Jon Snow: the aspiring feminist or not?

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First impressions are always important, and according to Channel 4 News reporter Jon Snow, the initial impact that women make on the male mind is sexual. In a candid interview with The Independent, Snow stated: “sex comes into every evaluation of a woman.” Is this a generalisation? Possibly. But how accurate is this statement? And what does it say about a man who declares that he “aspire[s] to be a feminist”?

According to Edward Laumann, Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, “the majority of adult men under 60 think about sex at least once a day.” Confirming the common conception about the male libido might seem to attach some credibility to Snow’s words. His sentiment may seem crass, sexist and Neanderthal to some, but he does hit honestly upon an issue which few men in a position such as his would be willing to discuss. Snow expanded on this by expressing his belief that “once you’ve established a friendship or a working relationship with a woman, it’s parked.” A dangerous comment from a rusting mind now begins to appear as evidence of a refreshingly straight-forward celebrity.

However, Snow doesn’t seem to have offered himself the chance to clarify the statement. Yes, we might know what he means once we’ve taken a second look at his statement, but there’s still some wiggle room in which absolute lucidity escapes us. What does he mean by “every evaluation”? Surely he can’t be suggesting that male interviewers have a tick or cross box for a requirement marked “possibility of a sexual relationship” when screening female applicants for a particular job? Obviously not, but unfortunately it’s not unthinkable. We can safely assume – with no thanks to Snow – that he implies (almost) every mental evaluation, regardless of the social situation.

This still leaves us with the problem of his generalisation. If Professor Laumann regards the “majority” of men under 60 as having sexual thoughts at least once a day, this leaves the door open for the possibility that there are men out there who think about sex less frequently, meaning some heterosexual or bisexual men may therefore not be as likely to regard a woman as a sexual object on first meeting. Given that – prepare for another generalisation (I apologise) – we are relatively highly sexed, I’d guess that this is unlikely.

However, even if it were true that all men fell into Laumann’s category, the most disturbing thing about Snow’s statement is the fact that he conflates mere passing thought with a personality evaluation. I am male, and from first hand experience I can pronounce that a) I do not sexually evaluate each woman I meet, and b) on the occasions that I do, I almost always dismiss the thought equally as quickly as I entertain it, for I am consciously aware that this piece of information says less about her character than it does about mine.

I would instead offer a slight adjustment to Snow’s statement: sex comes into a lot of thought about women, but it is important that it is excluded from the evaluation. I fear the ageing broadcaster may simply be reinforcing that oft used criticism: that we men “think with our balls.”

Though, as mentioned, Snow states that he wants to be a feminist, he does confess that he is “guilty of just as many failings in terms of supporting women’s equality…I couldn’t say I’d really fought for women to enjoy many of the fantastic benefits I’ve enjoyed.” This conclusion rather compounds what he has said previously. The link between his prior sentiment and this statement may be tenuous, but it wouldn’t be a hard thing to do to recognise that bringing sex into “every evaluation of a woman” could hamper their chances of matching male professional progression. However welcomed his honesty might be, Jon Snow is partly guilty of failing women precisely because of his attitude towards them. Whilst his exposition of sexual animalism may garner him some praise, his failure to observe that this might be the cause of sexual inequality makes Snow’s position seem slightly ludicrous.

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