I am bored of your preaching

JOSH SIMONS thinks we should be a little more careful before reeling off patronising, malign and preachy arguments.

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I very rarely bother to spend more than a cursory sentence criticising the writers behind arguments I read online, particularly student writers. We all think we know more than we actually do, we’re all trying to forge a career but probably failing, and we’re all stuck in the same lugubrious mid-exam-term boat. But I am going to make an exception to this rule.

A few weeks ago journalists were treated to a delightful lecture on the ethics of investigative journalism. We student journalists, namely The Tab Oxford who ran the investigation into Sullivan, were told that by reporting on the fact that the President of the Oxford Union has been arrested on charges of rape we were committing a crime not dissimilar to News of the World phone hackers.

Is the Tab merely the thinly veiled guise of a newspaper that never actually shut down?

Is The Tab merely a thinly-veiled guise for a newspaper that never actually shut down?

What’s the argument here? That we shouldn’t report on high-profile individuals arrested for sexual crimes? Surely not. I won’t remind her that it is not a news editor’s job to protect the identity of those arrested because it’s blindingly obvious (oh wait, I just did). Nor will I remind her that it is a journalist’s job to doggedly and unrelentingly report facts – of which an arrest is one of the most important – not moralise and muse altruistically about what might happen if he is, as he may be, found to be innocent.

In fact, she has the audacity to describe such reporting as ‘gossip’ and to claim that the fact that Sullivan is a member of the ‘Banter Squadron’ drinking society is simply a ‘character assassination’. If she’d bother to understand the story, it was only because he tried to gag the press in an effort to hide his relationship to said drinking society that the full story came to light.

It pains me to say it, because the contrast between assuming he is guilty and good reporting ought to be self-evident to a writer who spends her time lecturing us all. Fact: Ben Sullivan was arrested on charges of rape. Fact: He attempted to gag the press, unsuccessfully. Fact: He was a member of the ‘Banter Squadron’. No story ought to ponder whether he is guilty, but no self-respecting student newspaper ought to entertain not publishing these facts.

Now to the point. This all became genuinely laughable to me when I read this very public lecture aimed at girls all over the country who join drinking societies because they are desperate attention-seekers (the URL is really the only bit worth reading):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2638373/Harpooning-whales-Fat-Girl-Rodeo-women-bad-men-sexist-university.html

So this term she’s already explained that journalists ought not to satisfy an insatiable public appetite for villanising drinking societies and ‘assassinating’ the characters of those who attend them.

Exactly what is this article doing then? Making a brave feminist case for the rape culture that exists in drinking societies? On the Daily Mail? Even if she thinks that is what she is doing, she ought to step into the mind of her news editor at the Mail. For that editor, it is a piece further vilifying us Cambridge students’ licentious lifestyles, with the added bonus of fitting in pictures of girls licking cream off each other’s tits. They love naked Cambridge girls.

These are naked men not women. I am making a point.

These are naked men not women. I am making a point.

It is satisfying precisely the same appetite she claims to abhor in relation to the Sullivan case.

Why bother spending so much time dissecting this conflict-ridden moralising? Because I want to undermine the backdrop to what I think is a very dangerous argument. It demonises all women who decide they want to join a drinking society. It claims that all they are doing is meeting men’s expectations. It denies them their agency.

Apparently, it’s all about your one second of fame when you stand half-naked (is that bad?) on top of some table downing some ‘lethal’ (really?) alcoholic concoction. Girls who are reading this and are members of a drinking society: has she hit the nail on the head? No wait, sorry, you can’t answer that; you don’t really know that you’re not actually choosing for yourself, you are just doing as you’re told. Sorry love, ‘you’re merely part of the show’.

In fact it probably says more about the writer than anything else. After all, she seems to be terribly worried about being taken seriously in this leading seat of learning.

I am not a member of any drinking society. After some pretty boring swaps, on which I watched Jesus boys dribble into their plates trying to chat up my girlfriend, I decided I couldn’t be arsed. But I do not spend my time lecturing them in the Mail. More importantly, I do not spend any time lecturing my girlfriend for wanting to hang out with them and her girlfriends for a few hours.

Nor do I deny that some pretty objectionable things go on at some drinking societies (emphasis on the some there). In fact I report on them.

I just think you should stop lecturing journalists across the country, and girls across the country, particularly when your snotty drivel cannot even rid itself of rank hypocrisy. And don’t even get me started on the grammar.