Bill Aitken, misogyny and victim blamingPosted: February 18, 2011
Bill Aitken, MSP was questioned by the Sunday Herald about a series of rapes that have been occurring in Glasgow. This Telegraph article includes a full transcript, as printed in the New Statesman.
There have been many calls for his dismissal (including this one from Burdzeyeview and a Facebook page) following comments in which he managed to be both misogynistic and racist, before asking if he should “toughen it up”. This was particularly shocking as he wasn’t caught on camera or by an undercover reporter – he was confidently speaking to a journalist on the record.
Mr Aitken starts by saying that these are alleged incidents, rather than actually happening. And maybe we should reserve outright condemnation on alleged or reported incidents. I’m not convinced this MSP would have reserved comment if we’d been talking about handbag snatching or shoplifting, but as a principle, we’re ok so far. But if he’s reserving judgement, why is he implying an accusation towards the victim? On what other crime do we put this caveat that the victim’s probably lying? Insurance fraud could be a strong motive for someone falsely reporting a burglary – but are burglary reports taken with a pinch of salt until we know what really happened…? Hardly.
Then there’s the idea that the victim brought this on herself by being in the wrong area. The interviewer consistently reminded Aitken that the victim was on Renfield Street and was dragged to Renfrew Lane. Aitken insists she was in Renfrew Lane – an important distinction for him as this allows him to imply she was a prostitute. I’d like to know why an MSP is arguing that women should not be allowed in certain areas at night. If there are no-go areas, why isn’t this outrageous. And yet Aitken finds this funny.
Aitken bases his whole intereview on the presumption that the victim was a prostitute, and therefore not a victim at all. According to Aitken, if someone is selling something, anyone can take it at any time and that’s not a real crime. So by this logic, can we all take cookies from Tesco as they’re also selling them? Would Aitken’s view be different if we were talking about a boxer being physically assaulted after a night out? Whatever someone does for a living, whether you approve of it or not, they should be protected from assault. In the public furore over bankers, would an MSP have publicly condoned physical attacks on bankers? Bankers knew their profession was unpopular so… <laughs> <shrugs>.
These comments are appalling, and unfortunately the kind of thing we hear far too often. But from an elected representative? Who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee? Unacceptable.