I have lots of problems with superinjunctions. The idea that the wealthy can buy their own justice and issues of press freedom aren’t what I’m talking about today though.
Today, I’m mostly angry about just what superinjunctions say about attitudes towards women. Yet again, we have a case of a wealthy married man seeking to protect himself by gagging an ex.
I’m not saying kiss and tell is particularly honourable, I’m not trying to justify it as a career choice. But the law is stating over and over again that wealthy men get to play with women like toys. When the man gets bored and discards his toy, he has a legal right to expect it to stay in whichever dark corner it’s thrown. The man gets to walk away without consequences, and these stupid women should just shut up.
And this is a legal judgement that has been repeated over and over again over the last months.
I don’t think it’s fair to make money from other people’s misery. But these stories aren’t honey traps where a drunk mistake threatens to destabilise everything. These are full-blown affairs with months of deception to families – and probably to the gagged women too. There’s a reason ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ has become a cliche, and whether through hopefulness or naivete it keeps being believed. And yet these men get the courts to protect their families and privacy. Here’s a tip – if you know the damage an affair will cause, DON’T HAVE AN AFFAIR.
I’m sure there’s a financial benefit to these women wanting to tell their story. But I’m sure there’s an element of revenge too. Why shouldn’t these women get to humiliate the person who done them wrong? Why should they have to see reports about what great family men these are when they know different? I’m not trying to argue that every scorned women deserves justice – but it’s also not justice to gag them.
I can just imagine the conversation that the wealthy male defendant has with the wealthy male judge. That this stupid woman is just a gold-digger, she doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, and really, she’s just being hysterical.
Whatever we think about having media outlets that run on petty scandal, these superinjunctions feed in to all the worst stereotypes of relationship roles – that men get to pick up and discard women on their own whims, and woe-betide any woman that dares to stand up for herself. And that’s what’s made me so very angry about them.
It has been almost 50 years now since the sexual revolution. The advent of the contraceptive pill was supposed to provide women with sexual equality. Free love meant free for everyone – that both men and women could express their sexuality without fear of judgement or consequences. The contraceptive pill and the new society were supposed to free women from the confines of being the gatekeepers to sex – women could acknowledge their own sexuality as they were no longer the ones fearful of pregnancy.
And yet, nearly two whole generations later, I still don’t think women are winning the sexual revolution. I’d like to go as far as to say that we’ve lost it. From Dorries suggesting that girls get special ‘just say no’ classes in school, to the flood of super injunctions to protect upstanding family men from gold-digging young women, we really don’t seem to have won.
In pop culture, women aren’t allowed to express their sexuality in the same way that men are. The storylines of so many movies still revolve around the idea that a girl is attracted to a man by his power or wealth or status, and is swept up until almost date-raped before realising the asexual boy-next-door is the one for her. Even Bridesmaids – the movie written by women who wanted strong female characters pretty much follows this plot (alongside some female bonding obviously). These stories haven’t changed over the decades – girls are taught to be scared of sex, that it’s something that men want and women should resist. Women characters that do want sex are generally seen as figures of fun or ‘ball-breakers’ (see this month’s Horrible Bosses) – never someone that other women would want to bes.
In real life, the whole debate around slutwalk shows how often that word is STILL used against women. And all this time after the revolution, there is STILL no equivalent word for men. If anything, the world is becoming a more judgemental place for women. The increasingly pink girlhood is yet another way to keep girls in their place – that there is something inherently different in the female brain that opts for sugar and spice and all things nice. Except every single study of children before they’ve been socialised has disproven this biological imperative. There’s no biological reason why we’ve lost the sexual revolution. And yet it seems to be growing further and further out of reach.
In the ’80s, no-one was supposed to have sex because of AIDS. In the ’90s, women were having sex and shouting about it all Zig-a-zig-ah. In both these decades hair was big, clothes made a statement and women were strong. And since then… Women have become appendages, walking shampoo ads, pink and plastic. We are getting further and further away from a revolution that should have been won by our mothers and grandmothers.
I’m not suggesting that we all start shagging as a political statement. But really, how did this revolution die?
The reporting around the Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial has made me absolutely furious this week. But first, to get a few things straight: I’m not angry that due process is being followed, I’m not angry that there’s a suggestion he’s not guilty. Both of those things are important.
But I’m really angry at the media and legal supposition that only victims need credibility. The victim came forward to prosecutors to show some issues with her immigration status. She also has some friends who are on the wrong-side of the law. And somehow, this is damaging the credibility of her account. On the other side, we have DSK, with allegations of sexual harrassment and bullying, and more than one allegation of previous sexual violence all coming forward. And yet this isn’t relevant. These stories aren’t making his counsel consider dropping their defence. There’s very little suggestion by the media that this adds up to a description of a dangerous sexual predator. Instead, the media is worrying about what will happen “IF” he is found guilty. And what the implications are for him if he’s let off.
It’s this double standard that is driving me crazy. Rape is a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute, because so often it comes down to consent, and then it’s one word against another. But we’re not fighting on a level playing field. The victim’s sexual history can be discussed. The victim’s behaviour earlier in the encounter can be discussed. The victim’s friends and family are fair game. And yet the accused is off limits. Previous allegations of similar attacks? Not relevant. Earlier behaviour in the night – harassment, where they went, who they were with – irrelevant. Accounts from previous partners of violence? Not relevant.
I’m not a lawyer, and although I’m interested in how the law interprets and balances this it’s not what I’m commenting on. But for the media, it’s disgraceful that they are showing only one side. We have no hope of society becoming less suspicious of victims until the media drops this double standard.
Very few people have a spotless past if someone was to comb through it. All of us make mistakes, big or small, and have to live with the consequences of them. But the media has a responsibility to examine both sides equally. The fact that a woman may (or may not) have a shady past is only as relevant as the past of a man.