Comedian Robert Webb has spent the last year lecturing all and sundry on gender stereotypes, which he says are very bad in his book How Not To Be a Boy. So grave are his concerns that he has cautioned his young daughter to be wary of the patriarchy – ‘the trick’ – as he calls it, and warned everyone not to use the expression ‘man up’, lest it damages men’s mental health.
With all of these modern sensibilities, it did strike me as out of character of Webb when he called the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer a “thick Oxford twat” on Twitter yesterday. I confess it is something of a rule of mine to avoid blokes who describe women – let alone anyone – as “twats”, but maybe I just need to man up.
Hartley-Brewer had been involved in a debate on education. She had addressed the question of whether going to Oxford University was the result of privilege, or something else. In typical Hartley-Brewer style, she said the wrong answer; that she had won her place due to being “clever”. Feminist Webb did not like that argument very much. Clever? Woman? No, no, no. He Retweeted her adding: “I didn’t go to Cambridge because I was clever. I went because I was a white male from a stable family who encouraged me to work hard at an excellent state school. That’s all privilege. All of it. You thick Oxford twat.” This post – a masterclass in left-wing bingo (“white male”, “privilege”) – received 12,000 endorsements at the time of writing.
Watching events unfold, I did wonder when the feminists would swoop in to save Hartley-Brewer. But such expectations were daft, because Hartley-Brewer is right-wing, and right-wingers do not need saving, only abusing. And left-wingers are now given a free pass to say what they like; they are so socially conscious, after all, that even their most demonic utterances must surely serve some higher purpose. This state of play is not only obvious from the anti-semitic abuse that goes unpunished in the Labour Party, but from the media pundits that represent the left. Frankie Boyle regularly writes for The Guardian and has 2.8 million Twitter followers. He also made a rape joke about Katie Price’s disabled son, which he has never apologised for. But don’t forget the rule! Abuse doesn’t matter if you’re left-wing.
Were someone like Toby Young to call a woman a “twat” or make rape jokes, we know for certain it would be game over. All right-wingers realise that some are more equal than others, namely by virtue of their Corbynista credentials. Yes, forget being “clever” or a “white male”; left-wing identity is the real privilege these days.