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We must never look the other way

Author:
Sexual-assault-is-everyones-problem (1)

By Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Sexual assault, violence against women and girls

People often look out of the window to avoid the problems sat right in front of them. When there is something in need of addressing, we tend to plunge into an irrelevant stream of thought in order to dismiss the matters at hand. Society has reached a point where it would rather silence the oppressed than cut down the roots of the oppressors. Or, injustices are ignored completely.

Ignorance, of course, feels infinitely more comfortable than protest. However, within those reactionary walls of ignorance and comfort, we are only incubating inequality. We are creating conditions in which true change can never occur.

In the past few weeks, the issue of widescale sexual harassment has come to public attention. One high-profile case (the sexual assaults carried out by film producer Harvey Weinstein) has led to many more people speaking out about their own experiences. The accounts were both harrowing and inspiring to read. On the one hand, I was saddened to be reminded that patriarchal power structures still exist that allow this kind of abuse to happen so easily. At the same time, listening to these immensely brave people speak so openly about their trauma was sobering indeed.

Initially, it seemed as though everyone’s stories were taken seriously. There was active effort to make people feel comfortable enough to share. Reading Lea Seydoux’s distressing retelling of her encounters with Weinstein highlighted a sad truth: so many women are made to feel vulnerable, and there are malicious, exploitative men who are eager to capitalise on that vulnerability. The upside that manifested out of these heart-breaking stories was the fact that a discussion had now begun. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe that the days of sexual assault being something to hide or keep to oneself were nearly over.

My optimism was ruined very quickly. I had the displeasure of catching a short glimpse of a popular UK panel show – Have I Got News For You. A panel of incredibly privileged men were openly laughing and making light of sexual assault cases. The only female panellist, Jo Brand, was left to defend the seriousness of the situation. Ian Hislop (editor of popular UK political publication Private Eye) made a patronising comment regarding sexual harassment – ‘Some of this is not high level crime, is it?’ – and Jo quipped back: “If I can just say, as the only representative of the female gender here today… I know it’s not high level, but it doesn’t have to be high level for women to feel under siege… And actually, for women, if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and it wears you down.”

I admired Jo’s boldness and the accuracy of her comment. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and disheartened by the fact she had to intercept in the first place. The fact that a group of adult men had failed to understand the severity of sexual harassment on any scale was demoralising. I had thought the entertainment world was making significant progress toward recognising the abuses of power happening behind its closed doors. This seemed like a tragic step back – to have comedians deriding the struggles of women who had been maltreated and exploited. I was outraged.

It may appear like a small issue – a group of men laughing – but the problem runs deeper. A society that can laugh at women speaking out about their discomfort is a society that promotes their oppression. If a panel of comedians can joke about cases of sexual assault, then anybody watching the show at home who may have been a victim in the past will no doubt feel reluctant to speak out and seek help. It’s a violent cycle that needs to end immediately. I wish for all future cases of sexual assault to be treated with the utmost humanity and integrity. No matter the scale. I never want to see a panel of grown men make snide comments about the suffering of women again.

Toxic masculinity fuels this kind of childish, unwarranted behaviour. It is also the reason why so many male victims of sexual assault are made to feel like they shouldn’t speak out. An inundation of groundless patriarchal ideals tells them they should remain quiet. Women are certainly not the only victims of sexual assault to be recognised recently. Actor Anthony Rapp told how Kevin Spacey made sexual advances towards him when he was only 14 years old. This is horrifying to imagine and Rapp’s courage is admirable. The masculine ideals that lead to a culture of shame surrounding male rape and assault need to be fully dismantled.

Obviously, this is not just an issue occurring in Hollywood. Sexual assault happens everywhere. There is a worry that the current discussion ignores issues outside of Hollywood and parliament. Because those who have come forward are privileged in terms of class and wealth, it is essential that people from less privileged backgrounds are not left behind. Many women’s organisations are closing or facing the possibility of closure due to austerity measures. People who rely on these kinds of centres do not have the same platform as multi award-winning celebrities to voice their experiences and gain mass support. They do not have that privilege. Minority groups and working classes cannot be left by the wayside. Patriarchy can’t only cause outrage when it’s happening in The Weinstein Company, it has to cause outrage when it’s happening in the local pub or on the street corner as well.

An end must come to the atmosphere of terror we live in, an atmosphere that means women fear being seen or noticed in case that means being hurt. It is not appropriate to deride anybody with the courage to come forward. Nobody should ever feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened to them. Right now there is a real chance for change. Everyone has a responsibility toward each other; we must listen and give support… we should never look the other way again.
Help Line Numbers and Sites Available for Support (UK) –

Help after a sexual assault or rape – https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealth/Pages/Sexualassault.aspx

Find a Rape/Sexual Assault referral centre-
https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Rape%20and%20sexual%20assault%20referral%20centres/LocationSearch/364

NSPCC Helpline: 0808 800 5000 (24 hours, every day)

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/grooming/

Rape Crisis-

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

Support for Victims-

Victim Support Supportline: 0808 168 9111

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-and-sexual-assault
RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre) National Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)
http://www.rasasc.org.uk/
The Survivors Trust Helpline: 0808 801 0818

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/
Help Line Numbers and Sites Available for Support (US) –

Help after a sexual assault or rape –

https://www.rainn.org/get-help

RAINN Helpline: 800.656.HOPE (4673), open 24/7

https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline

Sexual assault helpline – 1800 010 120

http://www.dvconnect.org/sexual-assault-helpline-2/

Jeremy Corbyn and the fightback against capitalism

Author:
corbyn 2

By Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Reference to abortion

Even some weeks later, Britain is still reeling from the tidal wave of shock that was the General Election, which saw the Tories fail to secure a majority and subsequently scrapple for a deal with the DUP. Everything about this dreaded minority government screams danger. With both party’s ideals terrifyingly prehistoric, this is a massive step back for social progression in the United Kingdom.

The anonymity of the DUP in isles other than Northern Ireland means that a vast amount of their policies and principles remain unknown. So, to be clear, this is a party that rejects a woman’s freedom of choice. In fact, they go out of their way to actively oppose a woman’s right to an abortion. A former minister for the DUP once attempted to increase the sentence length for women who have abortions in private clinics to at least ten years. And that only scratches the surface of the DUP’s problems…

This is not a party I’m sure any of us want to see wield even the slightest trace of power. But alas, they now hold more seats in total than the Liberal Democrats, and now the initials DUP are going to move from arbitrary letters most people have never heard of, to letters uttered so often we switch over the television channel when we hear them.

A country led by Theresa May, with the DUP holding substantial influence also, seems a very dark country indeed… but hope streams through, and the face of hope is in every sense Jeremy Corbyn.

In the political climate of 2017 Britain, this is the fact: anything that is a knock for a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour, is a knock for equality. The same can be said, more positively perhaps, vice versa: anything that’s a win for Corbyn’s Labour, is more than likely going to be a win for equality too. And here’s why…

Capitalist thinking has infected every vein of thought. It has done so cunningly, so people do not taste the poison while they’re being fed it. Some even vote for this poison, believing it to be the antidote. Even progressive attitudes are at risk from this “pull the ladder up Jack and sod the rest” viewpoint.

Here’s an example: the rise of consumerism has seen a complete transmutation of popular feminism. Or perhaps, mainstream feminism. In some respect, the principles behind it have been diluted into something easy to swallow and marketable. Yes. That’s scary, when the power of capitalist and consumerist thought is so prevalent in society that women’s rights can be treated like a commodity. Owning a house so big that you have an entire room devoted to diamonds, and then maybe making a documentary on it, in the name of feminism, demonstrating your kick-ass independence and choice is actually not a good thing. It does not analyse societal hierarchies, it does not seek to reveal forms of injustice or power mechanisms- it does nothing. It’s empty and the only thing it reflects is ignorance and subservience to corporate power. Essentially it is feeding the system that is trying to bring us down, giving them the power to do so faster.

If the idea is being perpetuated that the perks of capitalism- which are only perks for an elite- can be called feminism, then we are perpetuating the idea that injustice can continue so long as a few people can own their room full of diamonds. What I’m saying is, this mainstream feminism is surely contradictory to the values it claims to cherish.

The ultimate result of this perpetuation is self-centeredness. Working together to eradicate other people’s injustices is buried beneath the belief that our own situation is the only one that matters. Everywhere, I see this notion of a Strong Independent Woman ™. That’s true. The generic idea of an independent, accomplished, feminist woman is underlined by capitalism. Louboutin heels, an executive job, Kylie Jenner’s lip kit on her mouth. Any other form of independent woman in the lens of mainstream feminism is viewed as a loser. It’s just not right. We have been manipulated into thinking the only option is to consume everything on the conveyor belt, lest fall behind the times. Isolation is the only consequence of this exploitation and it’s something to be fought against.

Where does the face of politics fit into all of this? We need a government that completely rejects this movement of individualism at the expense of humanity. For the past seven years, we’ve had a Tory government. People in power telling us valuing ourselves over community is exercising our freedom. Thus, when notions like this are being both realised and actualised, capitalist feminism flourishes, human rights become a commodity used by corporations, and we ignore the fact that society is unequal, that so many people aren’t eating tonight or tomorrow morning.

A Corbyn-led Britain would help to reaffirm the importance of community spirit, establish the significance of the equality of everyone, and hopefully wipe out the idea that it’s fine to thrive on a system that promotes using the destitution of others as a ladder rung to owning their very own room full of diamonds.

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