How can you tell when a comment is sexist?
What’s the difference between a sexist remark and just joking around?
Lots of folks don’t seem to know!
Can I be the only one who was put off by some of Michael Bublé’s sexist comments at the recent 2013 Canadian Juno awards? I’ve hesitated writing this, but the idea just won’t let me go. I’ve been a long-time fan of the internationally renowned Canadian crooner, but after his remarks, I’m having a difficult time maintaining my fan stance.
Bublé hosted this year’s event, and as I learned, also wrote and scripted the show. I found much of his humour sexist and derogatory to women. But apparently, I’m on my own here, because I’ve seen little to no mention of this anywhere else in the media. I guess it is so commonplace nowadays to insult women by judging whatever they do by how attractive they look and/or how sexually desirable they are, that we generally pay little attention to it, unless it is delivered by highly prominent individuals.
Even President Obama recently provoked a furor when he commented on a female politician’s good looks as well as her abilities and accomplishments. At least he included the latter. But that’s politics. Show business may be judged by even less stringent criteria.
So far, press coverage on the show and on Bublé ‘s hosting seems to have been written by men. Nick Patch of The Canadian Press, in an item appearing in the National Post, provided a verbatim account of what happened. After star-of-the-night pop singer Carly Rae Jepson’s more risqué than usual performance, which involved “shedding her modest duds and trotting across the stage in an atypically revealing getup”… Bublé exclaimed, “She was so hot – did you see those little shorts? They looked good on her but they’d look better crumpled up on my bedroom floor, if you know what I mean.” Heh, heh, heh!
While Patch at least described this as a “leering comment,” The Toronto Star’s pop music critic Ben Rayner called Bublé an “amusing and endearingly lecherous host.” Really?
No other references to this inappropriate remark were made by the online CBC reviewer who called Bublé “genial,” or by Huffpost Canada’s music critic Joshua Ostroff who thought Bublé, as head writer, “got off a few good ones.” (Was the ‘little shorts’ remark one of the considered good ones?) And the Juno people certainly didn’t seem to care, or notice, since they didn’t veto the scripted comment. Even Bublé’s pregnant wife seemed to be in on the joke (as she gestured to him from the audience).
I’m not disputing Bublé’s charm in general, or his comedic writing skills, which were clearly aimed at a younger crowd. I am, however, appalled that it was okay for him to praise Jepson (whose main fan-base is young teen and pre-teen girls) solely in terms of her sexual desirability. That she was “hot” – okay, since the word has a variety of meanings. But there was no mention of her talent, her energy, her song-writing skill, her voice, her accomplishments, her international fame, or her entertaining performance. Only her looks mattered. And I’m disturbed that no one else has seen fit to address this.
Ms. Jepson certainly doesn’t need me to speak up on her behalf. And most likely, she didn’t mind or care what Bublé said. After all, she won several awards that night, her career seems to be on the upswing, and as the saying goes, she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank.
The issue here goes way beyond the insult to Jepson. On its own, one off-colour sexist remark cannot be that big of a deal. But within a larger context, it does matter. The larger context is this: what kind of message does Bublé ‘s response send to Jepson’s young fans? No wonder increasingly younger girls get involved sexting and posting salacious pictures of themselves online. No wonder eating disorder programs have long waiting lists, as more and more young men and women harm themselves in desperate attempts to look like pop stars or movie stars. No wonder an estimated 60% of young people are dissatisfied with their body image. And here in Canada we have a TV show aimed at this young audience that seems to validate and perpetuate the notion that looks and sexual appeal count more than anything else, and are the only things deserving of praise. It implies that sexual appeal trumps talent, intelligence, hard work, etc. And it gives young men licence to leer, licence to make sexual innuendos when evaluating anything a young woman does.
Next week in Toronto I’ll be attending a conference sponsored by Canada’s National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) who have focused the entire 2-day event on Body Image and Self-Esteem. An entire day is given to a workshop on Media Literacy, and the kinds of psychologically toxic and detrimental messages our culture conveys. We need more of this type of education.
While I don’t know Michael Bublé well enough to consider him a sexist pig, I do suspect, however, that like so many men, he doesn’t realize the cumulative impact his attitude has, especially on the young and impressionable. He may see things differently after his child is born, especially if he has a little girl. Would he want some older married guy making sexist comments like he did? I doubt it.
I was so happy to see your article! I have been looking for something about this ever since the Junos and was really quite shocked that no one was all over this. I was really offended and quite frankly, shocked, by his comments about Carly Rae’s shorts, etc. I honestly couldn’t believe he said it and that whole thing with his wife was just strange. It was completely inappropriate and sexist and I just can’t believe no one did anything about it. I guess I really thought we Canadians were better than that. I kept checking on line to see if he offered up an apology because I was absolutely certain he would be forced to do that. So quite frankly, I’m flabbergasted that this was allowed to be done with no repercussions at all. Just knocked us back a decade or so, it feels like. In 2013, there’s no excuse whatsoever. Thanks for writing! – Darlene Gaskill-Chandler