When women go outside

Speaking of bullies – a news show host in Australia tore a strip off the Daily Mail for its habit of degrading and shaming women. One of the examples he gave was so bizarre I googled it and found the details.

To be fair, this weekend’s Daily Mail Australia story about Channel Seven television host Sam Armytage wearing granny underwear didn’t set out to demean and humiliate me. It only set out to demean and humiliate Armytage, and Armytage alone.

How else would you explain taking a photo of her on the street, from behind, without her consent, and plastering the results on the internet: “Sam Armytage dares to bare with her giant granny panties showing visible line in Sydney”. (Firstly, she didn’t “dare to bare” anything. She was wearing a dress over her underpants. That is why they are called underpants.)

Wow. What can you even say about that?

Armytage has told Buzzfeed Australia that the matter is now with her lawyers. I hope this means they won’t continue shaming every semi-famous woman who wears normal underwear to the shops.

But the whole tawdry exercise speaks to a wider issue. There has been much talk in the past few weeks of ideas that seemed unacceptable a few short months ago slowly being normalised.

In an essay for the New York Times Magazine, Teju Cole wrote about the days following Donald Trump’s US election win: “All around were the unmistakable signs of normalisation in progress. So many were falling into line without being pushed. It was happening at tremendous speed, like a contagion.”

Normalisation is a choice. When you are part of the chain of production that enables a story like Armytage’s undies to even exist – when you commission, write, click, consume – you are normalising cyberbullying, stalking, sexism and just all-round general creepiness.

It’s not “teasing.” It’s not “irony.” It’s not “free speech.” It’s not “criticism.”

Updating to add the smoking gun:

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