by Lucy Frewin
In a GB News interview last week, the actor and broadcaster Laurence Fox made a series of misogynistic comments about journalist Ava Evans. The interview broadcast live featured Fox saying: “Show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman ever, ever, who wasn’t an incel”.
Whilst Fox’s comments were outrageous and have landed both him and interviewer Dan Wootton a GB News suspension, they can hardly be described as surprising.
Laurence Fox is renowned for his controversial self proclaimed “anti woke” campaigning, so much so it formed the basis for his shot at becoming London Mayor. Aside from Fox however, the misogynistic targeting of female journalist Ava Evans is indicative of a wider culture of sexism, inequality and mistreatment when it comes to women in journalism.
In a recent study reported on in The Guardian, a majority of female journalists worldwide have been the target of online violence including threats of physical violence, death threats and sexual violence.
A separate study by Reach and Women in Journalism found three quarters of female journalists in the UK have been threatened or felt unsafe in their work.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ava Evans said the messages and threats she had received since the incident with GB News had even made her fear for her safety.
Whilst the targeting of women in the media is not a new issue, the increasing polarisation of the UK over issues such as Brexit and the rise of far right, self proclaimed “anti-woke” figures like Fox have brought the issue to light and heightened hostility towards women like Ava Evans who comment on issues branded as “woke”.
In the age of the internet algorithm, many of the supporters of far right and “anti-woke” ideology are also involved in incel and misogynistic movements online.
Laurence Fox’s comments provides a textbook example of the kind of thinking and rhetoric plaguing far right, incel movements, dehumanising, sexualising and objectifying women they disagree with rather than picking apart her arguments. The sense of entitlement displayed by Fox to ask: “Who’d want to shag that?” indicates a total disregard for consent.
For female journalists in the UK, contending with sexism and misogyny both on and offline is coupled with the chronic issue of pay inequality where women are undervalued and underpaid.
According to the National Union of Journalists, and analysis by Press Gazette 91 per cent of UK based media companies on average pay their male journalists more than female journalists.
The BBC was at the forefront of discussions over gender pay inequality when forced to publish their highest earners list and only one third were women.
Laurence Fox’s comments have brought to light the reality facing the majority of female journalists both in the UK and worldwide; underpaid, undervalued and increasingly the target of sexist and misogynistic abuse. Whilst Fox has since apologised for his comments, the fight for gender equality within the media and society more generally is far from over.