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Worth fighting for: columnist's sexist rant


Yesterday, the world looked on in awe as Gemma Gibbons brought home a silver medal in judo - Britain's first Olympic award in the sport for 12 years.

Today, the jubilation turned to shock in the Stylist office as one Telegraph writer chose to belittle Gibbon's incredible perfomance, questioning whether the "pure, naked, fierce, animalistic aggression" she displayed in the fight was quite suitable for the weaker sex.

Andrew M Brown's astonishing piece - published online this morning - ponders whether "women fighting each other violently (is) a perfectly wholesome spectator sport?"

Hmm, let's think about that a second. Do we delicate, sensitive women really deserve a place in what Brown describes as a "savage" sport? Surely we might chip a nail? And what were we THINKING winning a medal in it? No let's leave that rough 'n' tumble stuff to the guys...

What makes Brown's comments so shocking is the fact that he really believes in what he's writing: "I couldn't help wondering about their soft limbs battered black and blue with bruises. Would it bother me to see one of my own daughters savagely attacking another woman on a judo mat for people's entertainment?"

What touching concern. We doubt the last thing on Gibbons' mind today as she celebrates her historic win is the state of her "soft limbs." Aggression is a central part of what she does and it's that exact "savagery" that put another piece of metal on Britain's Olympic mantelpiece.

Above: Andrew M Brown's column in the Telegraph

Brown clearly would be much happier seeing the ladies watch from the sides (or preferably off shopping... you know how we women are) as the men get down to the serious stuff of fighting - perhaps before retiring for a cigar and port with other manly types.

His ridiculous missive might actually be funny were it not so inflammatory. It also flies in the face of Stylist's fair game campaign for equality in sport - as well as driving home the need for it.

Our quest to be taken seriously in sport becomes ever more difficult in the face of blatant, outdated sexism such as this. Whatever the motivation for Brown's column (and some have questioned whether it's a publicity drive), it is a travesty in this day and age to be published in a newspaper as widely read and respected as the Telegraph - especially on the back of Gibbons' stunning Olympic success.

As women continue to take a central role on the stage of London 2012, and sports in central, miserly, shameful comments such as these really have no place anywhere, least of all on a national.

In a rare moment of insight, even Brown, mid-misogynist rant, admits his view might be seen as "appallingly sexist" - little consolation for his outraged readers.

The comments section turned red with angry and sarcastic reader responses: "Don't worry, I'm sure cupcake baking, bed making and other more feminine past-times will soon become Olympic sports," one wrote, as another added, "Really, perhaps you should return to an arboreal existence and see some real women. This is sport not a primeval challenge."

Stylist deputy editor Susan Riley said, "This kind of commentary - questioning a woman's place within contact sports - is an extremely outdated point of view, and the antithesis of what Stylist's Fair Game campaign is all about. Gemma Gibbons' achievements should be celebrated - not because she is a woman, but because she is a first-class athlete."

The anonymous blogger who goes by the name The Blonde, and who wrote her own brilliant riposte to Brown's column earlier today, told Stylist:

"The drivel from Andrew Brown is nothing more than misogynist, supercilious nonsense. Gemma Gibbons is a phenomenal athlete, and an inspiration, and her gender shouldn't come into it. She doesn't fight in order that leery men can ponder her "soft limbs" - limbs which I imagine could tie Brown in knots faster than he could say 'should be in the kitchen'. His distaste for her incredible achievements is nothing other than blatant sexism, and should have no place on the pages of a national paper."

We can't really say better than that. Whatever Brown thinks about the "disturbing" vision of women - shock, horror - actually fighting, he better get used to it: opinions like his will only strengthen women's resolve to reach even greater heights in boxing, judo and other "savage" sports.

What do you think? Should we be responding to Brown's column at all or simply ignoring it? And what drives someone to make comments like that in this day and age? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter

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