The Daily Mail reached peak vileness in publishing Sarah Vine’s latest column about the Westminster sex scandal. In fact, it might make you feel a little bit sick.
Describing the scandal as a “hysterical witch hunt”, Vine compares the current investigations into the behaviour of MPs to ‘McCarthyism’ and states that:
this so-called sex scandal has all the hallmarks of a moral panic.
At the heart of Vine’s piece is victim-blaming; and perpetuating the myth that women should just put up with this kind of “banter”. Vine writes:
They can’t take a joke, let alone dictation — so is it any wonder they can’t handle the pace at Westminster or the rough and tumble of parliamentary banter.
Vine also believes the problem is due to women not taking “responsibility” for their actions:
But the problem with the current generation of young women is that they have somehow got it into their heads that they don’t have to stick up for themselves, or take responsibility for their own safety.
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It’s unclear why she thinks speaking up against abuse is not ‘taking responsibility’. Vine seems to suggest that women should just put up with it:
If, on the other hand, it is simply the case that someone has overstepped the mark, or been a little too fruity over the punch, then just grow up and deal with it.
Vine goes to great length to try and justify the behaviour of MPs:
Knowing MPs as I do, many of them are so socially inept, they make asking for a cup of coffee sound deeply suspicious. But just because someone is a bit odd, does that make them a pervert? No.
But the MPs are not accused of asking for a cup of coffee suspiciously. Yet Vine dismisses the allegations:
Allegations are rather vague and vary wildly, from being ‘handsy’ at parties to ‘impregnating’ a woman.
Except most women know exactly what ‘handsy’ means, because most women have experienced it at some point.
Vine also tries to claim that the allegations are a generational issue:
Most of the accused are over 40; most of the accusers are in their 20s.
And she then goes on to say that:
In other words, it’s the revenge of the millennials, many of whom will have had their senses of humour surgically removed at university. Theirs is a generation that seems permanently aggrieved, in a perpetual state of disgust at anyone over the age of 30.
But it’s not about millennials. It’s about powerful men over 40 thinking it’s appropriate to make sexual advances towards those who are young enough to be their children.
Meanwhile, Vine dismisses the “me too” hashtag as “stupid” and “empty, attention-seeking gestures”. And it’s against this background that people wonder why victims don’t speak out.
Radio presenter James O’Brien nailed this point on his LBC radio programme where he specifically referenced another of Vine’s columns:
If you want to get even the most cursory of understandings of why people, particularly women, find it hard to come forward, just have a look at how they get treated by some, even female, newspaper columnists… It was… Sarah Vine who suggested a couple of weeks ago that some of the women coming forward in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s exposure were doing so only to curry favour with Woman’s Hour.
It is 2017. Yet we are still living in a society where men feel it is appropriate to get “handsy” with women half their age, and a national newspaper thinks it’s acceptable to print a column saying we should just get over it.
No wonder abuse is so widespread.
– Join the White Ribbon Campaign; which aims to “educate and raise awareness of violence against women, and to engage men in these issues”.
– Have conversations with the women and men in your life; and refuse to tolerate misogyny in your communities and workplaces. This starts and ends with us.
– Support The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
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