Philip Green must have thought the worst was behind him when he decided to drop the injunction granted against The Daily Telegraph publishing a story about his shocking behaviour towards his employees.
But new allegations now suggest Green groped a woman, calling her a “naughty girl” and then paid her £1m to stay quiet. He also allegedly mocked a black employee’s dreadlocks and suggested that Arcadia needed to be “careful about hiring” as there are “too many black people” working in his business. These are just a few of the incidents reported.
So what was Green’s response to these allegations? Did he accept that his behaviour was unreasonable? Did he show any signs of remorse? Of course he didn’t. In a disappointing but familiar turn of events, rather than owning up and reflecting on his actions, Green seemed to try and suggest that he was the victim in all this. He claims that there is a “vendetta” against him and that what he was doing was purely “banter”. What he does seem concerned about is that former employees are not going to “honour” their non-disclosure agreements – in other words, his power over them is slipping.
His lawyers are already trying to reframe the narrative. They have said that he is a “passionate businessman, who can at times be overexuberant and hot-headed,” and that this so-called “passion” can be misconstrued as aggression.
This excuse is feeble at best. There are many people who are passionate about their jobs and yet they aren’t accused of harassing or intimidating others, of acting in ways which are racist or sexist, and they don’t try to silence others with money and NDAs. If the allegations are true, Green is nothing but a bully. There is no vendetta against him and he is no victim. There is justifiable revulsion and anger directed at him and a desire to see him held to account.
For far too long, rich white men have been able to get away with appalling acts of racism and misogyny. Protected by their privilege, they get away with bullying and intimidating those with less power. They use their status to get what they want and exploit the vulnerability of those they see as inferior. If they can’t intimidate someone into silence, they will throw money at a problem and think it will go away. More often than not they are right.
Unfortunately we seem to live in a world that puts money above decency. In Green’s case, despite him running BHS into the ground, allegedly putting a woman in a headlock and despite reportedly telling a black man that “everyone else is firing guns and you’re still throwing spears in the jungle,” Green still has a knighthood, a fashion empire and a life most people could only dream of.
Green is not the only powerful man out there who is arrogant enough to seem to believe that they are untouchable. Harvey Weinstein for example was able to maintain his position of power (which, perversely, allowed him to reportedly abuse this power) because of his wealth and liberal use of NDAs. The current president of the United States remains in office despite making comments about sexually assaulting women and refusing to condemn white supremacists. When challenged, these men will throw a tantrum and cry that people are out to get them. They refuse to accept any responsibility for their actions, yet society lets them get away with it over and over again.
We cannot continue to allow this. In a time when we are supposedly moving towards equality, this outdated reverence of wealth and power has to go. Such horrifying behaviour against people who are in a more vulnerable position should not be able to be covered up with cash and threats.
If we do not challenge these behaviours or expose them, we are complicit in them. We need to believe the victims of these men and we need to make it clear that this kind of behaviour is in no way acceptable.
If it turns out that Philip Green has broken the law, he needs to face the consequences and cannot be allowed to escape justice. He may use his vast wealth to pay for expensive lawyers or silence victims, but I’d like to believe we live in a world where people are judged (and punished) based on their actions, not their money.
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