This is why I read out an abusive email on live television

I have got used to the abuse I suffer because I am a woman, to the point that I can be called a whore and carry on answering questions about Boris Johnson’s law-breaking

Jess Phillips
Saturday 22 January 2022 10:37
Comments
Jess Phillips reads abusive email live on BBC politics show

Normally I have to wait until after I have appeared on the TV, radio or in a paper to catch up on the abuse that comes into my inbox or Twitter feed. But this week as I appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live show, no such waiting was required. I was doing it on Zoom from my office and I had foolishly left my email open while I was on the TV. The feedback was live and direct.

It is disorienting appearing on a live show from your office. For a start, I couldn’t see the people I was talking to. All I could see was myself on the screen. You don’t get to pick up on the social cues as you would in the studio so already it was a tough gig. Throw into the mix that while you are trying to answer an inquisitive journalist’s question without making a fool of yourself and your party, the thing that flashes before your eyes is an email subject title calling you a “dirty bought and paid for whore”.

The email read: “Just to let you know I will be actively campaigning to unseat you, f**k off to the Tory party where you belong along with the trilateral plant and the rest of the neoliberal filth. Common c**t!” It’s quite hard to decipher, right? Someone seemingly with a left-wing dint is being horrendously misogynistic, unbelievably snobby and classist. Classless, I think we can all agree.

Worry not, I get some equally delightful ditties from right-wingers too. I once had a death threat after directly quoting Boris Johnson’s words. I’m an equal opportunities target.

Being labelled a whore in this instance was actually a gift. The subject of misogyny still not being classified as a hate crime was up for debate on the show. It is not news that women in politics face this barrage of sexually charged, sexist crap all the time. It is a surprise to no woman in the country that misogyny is alive and well, keeping us humiliated, controlled and, in the worst cases, leaving us mutilated and dead. Yet here we still are debating if it should be treated equally to other hatreds.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

The thing about crimes against women such as domestic and sexual abuse is that they are always described as “complex”. The failure to charge and convict rapists is apparently not the fault of patriarchal norms butting up against a crumbling justice system, it’s because “it’s complex”. Domestic Homicide reviews point to how services and institutions failed to prevent murders of women and children because the cases were so “complex”. The idea there is right, wrong and then complex is a burden shouldered almost exclusively by female rape victims, victims of misogynistic hate crime and victims of domestic abuse.

To the average Joe, it would not be particularly complex to understand that a police officer accused, on several occasions, of flashing at a woman while being nicknamed “the rapist” by his colleagues shouldn’t have been able to serve. I think if I were to ask anyone in my constituency if that would be OK, the answer would be no. But, apparently, it was a complex case. That led to Sarah Everard’s killer remaining a card-carrying copper.

I have got used to the abuse I suffer because I am a woman, to the point that I can – without blinking – be called a whore and carry on answering questions about Boris Johnson’s law-breaking. I have also got used to the misogyny that has included being flashed at, male strangers masturbating in front of me, people trying to get me into their cars and, on refusal, being told that I am an ugly, stupid bitch.

We have asked women in politics to make this part of their jobs; we have asked women and girls to do deal with this as a normal part of their lives, yet we put a man on the moon 12 years before I was born. How about we stop saying men’s violence against women is complex and set about stopping it without relying on women to do all the work for free, as usual?

Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in