Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:
(I’m sure everyone is sick of me banging on about the Bake Off but this is just my starting point (and the source of all my ideas, apparently), so bear with me.)
Each week whilst watching GBBO I have become aware of something unsettling. Here’s some background: I am a keen Twitter user, a Tweeter I suppose. I’ll have Twitter open on my phone and will check it multiple times a day to keep me updated with all the important stuff. I’ll also absent-mindedly scroll through it when watching certain TV shows just to see what other people are saying. It’s a bad habit, I’ll admit, but I’m a millennial and this is what we do.
Anyway, so there I am, watching Mary and Paul judge a batch of cakes, when I notice a common theme on my Twitter feed. And I do not like what I see.
Wow Candice on GBBO is all kinds of annoying
Why is Candice baking in heels?! Gurl I hope you trip and your roulade smushes everywhere
Love it when Candice gets negative feedback!! Can’t stand her smug face
Candice’s jaw must ache with all that pouting she does.
And then it becomes more sinister:
How do Mary and Paul stand so close to Candice without slapping the shit out of her for that fucking pout
Cannot bear Candice on GBBO. And Paul needs to stop treating her with kid gloves cause he wants her buns
Swear Candice must be playing with Paul’s willy, can’t stand her.
These tweets weren’t hard to find and are just a cross section of the Candice-hatred. But why Candice? I ask myself. I don’t hate her. I don’t think she’s ‘smug.’ She isn’t rude or racist or conceited. She’s a good baker. So what’s the problem?
Then it hit me.
She’s young, she’s female. The dots begin to join up.
She’s attractive = she must be sleeping with Paul Hollywood.
She wears lipstick = the pout.
She’s good at what she does = smug.
These tweets aren’t about her skills, but her appearance. Candice isn’t the model of the Wholesome British Baker that we are used to and expect so she must be torn down.
I remember a few years ago the same treatment was given to Bake Off contestant Ruby Tandoh. She, too, was accused of sleeping with Paul Hollywood. Because of course, how else could she possibly progress through the competition otherwise? She’s young and attractive so she must use her body. I follow Ruby on Twitter and I have to say she is one of the most intelligent, witty, and outspoken (in the best possible way) public figures I can think of. She’s also gay; ‘p.s. for those who thought I fancied Paul Hollywood or that I’d ever bang him to get ahead – Joke’s on you, you massive shitting misogynists.’
It isn’t just the blatant sexism that bothers me here, but the creepy keyboard warriors who take part in the abuse. It’s become a normal part of life now. But when did it become ok for someone to receive death threats from strangers for wearing lipstick?
When Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint the other day, Tweeters were expressing their discontent that she wasn’t actually killed. I wonder what percentage of these people actually know Kim? As a friend, a mother, a sister? I’d bet none.
I see West End star Carrie Hope Fletcher as the victim of almost daily harassment against people who are miffed that she didn’t leave the theatre through the stage door or because she chose to cover a song which other people don’t think she should have covered. These people put all their energy into making her feel as small and remoseful as possible. And they succeed.
Twitter has become a dark place full of cyberbullies and trolls who use their computer screens to protect themselves. It’s scary and I wonder how far it will go. Does the world really need anymore hate?
Tom Clarke, the lead singer of The Enemy, sums it up perfectly. He quit Twitter two years ago and when asked why he said:
Our tour is selling exceptionally well in a difficult climate for our genre, and yet all I want to do is leave music, for the sake of my mental well-being, because of a few bullies, but also because of an entire industry’s complete unwillingness to challenge the behaviour of those people and hold them to account.
The sad thing is, whether you like my music or not, I can’t be the only one. How many musicians will we drive away by failing to recognise and deal with this abhorrent behaviour?”
I really hope that the problem is fixed before that happens, but in all honesty I’m not sure that it will be.
Lots of love