Monday, 17 June 2013

No laughing matter

 (This isn’t meant to be a rambling blog, but simply couldn’t refrain from this one.)

‘Nigella Lawson choked in public – husband calls it a playful tiff.’ Headlines like these are currently covering the front pages, and a quick scan of Google or Twitter reveals divided response lines. (more on theoriginal story here)

No matter what really went down at that Mayfair luncheon, it’s another awful story featuring abuse that should never be condoned.
Over on HelloGiggles this excellent summary has just been posted. Among other things it raises the question of why no one seemed to make any effort to intervene or, at least, ask if Nigella was ok? It also reminds us of the collective response that seems to frequently question the victim.

After spotting the headlines I was scrolling down the Instagram feed and spotted the below comments under a picture of the newspapers.

What part, exactly, of this is a laughing matter? Sure, discuss the privacy debate and paparazzi as much as you like (although this event occurred in front of diners and passer-bys in a very public place), but to joke about it? Not only too soon, more importantly too wrong.

Parallels were immediately drawn to the 2009 images that surfaced of Rihanna, having been assaulted by Chris Brown. Back then the instant fan reactions, readable in the comment fields of just about any relating article/video, featured disturbing content questioning, of all things, Rihanna.

In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

Back then statements were issued in support of the lady in question, but surprisingly many remained neutral ‘fans of both’.

Later in February, a photo of Brown riding a jet ski in Miami hit the Internet, and singer Usher was caught on video commenting on it: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo,” Usher says in the video. “After the other photo [of Rihanna's bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?”
The backlash was so severe that Usher was later forced to publicly apologize.
“I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved.”
The Grammy producers also issued the following statements when Brown eventually returned to the stage –
“We’re glad to have him back,” said executive producer Ken Ehrlich. “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”
Re-read that last part. They clearly zeroed in on the most important issue at hand, the Producers feeling victimised by the inconvenience caused from the boyfriend violently assaulting his girl. Sure. Who can’t relate to that? (Sarcasm)
There is also the incident of UniLads, one of the many ‘lads’ groups featured heavily among the younger male (15-35) UK market. This one posted tips on how to score on a night out, ending the write up with
And if the girl you’ve taken for a drink happens to belong to the ‘25%’ group and won’t ’spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.*

*Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’.

After eventually, due to increased media pressure, publishing a half hearted apology the comments field quickly filled up with a rather worrying banter trend

Back to the headlines at hand today then. A woman is humiliated in public by someone who is meant to love and care about her. Everyone around stands back, not wanting to get involved in the public ‘scene’. The media report on it and the comment fields appear, again worryingly, divided. Is Saatchi right? Was this not just a playful tiff? What did she do to set him off?
This is a serious issue too often overlooked or clichéd. Yes we often discuss and disapprove of domestic violent, and the majority of people around you will say they think it’s blatantly out of order. But what difference does all that talking do when the reactions at an actual event like this seem to be divided loyalties and a sense of “ooh this is awkward, can we not just move on and not talk about it already?”
Perhaps joking about it might help some people rationalise something we struggle to wrap our heads around (why someone would hurt someone they ‘love’ like that). But that sounds like a hollow reason to justify those types of comments. Look around. In your friendship group/family there is probably a woman (or several) who have been through some form of abuse/sexism/uncomfortable confrontation but probably isn’t up for publicly discussing it.
Before you laugh at a rape joke or a victim take a moment to consider those ladies in your life. Matters like these are never just ‘jokes’, and everyone has a responsibility to do something abt it, even if it’s as simple as not to laugh or condone.
Just saying...
 xo xo 

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