Saturday, 21st September 2013

by Joshua Gaskell

Attempts by the UK Independence Party to persuade voters that it’s changing the face of British politics have been overshadowed by a row involving one of its MEPs, who referred to women as “sluts.”

Odd as it feels to criticise the BBC whilst defending Godfrey “Bongo-Bongo Land” Bloom, I don’t think this headline from last night’s 6 O’Clock News was fair. It doesn’t mention the fact that when you listen to the clip it’s very obvious that Bloom was making a good-natured joke about hypothetical women in a humorous scenario, nor that (as an old man) his defence on the basis of an old-fashioned meaning of the word slut is believable. Indeed, if you look the word up in the OED online, the entry – with its disclaimer, ‘This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1912)’ – does not even specifically mention promiscuity. The primary definition given is ‘A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern,’ which makes sense in the context of Bloom’s joke about cleaning behind the fridge. You have to go to the more up-to-date Oxford Dictionary of English to find the definition we’re more familiar with: ‘a woman who has many casual sexual partners.’ Yet even in that entry it gives the other definition – ‘a woman with low standards of cleanliness’ – and notes that it is ‘dated’; not obsolete, dated.

Kicking up a fuss about a non-event like this feeds UKIP’s sometimes legitimate qualms about political correctness, and distracts from what should be the headline: not only is their raison d’être to alienate us from our democratic allies, but their manifesto claims that, if elected, they would continue with the current deficit-reduction plan, and cut everybody’s taxes. The scale of the attack on public services which this would entail is much more offensive than outdated language from an old duffer.