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Belgian Journalist Slammed For Crude Comments

It’s 2020 and apparently women still can’t wear what they want without someone having something to say about it.

Double standards over clothing, especially in the professional realm, resurfaced this week after Belgian journalist and former cyclist Sven Spoormakers created havoc and outrage on social media by making a crude comment referring to a young female reporter covering the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.

Spoormakers shared a screen shot of reporter Belén Mendiguren interviewing a competitor and asked “Is it cool in Argentina?”, referring to Mendiguren’s beige top. He was quickly slammed on the internet for being sexist and outdated, and for contributing to a culture that disadvantages women.

image: Sven Spoormakers

Sticking up for a mate in true Aussie style, reporter Sophie Smith retaliated, angrily exclaiming: “Seriously? Please tell me this is lost in translation and you did not just publicly objectify a young female reporter (…) Speaking from experience, let me say she does the exact same job as you but has to work and withstand twice as much still because of bulls**t like this.”

Spoormakers was seemingly finding the concept hard to grasp as he retaliated with comments your conservative pop might say: “ Objectify, really? Come on. Don't draw the feminist card on this one. She knows exactly what she's wearing – or not wearing – and why.” In a final PR nightmare public comment, Spoormakers seemed to overcome his accusation that Mendiguren had some evil intention behind her choice of clothing. He tried to make an unusual analogy: “If I would interview a female athlete with my balls out, you'd be joking about it too. Or calling it a disgrace”

Despite the fact that it’s very hard to imagine a situation where Spoormakers would have to have his “balls out” as opposed to the female reporter who just had to wear something to her job, Smith rebutted with a comment that cut to the core of Spoormaker’s logic: ‘So it's her fault because you can't stop looking at her boobs?' Spoormakers is not saying anything novel with this remark; the idea that women are somehow responsible for the way men act is ancient… but that’s just the thing, can we ever get out of the ‘olden days?’

Mendiguren herself thanked her supporters and particularly Sophie Smith. She tweeted: “It’s gonna take some time but I really hope men understand that these kinds of comments are part of a complex gender issue. We live in this kind of gender violence since we are born” and called for men to firstly ask their closest female friends about their experience with these deep-seated issues.

The only problem is that we have been asking and women have clearly been answering—being objectified sucks, especially when it affects your professional credibility. Famously, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was scrutinized over her outfits from the day she was elected. She said in 2013:

"I joke with my male colleagues about how easy they get it. All they have to do is pick a suit, pick a shirt, pick a tie. They get to wear sensible, flat shoes and no-one ever says anything about it and if they wear the same suit a few days a week, no-one ever says 'gee they have got the same suit on."

image: ABC

In the end, do we really want half our population to be hyper aware of their bodies and clothing while the other half spend time alone on the internet, taking screen shots and critiquing women’s bodies on public forums? We think not... let’s move on!