Is Sexual Harassment Against Young Women At Epidemic Levels In The UK?

Writing last month Mick Hall examined the sexual harassment issue.

Peter Preston recently wrote there have been many good articles by women about the current sex scandal furore but very few from men. So I thought I would give my two pennies worth.

Let's me be clear, women in this country are still treated as second class citizens and until this ends wage differentials between men and women and sexual innuendos, harassment and intimidation by men will continue.

In the political field the only way this will change is for positive discrimination in favor of women to be introduced for MPs MEPs, local councillors and mayors and currently this would be against the law.

The media response to the outing of Weinstein as a sexual predator has been so predictable. Basically it boiled down to shock horror, how could his behavior gone undetected for decades.

What humbug. I doubt there is hardly anyone in a prominent position within the film industry, along with the journalists who get their living from it, who hadn't heard the rumours circulating about his wretched behaviour.

The same goes for the current UK brouhaha over the sexual harassment and worse at the Westminster parliament. The BBC's political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said as much when she said: "The toxic Westminster environment of sexual harassment and the like had, for years, been “an open secret.”

Knock, knock Laura, if you knew such despicable behaviour was going on why as a responsible journalist did you not inform the authorities and your viewers, for are we not entitled to be told how certain MP's have allegedly been behaving?

We know why she failed to do this. It was an act self interest. She simply did not wish to destroy the relationships she had built up with her parliamentary contacts. Instead Laura and many other journalists who work in parliament left these wretched men free to continue to harass young women and worse.

Much the same happened at the BBC over Savile. Almost all senior management and front of camera presenters must have heard the rumours about Jimmy Savile's reputation as a groper, potential rapist and possible paedophile. BBC journalists too heard the same rumours. Yet not one covered this story. And when Liz MacKean and Meirion Jones made a film for BBC's Newsnight programme which exposed Savile as a prolific sexual predator it was cancelled by the BBC tops even though they must of known it was true.

Why? because they were protecting their 'talent,' and their own backsides. When BBC director of news Helen Boaden told George Entwistle, the director of vision at the BBC about the Newsnight investigation and the possible impact on a planned tribute to Savile, she wasn't appalled or shocked at the revelations, why would she be as in all probability as a TV insider she was well aware of Savile's behaviour? No, she warned Entwistle if the segmentwent out he may have to change the Christmas schedules.

Thus Liz and Meirion's exposé was binned.

If there has been sexual harassment and worst at Westminster and within other British institutions like the BBC, which there undoubted has, then the mainstream media has been complicit by failing to report it for decades. But it's not only the media which is at fault powerful people in Britain's political parties at a local and national level have also turned a blind eye to this wretched behavior.

Leaving young women to be bullied and intimidated into tolerating the sexual advances of powerful men.

The nation at large

As to how widespread the sexual harassment of women in the UK is, my recent conversations with three generations of women points to it still being at an epidemic level.

One young woman in her late teens who works in the hospitality industry told me: she experienced sexual harassment from customers almost every day in her working life. When she mentioned it to her boss, a kindly man by all accounts, he shrugged his shoulders and said sorry but as long as it's not explicit sadly it's part of the industry in the UK.

Asked if she came across it in her non working life she replied: "Of course, why would it be any different?"

Another woman in her late forties had this to say: Initial thoughts to your question, quick poll round the office.

Every woman has been subjected to sexual (power/powerless) harassment
when young.
We live in a misogynist society
Was a hell of a lot worse in 70s/80s but still goes on
However, as working class women, we dealt with it and there's more pressing worries now Housing, work, family, poverty, day to day living etc etc.
Having said that remember the interns at start of their professional life
Work for nothing, etc open to abuse.
Palace of Westminster, BBC fair game for abusers.
Anyway America is great again now, forget Donald as Kevin is the enemy.
If your interested one of the best speeches about misogyny I've heard came from Julia Gillard I was in tears at the time as was spot on.

The third woman was in her early 70s worked in the city of London for much of her life. Her attitude was resilient but angry, nay furious it still goes on. After almost a lifetime's experience she had come to regard most men as pathetic creatures who cannot control their sexual urges and emotions.

She said some interesting things:

When young I mostly ignored their unwanted advances, changed the subject or left the room but as I gained confidence with age I told sexual predators to "fuck off" in an extremely loud voice which resounded around the office, at the very least it ensured the jerk harassing me would not do it again. It may not make you popular but you will feel a damn sight happier and confident when you stand up to the man who put you into such an unpleasant situation.

Not easy to do for a shy young woman staring out in life for sure, but necessary all the same, one of the problems they face is can they afford to, and are they willing to put personal ambition to one side.
If it goes beyond harassment forget reporting it to your boss. Their first thought will be how to cover it up and smooth things over. Report it to the police. If you find this difficult which is understandable, ask a friend or family member to come with you.

I found myself in that position when as a 15 year old who had just left school, a man with authority insisted he drive me home. Being naïve I thought nothing of it until he drove into the countryside and propositioned me. When I came home and told my family my elder brother took me to the police to report it. To this day I look back at his act with admiration as I would never had the courage to report it myself. The police were hopeless as the man was one of theirs but the fact my elder brother believed me and acted accordingly helped me greatly.

The current furore

It should not be about how the average man behaves towards the opposite sex, even if it still leaves a great deal to be desired, it's about how powerful businesses, political parties and institutions which are mainly run by men treat the women who work for them. They have a duty of care but more often than not they fail to practise it.

If we lose sight of this the current media brouhaha will go on for a few weeks then disappear from the front pages and nothing will have changed.

It's not that long ago when racist language was used openly, due to government legislation and bottom up campaigns this has changed. Racists are still prevalent, often holding powerful positions in British institutions like the police, judiciary, and military, but due to a societal change none would publicly express racist language today.

The lesson from this is legislation alone will not solve the problem but it may help expose predatory men who hold powerful positions for what they are. It may even make some of these men change their behaviour.

Mick Hall blogs @ Organized Rage.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

1 comment to ''Is Sexual Harassment Against Young Women At Epidemic Levels In The UK? "

  1. Ive seen sexual harassment in the work place, done under the guise 'banter' by seniors on females. Ive seen it on tube trains where certain men 'accidentally' rub themselves on only the female passengers around them. I had to stop going to clubs with my missus because men think they can grope any girls on a dancefloor. I myself am very funny about personal contact so these things resonate with me and I remember them vividly.Its so insidious, and its everywhere, a womans experience in public life is very different to mens.


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