If Theresa May wants to show she is taking the issue seriously, she needs to put proper structures in place—and fastby Stephanie Boland / November 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
“The first casualty,” was how one BBC broadcast described Michael Fallon’s resignation. The former defence minister stepped down from his post following allegations of inappropriate behaviour with women, saying that his past behaviour may not have measured up to the standards set by the armed forces.
“Casualty” is a curious way of describing Fallon, hinting not only at the idea that a man whose own behaviour forces him to step down from a cabinet job has been wounded, but also that this might be first of many careers affected before Westminster’s harassment scandal has finished purging its secrets. There was, too, a hint of the lobby’s love of gossip: far from dreading the ensuing reshuffle, quite a few hacks rather enjoyed it, especially since it was instigated by a good scalping.
This, it seems, is part of the problem. After the much-rumoured list of Tory indiscretions was finally tweeted by an anonymous account on Wednesday, it became clear that the compilers had happily lumped together some truly upsetting allegations—including a woman whose harasser had forced her to have an abortion—with any sort of sexual indiscretion that strayed from a (very limited) idea of “normal.”
As Megan Nolan wrote in Vice, some of the items relied on ideas about sex that were at best blinkered—in the worst cases, downright homophobic. Not that that deterred some on Twitter, who went for the hashtag #Sleaze36 to refer collectively to those named.
Including the puritanical alongside the abusive may make sense in terms of good gossip—the list was discussed in some quarters with the same gleeful salaciousness that also prompts the word “casualty”—but it does nothing for the alleged victims.
This is not to say, however, that backchannels and rumours don’t have their place. The sudden interest in women’s informal organising is enough to show that—although the women I know regard the idea that spreadsheets and WhatsApp groups constitute a new technological witch-hunt, rather than simply a digital version of the sort of conversation previously conducted in the ladies’ loos, very amusing.
That, of course, is quite aside from the frankly laughable irony of politicos suddenly urging a crackdown on unverified gossip, as if none of us has ever cocked an ear in a Westminster bar.
The problem for some men is not that people talk,…