We’ve read a lot already about what the video of Tory MP Mark Field and the climate change protester apparently shows.
Some suggest the footage shows a heroic man intervening in a potentially life-threatening situation. Others – women, mostly – see something different. They see the familiar face of an angry man, taking out his aggression on a woman who clearly posed no danger to anybody. And on Friday night, police were reportedly called to the house shared by Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds as she allegedly shouted at him to leave, and he refused, and the neighbours could reportedly hear “screaming” and “banging”.
And then there are some men on the left, who look at the footage and reports of police going to Johnson’s home, and see a golden opportunity to turn it into a party-political matter.
Those who class the incidents as alleged “Tory violence’’ or link it to class structures and the wealth and privilege of the perpetrator misunderstand what violence against women is and how it manifests itself.
Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. While there are intersecting factors which mean that certain women groups of women – women of colour, working class women, women with disabilities and so on will experience that inequality differently – are those who mistreat women unified by their need for power and control?
We walk a well-worn path whenever a politician is alleged to have harmed a woman. Political parties have a tendency to side with their own, and there are rarely exceptions made for the women who finds herself in the unenviable position of telling her story about a man in power.
We saw this during the Westminster harassment scandal. Men from various parties were accused of harassment and sexual assault but, of course, there were the reliable party sycophants who did their best to defend their guy.
When we play politics with something as pervasive and harmful as gender inequality and its symptoms, we are sending women a signal that we don’t really care about it.
When prominent men – who have remained notably silent when one of their own is found to have behaved badly – rush to condemn those on the “other side” who do the same, women can see this calculating faux-alliance for what it is.
Violent men exist and infect every social class, nationality, religion, party affiliation and socioeconomic background. The #MeToo movement should have made that abundantly clear, but it’s become apparent that some didn’t care enough to listen.
Those who claim they truly care about women’s inequality of safety should reflect on their behaviour. Consistency of outrage should be a given in a society where navigating the dangers of male violence is a daily reality for women.
Mark Field and his swaggering aggression, and police reportedly being called to Boris Johnson’s home as the neighbours were worried about his partner’s safety, is the talk of today, but soon they will just be added to a long list. Then there will be another, and another, and another. Men whose desire to assert their dominance spills out into the public arena: only to be excused and minimised by their loyal colleagues.
This time, they were Tories. Next time, the person in question could be Labour, Lib Dem, SNP or Green.
That’s the thing about male violence: it’s everywhere. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can begin to undo some of the damage caused by it. It’s only when we act with consistency that we can move society towards a place where – when we see a man grabbing a woman by the throat – we are universal in our disgust.
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