By Ben Pensant.
Despite the beastliness of Brexit, the tyranny of Trump, and the way white people continued to destroy everything they touched, there was much to celebrate in 2017. From Katie Hopkins and Kelvin Mackenzie being fired for saying stuff Guardian-readers don’t like to Jezza and Labour wiping the floor with the Tories by losing another election to them, there was plenty of good news if you knew where to look for it.
Remember the excitement of watching marginalised Muslims retaliate to Islamophobic western foreign policy by mowing down pedestrians, blowing up teenagers and slashing the throats of booze-addled cockneys? Who could forget Larry Khan striking a blow for feminism by banning posters featuring women in bikinis from the Underground in case female commuters get so offended they start jumping in front of trains?
Marvellous memories but let’s not get carried away. Because as last week’s shocking Poundland scandal illustrated, there is currently a sharp divide between educated liberals outraged by the sight of two toys engaging in consensual sex-acts and ignorant bigots who couldn’t give two fucks. And despite the best efforts of Caroline Criado Whitehouse – journalist, activist and founder of Twitter’s Anti-Sex League – it appears the latter group are growing, emboldened by patriarchy, imperialism and having a sense of humour.
Predictably, right-wing social media defended Poundland’s hateful decision to promote Twinings Tea with a toy elf dangling its perforated plums over an unconscious woman as ‘banter’, that vile phenomenon popular with rape apologists. Cue principled outrage from middle-class journalists who had led such sheltered lives they’d never heard of ‘tea-bagging’ but were awfully cross about it anyway.
Which was understandable having been forced to look at an advert attacking women, trivialising sexual assault and promoting female subservience. That it was actually a harmless pun on something consenting adults do every day was irrelevant, quirky sex-acts clearly not widely discussed in the boarding schools and elite universities where Britain’s left-wing media starlets were taught how to think.
Needless to say, the privately educated victims of Poundland’s misogyny were ignored, the chain store refusing to withdraw the picture. Indeed, this wasn’t their first foray into the world of sexism, having recently tweeted horrendous images featuring the pointy-eared brute doing everything from enjoying a threesome with two Barbie Dolls to sticking his plastic penis through a hole in a wall, a particularly vile act which would give even the most laid-back H&S officer nightmares.
So it was left to feminist Twitter to fight the good fight, vowing to boycott Twinings and Poundland until they removed the ‘tea-bagging’ image and repeatedly stating that because the female elf was lying on her back it clearly meant she’d been assaulted rather than simply being quite common among consenting adults when one is sucking the other one’s knackers. Y’know, tea-bagging. Or as Ms Criado Whitehouse calls it: rape.
For the uninitiated, Caroline is a feminist. And like many feminists, this privately educated CEO’s daughter loves to rail against white male privilege despite being more privileged than any white male I know. Unsurprisingly, she was at the forefront of the anti-Poundland crusade, almost having a nervous breakdown over the fact that a grubby discount store had the nerve to make a joke about a consensual sex-act without considering the feelings of an Oxford graduate with an OBE. Which she announced to her followers with a late contender for most hysterically middle-class tweet of the year:
‘I’m pretty faithful to Twinings English Breakfast but would change fast as hell if it turns out they think a puerile middle-finger up at women is an acceptable marketing strategy’. Bold stuff from a traumatised woman, clearly haunted by grotesque hallucinations in which the evil elf wasn’t merely dangling its balls above the unconscious women’s mouth it was also fingering her. But this wasn’t just about a sexist photo: it was about tarnishing Caroline’s favourite hot drink – and by extension her very soul – by selling it in a grubby shop for poor people. Indeed, if the teabags the elf was forcing into his victim’s mouth were Tetley’s she wouldn’t give two fucks.
Happily, Twinings responded by doing what regressives admire most: caving in to the mob and issuing a grovelling apology. Though as Caroline pointed out fifty-seven times, the damage was already done: ‘I’ve fucking had enough of sexual assault being played for laughs!’ she railed, stubbornly sticking to the wonky equation that engaging in a consensual sex act = sexual assault.
She then brilliantly silenced her detractors by pointing out that the woman on the floor was wearing a T-shirt with ‘brave’ written on it. While uneducated Leave voters wondered what this had to do with sexual assault, the rest if us knew straight away, even before Caroline clarified it for the pro-rape crowd:
‘The T-shirt she’s wearing positions this as a middle-finger at the #MeToo movement’. Gotcha. With no evidence whatsoever to back up her claim, Caroline exposed Poundland’s real intention: to undermine an anti-sexual assault campaign by releasing a daft picture of two toys doing something naughty that has got bugger all to do with sexual assault. It’s so obvious it hurts.
Having sent her opponents back to their basements, Caroline continued to lambast Poundland for their ‘transparent attempt at outrage marketing’, an attempt so transparent she spent all day being outraged about it. ‘Which makes it far worse than just straight up sexism’. Indeed, it was something far, far worse: consensual sex, a thorn in the side of misandrists like Caroline for years. Because the only thing worse than a woman having sexual relations with a man is a woman having sexual relations with a man because she wants to.
A position summed up by the angry woman so horrified by Poundland she reported them to the police. No word yet on how the investigation is coming along but fingers crossed she got through and wasn’t kept waiting while the operator dealt with something trivial like a robbery, a murder or an actual sexual assault.
Luckily, Caroline and her followers were ably supported by an assortment of male allies who know when to shut up, Do Better and show their solidarity with the sisterhood by sitting down when they go for a piss. Chief among these white knights was Times columnist Hugo Rifkind, who riled Caroline by making a sensible point – a sure-fire way to piss off a modern feminist – before getting back in her good books by spending the rest of the thread bowing, curtsying and apologising through his teeth to avoid the wrath of the Anti-Sex League Banshees.
‘Sorry. Wasn’t’ he replied after Caroline accused him of ‘eye-rolling at women getting rightly upset’. What Hugo had actually done was make the straightforward observation that middle-class media types boycotting Poundland was unlikely to affect their sales. But Caroline didn’t get where she is today by debating actual points when hysterical straw-man arguments do the job ten times better. Something Hugo was mindful of as the exchange progressed, his craven apologetics even earning a rare ‘sorry’ from Caroline for misreading his point. ‘Don’t be’ Hugo replied, his testicles retreating so fast he coughed up a mouthful of pubes: ‘I was being flip, maybe I shouldn’t be’.
He then apologised to a different woman, disheartened that her anger over a photo of two consenting toys being rude had been ‘discredited’ as moral outrage. ‘I’m honestly not sure anyone in this thread is doing that’ he pleaded, offering up what remained of his ball-sack as a blood sacrifice, ‘but I’m sorry if that’s how it looks’. Wise move. Because there’s nothing more guaranteed to melt regressive hearts quicker than apologising for how they feel.
Hugo then wisely decided to avoid any more misunderstanding, earning much-needed brownie points by doubling-down on how appalling the elf picture was: ‘If this was similarly racially or religiously offensive it would be illegal’ he pointed out, tapping in to the modern leftist desire to criminalise everything they don’t like. Though he wisely avoided explaining either what was offensive about the picture or what its racially or religiously offensive equivalents would be. If an elf getting tea-bagged promotes rape I daren’t even imagine the reaction to black and Jewish elves sharing a glass of Eggnog.
Thankfully, it seems at uni Hugo et al were far too busy reading books and being intellectual to watch porn or learn about a well-known sexual position that even Caroline’s idol Mary Whitehouse had probably heard of. (I hear her good friend Jimmy Savile kept her up to date with all the latest trends.) Which proved extremely useful when stubbornly pushing the narrative that a plastic toy pretending to pleasure another plastic toy was in fact not a cheeky pun on the term ‘tea-bagging’ but a cruel piece of propaganda designed to discredit victims of assault.
As Caroline put it: ‘I hate being used like this in such a horrendous way’ cleverly blaming Poundland for inciting her to spend a whole day making a fuss out of something she didn’t understand. ‘It’s mocking women fighting back against sexual assault. I feel dirty’ See what you did to this poor woman? Not only is she so traumatised she’s started imagining a photo of a toy lying on its back signifies rape, you’ve also forced her to spend all day thinking about it. Shameful.
Sadly, despite the support Caroline received there was a sting in the tail for The Purity Police, as it became disappointingly apparent that in The Real World the vast majority of people were firmly on Poundland’s side. Including women. Yes, that’s right, in 2017 there actually exists brain-damaged females who not only have the temerity to disagree with a double-barrelled socialite with letters after her name but also have such crippling internalised misogyny they aren’t outraged by a daft picture of an elf with its stots out. Terrifying.
Still, once Caroline realised that the vast majority of people couldn’t care less where a toy sticks its paper nuts, she went back to doing what she does best: whining about Brexit, covering up the legs on pianos and making hysterically bigoted comments about men that would have her screaming ‘hate crime!’ if someone said them about any other group.
Indeed, she gleefully switched her attention to the other big issue that only a handful of tearful pro-EU zealots give a shit about: blue passports. Getting stuck right in, she propagated the popular, evidence-free, frankly bizarre theory that changing their colour was a chief reason idiots voted Leave, before lamenting that exiting the EU will mean she will no longer be able to work and travel throughout Europe despite the fact that she quite literally will.
All of which seemed to get her regressive juices re-flowing after the dispiriting Poundland defeat, and it was great to see her take a break from the fight against toy-based misogyny to join her Remainer brethren in their latest bout of Brexit-based hysteria. I for one took huge pleasure in watching the same people who’ve spent 18 months telling Leave voters how gullible they are re-tweeting the illogical claim that it costs £500 million to change a passport from red to blue.
But despite that fleeting victory the war is far from over, with Caroline and the feminist resistance currently in retreat like the Rebel MCs at the end of the new Star Trek film. They’re sure to bounce back though and I’m in no doubt that Caroline is training her troops as we speak, prepping them for an all-out assault on the next cheap supermarket that thinks it’s funny to mock rape victims by making silly puns about sex-acts. Fingers crossed they’ve done their homework and know their rim-jobs from their bagpipes.
May the force be with them.