Laurence Fox has long positioned himself as a defender of free speech. The right to say whatever the hell pops into his head – consequences be damned – is one of many jagged hills that the ‘actor’ has chosen to die on. Is it a coincidence that Fox seems to exclusively use this God-given ‘right’ to incite misogyny and hatred? We think not.
GB News has suspended Fox after he went on a misogynistic rant about political journalist Ava Evans. He appeared on Dan Wooton’s show to discuss comments made by Evans about men’s mental health before launching into a tirade about her appearance, sex appeal, and why he would ignore her in a bar.
“Show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman ever, ever, who wasn’t an incel,” Fox said to Wooton, who was smiling along. “We need powerful, strong, amazing women who make great points for themselves. We don’t need these sorts of feminist 4.0. They’re pathetic and embarrassing. Who’d want to shag that?”
In a statement, GB News confirmed it would be investigating Fox’s comments and “apologising formally” to Ava Evans.
Evans tweeted that she felt “sick” about the comments, adding, “This is the sort of talk that you worry that men have about you when you’re not in the room […] There’s always a worry in the back of your mind”
“You’d think that Laurence Fox would be defending Evans’ right to free speech – no matter how divisive – rather than spewing a litany of sexist abuse.”
So what had Evans done to deserve such an attack? Well, she’d exercised her right to free speech by appearing on a BBC Politics Live discussion about whether there should be a government minister specifically for men’s mental health. Her stance – there should be a minister for mental health more generally – was met with some negativity on social media. She has since tweeted that she regretted her comments.
You’d think that Fox and the rest of the free-speech brigade would be defending Evans’ right to voice her personal opinion – no matter how divisive – rather than unleashing a litany of sexist abuse.
But, of course, for people like Fox, free speech isn’t actually about free speech. In her seminal work The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.” And her words certainly ring true in relation to Fox: he relentlessly muddles up his subjective opinion with objective fact. Thus when he’s given a platform on the likes of GB News, he deludes himself into believing that he’s speaking the truth to the masses rather than merely spewing misogynistic tripe to other misogynists.
In response to the backlash, Fox predictably employs reductive logic to justify his comments, stating, “If a woman wants to go on television and belittle male suicide, she is totally within her rights to do so and not apologise, just as I am totally within my rights to say that I wouldn’t want to shag a hyper offended fourth wave feminist and not apologise, just as people are totally within their rights to be offended by my stating I would run a mile in the opposite direction from women like her, should our paths cross in a bar.”
Oh, if only that were the case, Laurence! Unfortunately – and excuse me while I go “hyper-offended fourth wave feminist” over here – no one’s words exist in a vacuum. In fact, all our words exist within a deeply patriarchal society, which is hell-bent on suppressing women’s voices while uplifting men’s. In a stonking essay about free speech and feminism, Mary Anne Franks writes that free speech, in practice, can “obscure the gendered nature of power and the particularities of women’s lived experience.” So enticed by the allure of free speech, Fox doesn’t bother to contemplate how men’s and women’s words land differently within an unequal society.
Had a man expressed the same opinions as Evans, would Fox have lambasted their sexuality? Of course he bloody wouldn’t! Because on some sub-conscious level, he knows that free speech is for the exclusive enjoyment of white, heterosexual men. And women who dare to voice unpopular opinions – women like Ava Evans – pose a threat to this enjoyment. No wonder he’s throwing his toys out of the pram.