Dr Christian Jesson, of ‘Supersize Vs Superskinny’ and ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ fame, is known amongst the feminist groups on twitter as someone who often tends to tweet out opinions based on ignorance and sexism, rather than medical science or research. He has been criticised several times for the lack of responsibility he takes with his shows. For example, he doesn’t accept that the topics of his programmes will have any repercussions or effect on those with an eating disorder.
(@thus_spake_z has blogged about it here )
A brief overview of Dr Jesson’s views on women indicate to me that he is, at the very least, sexist.
He believes that women should think carefully about breast feeding as it ruins the shape of their breasts.
He thinks that women should only be allowed a Caesarean Section in an absolute emergency.
He thinks that women should shave their body hair to make them more attractive to men.
And on it goes.
This is a man who, I assume, isn’t without brains. He has trained as a doctor after all. But of course, being able to memorise science and pass exams is not necessarily an indicator of intelligence.
To tell women that breastfeeding ruins the shape of their breasts is damaging and body shaming.
To tell women that they should not elect to have a Caesarean unless their life is in danger is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
To tell women to shave their legs implies that body hair is disgusting and unattractive.
To tell women they need to shave in order to be more attractive to men denies women the agency to choose a partner, reinforces a hetero-normative lifestyle and ignores a whole other variety of sexual relationships. Given that he is a gay man this is particularly puzzling. It also reinforces the perception that women are decorative. We have no brains, no value or currency other than our bodies.
And this brings me nicely on to today’s issue. Last night Dr Jessen had a debate on his twitter timeline about banning Page Three, and compared it to the way that women ‘objectify’ men. He didn’t think that there was any difference between Page 3 and Heat’s Torso of the Week that features the bare chest of a man.
Obviously, being a doctor does not prevent you from also being an utter dick and having no concept of structural oppressions, institutional sexism, structural misogyny. What is surprising is that when Dr Jessen trained to be a doctor he wasn’t made aware of the human body. A man’s naked chest is not the same as a woman’s. If this was the case then surely women would sit topless outside the pub on a sunny day? Unfortunately, if we do this, the police get called (don’t ask me how I know this…) and we are forced to put our clothes back on. Why? Because women are sexualised and objectified, and the true purpose of our breasts has long been dismissed in favour of the sexual gratification of men.
I, and several others, felt that this needed challenging and I admit, I wasn’t particularly polite about it. I get very tired of seeing this kind of nonsense spouted by men who don’t seem to be able to grasp that women are not there simply for their pleasure. It happens a lot on Twitter, and better women than me have been faced with the most horrendous abuse which goes relatively unchallenged and unchecked because, y’know, it’s just the internet. It also came on the back of Nick Ross and his appalling interview in the Mail on Sunday where every bloody sentence contained sexism, misogyny and rape apology. So forgive me, but I really wasn’t in the mood to tolerate more shitty opinions on women’s bodies by a man who has significant form for being a dick.
What happens when you challenge a celebrity on twitter with 250,000 followers?
He patronises you, calls you a ‘girl’, re-tweets you and ensures that you are inundated with loads of his fans telling you what a disgrace to womanhood you are. And, in true internet style, along came the swathes of men to hurl some gendered insults at me – a selection of which are below:
“you are a deluded slag” “man hating extremist” “a disgrace to women everywhere” “need a good shag” “clearly been rejected by men” “scared of the penis” “get back to the kitchen” “too ugly to be considered a sexual object” “a moronic attention seeker.”
And from women?
“dividing the movement” “a whiny bitch” “no wonder you’re gay” “a nutter”, misandrist, “stereotyping men” “bitter” “men and women are equal so grow up”
My tweet suggesting he was misogynist, patronising and showed a lack of respect for women to call us ‘girls’ led to an endless supply of tweets from women saying how much they love being called a girl.
Dr Jesson admits that he prefers Caitlin Moran’s style of feminism. This is no surprise. It’s not threatening to his position and many men feel that Caitlin is a better figurehead for the feminist movement than some of the more vocal feminists. And that’s usually because men hold positions of privilege and don’t want to give them up, but can happily pronounce themselves as ‘feminist friendly’ because they like Caitlin Moran. This kind of opinion is transparently fake to any woman who cares to look, as it simply pats women on the head and declares equality has been achieved.
Dr Jesson doesn’t seem to like women much.
He certainly doesn’t like being challenged by them. He fat shames, body shames, targets women for twitter abuse, reinforces patriarchal norms of attractiveness and beauty, uses gendered insults and patronises women. He has also dismissed research and evidence that suggests teenage girls are suffering from low self esteem because of the pressures of media images of the ideal body shape.Is Doctor Jesson a misogynist? Make your own mind up.