In the backseat of a taxi, a simple chat took a jarring turn, plunging me into a story that is all too common yet often goes untold. My goal was straightforward: to land a full-time role at a publishing house. However, what unfolded was an unexpected confrontation with racial and sexist prejudices — an incident that, though personal, reflects a broader issue pervasive in our workspaces and media today.
The journey reached a pivotal moment at the end-of-year company dinner party, a gathering that marked the culmination of a challenging yet rewarding internship. Having broached the subject of future prospects with my immediate male supervisor during training and discussed my aspirations with colleagues, I felt cautiously optimistic. However, the evening took an unforeseen turn on the ride home, sharing a taxi with a female supervisor who was less often seen during office hours. Her reaction to my shared ambitions was not of encouragement or guidance but one of anger and insinuation.
“Is it because I am a woman that you did not think to approach me first?” she inquired sharply. “Or is it because, as an Iranian, you’re not accustomed to women in charge?” Accusing me of deliberately bypassing her authority, she implied that my birth country made me averse to women in power, disregarding any professional dynamics at play. I was left speechless, my voice a hostage to shock. As the taxi continued through the city in a heavy silence, my hands shook with a mix of embarrassment and disbelief.
In an interview between TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer and Mustafa Barghouti, the leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, brought this pervasive issue of racial and gender biases into sharp, full HD relief. It was during the end of a tense and charged interview that Hartley-Brewer pounced on Barghouti while he was repeatedly trying to make his point, shouting: “For the love of God, let me finish a sentence, man. I don’t know, maybe you’re not used to women talking. I don’t know, but I’d like to finish a sentence, sir.”
This remark was not just rude; it was revelatory, implying that Barghouti’s ethnicity and cultural background inherently made him dismissive of women, a stereotype that has long been used to dismiss and diminish the voices of men from certain ethnicities. As Barghouti tried to steer the conversation back to the pressing issues at hand, attempting to engage with the substance, his efforts were met with dismissal and derision. The interview was not about understanding; it was about undermining. It was not an exchange; it was an ambush. Hartley-Brewer concluded the segment by saying: “Sorry to have been a woman speaking to you, but there you are.”
The interviewer’s evident anger and frustration were more self-inflicted than Mustafa Barghouti’s doing. Her approach to the interview was not a genuine pursuit of journalistic inquiry; instead, it manifested as a confrontational and insinuating exercise. This approach mirrors a troubling trend in right-wing media outlets like TalkTV, characterised by confrontational and combative interview styles. Hosts frequently talk over their guests, launching aggressive accusations, creating an environment so hostile it practically hums with tension. Guests often feel compelled to speak rapidly, almost frantically, in the hope of getting their points across to viewers.
Reflecting on these troubling incidents, it is clear we need to consider the role of regulators like Ofcom in ensuring British journalism remains free and responsible, adhering to ethical standards and treating everyone with respect, regardless of their background or beliefs. When broadcasters air racist or sexist remarks and enough complaints are made to the regulatory body, Ofcom can step in, as it did with GB News after 7,300 complaints about a sexist rant. Its investigations can lead to warnings, fines, or even revocation of the broadcast licence in severe cases. Many have already registered their complaints with Ofcom, and you can also submit yours here. The regulatory body is expected to feature any incident that receives more than 50 complaints in its weekly audience complaints report, which is expected to be released every Wednesday.
This incident should spark action in all of us, in our workplaces and beyond. We must see these events not as one-offs, but as signs of a wider, harmful mindset. It is about more than being politically correct; it is about building a society and media that genuinely value fairness and actively work against stereotypes. No one should suffer the discomfort and silence that comes from being stereotyped due to racism or sexism.
We should push regulatory bodies like Ofcom in their work to monitor and address discriminatory language, helping to shape a media that reflects the diverse and respectful society we all want.