The Good Morning Britain host says men have accused her of enabling Morgan’s views. But, asks Moya Crockett, why is it always women’s job to keep men’s bad behaviour in check?
Susanna Reid, the world’s most patient woman, has spoken out about her frustration at being held accountable for her co-host Piers Morgan’s anti-feminism.
In a new interview, Reid – who has a long history of shutting down Morgan’s ageist views about older mothers, sexist body-shaming and even his Love Island snobbery – says she received hate mail from male feminists after Morgan criticised the Women’s March in January 2017.
“It wasn’t women who were criticising me, it was the men,” Reid tells the Radio Times. “They accused me of enabling his anti-feminist views. The man sitting next to me was spouting off whatever he believes, which I don’t agree with, and I was trying to stand up for my views, and the right for women to march.”
Understandably, Reid was irked at being criticised by men for another man’s opinions.
“I had men telling me it was my fault he was saying this,” she says. “And I was just like, I’ve had enough of men telling me how I should be a feminist. I’ve had enough of it.”
Once upon a time, she adds, she “felt kind of responsible for what [Morgan] thought”. Now, however, she has realised that “he can say anything he likes. I don’t have to pick up the pieces”.
Reid’s irritation at being lectured about feminism by men is understandable: few things are more infuriating than a self-professed male feminist telling you you’re doing it wrong, which is why parody Twitter account Performative Woke Man elicits such bitter chuckles of recognition from women on the internet.
It is important, however, to remember that the patented Reid-Morgan double act is a partnership that both presenters entered into willingly. Reid certainly isn’t responsible for him “spouting off whatever he believes”, but her presence beside Morgan on the sofa does – to some degree – perpetuate the questionable notion that his opinions are worth hearing. The duo have hit on a formula that attracts viewers and makes headlines: he says something offensive, and she – the smart, savvy, empathetic straight woman – rolls her eyes and tries to keep the show on the road. She might sincerely find his views appalling, but she knows he’s going to voice them, and she keeps working with him anyway. She understands what role they’re there to play.
Nevertheless, her indignation at being held accountable for Morgan’s prehistoric attitude towards the Women’s March is understandable and relatable. Lest we forget, in January 2017, Morgan tweeted that he was “planning a ‘Men’s March’ to protest at the creeping global emasculation of my gender by rabid feminists”.
I'm planning a 'Men's March' to protest at the creeping global emasculation of my gender by rabid feminists. Who's with me?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 21, 2017
He went on to post another tweet describing the Women’s March as “a mass hissy fit over a failed female presidential candidate’s bid for the White House”. The rant continued on Good Morning Britain the Monday after the international marches, when he said he was “all in favour of equality” (no laughing at the back) but disliked “rabid feminists” (them again!).
“For every woman who marches with good intent there are women who I would categorise as ‘rabid feminists’ who don’t like men very much,” Morgan said, adding: “Having generic vacuous marches to make yourself feel good is pointless.”
At the time, Reid attempted to challenge his remarks, but was largely unable to cut through his bluster. This isn’t necessarily her fault: one gets the sense that if aliens visited Earth and dropped in on Good Morning Britain, Morgan would talk over their descriptions of life on other planets. (Reid alludes to this in her Radio Times interview, noting that working with Morgan means a “constant battle for airtime”: “Sometimes I open my mouth to ask a question and hear Piers’ voice come out”.)
But the fact that Reid was later criticised – by men! – for her co-host’s remarks speaks to a wider, deep-rooted cultural habit of positioning women as the guardians of men’s morality, then blaming them when they behave badly.
We saw this tendency played out, to a much more extreme degree, in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein case, when there was much hand-wringing about what Georgina Chapman knew and what she should or could have done to stop her husband. We saw it in the Nineties, when scorn and suspicion was heaped on Hillary Clinton in the wake of Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Interestingly, we also saw it last autumn, when many commentators demanded to know why Clinton hadn’t commented on the allegations against Weinstein.
These are dark and dramatic examples that rather overshadow Morgan’s small-scale dickery. But they occurred on the same spectrum that sees Reid having to fight off accusations that she doesn’t do enough to keep him in check.
No woman has a duty to educate men about feminism, just as no person of colour is obliged to teach white people about racism, and Reid is not Morgan’s teacher, mother, minder or nanny. We hope she maintains her strong track record of challenging him as often as possible – but ultimately, the responsibility for his toxic opinions lies with him.
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