For many women, the “shocking” allegations against Jimmy Savile, while distressing, will only reinforce the shocking fact that so many men, and especially those in power, can still collude so successfully in undermining the rights and dignity of women, whether vulnerable young girls or women at any stage of their lives and careers.
Men need to start taking individual and collective responsibility for examining their attitudes and for challenging the ignorance, power and vested interests that conspire to perpetuate the systematic abuse of women, at whichever end of the spectrum this occurs, from routine exclusion to banter to rape and to murder.
Rather than spouting platitudes in response to these recent allegations, David Cameron would better serve the women affected if he made the connection between his “Calm down, dear” school of sexism and misogyny and the routine denigration of women and abuse of power that continues to silence and terrify too many women.
Sandy Toksvig has admitted to having been groped while on air. In the “swinging Sixties” this type of behaviour was certainly not limited to the entertainment industry.
In the late 1950s I left school to work in the laboratory of a local steel works. Quite early on one of my older female colleagues warned me that some of the male staff might “take a fancy” to me and that I should treat it as part of growing up.
This soon proved to be the case and certainly at least two of the men were quite “considerate”. Not so, one of the lathe operators. He would get carried away sometimes and the girls always made sure that they were in pairs when they went to collect their test samples from him.
Why didn’t we complain about him? Who to? The bosses were much the same. I can still remember sitting at a Christmas dinner with the technical staff and their wives. Looking around the table, I suddenly realised that I’d had some level of intimate contact with every single one of the men. Don’t think for a minute this was because I was so devastatingly attractive that they couldn’t help themselves – certainly not. It was accepted practice by both male and female colleagues at the time. The term “sexual abuse” hadn’t occurred to us in those days.
As far as I’m aware, no one was technically raped and we were all over 17 years old, but few of us were true virgins when we married. Was this a good thing or a bad thing – I honestly don’t know.
Name and address supplied
After recent scandals, including that of Jimmy Savile, blame is being placed on the BBC, social services, the police, schools, care homes, churches, individuals. How many organisations, institutions and individuals must we widen the net to until we see the real point? The problem is all of us.
Everyone has given a wink and a nudge to the big joke that is leering at, leaning on and exploiting young boys and girls. Everyone has ignored a certain amount of disturbing behaviour in the workplace, ranging from mild to outrageous sexism, because they either didn’t care or didn’t want to be seen as a killjoy, a harridan, a problem.
Everyone has allowed an abusive culture to grow up where women and young girls and boys are seen as fair game, and where our first question on complaints being made seems to be “Are they lying?” It’s easier to find a target to blame, rather than realising we need to change the whole of society, but it’s necessary if anything is ever going to change.
Opening up entry to top schools
Sir Peter Lampl’s vision of “open access” independent schools which admit pupils based on their academic ability is a worthy one, and could complement existing attempts to combat the elitism which Richard Garner so deplores (“It’s time to open private schools to all”, 8 October).
Here at my school, Rugby, our outreach programme – The Arnold Foundation – is providing fully funded places to pupils from deprived areas with the potential to benefit from boarding but no means to pay fees. We are close to our goal of having 10 per cent of pupils supported by bursaries, and are now joining forces with other members of the sector to form a national bursary foundation that will place a large number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds at state and independent boarding schools across the country.
A patchwork of initiatives – bursaries, open access and sponsored academies – is the surest way of breaking down barriers within our education system.
Head Master, Rugby School
Recent letters and articles about achieving equality in education seem to miss a crucial point. However accessible private education becomes for the less well-off, and however many free schools are established, the requirement still remains for parents to make a choice.
The pupils most at risk of failing in education are those whose parents couldn’t give a damn about their offspring’s educational future; these are hardly going to be clamouring for a place at the latest free school, nor acquainting themselves with procedures for assisted access to the private sector.
Despite the failings of the grammar school/secondary modern system at least there was access to a grammar school at age 11 for most able pupils, even for those with totally indifferent parents.
‘Nasty’ party can be right
You certainly parade your prejudices in your front-page headline “Welcome to the Nasty Party Conference” (8 October). Yes, the Tory Party is, in many ways, nasty, but many of your readers are totally opposed to homosexual “marriage”, and also to abortion – whether at 24, 22, 20 or 12 weeks, it’s still murder.
Mr Cameron has, with one eye on clinging to power, jumped on the gay marriage bandwagon. I suspect that, for him, it could well turn out to be the wrong bandwagon.
Whether or not Ed Miliband is a second one-nation Disraeli remains to be seen, but what can be said is that neither Hague nor Cameron nor Osborne is. Hague’s route to one nation was wearing a baseball cap at the Notting Hill Carnival, Cameron thought it was “hugging a hoodie”, and Osborne’s idea of “one nation” is one with only rich people in it.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
The French Revolution of 1789 was triggered by the outraged refusal of France’s privileged classes to give up their privileges in order to resolve their country’s bankruptcy.
Will this historical fact play any part in Tory deliberations this week? Will it heck as like.
Hero of the American war
Eric Evans’s mention of “Canada’s Victory” (letter, 4 October) is only part of the story of the United States’ declaration of war in 1812 on Britain, its empire and its navies – both royal and merchant.
Although one of the main purposes of the American declaration of war was the acquisition of more North American territory, the war was fought more on water than on land.
The first of the celebration coins of the war just issued by the Canadian Mint is the $2 piece showing HMS Shannon, the British frigate that in 1813 defeated the USS Chesapeake in 15 minutes of one of the fiercest and bloodiest single-ship actions ever.
And it was the Royal Navy’s blockade of the Atlantic seaboard that brought the USA near bankruptcy and eager to make peace at Christmas 1814.
Captain Broke of the Shannon was born in Nacton, near Ipswich, where he went to school, and the bicentenary of his victory will be celebrated there in October next year.
Dr Tim Voelcker
Football’s tiny nations
Sam Wallace asks: “Why should England waste their time with San Marino?” (8 October). The question should have been “Should small nations be deprived of participation in international sport?” That would be discriminatory on grounds of geographical accident of birth.
Is taking part not more important than winning? Are not these small nations, certain not to win, exhibiting the highest level of sportsmanship? International tournaments would be the worse without them, everything finally reduced to finance and politics. Whether there should be a qualifying tournament before the finals is another matter.
So bring on San Marino, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and the others, and let us give Gibraltar a hearty welcome into UEFA – shaming Spain for being such a bully. Are they scared of losing to this tiny speck?
Limits of CCTV
Alex Carmichael (letter, 8 October) argues for CCTV, claiming that it protects society. He refers to the recent riots and the 7/7 bombings as examples. Surely CCTV should protect society by preventing people falling victim to crime. There is very little evidence that it prevents any crime, and I would have thought it was obvious that these are examples of where CCTV failed to prevent very serious crimes.
Thatcham, West Berkshire
Joyce on film
Further to John Walsh’s article on unfilmable books (5 October), Finnegans Wake has been filmed, in the Sixties. I saw it at a James Joyce restrospective at the ICA in the Seventies, and I recall it being shown on BBC2. The film was famous for being subtitled in the same language as was being spoken, Joyce’s text being shown at the same time as you heard it.
I’m not surprised that Top Gear viewers are so upset by Jeremy Clarkson’s comparison of a Toyota Prius to someone with a growth on their face. His previous derisive comments about Indians, the blind and Chinese cockle-pickers may have been a bit naughty, but insulting a motor vehicle – that’s going too far.