Anna Soubry, the Tory minister for Small Business, has accused Alex Salmond of being sexist. As an avowed ardent feminist, and well aware that the Commons is still well under-represented by women, this piece of news was one I was very interested in.
But, I’m really unconvinced.
For those who haven’t watched the video, please do. It’s pretty plain to me that Soubry was heckling and trying to shout down Alex Salmond. She was essentially being very rude, regardless of whether or not being a smart arse is a prerequisite to being an MP, as I often wonder. She was shouting down Salmond to the point where she actually interrupted his speech, more than once.
I can imagine, and his face backs up that assumption up, that he was pretty annoyed with her. His comment about her being ‘demented’ was pretty rude. But ‘behave yourself, woman’? Sorry, that’s not sexist.
Up here in Scotland, the saying “behave yourself/calm down/simmer down/settle down/dinnae fash yerself, man/min/woman/lass/lad/quine/loon/mister/missus” is a common one. It has a direct equivalent for both sexes. Sure, it is informal, and a bit patronising – the kind of thing I would say to a friend, but not to my mother, let alone my boss or a respected colleague. But whilst sex is mentioned, it isn’t the point of the comment, and it isn’t derogatory based on sex.
If he’d told her to behave like a lady, or be more ladylike, or even Cameron’s gaffe ‘calm down, dear’, I would have feel indignant as a feminist. But, Soubry? This is crying wolf.
There are plenty of examples of sexism in industry, in the workplace, on the street, and in our culture that are so ingrained we don’t always recognise them for what they are. And pointing it out makes people (particularly men, but some women too, in a sort of apologist fashion) very defensive, as though equality for women takes something away from men. But claiming sexism when there blatantly is none does nothing for the cause.
I don’t like Salmond. He’s a liar, has admitted he admires Putin and spends taxpayers money in a way that the worst of the MP expenses claimants would baulk at. But on this occasion, he wasn’t sexist. Just rude and unprofessional. But then so are most of the current SNP crop of MPs…