It’s time we stopped hanging on Boris Johnson’s every word
- Credit: PA
I took a while to decide whether to enter the Boris burqa debate (there's an idea, make him wear one and see what people liken him to).
I do, of course, defend his right to comment – even on subjects that are toxic. I'd be a pretty hypocritical columnist if I was against free speech.
But there's a difference between speech that fuels debate and that which fuels hate.
If Boris had raised the issue of male repression of women, fine. That to me is the heart of the burqa issue; the uncomfortable feeling that some women are dressing according to the diktats of men, not through freedom.
But he chose to make the women figures of fun with his playground 'letterbox' jibe. And that's where I call him out as a Pharisee.
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Boris's scruffy, disheveled appearance is seen as quintessentially bumbling toff – the endearing world of Wodehouse living on in human form.
Imagine if a leading woman politician left her hair unkempt and wore ill-fitting clothes, though. Would she be 'endearing' or 'slovenly'?
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It should not matter, but the balance of power remains firmly in favour of men.
That's why Boris Johnson can belittle vast numbers of women and know – sorry, calculate – that it brings him closer to the position of power that I sincerely hope he never holds.
He has followed in the footsteps of men since time began, in objectifying women and attempting to reduce them to figures of fun.
What he has seemingly forgotten – if he ever even noticed – is that beneath the burqa is a person.
That person deserves respect, not ridicule.
Instead, on top of the hostile looks they endure every day, they now get to be called 'letterbox' by idiots in the street.
A callous comment encouraged cruelty and has made women in burqas feel more intimidated then ever.
Boris shouldn't be sacked, nor should he be disciplined. But it's time that we all stopped hanging on his every word.