Published 19 September 2016
So, it’s back to school month and what a return it has been… you take a few summery weeks abroad only to return to the scene of some political apocalypse…. Europe dropped like pickles from a Big Mac; Dave out; Theresa in; Boris (self) crucified and resurrected; the shadow cabinet standing (or sitting) on opposing trains …
I had to turn the mobile notifications off as the political avalanches fell left, right and centre. Increasingly hyperbolic adjectives from a sleep-deprived press pack made it seem like Armageddon was nigh.
But buried deep beneath the political powder, other news events were unfolding. Including this little number:
In Stanford, Connecticut, an alabaster, jockey trust-fund alumnus named Brock Turner had too many drinks of an evening. In a predatory haze he spotted a girl passed-out-drunk.
And raped her.
Reading the court transcripts it was a cut and dry case, and Turner was found guilty on three counts. Judge Persky, also a Stanford alumnus, had 14 years to use at his discretion. But the sentence, in the end, wasn’t 14 years. It wasn’t twelve, nor eight. It wasn’t five. It wasn’t even a year. Although the victim’s gut-wrenching impact statement was read in court – and has subsequently appalled the millions who have read it online – Judge Persky chose not to focus on the young woman irreversibly, irreparably damaged inside and out. Instead he focussed on the “severe impact” that heavy jail time would have on a “promising young man”. And Turner got six months.
Oh did I say six months? I meant three.
Because Brock was released last month after serving half his term. And his pitiful sentence was served not in jail but in “protective custody”. The message, it seems, is crack on and do some raping. If you’ve Ivy League prospects then jack sh*t’ll happen.
After all, maybe Brock’s fine figure of a father is right, maybe 90 days is “a steep price … for 20 minutes of action”. Yes, Brock’s daddy actually said that.
With Brock the Jock getting no more than time out on the naughty step, I got to thinking: would the sentence have been so lenient had Brock been black? Come on … a black man raping a white girl at an exclusive school? US police shoot black civilians for mere traffic violations. It’s a gory way to highlight the issue, but Turner’s favourable sentence is a nutshell. He’s an emblem that affirms (as if we didn’t know) that equality – male versus female, black versus white – is light years from where it should be.
Here’s a good place to pause for a breather, and settle your rage.
* * *
John Scalzi, in his blog Whatever, determined that being a white male was like playing a computer game called Life with the difficulty setting on Easy. And before we get all smug and British about our superiority in equality versus the US, let’s sense-check our shame:
The British Sociological Association found that black people in Britain are 19 percent more likely to be unemployed than those in the United States. Our Department for Work and Pensions reports that UK minority ethnic groups are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. Even adjusting the comparison to measure those with the same level of education, ethnic minorities are under-represented versus whites in almost all professions – and at every management level.
Some 93 percent of executive directors in the UK are white men. And less than 2 percent of British directors from FTSE 150 companies are Black or Minority Ethnic (BME), according to the Spencer Stuart 2015 UK Board Index. Britain’s media – print, online and broadcast – is 94 percent white and 55 percent male according to City University. And of course it’s men – white men – that occupy the top jobs.Only one in 20 of the UK’s top judges are non-white, and fewer than one in four is female. (By the way, the white British population is 41 percent male and 59 percent female.)
There’s so much more to say, but I fear the word count can’t take it. So that seems a good place to move on to the gender divide. And to take another breather.
* * *
Just over a week ago, a report came out showing how new UK mums face increasing workplace discrimination around their maternity leave. Citizens Advice records show a near 60 percent rise in the number of women seeking help on maternity leave issues, such as being switched to zero-hours contracts or even being terminated.
Let’s not forget that in an ageing, falling population we need to nurture and encourage new mums – not punish them more than we already do. Remember, this is a country where the gender pay gap is already 10 percent in full time employment, and 34.5 percent in part-time employment.
Mothers or not, women are still hugely underrepresented at boardroom level and all research shows that the glass ceiling is as shatterproof as ever. Cultural prejudice too is deeply entrenched when it comes to discrimination, harassment, and attire.
Remember the City worker sent home on day one for not wearing heels? And then let’s not forget the TUC getting in on the act telling Theresa May to show an example to women, by not (wait for it) wearing her kitten heels…
“STOP TELLING WOMEN WHAT TO WEAR PEOPLE”
For years the press focussed on Theresa more for her stylish shoes and power suits than her politics. And during the brief leadership battle between her and Andrea Leadsom, the girl on girl action was enough for the male, pale and stale press to utterly wet itself. Especially when one was deemed to have played the mum card to ‘outwoman’ her opponent.
Sure, we might want to pat ourselves on the back for our second (albeit unelected) female PM. But Parliament’s still much more male than your average bear. Some 77 percent of MPs are male. Just 6 percent of MPs are BME. Women from minority ethnic groups make up only 1.2 percent of MPs despite comprising 4 percent of the UK population …
* * *
I could go on and on and on with stats and reports that paint a bleak and upsetting picture. It’s no secret that books and PhD papers are regularly churned out on the issue of equality, so to sharpen your anger, please continue reading there.
What I hope for here is that my rapist-inspired, top-line rant gives a flavour of the mammoth task we all face if we’re to better balance our lot. As the numbers break down, we realise that the White Male demographic wields vastly disproportionate power for its size. There are so many more white women than white men, plus eight million BME individuals in the UK, and they’re being shut out, stepped on, and undermined in droves.
I think we’ve proved this summer that anything’s possible. So maybe it’s time to face our national shame and tackle a ludicrous imbalance that plays out across all walks of life.
There is no God-given mandate that says white men should run the show – it’s just inertia. And we’ve got big problems ahead if one dominant, hegemonic army alone holds the skeleton key to our judicial, economic and social centres.