No, a convicted rapist should not be allowed to resume his former job

On Friday, Ched Evans – a convicted rapist — will be released from prison after serving half his prison sentence. In 2011, he raped a 19-year-old woman at a hotel in Rhyl, Denbighshire. The victim did not consent to sexual intercourse, and Evans’ friends are said to have watched him rape her. If Evans were a lawyer, doctor or teacher, the prospect of resuming his former job would be out of the question. Yet, Ched Evans is a famous footballer, and his former club, Sheffield United, are rumoured to be considering reinstating Evans in his former position. The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, has stated that Evans should be allowed to play professional football again, and told the BBC: “I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything.” However, over 140,000 people disagree with Taylor, and have added their signature to a petition urging the Chairman of Sheffield United, Kevin McCabe, to refuse to reinstate Ched Evans as a player.

High profile footballers are influential people; their actions receive a great deal of media attention; they are revered by fans; and they are role models. It goes without saying that they have the power to influence impressionable young people. If a convicted rapist is allowed to walk back into his former job after serving half his prison sentence, what kind of precedent are we setting? Furthermore, Evans’ case will convey a clear and unambiguous message: rape is not a serious crime.

During my secondary education, I recall being counselled, along with my fellow students, by teachers and careers advisers that we must avoid at all cost getting a criminal record should we wish to go to university, and get a good job. If Evans walks back into his former job scot-free, the credence of teachers’ advice will be called into question.

Judy Finnigan’s comments earlier this week that “the rape was not violent, he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person” was, to say the very least, ill advised. Freedom of speech is a basic human right, and Finnigan has every right to express her opinion as part of a healthy, balanced discussion. However, in discussions about rape there is a danger of worsening the existing problem of victim blaming, and Finnigan’s statement “she [the victim] had far too much to drink” certainly bolstered this victim blaming thread, regardless of her intentions. If someone is drunk when they are murdered, does it mean it’s their fault? Rape is still rape regardless of how “drunk” the victim is. Furthermore, this victim blaming culture confuses and undermines the important moral lessons instilled by parents and teachers regarding consent and rape. And how will parents taking their children to Sheffield United matches explain the chants from the opposing crowd?

The backlash that ensued, and the deplorable trolling of Finnigan’s daughter obscured the important issue here: we must not talk about rape in degrees. Rape is an absolute: one is not slightly raped, or very raped. Rape is an act of violence, and its primary driving force is violence. The dictionary defines rape as “forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will”. The very act of forcing someone is a violation; a violent confiscation of someone’s free will.

Asked if Evans should be allowed to return to professional football, Finnigan said: “Well I think everything depends basically on, of course, whether the club wants him back but more importantly perhaps whether the fans want him back.” Finnigan’s assertion that Evans has “served his time” was echoed by broadcaster Jonathan Maitland on Sky’s Press Preview on Tuesday night. But, in reality, he has not “served his time”; he’s served half of it. If Evans had stopped playing at half time, would he have still played a full match?

It has also been argued that Evans has been amply punished for his crime, and it is unfair to prevent him from returning to his former life. To those of you in favour of Evans’ reinstatement, I ask you this: if a teacher were released after serving half their sentence for statutory rape, would we simply shrug and allow them to resume their position? When a doctor is convicted and struck off after years of study and training, does the nation scream “injustice” when his life is ruined? I see no outpourings of support, no outcries of sympathy when it comes to anyone else. So, why protest the fairness of this isolated case? This is a question of parity. Is it right that we make an exception for a famous footballer?

If Evans were guilty of murder, I sincerely doubt that his fans would be welcoming him back with open arms. Rape is a serious crime and it ruins lives. The take-home message should Evans be reinstated is that rape is not taken seriously as a crime. Approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, with less than one rape victim in 30 seeing their attacker brought to justice. What hope does this case give to rape victims seeking justice?

It has also been argued that once a criminal has “served their time”, they should not be further punished. But, what about the victim? Once Evans is released, will his victim forget and move on? The rape will most likely affect her for the rest of her life. Do not underestimate the damage caused to victims’ lives.

No one feels good about ruining a young man’s career, but unfortunately, he did it to himself.

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We need to talk about sexism at UK universities

The London School of Economics, a leading UK university, launched an inquiry yesterday after its Men’s Rugby Club distributed a misogynist and homophobic freshers’ fair leaflet describing women as “slags”, “trollops” and “mingers”. The leaflet, distributed at the university’s freshers’ fair on Friday, encouraged prospective members to “pull a sloppy bird” on a night out, and referred to female “hockey, netball and rugby birds” as “beast-like women who play sport so they can come out with us on Wednesdays”. It was only when an image of the leaflet began spreading on Twitter that the university was prompted to launch its investigation.

Though it pains me to write this, I am by no means shocked, or even surprised by this behaviour. I, too, attended a top ten UK university, and spent four years growing increasingly irritated by the endemic sexism and rape culture that was widely accepted as an integral part of campus “banter”. On the few occasions I attended varsity rugby matches, the crowd would chant about the university’s bounty of “tits, fanny and rugby”. Yet, I was even more horrified by a term that was bandied around freely by scores of sportsmen to describe their nightclub ritual: “sharking”. This term referred principally to the practice of hunting “fresh meat” — preferably drunk female freshers – for sex. This behaviour is nothing short of predatory and reminiscent of Neanderthal hunter-gathers. This is not a case of casual gratuitous sex, but instead suggests women are prey; mere meat to satisfy the hungry jaws of primeval man. Furthermore, this predator versus prey dynamic hints at an attitude that sex is an act of violence against women akin to killing an animal for food, where ultimately men consume women.

A recent NUS survey showed that more than one third of female students (37 per cent) had experienced unwanted sexual advances at UK universities, and two thirds of students said they have seen fellow students endure unwelcome sexual comments. NUS President Toni Pearce, in response to these statistics, has urged UK universities to deal with ‘lad culture’, stating “these stats show that harassment is rife on campus, but we still keep hearing from universities that there is no fear, no intimidation, no problem — well this new research says otherwise.”

Sexism at UK universities is not just a cluster of isolated incidents, but a real and present issue that students face nationwide. We go to university to learn, to better ourselves, to progress, but we do not expect to be harassed, objectified and subjected to misogyny. It is disturbing that the future leaders of our country, future forces for change and future decision makers not only espouse misogyny and the objectification of women, but actively participate in it. If we view universities as microcosms of society, it is patently clear that sexism is a huge problem in UK society; a problem that requires urgent attention.

Some colleges at the University of Cambridge are hosting sexual consent workshops for freshers in their first term, and reports suggest that Oxford University has plans to do the same. I believe workshops and classes of this kind would make a considerable difference in the struggle against discrimination on campuses. On a larger scale, such workshops should be included in the curriculum for high school and sixth form sex education. Other than literacy and numeracy, I cannot think of a more fundamental and vital education than teaching the concept of consent and respect in schools. This is no longer a case of “banter”, but of human rights.

The 12 stages of being an intern

I got 99 problems but an unpaid internship aint one. 

1. Pure, unadulterated joy. 

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Could it be? Your dream job! Farewell to daytime TV and endless job applications.

2. Swiftly followed by…..

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Complete panic. What if they think I’m stupid? What if I mess up? What if I fall over? Oh god oh god oh god.

3.  Navigating the unknown, while accepting that you will feel like an idiot 100% of the time. 

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4. Going waaaaay overboard on the free stuff and perks. But hey, a girl’s gotta eat!

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5. Realising that “fashion cupboard management” = solitary confinement in an actual cupboard. 

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6. Overcoming the daily struggle of fulfilling tasks with an absence of information or prior knowledge. 

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7. Feeling kind of miserable at times. 

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8. Meeting someone high profile and acting like it’s NBD. 

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9. Reaching levels of exhaustion that you didn’t know existed.

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10. Wondering whether you’ll ever earn any money. 
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11. Daring to ask the dreaded question….

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12. But knowing you worked really hard, regardless of the outcome. 

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Postmodern Girl and the dating hiatus: why I chose to take a time out

Forget what Pharrell says. I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt like a room without a roof, but I do know what it feels like to be happy. When you’re a child, you might not know how to spell it, but happiness is always within reach, even if you do have to eat vegetables and go to bed early. When you’re a teenager, happiness is something your parents and teachers have brutally purloined from you and you’re pretty sure it’s gone for good. After graduating from university, you realise that happiness isn’t dependent on how many times you go clubbing per week, or whether you’re hanging with the right social subset; it’s something you will spend your life trying to achieve.

A few months back, during a spectacularly average working day, I was called up to the CEO’s office. Unsure as to whether I was about to be fired, I made my way up to top floor. Feeling like I’d just been sent to the headmistress’s office, I sat and awaited my fate. Much to my surprise – and relief, for that matter — I did not get fired, but was instead asked to help out at a meeting the following day. Snore. But, wait. Just as I stopped listening to my exceptionally-coiffed boss, in walked the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, wearing tan brogues and carrying a battered vintage satchel. Hawt. We spent the rest of the afternoon together in preparation for the meeting the next day. Needless to say, I was feeling really rather warm as I finished work, armed with a brand new crush. This infatuation, however, was short-lived, as I bumped into a colleague the next day while heading out for a skinny chai latte, who informed me that my crush was, in fact, gay. To make matters even worse, this was the third time this had happened to me, not to mention the kaleidoscope of fuckwits, douchebags and monumental losers I had dated in recent months. I was at a dating nadir and it did not feel good. It occurred to me that perhaps it was time to recalibrate my taste in the opposite sex.

I began my dating hiatus with immediate effect, and soon realised I had a surprising amount of time on my hands. Within two weeks, I’d had a personal style renaissance, joined the gym and booked a trip to visit a friend in Hamburg. After a dearth of creative activity, I began to write again; I had ideas; I felt motivated. Yes, my dating retrospective – comprised uniquely of commitment phobic playas — did resemble a house of horrors, but I was cool with that. It was a formative exercise in the lesson of how-not-to-date. It didn’t take long for me to acknowledge that this was the happiest I’d been in years and it felt fucking fantastic. I figured, if it’s good enough for Lady Mary and Mindy Lahiri then it’s good enough for me. Who knows, maybe I will start dating again, but right now I’m oh so happy as a party of one.

Reclaiming the F word: in defence of feminism

At the UN in New York this weekend, Emma Watson sent a powerful message to the world: the fight for gender equality must be fought by men, as well as women. Marking the launch of the HeForShe campaign, her speech put into words the thoughts of feminists across the globe; that feminism has become a dirty, uncomfortable word; a word with which women choose not to identify. But, since when did feminism have such a bad rep?

You don’t have to look far to find evidence of the pejorative connotations hanging over the word feminism. A simple Google search throws up a plethora of negativity that leaves one truly baffled:

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Stupid? Ugly? Annoying? Sexist?! Are we to glean from this that the negative perceptions of feminism far outweigh any positive thereof? Or is it quite simply that the negativity is more readily available? As Emma said in her speech: “Feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men, unattractive even.”

The recent Tumblr movement Women Against Feminism has positioned itself as an enemy to feminism, yet despite its antagonistic presence on the Internet, it is patently clear that a complete lack of understanding of feminism is at its core. The followers of this movement are steadfast in their belief that feminism is tantamount to “man hating”; that feminism pertains to equating consensual sex with rape; and that feminism judges women who do not comply with a rigid set of rules. To say this is an inaccurate portrayal of feminism would be an understatement.

So, what is feminism? Well, to quote Emma Watson, “feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” The word equality is of central importance here. Feminists are not female supremacists; we do not want to be superior to men; nor do we wish to have more rights than our male counterparts. We want to be equal. We do not hate men. Feminism is not a rigid set of rules to be obeyed. Feminists do not judge other women for the decisions they make. We believe in freedom, in choices and in rights.

Just as Germaine Greer reclaimed the C word, I believe we need to reclaim the F word. This word was, is and should remain a symbol of power and liberty, yet if these rampant fallacies persist, the word will become entirely detached from its original meaning. The misconceptions that form the driving force behind social media movements need to be addressed. Just as sex education is taught in schools, we should teach the basics of gender equality in our classrooms. Parents should talk to their children about gender equality. If you are a feminist, be proud, and don’t be afraid to tell people.

It is a sign of real progress that celebrities are coming out as feminists. Beyoncé’s iconic VMAs performance sent out the message that women should be proud to identify as feminists. High profile feminists such as Beyoncé, Emma Watson and Taylor Swift are already playing a pivotal role in inspiring younger generations of women to identify as feminists, promoting a positive image of feminism for all to see.

Feminism is getting a rebrand, and we are all brand consultants. By reclaiming the F word, we are active participants in the future of gender equality. By changing perceptions of the word, we encourage more people to become feminists and we move further towards achieving true equality.

The price of fame? Violation and humiliation of a sexual nature

What price fame when personal privacy is violated? This is the question at the forefront of the collective imagination after images of Jennifer Lawrence posing naked were stolen from her phone and published online on image sharing forum 4chan. More than 100 celebrities are said to have been targeted, including Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Kate Upton, Kate Bosworth, as the hacker threatens to post more images for the world to see.

Why has this happened? As Audrey Hepburn once said, “if I blow my nose, it gets written all over the world.” The thirst for the details of celebrities’ innermost private lives is as insatiable as ever, but this is no longer limited to paparazzi stalking one’s every move. This is the digital age, and with it comes new ways for privacy to be breached and lives to be ruined.

These women have been targeted because they are famous, because they have worked hard and their success has thrust them into the public eye. Does this mean they are asking for it? That the public has a claim on the intimate details of their lives? No it does not. This encroachment of one’s human right to privacy is a violation. These were images taken by consenting adults who trusted one another, and in the case of actor Mary Elizabeth Winstead, by a husband and wife: “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.”

The ways in which we choose to share our bodies is exactly that: OUR CHOICE. That these private moments have been turned public for entertainment is extremely disquieting and paints a bleak picture of humanity.

Today, Ricky Gervais tweetedMAIN-Ricky-Gervais-and-Jennifer-Lawrence a warning against storing nude images of yourselves. This victim-blaming thread of discussion has reared its ugly head several times today, and it strikes me as utterly hypocritical. In a world where Snapchat and smartphones exist, sexting has gone from prevalent to de rigeur. Are celebrities now expected to abstain from such pastimes for fear of being hacked?

This “don’t take naked pics” argument is no longer a valid statement in this day and age, and as Lena Dunham brilliantly points out, it is on a par with the ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ rape justification. There is no justification.

What is deeply worrying is that this is just one of many incidents which set about to humiliate women for being sexual. Revenge porn is now a very real and worrying threat for anyone who chooses to share their body in this way. Young women have committed suicide after being victims of revenge porn, but how much more must we endure before something is done to protect people?

As Dawn O’Porter reminds us, this is precisely why we need feminism. It is our choice how we express ourselves sexually, we own the right to privacy, and by viewing these images we endorse criminal contraventions of these rights.

A feminist blog for modern men and women