Friday, 30 July 2010

Clare Balding: "Dyke" Not On Bike - On Warpath

"Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.
"Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation..." AA Gill wrote in The Sunday Times last week.
The feminist blog, the f word, reports that Clare Balding complained to the editor, John Witherow, and received the following reply.
"In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society. Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person’’s sexuality should not give them a protected status. Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mind-set and hair style. He puts up with it as a presenter’s lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill’’s remarks were particularly “cruel”, especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter."
Fagburn can imagine a PS to this letter reading; "Lighten up love - can't you people take a joke?"
Balding has replied; "When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.
"This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. ‘Dyke’ is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I’ve had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.
"It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being ‘the butt of a joke’ then we have a problem."
Earlier today Balding tweeted that she has reported The Sunday Times to the Press Complaints Commission; "Complaint now registered. There's a first time for everything so here goes."
Good for her.
For the record, Fagburn wuld like to point out that AA Gill is "a friend of Jeremy"
Yes, Jeremy Clarkson.
I can think of no more damning description.


  1. The Sunday Times has printed Claire Balding's first letter today.

    "Gill’s jibe fosters homophobia

    I was deeply disappointed that in a widely respected broadsheet such as The Sunday Times, you would condone AA Gill’s use of the phrase “dyke on a bike” in relation to my series Britain by Bike (“Humping in tents: a great British tradition”, Culture, last week). It is well known that I am gay and I am happy to be openly so, but my sexuality is irrelevant to this programme. You must surely be aware that the term “dyke” is rarely used by straight people in anything other than an insulting or pejorative way. I would be very surprised if you used a comparable word that related to race or religion.

    Allowing this sort of anti-gay language contributes to rising levels of homophobic bullying. By printing it, you suggest that the sneering use of the term “dyke” is acceptable. It is not.

    Clare Balding, London"

  2. Just after AA Gill's attack of Balding, his sort-of colleague on The Times, Caitlin Moran wrote a review of Britain By Bike that praised Balding to the very heavens - and singled out the way she presents her sexuality as one reason to do this;

    "The conceit of Britain by Bike is simple, if cruel: put Clare Balding on a bike, get her to cycle up a precipitous hill in a ravishing location and then see how much of a link her lungs can handle by the time she gets to the top. Balding, of course, can manage any length of link you like — because Balding is TOTAL ROCK. Balding is the kind of presenter you would get only on the BBC, a posh lesbian jockey turned sports anchor and so no-nonsense that she makes a supernanny look like Holly Golightly, skipping, in curly-toed shoes.

    When Balding had thyroid cancer in 2009 she was out and covering the Epsom Derby a WEEK after her treatment. I imagine she probably had to be restrained from just “sorting it out” herself, with a lacrosse stick and a pint of proper, hot, loose-leaf tea. While running a jumble-sale for the local pony club at the same time."

    Wonderful stuff from CM, as per -

  3. Balding was one of The Independent On Sunday's judges for the Pink List 100 - and used this as a platform to write about the AA Gill case -