have misogynistic elements, particularly in regard to silencing women. The meanings of such passages are disputed and will continue to be so.
What is certain is that New Testament theology affirms the breaking down of barriers between men and women:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3)
(Perhaps the disputed passages should be read in light of this ethic.)
I wonder how different traditions and groups within Christianity actually reflect and embody this ethic…
I would love to hear from you on this complex issue, particularly women who can reflect about their experiences of misogyny – what can/should men do to bring dignity to women in all spheres?