Joanna Lumley Defends Wolf-Whistling

Before this wolf-whistling comment, I held Joanna Lumley in my estimations as someone who had good political motives. As a woman with a lot of political activism under her belt, I saw her as progressive and positive. She was unquestionably the face of the Ghurkha campaign that worked to allow Nepalese Ghurkhas who fought in the British army a right to settle in Britain.

Since then, she’s done a lot to help charities working to reduce poverty in various places across the world, and aid in awareness to environmental issues such as climate change and droughts.

For these causes shes helped immensely, but once again proves herself as a promising woman in the lime-light who turns out as a bitter disappointment.

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This was due to the fact that this week Lumley came out to prove herself as ignorant in matters. Namely those surrounding gender politics – despite her power and responsibility on other issues. She came out saying that wolf-whistling should be taken as a compliment, and that people are becoming too sensitive and offended by anything in today’s society.

Now this statement alone is ridiculous, but becomes laughable when her argument centres around the fact that in the 1960s it was much worse. With her claiming photographers did much worse, calling you ‘podgy’ and told you if you looked awful. But of course, it was just light ‘banter’. So, because we are expected to have basic human decency from men in 2016, we should stop there?

With Lumley saying this, many people have come out celebrating her as ‘someone finally talking sense’ in the world of PC gone mad. Lumley, with her reputable name in the world of political conscientiousness, has much more weight to her comments.

Because she is respected in terms of political matters, she gives more ammo to those who are already incredulous that wolf-whistling and catcalling is an act of sexism and intimidation. People are able to say that if Lumley says this, then it must be credible as she is a woman to be trusted on matters such as these.

However, Lumley is perpetuating an outdated and severely damaging idea on catcalling and sexism. Even if wolf-whistling was to be deemed a ‘compliment’ with the sole purpose to allow a man to let a woman know she’s attractive, that doesn’t mean it is acceptable.

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If I look attractive, I do not need to be whistled at or have any confirmation of the matter from a man. What’s more, I certainly don’t need it in the form of a whistle like I’m some sort of animal.

The concept that wolf-whistling is done to show attraction to a woman and not intimidation or a form of power-play is purely ridiculous as it is. If it was done as a way to show attraction, why use a whistle. A wolf-whistle doesn’t invite any form of conversation to follow. What relationship has started by a man whistling at a woman in a street? None. So the point that it’s done by attraction is complete rubbish.

Anyone who has been whistled at by a group of men when they are walking alone down a dark street knows it has nothing to do with showing attraction. When I’ve been leered at by builders from above – cheering and whistling – I have felt belittled and demeaned, not complimented.

Joanna Lumley has stated people were tougher in the 60s, and it’s a bit of harmless banter. Once again fuelling the culture of ‘banter’ that is often used to cover up toxic behaviour, in a bid to label Feminazi’s as drab and lacking humour. A word that in one fail swoop silences those belittled women in a fear they are labelled as so, and fear for being mocked for not having a sense of humour.

With Lumley supporting this, it is damaging not only because she is a woman but because she is a respected woman in the political world. She not only is respected, but is also shown to have progressive ideas on other political matters – so cannot be ruled out as a blindly conservative and ignorant woman.

Although Lumley has had an important hand to play in certain issues, she has had no input towards issues surrounding gender politics. And this one comment proves that her views across the board differ greatly, with her outdated views on women clearly being stuck in the 1960s.

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Just because I have to face less overt misogyny than I would have in the 1970s does not mean to say we have reached equality. Implicit levels of misogyny are rife, and are still deemed as acceptable social behaviour.

I should not be made to feel intimidated and demeaned by a man. A man deciding he needs to let me know I’m attractive by whistling at me, like I’m a piece of meat, there for his sexual gratification. This week, even Playboy released an article around how you shouldn’t catcall – so how has Lumley missed the boat?

Lumley’s comment has merely fuelled the fire of people intent on not listening to the voices of the women telling them how they feel, and deciding themselves how we should feel. Lumley’s comments merely give them justification; as a woman and as a political active woman, she is deemed a reliable source on the matter. But she isn’t.

Her views are outdated and silence the valid views of women wishing to not be scared to walk down the street wearing what they please and when they please for the fear of being degraded by men. Misogyny should be seen nationwide as a hate crime, following Nottingham police force’s lead.

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When women such as Pagan-Lilley Motlagh-Phillips are being attacked and hospitalised for not responding to catcalls, it becomes chillingly clear that catcalls and wolf-whistling is a form of intimidation and not complimentary.

Catcalling is a form of hate crime and should be seen as just that, no matter what an old lady stuck in the 1960s thinks.

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