The feminists who want to bring back chaperones

David Schwimmer’s offer wasn’t sensitive, it was patronising.

Naomi Firsht

Topics Politics

It seems unthinkable to imagine a time when Harvey Weinstein wasn’t in the news. Each new day seems to bring new allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour against him, or indeed other powerful media men.

But these last few days have also brought us some ‘good news’ from Hollywood. David Schwimmer of Friends fame has been applauded for offering a chaperone to film critic Nell Minow when she was interviewing him in 2010. Apparently, they were in a noisy place so Schwimmer suggested they continue the interview in his hotel room, but quickly added that a third person could accompany them.

Naturally Schwimmer has been praised far and wide for his behaviour. Harper’s Bazaar tweeted: ‘This story about David Schwimmer is a nice reminder that good guys do exist.’ And Perez Hilton tweeted to say Schwimmer was a ‘gentleman’.

How true. Anyone who enjoys a good Jane Austen dramatisation will know that only a cad or a scoundrel would allow himself to be alone with a woman he is unrelated to unchaperoned. And think what such a thing might do to a woman’s reputation!

Presumably, this will become the norm now for all female journalists. Of course, male journalists will be able to carry out their work independently. But it was a mistake to ever think female journalists could do the same.

And why stop there? Ideally, we’d see the chaperone once again become a fixture in women’s lives. We could avoid so many unpleasant dating mishaps if only the Victorian chaperone were re-introduced. Let’s bring back fan-flirting too, the only acceptable form of flirtation, while we’re at it!

In all seriousness, anyone celebrating Schwimmer’s offer as feminist and progressive needs to have a word with themselves.

Speaking about Schwimmer, Minow said: ‘This wasn’t just about him being a good guy who would not have tried anything. He understood what it is like to have to be constantly on the alert and he wanted to make sure I understood I was safe.’ But, for centuries, safety and protection were precisely the reasons women were given for why they couldn’t live as freely as men.

In the past, feminists fought for the right to take a risk like a man. Not only that, they argued that a woman could handle herself in any awkward situation with a man. If we celebrate the suggestion of female chaperones, we not only take a huge step backwards for women’s equality, we also buy into the depressing and untrue notion that all men are potential predators.

Naomi Firsht is staff writer at spiked and co-author of The Parisians’ Guide to Cafés, Bars and Restaurants. Follow her on Twitter: @Naomi_theFirsht

Naomi will be speaking at the session, Macron’s France: ‘En Marche!’ to business as usual?, at the Battle of Ideas festival in London on 29 October. Get tickets here.

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Topics Politics


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