When Strictly gets Ofcom complaints, you know it’s doing something right
Last week, Strictly come dancing had a first – drag queens!
I was so excited to see different gender expressions being celebrated on one of the biggest TV shows in the country. Not just because I do drag, but because I absolutely love Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and it was fabulous to see it being celebrated on Musicals week.
This season has already been one of firsts, with Nicola and Katya forming the first same-sex couple on the show, and now this.
It’s really wonderful to see a flagship show of the BBC – a show that should be for everyone – finally recognising different ways of being. Despite same-sex marriage being legal in this country for over six years, it was only two years ago that the show first featured a same-sex dance, which featured many of the professional dancers!
So, I’m pleased to see Strictly catching up, and now it seems, making up for lost time.
Naturally, a drag performance on the BBC also brought out some of the worst in people, with the BBC reportedly receiving over 100 complaints about the performance.
This is not the first time either – around 200 complaints were received last year regarding the same sex dance between Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Radebe, and another 100 or so when it was announced Nicola and Katya would be dancing together for the 2020 series.
To be clear, there was nothing sexual or rude about last week’s drag-performance – it was all-ages appropriate, and certainly not at all sexy compared to some of the steamy couples’ routines we sometimes see.
So, what is it about different gender expressions that is so triggering for these people? Triggering enough to lodge a formal complaint with Ofcom? One tweet read ‘Used to be a family show. Will stop watching’ – but I can’t understand how gender non-conforming dress or presentation is not ‘family’ appropriate.
It’s sad that there are people who think there is something inherently vulgar about dressing ‘against’ your gender. I agree, it’s not ‘usual’, but we need to avoid conflating things that are ‘unusual’ with things that are inappropriate.
One person tweeted ‘My grandchildren are completely confused’ by the performance. Sorry, but it is not the BBC’s job to prevent your grandchildren from experiencing confusion.
Confusion is a great thing, it shows interest, curiosity and is an opportunity to teach something. Unfortunately, I doubt that child’s confusion was met with even a basic ‘lots of people are different and there’s nothing wrong with that’ response, let alone a ‘most gender traits are a social construct’ one.
Clearly, the confusion was not felt just by the grandchildren, but by the adults as well.
The dancers actually weren’t even dressed THAT differently to normal. Reports of FULL DRAG are greatly exaggerated. Not a wig, corset or hip pad in sight.
It’s so clear to me that the real issue here is deeply rooted in homophobia. Men wearing head wraps and moving in an ‘effeminate’ manner? Imagine having so much time on your hands that THIS warrants a complaint. Kim, there’s people that are dying.
You don’t have to look back that far in history to see times when men wore wigs, heels and makeup as the norm – presumably it was actually considered ‘masculine’ to do so.
All of the rules we are currently told by society about how men and women should be and should dress, all have their historical opposites as well. There is nothing inherently gendered about skirts, makeup, long hair, trousers – they’re all just things we’ve assigned genders to.
However, most queer people have learned the hard way, time and time again, that presenting yourself differently to whatever arbitrary gender rules society is enforcing is something you will be punished for.
I avoid walking down the street or getting public transport in drag to avoid abuse, and that’s nothing compared to the daily risks experienced by trans people for simply existing in public spaces.
The only antidote to this issue is visibility, which is exactly what the BBC have done. Showing children (and their outdated grandparents) that it’s OK to present yourself however you like is a powerful and wonderful thing.
Don’t we tell kids they can be anything they want to be? And so, I’m very pleased the BBC have stuck to their guns and responded strongly to the complaints.
Hopefully we will see even more diversity of gender expression in future episodes and seasons of Strictly. Bring on the femme boys, the butch lesbians, the trans and non-binary competitors and all the beautiful gender expressions we can muster. It’s the only way to get these bitter old dinosaurs to wake up to the modern world.
And to all the complainants: You seem to think that gender and masculinity is some rigid, platonic ideal, but it seems to me that it actually must be much more fragile, if three men in sparkly headwear and a bit of eyeliner can be so dangerous.
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.