I have not watched Big Brother – either the civilian or celebrity version – since comedian Sue Perkins was referred to constantly by the narrator as 'lesbian Sue'. As an out and proud lesbian myself, I got fed up hearing Perkins being defined in that way, not being able to imagine a scenario where contestants were labelled as 'black Peter' or 'disabled Diana'. Coupled with the fact that Big Brother is a tired, cliched format that lost its appeal after the first couple of runs, I forgot about it and rarely paid it any further attention.
But on hearing that Christopher Biggins had been slung out on his ear last Friday and potentially fined a fortune for making anti-Semitic and 'biphobic' remarks on air, I rolled my eyes at the oppressive identity politics that dominate much of Western culture today finding a way into the grotesquery that is Celebrity Big Brother.
Biggins, who is openly gay, caused a major kerfuffle when he said in a conversation about sexuality: "I think the worst type though, I'm afraid to say, is the bisexuals. What it is, is people not wanting to admit they're gay... be honest, that's what you've got to be."
The Twitter mob immediately kicked in, demanding that Biggins be placed in the metaphorical stocks and burned at the stake with the fire from their tongues.
When the brilliant comedian Paul O'Grady, via his Lilly Savage character made a joke in the late 1990s about how outrageous it was to have only one smoking carriage on the Liverpool to London train ("the entire train is empty except for the smoking carriage that resembles Schindler's List"), there was barely a murmur, precisely because social media was not developed to the point that it allowed mob rule.
Biggins remarks to a Jewish housemate ("You had better be careful or they will put you in a shower or take you to a room!") were certainly offensive, but we do not have a right to not be offended. If Biggin's remarks constitute incitement to racial hatred, then he should be tried for that crime in a court of law, otherwise, he should be robustly challenged over his remarks and educated as to why they were inappropriate and hurtful.
In terms of his remarks about bisexuals, why should Biggins not be allowed an opinion? I once wrote a column on the topic that earned me the label of 'biphobic', and accusations from keyboard warriors that I had "caused psychological damage" to bisexual folk. I actually regret writing that column, not because I should not have been rude about a group of people who claim moral superiority to those of us who cannot hide behind the cloak of normality half the time, but because it was badly written and weakly argued.
In today's climate of identifarianism, there are some things that will get the Twitter mob riled, and some that won't. I have been accused of being biphobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and even homophobic, for the simple reason that I wish to debate certain sacred cows and refuse to tow the party line.
I have been accused of being biphobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and even homophobic, for the simple reason that I wish to debate certain sacred cows and refuse to tow the party line.
I have been likened to Hitler for suggesting that a man with a penis, and no idea of what it is like to be raised as a girl in a sexist society, cannot claim womanhood because he slips on a frock and high heels. Because I stand alongside my Muslim-born sisters and name the full-face veil an insignia of women's oppression, I have been banned from speaking at universities because I am 'Islamophobic'.
The culture of censorship and silencing is appalling, and yet most sexist and misogynistic behaviour from men towards women on Big Brother seems to go unpunished.
For example, in this series, Stephen Bear said he could snog Marnie Simpson "if he wanted to", arguing that Lewis Bloor hadn't "called dibs" on Simpson. "I can do what the fuck I want." This is creepy, laddish culture. There are plenty of other examples of blatant misogyny on Big Brother that rarely raise a heckle, except by feminists.
The actor Ricky Gervais who has publicly supported Biggins, tweeted earlier today: "Imagine what they'd have done if you had exposed yourself, spat in someone's drink, or vandalised the place :)" references to other incidents that have occurred in the Big Brother house. If everyone was to be removed for saying something that five or more people on Twitter find offensive then the house would be empty from day one.
Big Brother is a relic from the past, and probably won't be here in a couple of years from now. I wish the same could be said for the pious keyboard warriors.
Julie Bindel is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and researcher, and writes regularly for The Guardian, the New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph and Standpoint magazines. Julie is a Visiting Researcher at Lincoln University.