An A-to-Z guide to the new PC

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Brendan O’Neill and Cambridge Union president Tim Squirrell debate the new political correctness” startat=33] Listen [/audioplayer]Anyone who thought political correctness had croaked, joining neon leg warmers, mullets and MC Hammer in the graveyard of bad ideas from the late 1980s and 1990s, should think again. When even someone as gay-friendly and Guardian-hued as Benedict Cumberbatch can be hounded for incorrectness, you know no one’s safe. So what can you say? Here’s an A-to-Z guide to the new PC. A is for America. One-time land of the free, founded by un-PC white dudes partial to a drink and sex with slaves, but more recently the birthplace of identity politics

The war on frat culture

 New York It’s a new semester and a new start at the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder, once encouraged America’s youth to ‘come and drink of the cup of knowledge and fraternise with us’. But this term, any student who fancies a swig from the cup of knowledge had better be sure it doesn’t contain any unauthorised alcohol — in fact he should beware fraternising at all, especially in a ‘frat house’, for fear of breaking the strict new rules. It’ll seem incredible to fans of the 1978 film Animal House, but at the University of Virginia, one of the heartlands of America’s famous ‘Greek’ system, the

Toby Young

Page 3 was harmless. Here’s why I’ll miss it

‘I for one would be sorry to see them go,’ wrote George Orwell. ‘They are a sort of saturnalia, a harmless rebellion against virtue.’ He was writing about the seaside postcards of Donald McGill in 1941, but his defence of them and their ‘enthusiastic indecency’ could equally well apply to Page 3. Orwell’s argument was that McGill’s caricatures of women, ‘with breasts or buttocks grossly over-emphasised’, gave expression to ‘the Sancho Panza view of life’. There’s a fat little squire in all of us, he thought, although few of us are brave enough to admit it. ‘He is the unofficial self, the voice of the belly protesting against the soul,’ he

What The Theory of Everything doesn’t tell you about Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is a misogynist; and also, quite possibly, a narcissist. You wouldn’t know it from watching The Theory Of Everything, the new biopic from Working Title, in which you are invited only to weep when he discovers he has motor neurone disease at 21, and then marvel at his achievements in physics. It goes wild on the obvious cognitive dissonance of Hawking’s life and work — trapped in his body, yet transported in his mind to the stars. I cried as Eddie Redmayne — as Hawking — falls, rises and is redeemed with medals too numerous to type; he is very good, but he only goes where the script

For some left-wing men, the misogyny of the Islamic State is part of the appeal

Watching the recent footage of Islamic State gang members haggling over the price of captured Christian women in a makeshift slave market — one of them wants a 15-year-old with green eyes, another wants to exchange a girl for a gun — I was reminded that Islamists are at least consistent in their hateful worldview and in a way uniquely honest. Even a terror gang as vile as the IRA tried to keep a lid on the rapes and paedophilia going on within its rancid ranks. But when Amnesty International first claimed in September that Isis were enslaving and abusing ‘hundreds, if not thousands’ of Yazidi women and children, it

Brendan O’Neill

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Brendan O’Neill and Harriet Brown discuss the rise of the Stepford student” startat=41] Listen [/audioplayer] Don’t be a Stepford student — subscribe to The Spectator’s print and digital bundle for just £22 for 22 weeks.  Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five

You shouldn’t watch Dapper Laughs. But you really shouldn’t let the likes of me stop you

As you’ll know by now, I’m big on thinking the right things. Should a thought strike me that m’colleague Rod Liddle would not describe as ‘bien-pensant’, then I will of course shy away from it, in a blind panic, for fear that my pensée should be considered insufficiently bien. Right now, however, I’m having doubts about the catechism. The liberal elite may take away my badge. Presumptuous as it may be, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Spectator readers are not immediately familiar with the work of a comedian called Daniel O’Reilly, otherwise known as Dapper Laughs. He’s an internet phenomenon and — let’s not

The pop artist whose transgressions went too far – for the PC art world

Allen Jones (born 1937) has been demonised. In 1969 he made a group of three sculptures of scantily-clad female figures. They were slightly larger than life and arranged in positions that enabled them (with the addition of a glass top or padded seat) to be turned into a table, a chair and a hat stand. These super-mannequins were highly modelled, wigged and leather-booted, and unavoidably realistic. When first exhibited in 1970 they provoked outrage among the feminist community. Jones’s 1978 retrospective of graphic art at the ICA caused a near riot even though the sculptures weren’t shown. In 1986, when the chair went on display, it had acid thrown over

The horrid, helpful egg-freezing scheme at Facebook and Apple

Was the chief operating officer of Facebook, one Sheryl Sandberg, involved, do you reckon, in the company’s exciting invitation to its women employees to freeze their eggs so they can become pregnant at their convenience, preferably a little later in life? I’m not sure that this was one of the recommendations in Lean In, her inspirational advice to women wanting to get ahead in business. Get stuck in, was its motto, and sort out the children in the fullness of time on your terms. She does that herself, you know, with a Shared Earning/Shared Parenting marriage with David Goldberg. The rest of us get on with sharing both those things

Right-wing women are sexier

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Cosmo Landesman and Margaret Corvid discuss whether right-wing women are sexier” startat=1454] Listen [/audioplayer]Not long ago I was out drinking with a group of friends and we started playing the If-You-Had-To game. The idea is to present players with two people they would never want to sleep with — and then make them choose which they’d sleep with. Here are some of the fiendish alternatives I had to face: Imelda Marcos or Wallace Simpson? Ayn Rand or Yoko Ono? Gertrude Stein or Virginia Woolf? Then one joker said: Theresa May or Jemima Khan? Everyone laughed at this no-contest choice. Everyone except me. How could I tell them the

Should I report my boyfriend to the police?

Driving along in the car, listening to the radio news, the boyfriend turned to me and said he thought the Michael Fabricant row a very strange one. Fabricant was being pilloried for having tweeted that he could never go on television with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown because he might ‘end up punching her in the throat’, but my man said he didn’t see what the fuss was about. ‘After all,’ he said, ‘I feel like punching you about 50 times a day.’ Reader, be assured, he was joking. Victims’ groups, hold your horses while I explain. My beloved was pretending to have punching urges for the purposes of humour. Do you see?

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

Is Richard Scudamore allowed private opinions? Apparently not.

There is, you know, quite a bit to be said for having a personal email account for getting stuff off your chest, such as comparing a former girlfriend to a double-decker (don’t ask) and talking about big-titted broads. Any work inbox that your secretary automatically is privy to is, well, not quite the same as one that’s all yours. I’ve taken soundings on this sensitive subject from a friend of mine who is a really good PA, mixes with the mighty and all the rest of it, and she tells me that it’s actually difficult to do the job from her point of view if you don’t have access to

Dear Wonder Women; the doorman at Sushisamba was not sexist

Louisa Peacock of The Telegraph‘s Wonder Women desk has written of how a doorman who refused her entry to a London restaurant because she was not wearing smart enough clothes has lost his job. Peacock appears to think this a victory for the crusaders against #everydaysexism. I can’t agree. Ignoring the fact that the man probably wouldn’t have been sacked had Peacock not been a journalist, this piece sets a very worrying precedent. Louisa Peacock has mistaken a minor grievance for a political point, and a man has lost his job. Peacock did not intend it to be so; but that is what has happened. If you read her account of the affair

Sexism is ‘in your face’ in Britain because it’s up for discussion

Sexism is more ‘in your face’ in Britain than in other countries, a United Nations investigator has claimed. I can see why the UN’s Rashida Manjoo might think this – for better or worse, sexism is a topic that features frequently in British publications. I imagine the Pakistani, Egyptian and Sudanese press don’t give it quite as much coverage. I’m going to assume this was the official’s logic: we write about it a lot, ergo it must be prevalent. Her research would have been easy. All those tweets about #EverydaySexism. A cabinet with fewer women than men. Page Three! We’ve got a problem. Send help. Except that we really don’t.

Sex and squalor in San Francisco

Frog Music begins with a crime against a young mother, committed in a tiny space. Unlike Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel Room, however, the setting is not present-day America but that of 1876. Blanche is travelling on a train with her new friend Jenny. She hears several loud cracks and feels something hot and wet fall on her face. When she collects her senses, Jenny lies dead. Like Kate Atkinson, Donoghue straddles the literary and the crime genre. Room, inspired by the discovery of a number of women abducted and impregnated by their captors, should have won the 2010 Orange Prize and didn’t — perhaps because its subject matter was simply

Don’t knock ‘benevolent sexism’ – it makes us happy

The American-led Left has a new fixation: ‘benevolent sexism’. Recent examples found here, here and here. According to one definition: ‘Ambivalent or benevolent sexism usually originates in an idealization of traditional gender roles: Women are “naturally” more kind, emotional, and compassionate, while men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional, and “tougher,” mentally and physically.’ I don’t want to say anything that could get me arrested in Belgium, but men are on average physically tougher than women. And I would have thought that stating women have – on average – greater empathy is was not likely to get you an auto-da-fé. I imagine that ‘benevolent sexism’ is enduringly popular because people quite

Stella Creasy’s stance on gendered toys misses the point

I felt a touch of sadness on Tuesday when Marks & Spencer caved in to demands that they de-gender their toys, which must make me the worst person on earth. After her triumphant campaign, MP Stella Creasy tweeted: if it annoys some so much girls might want 2 play with cars, imagine how they’d feel if they knew also wanted 2 run companies & stuff! ;-@ — stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) December 18, 2013   Is that why, though? What annoys a lot of people is that a vocal pressure group professing outrage, the universally accepted currency of public discourse, has limited customers’ options. It’s like when people complain about Amazon selling

Some people are feminine – get over it

In the latest victory against sexism, Toys ‘R’ Us is to stop labelling its products as being for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ after pressure from campaigners, joining such shops as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Boots, Harrods and Hamleys . In its report the Huffington Post quoted a woman who sells engineering toys aimed at girls, who hopes to show it’s not just a ‘niche’ but rather they can ‘prove convention wrong’ by making it more mass market. But what is wrong with being a niche market? One of the wonderful benefits of free-market capitalism is that it allows niches to flourish, so that people who once would have been forced into uncomfortable roles can

Britain is now a socialist utopia

Scarcely a day passes, it seems, without another book landing with a thud on my desk that bemoans the rise of inequality. On this side of the Atlantic we have The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett and Injustice by Daniel Dorling, while in America we have Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality. I’m coming round to the view that these intellectual heavyweights have got it back to front and the really significant social trend of our era is the triumph of equality. So it was refreshing to dip into A Classless Society, the third volume of Alwyn Turner’s history of Britain since