I don’t throw around words like racism and sexism. Not because they don’t exist – on the contrary, I recognise both ‘isms’ as serious problems that plague different parts of the world to different degrees on a day-to-day basis. Racial and gender prejudices are the most heinous of crimes, and that’s why the accusation of such things must be used with thought and caution; to levy the words at a Republican voter or someone who points out the real numbers behind the ‘equal pay’ myth takes away from the seriousness of the words. I wasn’t surprised to wake up this morning, however, and read the many headlines that accused Russell Brand of being sexist. During his appearance on BBC Question Time last night, Brand got a bit carried away with the ‘confrontation game’ and wound up in hot water with his fellow, female panellists:
As communities minister Penny Mordaunt praised firefighters, Mr Brand interrupted, saying: "Pay their pensions then, love. Excuse the sexist language, I'm working on it."
This isn’t the first time Brand has been accused of ‘lazy sexism’ – he’s gotten in trouble, multiple times, for objectifying professional women he encounters, and many have noted that much of his humour stems from humiliating women in personal, direct ways.
Was last night another addition to the sexist Brandwagon? Probably not. Putting cultural differences aside, [In the States, calling any woman who is not in fact your love, ‘luv’, would be considered deeply unacceptable.] I think it’s fairly obvious that Brand was speaking casually, and arguably being a bully- but without any sexist intent. Perhaps someone should have flagged up to him (or written on that note card he seemed so attached to) that when you’re on a world-renowned platform with lots of elected officials, you try a little harder to sound more professional.
What about the other accusations? Is Brand a sexist at heart? Honestly, I don’t know. Brand’s a comedian. He makes jokes about women. Presumably he does this, not because he wants to preach his sexist manifesto, but because people laugh. Men, and women, laugh at jokes about women. Depending on the joke, I may or may not laugh along with them. Having researched some of Brand's previous jokes, there's no doubt that some of them cross the line; at which point, we should be able to get up and walk out, turn off the TV, tune him out and not give credence to his remarks.
But now we’re getting to the real problem – which is not his humour(less?) remarks, but rather that Brand, along with his jokes, have been given a huge political platform to be taken seriously by his fans and the public at large…and it’s obvious that when it comes to women, and everything else, the man has no idea what he’s talking about.
Clearly unable to come up with any stat about Britain’s population growth or housing/land availability when asked to make the case for immigration (there are some great stats out there, by the way, in favour of this argument), Brand decided to go on a loud, but not always so coherent, rant about bankers’ bonuses and why the City is ‘bad’, whatever that means. His only evidence that more redistribution of wealth would help those at the bottom was that his bank account was big enough to handle a cut, and when asked if he would actually try to put into practice what he preached (ie: stand for Parliament), the answer was pretty straight-forward: no.
This, my friends, is not just a comedian with an opinion. He is the new poster-child for the left, in the UK and beyond. He is being given the highest platforms to discuss his views and opinions, and despite his attempt at anti-establishment rhetoric, almost every policy he promotes – if you can be generous enough to call them that – advocates heavy government intervention, centralised redistribution, state-funded everything, and heavy emphasis on paternalism and left-wing policy.
Brand’s political stardom is going to backfire, but it’s hard to know who will suffer. Either, Brand will continue to slip and slide on national television, further associating the left (to their despair) with his radical, inarticulate rants; or he’ll wise up, graduate from one note card to three, cut back on the lady jokes and actually have a shot at convincing a few more people that his bank account is the only number you need to cite when reforming the UK’s buckling welfare structure. The former would be a spectacle; the latter would be nothing to luv.