Victim Blaming, Sexual Abuse and Katie Hopkins

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Inured as we all are to the lime light seeking idiocy spewed by Katie Hopkins with regard to any trending news topic, her comments in relation to sexual abuse toward women this month have hit a new low.

In the wake of the #MeToo campaign many brave women have come forward to tell their own personal stories about sexual harassment, sexual abuse, rape and sexist victimisation. These frank and honest accounts have helped educate the public at large as to the scale of the problem we still face with the abuse of women in our society.

This bravery has been met with the typical bull in a china shop belligerence by Hopkins (and others) who have spectacularly failed to grasp the point of the #MeToo campaign and who have derided the women courageous enough to take part as capitalising on their abuse to seek attention.
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Hopkins goes on to imply that in some cases women have not been abused but have used sex as a bartering tool for personal gain.

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However the comment that showed a particular lack of empathy and understanding toward this sensitive discussion was the tweet where Mrs Hopkins suggested women should ‘man up’ with the clear implication that if women behaved differently they would be less likely to suffer abuse.

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This is victim blaming at its worst. It is no different from claiming women who wear a mini skirt are asking for it. Our society has gradually evolved to understand that the blame of rape must always lie at the feet of the rapist and not the victim. Katie Hopkins seems hell bent on dragging us back fifty years into the past with her unhelpful and anachronistic attitude that with the right behaviours a woman can stop herself from being violated.

This negative attitude toward victims of sexual abuse was further perpetuated in the media by Anne Robinson who jumped on the band wagon to call modern women ‘fragile’ and commented: “In the early days, 40 years ago, there were very few of us women in power and I have to say we had a much more robust attitude to men behaving badly.”

This victim blaming attitude was further endorsed by Caroline Santos of UKIP who went further even than Hopkins and Robinson to suggest not only could women stop abuse if they want to, but some actively welcome it.

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When women in the media speak out with such little understanding of the issues involved there is a very real danger that it will once again silence those women who did speak out and who did shine a light on the unacceptable behaviour of the small number of men who do use sex to try and obtain power over their female colleagues.

The fundamental mistake that Hopkins and co are making is to assume that women are all the same. They assume all women have the same levels of confidence that they do and that all women are able to fight off sexual harassment in the same way that they believe they would be.

But this is a very naïve point of view. Women differ greatly in their personal circumstances, their background and abilities. What one woman may find easy to shrug off may traumatise another. This is not because one of the women is weaker than the other but because one may have more emotional issues and trauma in their past.

Speaking personally I am extremely lucky in the fact that I have never been abused or raped, I have never had an abusive partner, I have never had personal or working relationships where my gender or sexuality have been exploited and I was fortunate enough to be brought up by parents who cared enough about me to instil me with the confidence to speak up if anything inappropriate was said or done to me. This is privilege. My confidence is not my achievement, I just got lucky.

Other women have not been so lucky. Other woman have suffered abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment. Other women have been so in fear for their jobs that they would endure unwanted attention for the sake of feeding their children.

What Hopkins doesn’t understand is that women do not all start off on a level playing field. There are those of us who would be confident enough to (in her words) “Toughen up and stand alone” but this is not because we are stronger or better in any way, it is because we have been luckier than others.

Hopkins and Robinson make a virtue of their confidence and their ability to stand up for themselves but these are powerful women in the public eye. They have no concept of the vulnerabilities of others.

I did see a flasher once and gave him a round of applause and marks out of ten which entirely killed the rather uninspiring erection he had. But I do not consider my confidence to be something to brag about. I have been fortunate, very fortunate. Many women are not. We must own our own privilege when we have not been subjected to the trials that others have. It is too easy to claim to be strong when you have never been tested.

The point of the #MeToo campaign was to give a voice to women who have been abused and to give them a platform where they can speak out. When people of our own gender like Hopkins and Robinson mock these women they are not just letting down the sisterhood they are undermining the whole principle that those who harm others should be held responsible for their actions.

Keep on speaking up with the #MeToo ladies. Your courage does you all credit.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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Why Google Were Right To Sack Sexist Employee

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After the debacle of the leaked Google memo on diversity the individual responsible for sharing his somewhat sexist views to the rest of his company has now been dismissed. But the gender debate lingers on in his wake and continues to encourage people to discuss the issue of gender based abilities and predispositions.

In a nutshell our hapless Google employee made the suggestion that “the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

It has been the natural reaction of many to express anger at these words and the view they put forward but it is important to understand why the Google employee was wrong and why Google did the right thing in terminating his employment.

The primary concern I have is that the employee was trying to use a stereotype to promote an argument. Stereotypes are problematic. They are a generalisation which means they are not safe to rely upon as evidence. You could for example tell me that men are stronger than women but if you did I would immediately go and find you ten women who can throw a shot put a decent distance and ten men who can barely lift a coffee cup. The generalisation achieves nothing but to create a false expectation of the sexes which can then be used as a foundation for targeted discrimination.

Gender generalisation may play a part in sociological theory but when taken into the workplace it opens the door to discriminating against anybody who does not conform to the rigidly defined behaviour of gender stereotypes.

When we allow this kind of blinkered thinking to enter the workplace it actually turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fewer women are recruited into a given industry because of a false belief that said industry is a skill set better suited to men therefore fewer women apply. Fewer women undertake the education paths relevant to that industry which leads to the industry slowly becoming more and more male dominated. The erroneous assumption is then made that men enter the field because they are better suited to it – and so the vicious circle continues. The net result is that the industry is disadvantaged because of a much reduced talent pool, albeit an artificially constructed disadvantage which is, ironically, entirely of their own making.

Stereotyping is also dangerous because it reduces individuals to be no more than a product of type. This is essentially why sexism (and racism) are so offensive. It is the implication that an individual is not a unique being but a sum of the parts of what it is to be a woman/man/white person/person of colour etc. It denies the right of a person to be taken on their own merits.

The Google employee based his argument on the biological differences between men and women which is a limited view as it fails to take into account the ‘nurture’ aspects of personal development. Women have been conditioned throughout history to accept a subordinate role to men. This may be anathema to a progressive modern society but we need to remember that it was actually less than 100 years ago when women gained the right to vote in the UK. The weight of oppression still lies heavily on the shoulders of many and it is unsurprising that gender based social expectations still play a part in directing the educational and career aspirations of women. If there are more men than women in technology this cannot be blithely attributed to biology with no consideration for the social environment and the role it has played in shaping attitudes and expectations.

The leaked Google memo was anachronistic in the sense that it only recognised two genders. This polarisation leads to further discrimination – discrimination toward the transgender community, the non binary community and to any individual who does not wish to pigeon hole themselves into a single gender. We live in supposedly enlightened times where gender is (hopefully) becoming acknowledged as more complex than the mere possession of a penis or vagina. The rigid delineation expressed in the Google memo does not acknowledge this evolution of thought and regresses us back to the narrow definitions that no longer serve our society well.

It is important to remember why we hold the principle of diversity as aspirational in a progressive society. Diversity is not about being politically correct. Diversity is needed because it is a rational principle that works best for a society.  It promotes a genuine meritocracy where the best people for the job are hired to do the job. When we start to discriminate based on race, gender, faith etc. we effectively disadvantage ourselves and our own progress as a society. Objecting to diversity could not be a more irrational position to take.
Yes, Google sacked their sexist employee because he was offensively patronising and gained the company much unneeded negative publicity. But they also sacked him because, as any global corporation knows, the best way to grow and succeed is to recruit high calibre candidates. Anybody discouraging a whopping 50% of the potential Google talent pool is effectively wrecking corporate growth and future profits. It is hardly surprising they unceremoniously kicked his backside off the Google premises.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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Hate Beyond The “Isms”

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Most of the issues that come the way of our anti hate group Resisting Hate can be broken down into one of four key areas – Anti Semitism, Islamophobia, Homophobia and Racism. Hate trends come and go but fighting these key areas forms the basis of the majority of the work that we do.

However it is easy to lose sight of the fact that in our post Brexit, post Donald Trump world, religion, race and sexuality are not the only sticks being used to beat members of our society with. We are starting to see condemnation and abuse directed at a wide range of people who do not fit the emerging conservative stereotype relating to what is fast becoming considered “normal”.

I came across this personally the other week when it was suggested by a far right detractor that the fact I practise Paganism would lessen the credibility for our group because it is a “crackpot, made up, New Age practice”. Leaving aside the fact that Paganism in some form or another predates all the world religions it was a comment that surprised me as it suggested my ability to discern and tackle hate was somehow impeded by the fact that I believe in and work with elements that differ to those of the predominant faiths in the country. The criticism was clear – my belief set is different so I must be wrong, stupid or mentally impaired.

Discrimination against lifestyle choices is causing a lot of trouble for people who wish to actualise their individuality. Only last week in America  a top Trump health care appointee wrote about a supposed link between tattoos and drug addiction. Also in America this week, amidst much student outcry, a school decided to “slut shame” its female students by issuing a flier as to what nature of prom garment would and would not be considered admissible attire for the school prom night.  These examples are clearly legitimising the concept that it is ok to judge people by their appearance. All those years of telling our children to look at the book not the cover appear to have been wasted as it is apparently now perfectly acceptable to make a snap shot judgement of a person based solely on their physical appearance.

Physical appearance, especially in the form of body/fat shaming, is one of the most problematic growing forms of hate on the internet with a concern that it may be a contributing factor in both young men and women developing eating disorders.  Social media sites have made it easy to comment anonymously on the appearance of others and I have personally seen images with (literally) hundreds of derogatory comments all aiming to undermine the confidence and self-esteem of the individual posting their picture.

Sexism too is on the increase. The pussy grabbing US President has established a new low in the attitude to women in society. It is now common place to see memes on Twitter promoting a return to “old fashioned values” when the woman ran the home, raised the children and played no part in the workplace. These regressive attitudes are in danger of undoing the equality that women have fought for and, if we are not careful, will lead us back to a world where women are objectified and seen as inferior to their male counterparts.

The left wing have come in for a particularly rough ride recently (and I definitely speak from experience on this one). Progressives, Liberals and “Lefties” have been attacked with venom on every social media platform. It is perhaps for those they see as the greatest threat to their conservative dystopia that the far right reserve the greater part of their vitriol. Our group receive hate mail on a daily basis simply for speaking out about defying hate. The death threats some of the Antifascist groups receive are unprintable.

Many social prejudices are against a choice made by an individual but I have recently observed two hate trends that particularly churn my stomach, all the more repellent for the fact they are discriminating against something over which the individual has no control.

The first is Trans hatred. The Independent reported in 2016 that Trans related crime has increased by 170%. This may well be attributable to the obsession the media has with who uses what bathroom but is more likely due to the ignorant belief that people undergo gender reassignment surgery as a lifestyle preference.  Education explaining that gender surgery takes place to correct an individual’s body to match their true gender would combat a lot of this hate but, as is too often the way with ignorance, it is the wrong facts getting posted time and time again on the internet.

I am equally appalled at the upsurge in violence and abuse toward homeless people. Few things scream scumbag more than the people who find it funny to abuse others simply for a downturn in their personal circumstances. Seeing regular reports of homeless people tormented is sickening and a sad indictment on humanity in 2017.

The resurgence of hate may look like we have a bleak future but it is not all bad news.  Hate crime laws have been changing for some years now to keep up with the imaginative new ways human beings keep finding to discriminate against each other. In 2013 it became a hate crime to discriminate against individuals identifying with different musical sub cultures (including goths after the horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster)  and this month in North Yorkshire misogyny has been reclassified as a hate crime. There are also calls for acts of abuse against the homeless to be reclassified as hate crime and prosecutions for people committing acts of violence toward people with disabilities are up 40% which the CPS confirm is indicative of the fact that hate toward those with disabilities “will not be ignored.”

As our laws evolve to reflect the general public disgust with those who discriminate against and abuse others they will act as a deterrence for haters which will protect further abuses taking place. But the best way to eradicate hate is to educate our next generation. Parents and Teachers – your role in this will be invaluable. Teach our children that kindness, not hate, must form the backbone of the world we want to live in.

 

 

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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