in which we take Iain Dale back to school

Oh Iain, you have had a rough night, haven’t you? First of all you have to suffer the indignity of sitting next to a woman who had the temerity to use public transport after having imbibed alcohol like the wanton, careless, fully legal adult that she was, and then when you took to twitter to have a good old complain and breach her privacy horribly, the internet only went and turned on you like the fickle beast it is.

It’s hard out there for people who enjoy being dreadful to complete strangers.

But it’s okay, Iain. I’m on your side here! Somewhere along the line you must have missed a couple of lessons at finishing school, and I don’t think it’s fair that you be pilloried (pilloried! Like a common misogynist!) just for that. So let’s have a little recap of where you might have gone wrong, here.

I’ve taken the liberty of adding in a screencap of your original tweet to this post. I think it’s a good starting point for our lesson.

You’ll notice that I’ve made a couple of changes. I’ve smudged out the URL and replaced the woman’s face with a nice subtle ‘privacy please!’ sign. This is because it’s a fundamentally disrespectful, rude, and mean-spirited thing to do to breach someone’s privacy – especially for the sake of mocking them. People are very funny about privacy, you know! Even up as far as the United Nations, which, by the way, says – in article 12 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Maybe this isn’t something you want to get into the habit of, eh?

(Incidentally, I am in no way an expert on UK libel law, but if anyone who is, would like to comment as to whether publishing an individual’s picture in conjunction with a comment casting aspersions on their moral fibre constitutes libel – I’d be very interested.)

Anyway, next I’d like to talk about your word use. You called this lady a ‘disgusting slapper’. Some alternatives I could suggest here might include ‘woman,’ ‘lady,’ ‘fellow passenger,’ ‘unfortunate victim of nausea,’ etc. But really, I think you should stick to the old chestnut of ‘when you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. Really, Iain. Don’t say anything. At all. A grown man who thinks it’s in any way right or fair to refer to a woman as a ‘disgusting slapper’ really shouldn’t open his mouth in public until he’s educated himself a bit more with regard to words and their meanings.

You said in a later tweet that “If it had been a man I would have no doubt said “drunken prick”.” Unfortunately, this is not in any way an equivalent, and I think even you can understand this. ‘Prick’ is a rude word, yes, and it is a general purpose insult. It does not carry any particular connotation. One can be a prick for spilling your drink, cutting you off in traffic, hurling in your lap on a train. There is no particular category of misbehaviour to which the word pertains.

‘Slapper,’ however, is a word with immediate connotations: it is almost universally understood to mean a woman, and a woman with disreputable sexual morals at that. What you have done here, Iain, then, is taken a stranger’s inebriated state, and extrapolated from that, that she is a person of low sexual inhibition, perhaps promiscuous, not to be trusted, and certain not a character with whom one would wish to associate. Good heavens, Iain, you must be some detective. Of course, what you are actually doing is buying straight into what we ‘lefties and the sisterhood‘* * call ‘rape culture’.

(* * If you’ve ever wondered why we need a sisterhood in the first place, I’d start by thinking about how a grown woman can’t comport herself how she pleases in public, without infringing on anyone else’s rights, without some judgemental so-and-so putting her picture on the internet for the world to mock.)

Rape culture is a big term for a big thing, and this is not the post in which I offer an in-depth explanation of its intricacies. Instead, I refer to Shakesville’s seminal post on the issue, and the line which interests us in particular here: “Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant.”

Iain, what your words have done here is turned a woman from a person of whose character you have no idea, into an object being viewed purely as a sexual being – an unworthy sexual being. You equate drunkenness with promiscuity, and in doing so you perpetuate the myth that a woman having consumed alcohol is a woman who is ‘easy,’ who will do whatever a man wants with however many men come asking. You take an unfortunate stranger and turn her into an object of your scorn, and another victim of a culture in which women must neither be seen nor heard unless their presence is pleasing to a man.

That is disgusting, Iain, and if you had any shame at all, you would apologise.

I should leave it here, I really should, because those are my nice legal and political points, but I can’t help but feel that I should ask one more question: Iain, where are your manners?

Oh, I know that “She had a choice. To get blind drunk or not.” and that you don’t drink, and I’m sure that gives you a lovely cushion of superiority on which to rest on those long train journeys, but listen up now: when you see a stranger in distress, the polite thing to do is to see if you can offer them any assistance. If someone sitting opposite you looks to be ill, offer them a plastic bag in case they get sick, or a water bottle to have a drink. Even a kind word might help make someone’s day better. You have no idea why a stranger is drinking. Maybe it’s just because it’s Friday; maybe they lost their job; maybe they’re dying of alcoholism.

It’s not for you to judge. I repeat what I said above: if you have any shame in you, you will apologise for your behaviour this evening.

Nothing about this woman was there for you to judge.


7 thoughts on “in which we take Iain Dale back to school

  1. “It’s not for you to judge. “

    Really? Well, since we adopted the ‘mustn’t judge!’ culture the left seems to want (although, what are you doing here, if not judging?) society has got sooooo much more civilised, right?


  2. Firstly. The woman in question was in a public space. She doesn’t have the right to privacy at that point. So his picture is “fair game”

    Secondly drunken behaviour does mean that someone is responsible for their actions so if you get get drunk and make a fool of yourself then you deserve what ever embarrassment you are subjected to.

    What is wrong about the entire comment is that he uses a female pejorative as part of his judgement. She doesn’t deserve that. She shouldn’t be judged as a “slapper” but as an equal with fellow male drunks as just an “idiot”

    By conflating her utterly bogus right to privacy with her right to be respected as an equal you’re muddying the waters.

    She’s a drunken idiot (as so many including myself have been); she’s doing it in public so it’s not private; but she judgements on her sexual morality as part of that are obviously utterly wrong.

    We should judge behaviour based on the actions they take; not on their gender. This is clearly a case where the former has blurred with the latter. Something that in a sense your post is coming close to doing too.

  3. Fair points. But would you concede also that being drunk in public can be unpleasant, and can be an imposition on others close by eg fellow passengers?

  4. WilliamFair “But would you concede also that being drunk in public can be unpleasant, and can be an imposition on others close by eg fellow passengers?” I think that is accepted and dealt with in the article.

    JuliaM I would add that while public drunkenness is a public nuisance, it can also be part of a private tragedy. Deciding (then over-reacting on the decision) that the unknown person here is willfully drunk, worthy of ridicule and abuse beyond their immediate drunkenness is a poor judgement.

    Iain Dale is not just another chance encounter on a train, he is a professional communicator who is paid to stir controversy in public so as to earn listeners and a living for himself. By professional, i mean he gerts paid and that his expertise and role gives an air of general authority to what he says and writes.

    It’s s few years since I was paid to write anything, so I think I can agree with Sandra that Iain Dale has made himself look unpleasant and amoral. But I’m sure he would be neither moved nor unhappy to know that one of the little people has said so. If he were my teenage son posting the same bile into Facebook I would have words and feel that I had failed as parent.

  5. What you are forgetting is that Iain Dale is guilty of that most heinous of public transport crimes, “Putting The Bag On The Seat Next To Him”, almost always a sure-fire sign of either prickishness or snobbery, or sometimes both.

    To the point that if I am on a train I DELIBERATELY go and ask such people “Is anyone sitting here?” and pointing to the bag EVEN WHERE THERE ARE VACANT SEATS NEARBY..

    Never fails to get the message…

    p.s. Iain Dale used to be a nice guy, but he has become a pretentious, smug, sanctimonious twat ever since he got that radio gig and started to believe his own hype and fell for the “I am considerably more successful than yeeuew” patronising condescension to other mere mortals who don’t share his taste for branded merchandise…

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