Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Now the BBC is censoring the word ‘girl’ – it really is in a different world

It’s beyond parody, isn’t it? Mark Beaumont, a BBC presenter, has made a documentary about the Commonwealth Games and during the course of it he was filmed grappling with a judo champion. After he was sent crashing to the floor he said: ‘I am not sure I can live that down – being beaten by a 19-year-old girl.’ Mr Beaumont is 31.

So inflammatory was the remark that though it was broadcast in full when the programme was broadcast in April, it was removed for the repeat, presumably lest, as the broadcaster Mariella Frostrup observed, the word might come across as ‘dismissive’. I think we can assume that Mariella speaks for received opinion on these matters when she says ‘the BBC has to consider the sensitivities of everyone who might be watching’. I think Mr B will think twice before he uses the G-word again, don’t you?

Shall I state the obvious? Men, as a gender, have greater upper and lower body strength and muscle mass than women, so when a man says he’s thrown by being thrown by a) a girl and b) a 19-year old, we can assume, I think, that it was a graceful compliment to the girl in question by drawing attention to her youth and gender in relation to his own abject performance. A lesser man might have intimated he’d let her win.

So, far from ‘girl’ being derogatory in this context it serves to emphasise the extent to which she has confounded his expectations in relation to age and sex. If he’d been pitted against her in a crossword competition or something to do with sums and had made the same remark, there might have been grounds for someone to go off in a huff. But this being a trial of strength as well as skill, the remark was neither offensive nor contentious.

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