Strictly Come Dancing: Is It Fair To Call Shirley Ballas Sexist?

Is Shirley favouring the male contestants?


by Aaliyah Harry |
Updated on

After Sunday night's controversial dance-off, Shirley Ballas has been labelled 'sexist' by some Strictly Come Dancingviewers, with many arguing she 'favours' the male contestants. Fluer East and Vito Coppola along with Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernicefound themselves in the dreaded dance off after they failed to win over the public. After both couples performed their dances again for survival, judges Craig Revel Horwood, Anton Du Beke and Motsi Mabuse chose to save presenter and singer Fleur East - which automatically sent presenter Richie home. However, head judge Shirley made a last minute remark stating she would have voted to save Richie if she had the final say.

Some viewers were outraged by Shirley's comments pointing out that Richie actually forgot some steps during his dance. They speculated on social media that Shirley was favouring the male stars on the show. They also claimed that Shirley let her 'personal feelings' towards Fleur overshadow judging her dancing technique. One viewer tweeted, 'Sexist Shirley would have saved Richie over Fleur?' Another wrote, 'Shirley seems to have completely lost the plot this season. She is downright rude, sexist and blatantly has her favourites whether they have ability or not. I am rapidly losing all respect for her!'

Some fans pointed out her treatment of young women on the show, 'The way Shirley speaks to the women is unacceptable. She clearly has an issue with young attractive women and this affects her judge.' Many have also called for Shirley to be removed from the show, 'Shirley Ballas should be removed from the panel, she’s setting a bad example,' another viewer declared. 'She cannot celebrate the young, female celebrities. Her views are outdated and sexist. Please let this be her last year, or preferably week on, #Strictly. However, not all Strictly fans agree and have said Shirley was just giving her expert opinion and constructive criticism.

Labelling Shirley 'sexist' is obviously a very strong statement to make. But can a woman actually be sexist towards other women? Yes - it's called internalised sexism. In simple terms, it is the sexist attitude taken on by women towards themselves and other women. Internalised sexism can be harder to recognise because the victims become the perpetrators of the same kind of oppression that they have endured.

While internalised sexism is real, whether this comes into play here is debatable. In this case we need to remember that Strictly is an entertainment show - with an added competitive element. It's also a very beloved show where viewers do feel protective of each contestant and of course this will stir up feelings, emotions and opinions. I think we need to be careful when piling on someone on social media and discrediting Shirley's ability as a judge. Clearly she is very qualified for her role being a previous international Latin dance champion. Have her critiques been a bit harsh recently? Perhaps. But are all her critiques only aimed at the female contestants? No.

She also critiqued singer Matt Gosswhich led to social media outrage. Giving her opinion on Matt's performance with Nadiya Bychkova, Shirley said, 'Well every small improvement is key here. There was a few little flashes of some things I wanted, but I don't agree with you Anton. I thought it was quite flat footed and I didn't get the correct footwork I needed to see.' She also scored him a very low 5/10 for his performance. Fans took to Twitter questioning why the judge 'hates' the singer. One wrote, 'I don’t think Shirley likes Matt, she would have voted him out last week & she really slagged him off this week.'

Shirley took to social media to state she was ready to put the dramatic episode behind her. She tweeted, 'I have received many apologies over the weekend regarding hurtful messages I’ve received on social media. All apologies are accepted and from now on let’s all respect each other and enjoy the show. Love to you all.'

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