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Public awareness campaigns: Sexual harassment on Twitter

A Twitter spat broke out this week between a writer for UsVsTh3m and the star of ITV’s controversial comedy, Dapper Laughs, which we discovered over breakfast this morning and ties in with our post yesterday regarding public awareness campaigns about sexual harassment. Allow us to divulge if you don’t know the score already.
Put simply, Dapper Laughs, presenter of the aforementioned programme, is best known for his on-screen sexism and misogynistic behaviour which largely revolves around him approaching women on the street and sleazing on them with crude and offensive comments.
Clearly this is a character he plays, and take from that what you will regarding ITV passing the show to air, but there’s a more alarming aspect here in that things have spilled over into the real, or at least digital-real world. The chap in question has released a ‘Christmas Album’, which also features a song containing questionable lyrics regarding the homeless. A purposefully ironic move, as said record is apparently raising funds for a homeless charity, this angered the UsVsTh3m writer, who called him out on Twitter:
This resulted in a backlash against Wilkinson, with tweets coming in from Dapper fans everywhere that we definitely shouldn’t publish on our company blog for fear of upsetting people, such was the language used. But let’s put it like this, male and female commentators seemed intent on both verbally abusing the lady in question, and perpetuating the idea that sexual harassment is OK when it’s done in a joking way.
There’s a serious problem with this attitude, though. Firstly, whilst Dapper’s attempts to be funny, although more akin to a rough Oldham laughter club in the 1970s, are obviously meant in jest, and represent just another attempt to get giggles through superficial controversy, the celebrity culture of today means he must keep this persona up even when the cameras aren’t rolling.
For instance on Twitter, which he does every day.
In turn, this clearly opens the floodgates for others to join in the ‘fun’. Which is exactly what happened this week when Wilkinson fell foul of his online entourage. However, the majority of tweets against her were meant in all seriousness to defend the aforementioned Dapper, meaning realistically any comedic element to the ‘banter’ had been left behind, and we are now in the realm of genuine online abuse of a highly sexual and derogatory form.
Aside from Dapper-gate, this problem is now becoming so prevalent that Women, Action and the Media- “a people-powered independent nonprofit dedicated to building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media”- has set up a reporting tool for those who feel they have been subjected to such abuse. You can find it by clicking on this link; all it takes is a couple of minutes to fill in the details and they will investigate the case.
So, what’s the point of this blog? Well, put simply, public personalities- both fictitious and real- need to be careful about what they encourage others to do in the same way as brands and companies. And by that we don’t mean issuing a disclaiming so people don’t emulate what happens on TV, but rather not inciting followers to target someone with the same type of attitude that they are (presumably) mocking with their comedy. After all, you wouldn’t get away with doing the same if it came to race or sexuality, so why is it OK in the context of women’s rights and sexual harassment that, at times, verges on the approval of domestic violence?
Or are we just missing the gag?

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