Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

October 8, 2012

Mr. David Cameron
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Mr. Cameron,

“ANY FAILURE WITHIN THE MEDIA AFFECTS ALL OF US”

Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”

I call on the Leveson Inquiry, and you as the Head of our Government, to establish a monitor for the Abuse of Women in/by the Media and to create a platform for this type of journalism to stop as part of Module 4: Submissions on The Future Regime for the Press.

In your own words from the Andrew Marr interview on 7 October 2012, “We need to have a regulatory system that works.” I know you were particularly referring to members of the public directly affected by phone hacking – but there is a bigger remit called for, as a matter of urgency. There is a greater need for the Government to harness the complete picture of the media and its need for regulation.

In July 2012, London lit up with the opening ceremony of London 2012. During the event, the Suffragettes were wheeled out to show how far we had advanced as a society and how far we’d come as a western civilisation. Have we really?

The recent allegations against Jimmy Saville, and the revelations that Radio 1 boss knew about his behaviour towards girls, show that we allow impropriety and abuse without question. We are continuing to allow the abuse of women in our society by not challenging and questioning it. These allegations have started an out-pouring of honesty of sexually abusive treatment of women within the BBC, including Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig. Women’s silence perpetuates the behaviour at the BBC experienced by Ms Kershaw and Ms Toksvig and that experienced by many thousands of women, including myself.

There are some male dominated industries, journalism is one – and I have worked in film and television for over 25 years – I know all about the aside remarks about my arse, snide comments, stares at my breasts, sexual innuendo, groping, put downs in meetings and judgment of my capability based on the fact that I am a woman, not on my experience or tertiary degree. I have endured the whistles from builders, groping in nightclubs and pubs and the inevitable judgment on my appearance, comments on the length of my skirt, the tightness of my jeans/t-shirt etc, etc.

Having worked my way up the ranks to General Manager for a film post production company, I still have to deal with the “don’t get emotional” comments when I need to manage a difficult situation at work. I expose it when it happens, and I can change my work environment because I am the boss. The men on the Executive can still be condescending and inappropriate. This attitude, and the fact that men feel this behaviour is acceptable, is perpetuated by the onslaught of soft porn and opinion-based ‘journalism’ we are bombarded with from the mainstream media today, and the denigration of women as a result.

“For women working in [the showbusiness] industry, sexual harassment was something you just had to ignore every day of your working life” said journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, writing in the Daily Mail. “To understand a male mindset that considers fondling, groping and worse as perfectly normal behaviour in the workplace, look at what was broadcast at the time, and how women were portrayed.”

Nothing’s changed.

Please feel free to review the links here from recent ‘stories’ about Kristen Stewart, Geri Halliwell, Page 3 Girls, and you will see that we have not evolved one iota – the Media continues to treat women as play things and mindless twits who allegedly hug teddy bears, seek spiritual support – or better still – just get their kit off and act like a porn star. These three examples took me all of two minutes to find on The Sun* online – and these are accessible to young women all over the world. Is that how you would like your daughter, niece, granddaughter, girlfriend, sister or wife portrayed? Or are you OK with the continued degradation of women on a daily basis? We have reduced women to objects (again) and technology has brought it onto the phones of our children – I strongly recommend that more responsibility is needed from the Media, its regulators and Heads of Government.

Now I know most men will say – “Love, if you don’t like it then don’t read it, you sensitive little thing.” With a patronising tone aimed at belittling any feeling of objectification these stories/publications have on women. And I know there are some women who would discount this opinion with “Don’t be a prude – you just need a f*&k/vodka/chocolate”.

The barbed response by The Telegraph’s Brendan O’Neill to the Campaign to Stop the Sun’s Page 3 was revealing in his attitude towards women simply as a “daily serving of boobs” – Seriously?! – Is there no end to the feminist nagging about Page 3? Yet another censorious campaign has been launched to try to rid Britain of the alleged scourge that is the Sun’s daily serving of boobs.” Very revealing is the attitude of men in England from responses to this article, with the majority supporting his view. Begs the question – Is showing bare breasts ‘news’?

Two comments to Mr. O’Neill’s ‘article’ are more close to a healthy societal view –  “I am a Father and a Doctor, I have been observing the continual rise of violence especially sexual violence against women. The facts are out there, continual exposure to pornography turns the female into an object there for the gratification of desire, whether it is The Sun or an advert. It is time for our society to grow up and behave responsibly to its children, I fear for my daughters. I am disgusted and disappointed with the trite, childish comments in this article.” And, “[The Sun is] a family paper that will be left around the house and on trains, on benches. Children can pick it up and see that apparently it’s entirely normal for a woman to have bare breasts in this family newspaper. They grow up thinking this is normal, that porn belongs in the mainstream, rather than on the top shelf. That’s the difference. It normalises women as sex objects. Hear that? Normalises it. Places it in the mainstream.”

There’s nowhere to hide anymore.

These all highlight the lack of responsibility taken by people (predominantly men) in power to act when they are aware there is wrongdoing. As a society, we have made this behaviour acceptable. As individuals we feel we have no power and no voice against the establishment of large organisations, headed by men. These women are our sisters, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, wives, mothers and friends.

How long are men in power going to allow the abuse of women to be ‘normalised’ to the level that it is today?

We are supposedly in a modern western society, where women have the right to choose what we study, where we work, where we live, whom we marry, what we wear, whom we date, what we eat and the life we choose to live. There are other women in the world who do not have these freedoms and are still subjected to witch hunts, stoning, slavery, forced marriages and lives of abuse.

Through lack of responsibility and passive acceptance, we continue to perpetuate a society that condones the abuse of women. This type of behaviour is legally not allowed in the workplace and, after studying UK and Australian HR law, this behaviour regularly gets employers and perpetrators into a world of litigation. Yet we allow it every day in our press and media. Why is that?

The Australian press (Courier Mail, News Corp*) has made claims recently that women who seek truth and a loving way of life are gormless, mindless followers and that we don’t have the intelligence to choose how we live. The blatant approval of sexual abuse in the article is simply shocking. The author states that one of the healing techniques offered by female practitioners caused women “to not allow their partners to touch [their breasts] without permission”.

There in-lies a deep fracture in the Media and how it portrays women as a whole. Less concerning is the drivel of two men’s opinion thinly veiled as ‘journalism’ – more devastating is the impact of this tirade of derogatory and misogynistic attitude towards women by mainstream media.

According to the NSPCC, “Including all costs, the total cost of domestic abuse for the state, employers and victims is estimated at around £16 billion per year”. Though further independent findings by London Metropolitan University estimate it to be £23 billion per year.

The Crown Prosecution Service (UK) released a transcript – Domestic Violence: the facts, the issues, the future – Speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC (posted 12 April 2011) – it states some chilling facts:

  • Nearly 1 million women experience at least one incident of domestic abuse each year
  • At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence
  • Two women are killed each week by their partner or ex-partner
  • 54 per cent of women victims of serious sexual assault were assaulted by their partner or ex-partner
  • Victims of domestic violence are more likely to experience repeat victimisation than victims of any other types of crime
  • 76 per cent of all DV incidents are repeat
  • Women experience an average of 35 incidents of domestic violence before reporting an incident to the police
  • 19 per cent of women have experienced stalking since the age of 16

These statistics are our sisters, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, wives, mothers and friends.

His closing statement is one for reflection, “The steps that we and our criminal justice partners are taking to tackle domestic violence risk limited success unless this complacency is tackled head on. A change in attitude is clearly needed.”

Where are we headed if all the rates of domestic violence, violence towards women is increasing year after year?

Rudi Giuliani’s decision to have a zero tolerance for crime when he was Mayor of New York City was welcomed by residents of the city. From 1993-2001, crime and related violence dropped 56% in the FBI Crime Index. New Yorkers wanted to remain living in the city and it became the “safest large city in the nation”. With decisive action, a message would be sent to everyone that order would be maintained.

How amazing would our society be if the Government were to boldly establish zero-tolerance to the Abuse of Women in/by the Media? If you set a zero tolerance to the abuse of women in our daily papers, it will have profound affect on home life. And the £23 billion we are spending on the results of domestic violence could be joyfully redirected.

The Leveson Inquiry, and you as the head of our Government, have a responsibility to consider guidelines, recommendations and regulations on the Abuse of Women in/by the Media to ensure we arrest this momentum. We need to leave a foundation for our children and our future generations that respects women and shows that there is another, more caring way to treat women that will inevitably benefit men and our society as a whole.

ENOUGH.

Seriously, Enough. Our complacent attitude towards the treatment of women in our society by the Media has to stop. We need to step up and take responsibility for the impact that the Media has on our attitude towards women.

This issue is not going away – daily revelations about the treatment of women are becoming the norm and it cannot be ignored any further. Please advise me on receipt of this letter and I would appreciate any update on the progress in seeing these real concerns through.

Inaction on your part will clearly show collusion and acceptance that the current state of affairs is acceptable for you, your wife, your daughters and women everywhere.

I welcome your questions and would make myself available to meet with you or one of your team to discuss this further.

Yours truly,

Sarah Cloutier

5 thoughts on “Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

  1. That is one heck of a letter and very clearly and powerfully expressed. It certainly calls for David Cameron to step up, look deeply at what is really going on and STOP it. Women worldwide have had ENOUGH!
    May the Leveson Inquiry truly see the extent of degradation and abuse of females that is currently allowed in the media and bring it to a halt.

  2. In the wake of Julia Gillard speaking out eloquently about the treatment she has received by Tony Abbott on account of her being a woman, this letter is very timely. It is beautiful to read in its fullness, and I too, welcome the progress updates as to how this is ongoingly addressed.

  3. Thank-you Sarah. Your statement, “There’s nowhere to hide anymore.” and EVERYTHING you say here exposes it all for exactly how it is, and how we’ve all allowed this to go on for far, far, far too long. Everyone – men, women, our children – we ALL suffer from the perpetuation of such attitudes and outright denigrating actions. You have given those in power “nowhere to hide”. May they rise to the call that true governance asks of them.

  4. You have my support Sarah.You are a leader & speaker of the truth. This letter is a step toward making the world a better place for my daughter. Lets now see if Mr Cameron is willing to place the next stepping stone under you feet.

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