4 August 2019
On 20 June at a dinner at the Mansion House, a man was filmed pushing a woman Greenpeace protestor against a pillar, then grabbing the back of her neck and forcibly marching her (unresisting) out of the room. He said he had felt threatened and was worried she might have been armed. A brave man! Or just violent and paranoid if he’s drunk?
Since the man was an MP, Mark Field, his party leader, the then Prime Minister, watched the film and suspended him and, following several third-party reports of assault, the police investigated the attack. Then a new Prime Minister was foisted on us and said this week that it was his predecessor’s decision and nothing to do with him and the police dropped their investigation.
What really upsets me is that ‘simple’ assault doesn’t involve bodily contact so this was some form of aggravated assault, possibly ABH. It was recorded on film and Field admitted his guilt (by apologising) but the police have decided not to charge him on the grounds that his response was proportional in the circumstances.
Supposing Field had grabbed the protestor in a way that she felt was sexual? Supposing she’d been wearing a hijab? Supposing she had been carrying a gun. Supposing Field had been a homeless man who did the same thing at a charity’s Christmas lunch? Supposing the protestor had been another man, 6’6” tall and built like a WWE wrestler?
Surely only a cynic could think that the actions of Field or the police might have been different in some of these circumstances?
Could the protestor bring a civil case against Field? I’d happily contribute to a fund to allow this to happen.
I suspect many of us date the beginnings of feminism back to the bra-burning days of the 1960s (ah, smell the burning rubber) when many women sacrificed their comfort to draw attention to the male assumption that men were superior. But what about the two World Wars, when men were sent away to fight and women proved that they could do the jobs they’d left at least as well as the men had? Or the suffragists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries?
Or the women in history who rose above male prejudice to become leaders in their fields – Jane Austen, Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Mrs Henry II), Julian of Norwich, Boudicca, Mary Magdelene, Cleopatra and Nefertiti to name just a few over the last 4,000 years. I wonder if their male contemporaries were able to accept and admire them without feeling inadequate?
But men are not giving up easily. Look at the proportion of women directors of FTSE 100 companies, look at the segregation implied when contrasting ‘football’ and ‘women’s football’, look at the way some men isolate themselves behind closed doors (including masonic lodges, clubs, religions and churches) and then raise their glasses to “The Ladies, God bless ‘em” (and don’t get me started on people who refer to untitled women as ladies).
I have a feeling that male misogyny and sexism may be rooted in some deep-seated worries about men’s own inadequacies and general incompetence but the whole thing is much more complex than that. For example, it must also stem from historical assumptions about different male and female lifestyles: cave-dwelling women had to stay in the cave to feed their babies (and dust the bookshelves) so it was the men who’d fetch food and they worked in partnership to survive, but life changed and men tended to assume dominance, perhaps because they were more self-centred and women were more group-centred.
The oldest western religion still doesn’t allow women the same access to places of worship as men. (In eastern religions, women aren’t seen in quite the same way; some of them even have female gods and build statues to women because they were inspirational rather than because they had bodies that men thought were beautiful.)
Perhaps sex too is a factor: it’s easier and much more common for women to fake orgasms than it is for men. Also some men seem able to have sex with a woman they don’t even know, while women prefer to know what a potential lover is like before they have sex with him.
Many men still notice a woman’s body first, while most women notice a man’s character before his looks; perhaps men should be fined if they don’t look at a woman’s face when they’re talking to her, and woman should be fined if they think that, when a man does this, he’s got an ulterior motive.
These are all hugely over-simplistic generalisations and, coming from a man, are, of course, condescending and uninformed because I’ve only once been disadvantaged by my gender so I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about – all comments will be welcome!
And finally, for light relief, did you see that a drug dealer decided to plead guilty after police showed him a recording of his doing a drug deal over the phone while polishing his car just in front of his dashcam which recorded the whole conversation.