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Finweek English Edition - - FEEDBACK - AP­PALLING SEX­ISM Don­nay Torr

I’m newly con­verted to read­ing Fin­week, and look­ing for­ward to f in­ally get­ting em­broiled in the world of busi­ness.

My f irst ex­pe­ri­ence of the mag­a­zine was, how­ever, marred by Dr Gavin Sy­manowitz’s ar­ti­cle Cor­po­rate sluts: why the rat­ings agen­cies should be closed down ( Fin­week of 14 March 2013).

I found the header and in­tro­duc­tion to the story in­cred­i­bly ag­gres­sive and de­mean­ing to­wards women. Sy­manowitz’s glib, snarky story about the two pros­ti­tutes says much more about his own prej­u­dices than it does any­thing at all about rat­ings agen­cies.

His tone of voice im­plies that th­ese “sluts”, th­ese “whores” lack a cer­tain ba­sic hu­man­ity and thus can­not be al­lowed, or don’t de­serve, to ex­press them­selves or take own­er­ship of their lives, ex­pe­ri­ences and – by im­pli­ca­tion – their cho­sen pro­fes­sions and their own bod­ies.

I didn’t f in­ish read­ing the ar­ti­cle, I just couldn’t be both­ered to learn more about Sy­manowitz’s world view.

I have no tol­er­ance for any kind of fe­male bash­ing – we live in a toxic stew of a coun­try where pa­tri­archy, stereo­types, rape cul­ture, and skewed val­ues and norms al­ready de­vours way more than their pound of f lesh.

I’m sur­prised that no-one at Fin­week picked up on this, or com­mented on it be­fore it went to print. I also really hope that this type of bias isn’t in­dica­tive of the gen­eral tone of con­tent to come.

Dr Gavin Sy­manowitz re­sponds: First, let me as­sure you that I have noth­ing against pros­ti­tutes. They pro­vide a le­git­i­mate ser­vice be­tween two con­sent­ing adults, and they have ev­ery right to of­fer that ser­vice. In fact, I’m of the strong opin­ion that pros­ti­tu­tion should be le­galised, so that their rights can be bet­ter pro­tected. Just be­cause I wouldn’t use their ser­vices, doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to of­fer them.

I’ve read the ar­ti­cle again and I think it’s a big leap to go from the word ‘ whores’ (which is a recog­nised English word in the Ox­ford dic­tionary and is in com­mon us­age) to in­fer­ences of fe­male-bash­ing and be­ing de­mean­ing to women. If you read the ar­ti­cle with­out im­pos­ing your own world view, you might come to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion, as did the ma­jor­ity of the other read­ers.

The aim of the story about the pros­ti­tutes at the be­gin­ning of the ar­ti­cle was to pro­vide a pic­ture of how the rat­ings agen­cies work, and to ed­u­cate the reader about some of their prac­tices. Just like a pros­ti­tute wouldn’t sleep with her clients if they didn’t pay her, so the rat­ings agen­cies wouldn’t pro­vide the rat­ings that they do if their clients didn’t pay them. The aim of the story at the be­gin­ning was to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, and a story is usu­ally more pow­er­ful than sim­ply spell­ing it out for the reader. The story was cer­tainly not about any agenda re­gard­ing women’s rights, which f irstly I don’t have, and se­condly would have de­tracted from the main mes­sage of the ar­ti­cle. The ar­ti­cle was about rat­ings agen­cies, not pros­ti­tutes. If you read the rest of the ar­ti­cle, you’ ll see what I mean and you might come to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion.

In fact, I share your out­rage about the un­for­giv­ably high rate of rape in this coun­try, which is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able. In fact, re­cent events have spurred me into ac­tion to do some­thing about it. My com­pany has devel­oped tech­nol­ogy, which pro­vides an ef­fec­tive ev­i­dence-based re­port­ing mech­a­nism for peo­ple to report rapes they’ve wit­nessed, which should lead to higher con­vic­tion rates. The chal­lenge is get­ting the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties to use it, and to cover all the le­gal bases.

In con­clu­sion, I en­cour­age you to read the ar­ti­cle again with an open mind and with­out lash­ing out. It was cer­tainly not my in­ten­tion to at­tack women’s rights and I apol­o­gise if that’s how you in­ter­preted it.

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