I suppose, in one sense, I should be extending thanks to Unilever and Pot Noodle for providing a hook for something else I’ve been meaning to say for a while. Which is that a lot of stuff that the trans community position as transphobia is actually drawn much more widely in terms of a broader misogyny.
In this, there is a lot of similarity betwixt the Pot Noodle ad and infamous trans regretter, Charles Kane.
Remember him? He broke the system, transitioned at super fast speed, and then regretted his decision bitterly: so much so that he is now regularly quoted as arbiter of difficult trans issues by some parts of the press. Only I don’t see him as transphobic, so much as a good old fashioned misogynist.
Consider. In explaining his original decision, he claims he thought “women had it easier”. After all – hey! – all we do is sit around all day comparing shades of nail polish and gossiping.
As if! Post-transition, he reckoned that people took him less seriously. And women didn’t talk about “important” stuff. By which I think he meant “bloky” stuff.
Basically, take out the trans dimension, and this is a guy who just doesn’t understand and doesn’t respect the female perspective. Which means it is giving him far too much credibility to regard him as any sort of informed commenter on trans issues.
Now look at the Pot Noodle ad. The central message seems to be that women have it easy. Sure: that’s parcelled up in the trappings of being a footballer’s WAG: but the core misogynist message remains.
When I look at comedy – and humour in advertising – it is not the transphobia that strikes me, so much as the sexism. Men’s groups regularly complain about the belittling of men that goes on in a lot of presentations: basically, the cliché is that men are incompetent weak creatures who need a woman to hold their hand. And I’d say there is some truth in that.
More widely, though, I think this is trumped by the vastly greater amount of comedic output that disrespects women and, much more seriously, directly plays with issues such as rape and violence in a way that, if we believe there is some norming effect from comedy, is incredibly dangerous.
The fact is: some trans folk read the ad as transphobic and some don’t. However, it is equally clearly readable as out-and-out misogyny, and sometimes its worth picking up on the broader issue as well.