Whenever a male celebrity is in the media because the Crown Prosecution Service is pursuing allegations of his abuse and violence against women and children, I momentarily stop. And wait.
I am not sure what I am waiting for, I don’t dare to believe that those accused of male violence will be found guilty in a court of law. That those who ARE found guilty will receive a sentencing that comes fractionally close to the impact of their violence. That the general public will believe that a guilty verdict actually equals guilt. That even if the public believe the guilty man to be guilty, that they won’t hold the victims partially or wholly responsible. I don’t dare to believe because this never, ever happens. Ever. Moreover, this cannot be the best possible outcome, surely? Wanting justice to be done and for the general public to agree with the decision? That is the end result of male violence. No. I need for there to be no crime in the first place. My hope, my desire, is for male violence to stop.
Can you imagine? Can you contemplate a world without male violence?
Recent guilty verdicts of Stuart Hall and Max Clifford do make a difference. They do. Yet they also remind me that women, and girls, and boys, are commodities for men. There is no getting around this. We, for the most part, waltz in a haze of cognitive dissonance because facing the brutality of this reality is just too hard, too much, too painful. So we disconnect. We say “not all men”, “not MY brother/boyfriend/colleague/mate/father”, “she LIKED it rough”, “she’s a fantasist”. Only those of us who start to unpick the position of women and children in a patriarchy seem to “get” this. And even then, we can still choose to ignore, minimise and even disbelieve.
Women are human beings. We deserve safety, care, respect, value and to be free from male violence. It is our RIGHT not to live in fear of men. OUR RIGHT. Yet these overwhelming stores in the media of male celebrities being accused again and again of abuse and violence and rape illustrate that women Do. Not. Matter. Why are we having to fight for our lives here? We look to those in power to protect us. They don’t. So we set up the women’s liberation movement, install rape crisis and refuge shelters, start to gather in safe spaces, start to share in order to try and support each other. It works but it’s never enough. Those who can stop male violence – men – choose not to. So we need someone, anyone in a position of power to make a stand and to say ENOUGH.
We need to make the sexualisation, abuse, neglect, degradation, humiliation, destruction and murder of women and children abhorrent to every single person. People need to feel the horror, understand the truth, and experience the reality of living in a patriarchy for those of us oppressed by it. We can start in schools, in the work place, in the criminal justice system through education, raising awareness, challenging, supporting and enforcing justice, it is possible. It has to be.
I cannot state as to whether Oscar Pistorious or Rolf Harris are guilty of the crimes that they are accused of. I can’t predict the judgement that Judge Thokozile Masipa may impose. But I know this. The verdicts of these and thousands of other cases are VITAL in the message that we are sending. The whole world is watching. Including survivors. Including perpetrators. We need the culture of male violence against women to end. So what are we waiting for?