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Sexism in the entertainment industry in the 70s - a shock, really?

(9 Posts)
Anniegetyourgun Mon 08-Oct-12 13:10:11

A grumpy middle-aged woman writes:

Hearing about the late Sir Jimmy's alleged proclivities over the last few days on the radio, as you do, I was struck by the expressions of horror and disbelief concerning sexist attitudes in general, which it seems The Powers That Be have suddenly discovered were rife in the light entertainment industry in the 70s. Surely it hasn't come as that much of a surprise? Weren't any of these people alive in the 70s?

I'm not in the least bit surprised female staff report they were groped in passing, told there was something wrong with them if they didn't welcome advances etc. Not just in the BBC or indeed in the whole industry, either. It was bloody everywhere. Remember all those comedies where men attempting to molest women were the stuff of hilarity? I am old enough to have dodged a few gropings myself in those days (and I was at school for most of the decade!). Either you were pretty, in which case you were fair game, or not, in which case you were expected to be grateful. Clearly a lot of people thought that just because it was now socially acceptable for women to enjoy sex, it had become mandatory to engage in it. "Well it's what you wanted", they said ("you" presumably being all women, whether or not they bought in to sexual liberation at the time, and "it" being the right to be openly molested, apparently). Some might say it hasn't changed all that much 40 years on...

MrsClown1 Mon 08-Oct-12 13:43:46

You are so right. Im the around the same age as you by the sound of it and I can remember the same stuff.

fiftyval Mon 08-Oct-12 13:56:49

Totally agree. I remember the 70's only too well. The sexism was simply everywhere - it was institutionalised. I think that the casual sexism women faced in their everyday lives at that time is very much behind the covering up/ refusing to acknowledge aspects of the JS allegations. They are mainly teenage girls who have now come forward - they would have been dismissed in those days as hysterical females. As with the Rochdale case, if these had been large numbers of teenage boys instead of girls, I suspect something more may have been done about it.

Anniegetyourgun Mon 08-Oct-12 14:30:23

Hah, only because homosexuality was even less respected than women's rights. The employer would have been far more upset at learning he was having a consensual relationship with an adult man than abusing a bunch of vulnerable children. He may have been a raging pervert (er, allegedly) but at least he wasn't, you know, one of those .

fiftyval Mon 08-Oct-12 14:42:25

Oh yes - that too is true. What I mean is that many people at the time ( and now) seemed to have trouble identifying his sexual proclivilities as crimes against children because the children concerned are teenage girls; they kind of blame the girls for wearing make-up, being 'groupies' etc. These sort of excuses would not occur to them if it were boys making the claims.I suppose its part of the the 'those girls are up for it' mentality sad

Anniegetyourgun Mon 08-Oct-12 17:36:02

Yep. Even when they said in so many words that they weren't.

Hey, what kind of debate is this, we're all agreeing with each other!

KRITIQ Mon 08-Oct-12 18:48:31

Yes, I agree that in the 1970's, sexism was much more "obvious" and direct than it might seem to be now. It's important to bear in mind the Sex Discrimination Act only passed in 1975. Also, there was alot less regard for child welfare and far less awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse and more emphasis on victim blaming and keeping things behind close doors. Perhaps we tend to think of the 70's as being a time of sexual liberation, but that doesn't mean it was a time of sexual equality.

Don't get me wrong - there were massive gains, some prompted by passing of the law, which tackled the worst examples of overt gender discrimination and helped improve the status of women in many areas. But, progress was slower on recognising gender-based violence and sexual violence generally as crimes and as socially unacceptable. In the 70's though, we kept many mentally ill, learning disabled and physically disabled people in institutions. Children's educational and economic futures were mapped out with a test when they were 11 years old. Few people batted an eyelid if someone got tanked up and got behind the wheel. Homosexuality was still a crime. Sexual harassment was just something that happened that you had to put up with. In alot of ways, both rights and responsibilities have improved since then, massively.

I also shudder when I think of some of my time as a volunteer youth worker - how we had no real training, no police checks, little real supervision, didn't do risk assessments, really winged it. I know sometimes it seems like we go overboard on some of these things today, but I know we took massive, massive risks back then and that wasn't good.

But, it's interesting that while there's been greater recognition (at least on the surface) of the harms of things like domestic violence, unequal pay, and child sexual abuse, there has been something of a "backlash," with the rise of other means of maintaining institutionalised misogyny.

The law put paid to alot of direct gender discrimination, but what it's not so good at dealing with is indirect, or institutionalised discrimination. That's harder to put your finger on. For example, going to strip clubs as corporate "entertainment," isn't the same as saying "we don't want women in management," but if women don't take part, they aren't likely to make the connections to get business/get promoted.

And, perhaps the next step in that backlash against the gains of women in society is promoting the idea that women "choose" to do things that ostensibly might be harmful to them. Millions of marketing pounds are put into pushing women to make these kind of "choices" (e.g. dieting, cosmetic surgery, accepting sexualisation and objectification, expensive cosmetics, etc.), but when anyone tries to call out the sexism and harm to women, up comes the cry that you're trying to prevent people from making choices, yada yada yada.

LastMangoInParis Tue 09-Oct-12 23:57:05

Not a 'shock', no. But 'shocking', yes.
And worth talking about.
So when Janice Long and others give these accounts about what was going on in the 70s and 80s they should be heard and discussed.

And whilst you might well say 'not enough has changed', I think it's naive and slightly decadent to say not a lot has changed. There is a great deal more awareness now of what consititutes dicrimination and harassment, there is less fear of whistle blowing, there are laws which if used can protect and compensate. Which is a good way towards moving to how things should be.

Perhaps not enough has changed. Which is one of the reasons why accounts of sexism, harassment, etc. need to be heard. And why we and mainstream media should be shocked enough to make sure that women's voices continue to be heard when talking about these supposedly 'normalised' horrors.

WomanlyWoman Thu 11-Oct-12 13:54:23

Not news to anyone really is it? What's shocking is that people are talking about it as though sexism were confined to yesteryear and has no place in today's society, when anyone with half a brain cell can see that it's still rife everywhere.

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