Big Brother bullying: When sexual and physical abuse are seen as entertainment

Nat Guest

Screen shot 2012 06 29 at 12.12.36 Big Brother bullying: When sexual and physical abuse are seen as entertainmentBig Brother – that bastion of good taste and moral virtue, that pillar of strength and goodness in an uncertain world – has once again come under fire this week, with Ofcom receiving 1,000 complaints from disgusted viewers. The reason? Housemate Conor McIntyre launching into a verbal attack on beauty queen Deana Uppal after she failed to complete an eating task.

So far so unremarkable, as Big Brother is not exactly a stranger to blazing rows between housemates; in fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that they positively encourage as much bile and hatred as possible between contestants. What has sparked the outrage – as with the Danielle Lloyd/Shilpa Shetty racism row back in 2007 – is the clear crossing of the boundaries of what is acceptable.

Conor said:

“Get your epilator, stick it up your arse, we don’t give a fuck, because we’re gunna fucking smash your face…I’ll give her a fun game, I’ll stick this up her fucking m**ge the stupid bastard. I’ll give her a fucking epilator. I’m going to play loads of pranks on her because she’s a fucking piece of shit and I don’t give a fuck if I get pulled up to the diary room…if she threw water over me, I’d punch her in the face, just knock her out.”

In this case, Conor’s tirade against Deana contained brazen threats of physical and sexual violence against her, which – whether or not he would ever actually carry them out – should not be tolerated on a light entertainment programme. Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Holly Dustin, said it was irresponsible of Channel 5 “to leave a woman in a confined space with someone who has made threats of physical and sexual violence against her”. Deana’s obvious upset following the incident raises questions over whether Big Brother really has contestants’ security and best interests at heart.

Whilst Channel 5 have released a statement saying that that Conor’s behaviour “was not condoned by Big Brother or any of the housemates” (apart from, presumably, Conor himself), this seems somewhat at odds with the breezy way that Big Brother treated the event on the programme’s Twitter feed.  Here, BB seemed to me to join in with the misogynous baiting of Deana – though under the type of guise which would doubtless be dismissed by many as “harmless banter”. “Conor doesn’t mince his words,” they commented at the time of his outburst, seeming almost approving. More sinisterly, when a distraught Deana sought a hug from another housemate, they then tweeted, “Yup, a good mounting. That’s all she needed.” Given the programme’s namesake, with all its inescapable associations, this paints a somewhat disturbing picture of Big Brother as an enormous Patriarch-in-the-Sky, raining down misogyny and judgement where it so pleases.

The real issue here is not so much in Conor’s behaviour itself, which, whilst appalling, represents just one isolated incident. The more worrying thing is in Big Brother’s failure to condemn or truly reprimand his behaviour, beyond an ineffectual ‘ticking off’ in the Diary Room.  This lack of response has the effect of implicitly condoning his actions, a view which is given further weight by their inappropriate comments on Twitter.

Like it or not, Channel 5 seems to be presenting the idea to viewers that threats of sexual and physical abuse are something that is seen as entertainment, and which can be doled out without punishment or rebuke. Sexual bullying and intimidation towards women will earn you nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and the continued chance to win thousands of pounds of prize money.

At least, that’s the way it looks to me. But then, I probably just need a good mounting.

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  • stonedwolf

    I can hold the starlets of Heat and OK! magazines, the Big Brother contestants and former “glamour models” breaking into “my own reality TV show” in utter contempt.

    Can and do, and do do.

  • Clare Elizabeth Freeman

    i agree completely with this article. It is a little sinister to read about Big Brother tweeting on it’s own show regarding Deana getting ” a good mounting”. I saw that happen and it was very uncomfortable watching. What Adam did might have passed as a ‘joke’ if he had only done it for a few seconds but it dragged on for far too long. Deana was obviously uncomfortable, wriggling and trying to get away .Which she obviously couldn’t since she was pinned down by a very big and probably heavy man. What she had asked for was a hug: that was all.

    Bib Brother overall has become hideously sexist along with Big Brother’s Bit on the Side. The last season of BBOTS had John McCorick making lewd and innapropriately leering& blatant comments about Emma Willis’s chest when she was heavily pregnant and referring to them as “puppies” and how he’d like to err.partake of them and so on and running his own excerpts of the show concentrating on various female’s anatomy particularly their chests.

    In that series there was an item which involved a photo gallery of the women contestant’s chests and the panel had to ‘rate’ them and it was compared with the contestant’s own rating! Panellists made comments about how they would “like to smash that” or other verbs about the women contestants. “That” being the operative word. Even the ‘right-on’ Jamie East commented on how he’d like to “‘F’ her”..

    This series has involved Ian Lee turning to the ejected contestant Victoria, sitting quietly next to him on the sofa and declaring “What do you know? you’re just a pair of knockers!” and repeatedly denigrating and interrupting the female Psychologist and shouting at her that she couldn’t be “a real Psychologist!”

    Razor Ruddock on the same couch made repeated crude sexist jokes & comments which also passed unchallenged. Apparently hideous sexist and objectifying ‘banter’ that talks about women as objects and rates them only as walking chests and scores them as to their F-ability is all de rigeur these days in Big Brother. Perhaps it is oh so achingly ‘ironic’?!!

    The disparity of how sexist language and comments and in the case of Conor, outright viscous threats, are treated as compared to racist ones is puzzling. They are both equally unacceptable and should be treated with absolute zero tolerance.

    Additionally: by not telling Deana about the threats she was left in the dark when she should have been appraised of the situation so that she could make an informed decision. Such as whether she wished to leave and or report the threats to the Police.

    At the very least Deana should have been made aware of being at risk from Conor. Just as she is from Arron, both he and Conor having made regular physical threats coupled with degrading language against Deana. We, the audience, were involuntarily put in the position of colluding with the show itself, by Big Brother neglecting to inform her of the threats made against her.

    In essence, Deana has been publicly humiliated and degraded with horrific sexist language and threats, without even her knowledge. I should think she would be absolutely horrified when she finds out and feel publicly shamed and embarrassed. When it is Conor who should be publicly shamed. In my opinion the show should have been immediately cancelled.

    I stopped watching Big Brother as a protest and caught a glimpse of BIg Brother’s Bit On the side it last night:Jamie East was in the camera runs and commented on Becky having a face pack on saying that “Becky needs to take that face pack off soon:she looks like she has had a sexual encounter with Luke S”! This is on the heels of Conor and Arron’s hideous sexist treatment and bullying of Deana.

    This show, along with BBOTS, has gone beyond parody and even the parody of parody which i think it believes it is doing. Sexist abusive language and the unequal treatment and bullying of women by sheer aggression and threatening & vile language has been colluded with. Sexism:unlike racism:rules ok…

    Considering the worrying and recorded increase of the acceptance of physical bullying, forced sex and the gang rape of young teenage girls by their own boyfriends and his mates, Channel 5 and Big brother should hang their heads in shame. For promoting a culture of acceptance of sexist attitudes and treatment of women. In shows run and produced by so called educated middle class types who really , one would have thought, ought to have known better.
    Who perhaps are operating under the illusion that is it oh so ironic? achingly so? No, sexism is not and never was in any way ‘ironic’. Irony is dead. In fact irony ate itself a long time ago…

  • Clare Elizabeth Freeman

    p.s i note that the comments in this forum follow that unbreakable rule of any discussion of sexism:that it will engender sexist abuse & sexist hatred in the comments section!…

  • Alison Meldrum

    Well written, & spot on> Conor should have been removed from the house right away but I’m really hoping he’ll be out on Friday to a chorus of boo’s & 2 really tough interviews from Brian & Emma & a poor reception from the general public.

  • sheffieldutd

    Far more to do with Endemol’s choice of House Mates.

  • jackie.mccourt

    ach stone give it up! boreeeeeeeeeee

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