I’m struggling to understand why shit nugget Ken Barlow has made such a big splash in the news. Don’t get me wrong, his comments regarding victims of child sex abuse were repulsive and alarming when he suggested that the perpetrators ought to be ‘totally forgiven’ (anything you’d like to share, Ken?) but let’s just stop and back up a minute. He’s a soap actor. I’m not the biggest fan of Corrie but I dip in now and then when I need to zone out, perfect for a bit of mindless white noise. And that is where I want to see Ken, where I can laugh at him for his swelled sense of self and how he coulda been somebody. I don’t want to see him in a paper IRL, or care for his opinion much. I am not questioning why Ken thinks like this (that’s easy: patriarchy) but why the media allowed him the platform to say such a thing. And it’s not just him.
When the Savile news broke we were told by many journalists how they’d always had suspicions (and in some cases hard evidence) of the systematic abuse perpetrated by him. The world was rightfully enraged at these revelations and decent people asked the question why, if so many people were aware of what was going on, these incidents were never reported. One had hoped that this would be a tipping point and victims of historical abuse would feel safe and positively encouraged to finally tell their stories, victims would seek the justice they had been denied. But instead we were subjected to an onslaught of entitled slebs spouting seriously twisted and damaging rhetoric around the definition of a victim and the very concerning message that victims should just let it go. Jeremy Irons believes that young victims of sexual abuse have been encouraged to play the part of a victim, failing to take into account the profound physical/psychological effects non-consensual activity has on a person. He added that he loved touching people and that any self-respecting woman would tell him to fuck off if she minded. Has this walking/talking dildo any concept of ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT? What kind of sadistic personality feels they can touch and take without EXPRESS CONSENT? Germy Irons makes my skin crawl, in that he thinks like a perpetrator. He seeks to pleasure himself without a second thought for the person he may be violating.
I would like to believe that the media is exposing these ball sacks for the sickos they are and by giving them the front page they are in fact condemning their words but it’s not just the luvvies. Journalists have these kinds of opinions too and worryingly, have the opportunity to express the same dangerous thoughts with more frequency. A while ago, Brendan O’Neill wrote a disparaging piece on victims who he believed were ‘making a spectacle of themselves’ by disclosing horrific abuse perpetrated against them by members of the Catholic Church. He also asked what the motivations for revealing past abuse could be. Erm… Closure? Victims often suffer post-traumatic stress decades after the incident. PTSD can be severely debilitating. By speaking through our experiences we can process the information in a safe way so that our bodies are not fighting against us when we are triggered. Why didn’t he know this? Or did he? What was his motivation for silencing victims in this way? What motivates the press to publish one misogynistic prick after the next on how it’s all the victim’s fault for being such a victim? This type of discussion renders people who have been subject to crime unwilling to identify as a victim because it leaves them vulnerable to ridicule and therefore in limbo, unable to reconcile the trauma with fact, doomed to feeling misplaced shame forever. How utterly inhumane.
We have a culture in this country of censuring victims and celebrating perpetrators. THAT is patriarchy. It is power and control. Patriarchy has to remind you at every opportunity that it is in control. When Ray Winstone (there’s another fella who should stick to his day job) made those bizarre comments conflating high taxes with ‘rape’ we were rightfully appalled. But it did make me question the trend for famous men to stick their oar in everywhere (so to speak) and the readiness of the press to publish them. I think it’s a tad optimistic to believe that these men are given a platform because they are being exposed for their outrageous claims. Instead it’s another method of control ensuring victims remain silent and we preserve the status quo. For victims, it is disempowering to be reminded constantly of what they have been made to believe by their perpetrators. That they are unworthy, they are impure. That somehow they brought it on themselves. When the Steubenville rapists were convicted, the media unremittingly reminded us of why we cannot report. Why we should not report. The language they used and the way in which the victim was vilified served as a reminder to us all that we cannot come out the other side of the process intact. Every other thing we do in this life will be scrutinised for evidence of whoredom, somehow all those other interactions contribute to the incident in question. It is never just the rapists fault, the victim is always culpable.
When I recently wrote to a journalist of a local newspaper asking him to revise his piece on a 14 year old victim of paedophilia where he described the act between them as sex, he was more concerned with the fact that I had tweeted his name with the hashtags #smashthepatriarchy and #rapeculture. He denied that he had chosen to word it in such a way and instead blamed the police press release he’d used to gather information. When I emailed back to say that I had deleted the ‘offending tweets’, and would he add a note to explain why the piece had been changed, I was left without a response. He was only concerned with his good name and suffice to say, I won’t be letting it go so easily next time.
What are we to do about our dangerously misogynistic, patriarchal press?