Grimshaw, interviews and sexism

I was somewhat mystified and appalled by what ‘Dean of Sydney’ had to say about the Gordon Ramsey/Tracy Grimshaw debacle on the Meanjin blog. Unless it’s deadpan irony, too sophisticated for me, the comment was pretty odd.

While I believe there is little doubt that in the Matthew Johns scenario, the solicitation of ‘consent’ from a young woman, intoxicated, disoriented, in the company of well-known sportsmen and possibly frightened, is questionable at best – the law doesn’t merely interpret the lack of resistance to a sexual advance as ‘consent’, the person needs to be able to proferr their consent freely, unimpeded by unconsciousness, severe drunkenness or forms of duress – whichever position you take on this question, it’s hard to see that Tracy Grimshaw is a ‘hypocrite’ for how she conducted her interview.

Yes she was a determined, maybe even polemical, interview who kept returning to questions if she felt they had not been sufficiently addressed – although there are a vast store of male commentators who have conducted far more bracing and confronting interviews – but so what? Are we now to assume that if women presenters maintain a confident, assertive, persistent approach in interviews they then deserve to be compared with pigs, labelled “lesbians” and publicly derided for being ugly? This is backwards logic at its worst. 

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Kalinda Ashton is the author of The Danger Game (Sleepers, 2009).

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  1. I agree with you. That comment was mild compared to the comments on the You Tube video I link to in the same post. The things being said about Grimshaw in all kinds of forums after the Matthew Johns interview are deeply shocking – and it would be interesting to know if Ramsey was at all aware of that debate when he made the comments he did about her. I find it hard to judge how to manage commenters like that, I must say. They're not there to have a conversation, they just want a fight. I made the call that he was just trawling and didn't want to give him an excuse to be even ruder about her by arguing with him.

    • Yes the video was foul and I liked what you wrote. In a way though, it raises all the same issues for blogs and literary journals. We want to have debates, we want people to participate, and yet, as with dean's comment, the risk is that the host of the blog will be seen as endorsing that point of view. It took me a few glances to realise he was putting a minority position rather than agreeing. Presumably your post of the YouTube clip was meant to expose the extraordinary sexism and yet some readers seem to think it's there to show 'hypocrisy'. I must say, I have been so utterly appalled by the raft of chauvinist behaviour in the public eye (sportsmen making videos of raw chickens dressed up as women being 'wooed', Ramsey's foul representations of women pigs and "lesbians" (ooh-ah), the number of dolls, dummies, and inanimate objects dressed as women and then objectified and ridiculed). Gosh, can't believe it's 2009,

  2. On the Ramsey thing, there's a good post at the The Orstrahyun noting how much Andrew Bolt admires Gordon Ramsey.


    A bunch of quotes, from before the most recent episode:

    Gordon Ramsey personifies "conservative values".

    "…I've fallen for the bloke. My kind of guy completely. More of him and civilisation is safe."

    "I like particularly the standards Ramsay upholds…."

    "He thinks reason beats irrational sentiment."

    "Here's Ramsay coaching millions of Australians into Liberal values and making them seem contemporary."

    "Ramsay…is an artist who uses them as tools to create something beautiful from nothing…"

    "Make something of yourself, is his message. Test yourself. Find passion. Make a life and, in Ramsay's own passion, his values and his art, he has."

    Good God, and then there's this :

    "(Gordon Ramsey) creates a noble calling from a job, and a life from a collection of days."

  3. Yes, I did hesitate before I put the video up. I decided to do so because I think some people don't understand how extreme the vilification of women continues to be – but of course this can be misread. The internet seems to exaggerate this, as it does bad behavior in general because of the whole thing of hiding behind anonymity – something I had to tick off one commentator about in the post on the NIck Cave cover. (A man who posted using a woman's name). The Cave post is pertinent because it's an example of not being able to control the conclusions the commenters draw among themselves. You can, as a moderator, nudge debates in certain directions, and you can delete comments of course, but you also have to let things unfold.

  4. Ramsey, thinks 'reason beats irrational sentiment'. God I love the endless contradictions of the Right. Ramsey is most famous for being erratic, hot-tempered, volatile and infantile (and, yeah. for cooking). He's pitching himself as the passionate chef from the streets who doesn't mind using a four letter word or fifty to make his point. Now, in Bolt's view, this is re-badged as endorsing "reason". Wonder what the family values crew think of R's explosions, swear words etc?

    Yes, you can't prevent people from writing what they will and you just have to hope that the rational and reasonable (thanks Bolt!) arguments win the day. But what the whole business really shows to me is how much latent sexism and misogyny there is – from otherwise relatively benign sources. I'm not talking about Ramsey here, incidentally, but more the community of people who presumably agree with Dean.

    I am trying to remember the name of a very good documentary about a stripper being raped (it may have actually been called Rape) that came out a number of years ago and which raised these very issues in terms of the construction of women as aggressive, hysterical, prudish and teasing, or, by attending events drunk or on drugs, apparently asking for whatever they end up getting. It's a great film.

    • Hey Kalinda,
      If you signed yourself up for an Intense Debate account – which really is very easy – not only would you get a cool gravatar (‘I am Spartacus!’ but your comments would appear straight away without me having to moderate them.

  5. Yes but then I could just say *whatever I wanted* and you wouldn't be able to stop me, would you? Okay, I'll try it. Now off for a cigarette.

  6. A couple of cnomemts the lack of vegitation on the dikes isn’t for community aesthetics resons, the Army Corps of Engineers won’t allow vegitation to be planted because they believe it weakens the structure of the dike itself and to an extent they are correct. Roots burrow deeply in, then die and decompose creating a honeycomb effect that can allow water to more easily seep in. In river dynamics water, when left to its own natural course, will spread out and slow down. This is has 2 effects that are very important. First it allows the river to cut new channels and deposit soils allowing the river to ultimately create its valley which is what naturally contains the water. Second water when it is kept in a narrow channel, such as diking or a diversion, will build kinetic power which ultimately has to be released. If we build that power in Fargo, it gets sent to the communities downstream and hits their community with full force. This is what did Grand Forks in ’97, the water was channeled and held back by ice jams and when it hit Grand Forks, it wiped it out. What we are doing in Fargo is fighting against what happens in nature, instead of spreading the river out and slowing its momentum, we are channeling it tightly and forcing it through much faster. Gaia always wins, and as much as we try to force the river to do our bidding, it will cut its own channels and create its own flood plains which are not consistant, they change in time. In time the river will change its channel and make the present dikework obsolete in its constant venture of creating a vally through erosion. By building the power in the water, we actually accelerate this process which in turns increases the erosion that cuts the channels. Bryan gave very good examples of where this is happening in Fargo, but its actually happening on every square inch of the river. This is bigger than just Fargo or Grand Forks. Its a process that, at this time has a 30 mile wide swath, the distance the river spreads in its maximum flood stage. Eventually the Red will be cutting its way through Thompson and Mapleton. You can’t stop a river from doing its thing, its basic physics and if we want comprehensive solutions, we need to embrace and encourage the river by reducing its speed and volume not try to block and channel it to our selfish whims, sending its power elsewhere.

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