Tag Archives: power

Plain Stupid Sexism

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It is incredible that in today’s society sexist abuse is still tolerated in some quarters. There has been a lot of discussion about the issue of consent following the Ched Evans case, where a footballer walked in on his friend having sex with a teenager who was so drunk that she had fallen over. He had a turn (filmed by his brother) and then walked out of the fire exit, leaving the woman unconscious due to the amount she of alcohol she had consumed. He then served just two and a half years in prison for rape, rather than the five recommended by sentencing guidelines. Even five years does not seem enough for this crime that causes considerable psychological trauma for the women involved.

I was surprised that a prominent celebrity (a lady on a popular talk show) then blamed the victim for being drunk. There seems to be an attitude, particularly amongst the older generation, that if a woman has too much to drink or wears short skirts then she’s somehow “asking for it”. But what a woman wears has no relation to how slutty she is. Which brings me on to the point that men who have multiple partners are deemed “playboy bachelors” whereas women are called “sluts” and worse.

It is sad that some men, sorry, boys, think it is acceptable to treat women in a degrading, disrespectful and downright disgusting manner. I think we need more education in schools about sexism as like the evils of racism and ageism, which I have ranted about previously, it is plain wrong and incredibly ignorant. These people see the world through such a distorted filter. 36% of women who say they have experienced this type of prejudice The figure is probably higher as many brush it off, given that they are often not taken seriously and accused of “making a fuss about nothing”. article-2706734-2004332500000578-978_306x440

Last month posters suggesting that alcohol means women are responsible for being raped by predatory men were withdrawn by the government after a public outcry which resulted in a petition gaining over 100,000 signatures. Sadly examples such as these show just how endemic sexism is.

I’ve had enough, as have a multitude of women judging by the international slutwalk protests.

Even Serena and Venus Williams were subjected to sexist comments regarding their physical appearance, with the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, calling them “brothers”, voicing the outdated stereotype that muscles are for men. Serena Williiams complained, supported by Maria Sharapova. Tarpischev was fined $25,000 and suspended for a year. This outcome gave a clear message that sexism in sport will not be tolerated.

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On Mr Cameron’s “Small Island” generalisations

I was rather amused by Mr David Cameron’s Britain is Best speech at the G20 summit. This was not not just due to their similarity with the Prime Minister’s speech in British romantic comedy Love Actually, but by the glaring inconsistencies of it.

In response to an alleged comment by a Russian official that the United Kingdom was “just a small island” he responded “Britain may be a small island but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a 120802CameronPutin_6496554bigger heart or greater resilience”, continuing that:

“Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.

“Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worthwhile inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

“We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.”

Despite the communal applause in the press, the flaws of these comments were all too obvious. In comparison to Russia, we are indeed a small island. Regarding our past, yes we have had great inventors and famous people who have changed history. But so have many other countries. As for our history, the way we occupied the colonies, slaughtering the natives and attempting to convert them all to Christianity is nothing to be proud of.

1. Mr Cameron claimed Britain cleared “the European continent of fascism”. Yes but not without the military might of America, without whom we may well have lost the Second World War.

2. The statement with the most holes is that Britain “helped to abolish slavery”. As The Guardian’s Stephen Moss AS 55 Anti-Slavery Britain then pointed out, we profited from it for 300 years before this happened. A BBC history website points out that of all countries, Britain profited most from the trade.

As the Abolition Project website points out, it was no longer in Britain’s economic interests to continue slavery. Since America had become independent, it had been able to obtain sugar elsewhere. Furthermore, following the Industrial Revolution, we had been able to produce our own goods. It was also no longer profitable because of the continuous revolts. These points may explain why many importers of plantation produce were also abolitioinists. In August 1833 the Emancipation Act was passed under pressure from religious groups and abolition campaigners. However this still did not go far enough as it still required slaves to be “apprentices” working for free for six years before becoming emancipated.

“Apprenticeship” was not outlawed until 1838. The 1833 Act was only a partial victory, only applying to the West Indies, Cape Town, Mauritius and Canada. The Empire continued to profit from slavery in other countries. The Act did slave-ship01s  not stop the practice – many simply ignored the ruling and although reported by campaigners, it was not enforced. Treaties were entered into with other countries, and an “Anti-Slavery squadron” was set up of old and derelict Naval vessels. However ship owners that were caught were tried in foreign countries. Those freed were sent to Freetown, a British colony. However when that became full they were forced into the army or “apprenticeships”. It took 100 years after the Emancipation Act for total abolition of the trade, during which time Britain continued to profit by importing and exporting slave-grown sugar and importing slave-grown cotton.

For freed slaves conditions were still horrendous with endemic racism, poor living conditions and lower pay, as a former slave and American statesman, Frederick Douglass commented:

“Though no longer a slave, he is in a thralldom grievous and intolerable, compelled to work for whatever his employer is pleased to pay him, swindled out of his hard earnings by money orders redeemed in stores, compelled to pay the price of an acre of ground for its use during a single year, to pay four times more than a fair price for a pound of bacon and to be kept upon the narrowest margin between life and starvation….”

3. To say that we invented “most of the things worthwhile inventing” is doing a great disservice to the great 1885Benzinventions of other countries. The invention of the car for example, was crucial to our sixth-largest economy, in which a £52 billion turnover is supplied by the automotive industry.

4. Mr Cameron then claimed we invented “every sport currently played”, what about rowing, which was first recorded in Egypt, basketball and sumo wrestling? (to name just a few). The comment suggests that the only sports worth including are British ones, thus devaluing the sports of other countries. Furthermore the reason for the widespread playing of British sport again relates to colonial rule. Game fields were used for “moral instruction” of the conquered,  following a rejection of local cultures and beliefs.

British army troop5. As for a well-funded military, we are the fourth-largest worldwide spender on military. Yet after cuts, the army will eventually number just 82,000 – a level one British lawmaker said was the lowest since the Napoleonic Wars. Even the new British Head of Armed Forces, General Nicholas Houghton commented: “We’ve got to get back into an ‘expeditionary mindset’ where we will not have perfect capability for every scenario.”

A political opportunity was seized to put good spin on the unproven comment by a Russian official, using sweeping generalisations. The majority of the press responded as was intended. However, as a result of the comments we appeared arrogant, misinformed and laughable as a nation. Yes, Britain has been the home of many great inventors and yes we do have parts of history we can be proud of. But lets not diminish the achievements of other countries.

As American poet and critic Ezra Pound said: ““Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.”

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The Groping Scandal

Lord Rennard is accused of the sexual harassment of up to a dozen women

Lord Rennard is accused of the sexual harassment of up to a dozen women

Nick Clegg MP recently gave an accurate description of what journalists are – self-appointed detectives. They dig up the facts and then report them, exposing things liars, cheats and wrongdoers would rather keep hidden.

The media are the third estate – sometimes called on when power-abusers cannot be dealt with by the police or the law. They may be able to escape the legal system but they cannot risk their reputation. Parliament had failed to act on groping claims directed at Lord Rennard. He was a Lord “holding the purse strings for any winnable seat [in Parliament]” and abusing his power, behaving as he wished with no consequence. Women had apparently gone through official channels and been let down. His friend Lord Stoneham is now accused of harassing the lady who went to the press.

Lord Rennard's chum, Lord Stoneham

Lord Rennard’s chum, Lord Stoneham

The fact is that Lord Stoneham was responsible for his friend’s conduct and one would hope that he addressed it with him. It is alleged that he promised a victim he would. A groping offence is no laughing matter, I have suffered this walking out of a bar and I felt shocked and disgusted. It was a complete stranger. My manager once said “we could have sex right now and no-one would know” when the office was empty. I often spoke about my boyfriend to remind him that I was not interested. A previous colleague had alleged sexual harassment and it had been brushed off as “banter”. This it is certainly not. It is inappropriate, ignorant and disrespectful.

It’s time the offence stopped being viewed as something comical that women “bring on themselves” or worse, that they “should be flattered” or even “enjoy” it. Women in the scandal were dismissed as “red hot babes” “silly girls” and “hormonal women”. If a woman says no or becomes uncomfortable men should know when to stop. Lets shift the focus away from the victims and onto the perpetrators.

Another problem this story highlights is the issue of management accountability. I was once in a company where bullying of a colleague was addressed in the internal post, as the accused was friends with her manager. Prior to this, when it happened to me, I went through official channels with the perpetrator’s manager. I was hauled into her office for a good dressing down from both of them. The frustration colleagues felt was epitomised in this picture which they laughed about. >>>>>image0011

How can a situation be addressed when the person responsible for the accused’s conduct is their peer? Surely they would side with them, as seems to be the case in this scandal, with the result that the problem was not dealt with. This leads to whistle-blowing. Victims are then hounded. We need to have management systems whereby whistle-blowing is not necessary, where someone can address an issue with someone more senior – a “my door is open” approach.

When there is no redress for disgruntled workers this may result in a negative working environment. Productivity may decrease as a result. I was in a company that was the most successful branch in the country. They had a culture of communication – the managers would talk to you on the same level, would hold meetings with you and would listen. They would work with colleagues, not above them. We were inspired by their success.

As for sexual harassment, I expect to encounter this again as it is so endemic. I will not hesitate to point out that I am not OK with it and find it inappropriate, and I hope readers will. If it is not addressed it will only continue.

Lets make management more approachable and accountable and lets stamp out sexual harassment, not only in the workplace but elsewhere.

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