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

Letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard

October 10, 2012

Dear Ms. Gillard,

The Australian High Court passed a law on August 14, 2012 to remove branding from cigarette packets. This has created a foundation for how we legislate for true change, which is to be applauded. Nicotine related lung cancer costs the Australian Community according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare A$107m per year. Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual Abuse cost the Government A$8bn per year – an immense difference that we choose to ignore. And the A$8bn a year does not include the costs of ongoing counselling and healing – and the emotional costs for victims is unfathomable.

Why isn’t the Government addressing the Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual Abuse as fervently as it has lobbied for the removal of branding on cigarette packets?

Your recent exposé of misogyny and sexism relating to the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbot, is the earthquake that has cracked a chasm of truth about the appalling treatment of women and you have an obligation as leader of the Australian Government to do something about it.

Alan Jones’ consistent denigration of you is tiresome, and personally extremely hurtful and offensive, yet, by everyone not standing up to this, and as you so clearly pointed out, we are accepting it as the norm and allowing it to continue. We have allowed it to creep into our everyday lives so that when it happens we make an excuse to stay silent and collude with the abuse.

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.

I have worked my way up the ranks to General Manager for a film post production company in Melbourne. While there I had to deal with the “don’t get emotional” comments when I needed to manage a difficult situation at work. I expose it when it happens, and I can change my work environment as the manager. Men on the Executive could 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.

The recent allegations, now over 120, against Jimmy Saville in the UK, and the revelations that Radio 1 boss knew about his behaviour towards girls, clearly 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.

“For women working in [the show business] 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 about her experiences in the 1980’s “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. And these instances are not isolated to the UK or Australia – they are a global issue. And the honesty will overflow as women everywhere begin to feel their confidence in speaking out.

Do children see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, fathers and grandfathers treating women with disdain every day? And as a society, are we making it OK for snide comments and put-downs – absolutely. Have we then created and exacerbated a society that makes the Abuse of Women mainstream?

Is there a link between pornography and violence towards women and children? Worth mentioning in the very least, and it’s an area that our society does not want to address because men are in positions of power to make change and they like the accessibility of it on supermarket and newsagent shelves.

Reviewing the FACTS of the figures, should it be soft/pornography that is removed from the shelves as well as the brand labels on cigarettes?

According to Cancer Research UK (updated 10 May 2012), there were 48,417 new cases of breast cancer in the UK in 2009 – and that doesn’t include the cases already being treated. In the news on Monday 8th October 2012, it was reported that in Australia 37 new cases of breast cancer get diagnosed a DAY and this is expected to rise. Consider for a moment that the MCG holds 100,000 people – fill it up with those ‘new cases’, and top it up with the husbands, children, parents and siblings of those women and every year you have that many NEW people affected by our rot in society and the complacency in our treatment of women. Sure, we are seeking a cure to the symptoms, but how deeply do we want to address the cause?

“Pear shaped” and “tits up” are expressions commonly used by men and women expressing when something has gone wrong. Our colloquial language reveals that the denigration of women is part of our psyche. A woman’s anatomy has been commoditised to parts denoting something bad.

You have a responsibility, as well as a great opportunity, to consider guidelines, recommendations and regulations on the Abuse of Women to ensure we arrest this ill 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.

By choosing to ‘let this slide’ we are choosing to allow it to continue – and we have for many, many years. We need to clearly underline that we will not allow this to continue to give the opportunity for future generations the opportunity to see there is another way. On Tuesday 9th you stood up in the Parliament and gave that 15min speech which has been echoing throughout the World. It was a concise exposé on misogyny, backed up by facts, that Australia needed to hear. And not just Australia. I congratulate you on opening this can of worms. However, let this not be your final act in the long overdue need for change to our attitude to women.

This constant barrage of degradation and abuse of Women is having an impact on the lives of our children.

We are now experiencing the most accessible soft/pornography of all time and children all over the western world as young as 10 are “sexting” images of themselves to each other – they are our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews. The deepest concern for us all as a society is that these children think it’s normal to behave sexually with each other.

The United Nations UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, “The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.” And, “It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences …”

Do we then have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to protect our children “from harmful influences”?

There is 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. By inaction, we are condoning and colluding with the Abuse. 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 people 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.

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.

Your speech has been so well received and celebrated throughout western world (USA, UK), but it is getting ‘frosty’ reception by male journalists in Australia.

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). His closing statement is one for reflection from a global perspective “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? If you set a zero tolerance to the abuse of women in our daily papers, it will have profound effect on home life. And the £8 billion we are spending on the results of domestic violence could be joyfully redirected.

How amazing would it be if you created legislation that made it illegal for a woman to be paid less than a man for doing the same job? How empowering for a community to feel that support and know that we have a voice and that Abuse will no longer be tolerated?

As the head of our Government, you have a responsibility to consider guidelines, recommendations and regulations on the Abuse of Women 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 has to stop. And, 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.

I welcome your views and questions and I have colleagues in Australia who share our zero tolerance attitudes on sexism and misogyny and would be available to meet with you or one of your team to discuss this further.

On Tuesday you expressed beautifully: “And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.” Let us see you put these words into practice and live up to your powerful and just assertion.

Yours truly,

Sarah Cloutier
Dual Australian and UK Citizen currently living in the UK

Abuse of Women in/by the Media – Leveson Inquiry – Submission Two

“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 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.

Following my previous submission and scores of responses to the posting of it on my blog, what has been revealed to me is that women (and men) have just accepted the abusive treatment of women by the Media as ‘normal’.

This is a clear reflection of the statistics from my first Submission; quoting The Crown Prosecution Service (UK) transcript – Domestic Violence: the facts, the issues, the future – Speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC (posted 12 April 2011) – that Women experience an average of 35 incidents of domestic violence before reporting an incident to the police”.

It shows that as a society, we rarely stand up for what is clearly a breach of our human and civil rights until it simply gets too much and we can’t see another way out. The Suffragettes were jailed (consistently) for deigning to want the equal right to a vote.

Women (and men) have become so complacent and conditioned to believe that abuse is normal. We make excuses and about the facts and the reality of what we have created as our western ‘civilisation’:

  • We have the right to vote, that counts for something
  • At least we don’t have forced marriages here
  • That’s just how men are, they’re rough
  • It’s just the way it is, nothing will change

An article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “An Allegory of Journalistic Decline” from Aug 29, 2012 details the experience of a reporter who was on Rupert Murdoch’s, The Canberra Times in the late seventies. He gives detailed accounts of Mr Murdoch’s comments on the daily news – one point valid here is – Signed KRM, it says: “I think the worst fault was that the opening sentence was comment. By all means let’s have interpretive reporting but not until we have told the facts first.”

If, quoting Lord Justice Leveson,any failure within the media affects all of us” – what a slippery slope we are on.

The decline in the treatment of women in/by the Media has become accepted to such an extent that today, we are numb to the reality of the situation.

And the 2012 US Republican ticket has a deeply concerning party line that will further impinge on a woman’s right to choose. Mr Romney has said that employers will have the right to fire any women known to be taking the contraceptive pill and that abortion will be criminalized. And Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment has exposed the Republican Party’s true agenda and anti-women policies of the last several years.

We are derailing.

Today, the mainstream media splashes pictures of women celebrities in bikini’s on holiday, passes it loosely as ‘journalism’ and objectifies and opinion on their thighs, cellulite and god-forbid any tummy that is not a six pack – you will be crucified.

Simple mathematics again reveals our double standards and show that we do not have photos of men who have ‘let themselves go’ on the cover of tabloid magazines – its always women who are vilified and criticized for their physical appearance. Why not men? Why not a Page 3 man?

Male homosexual pornography has stayed in the licensed sex shops because we deem that to be a minority, which it remains, and some would still say ‘debauched’ (or worse).

Male and female pornography has always been around. Since Roman times, people have used external stimulation to connect in their numb existence. It used to be top shelf publications like Penthouse and Playboy – magazines sealed and sometimes only accessible in licensed sex shops of from behind the counter. Now soft porn is considered ‘normal’ and magazines with semi-naked women are clearly visible in all newsagents, petrol stations and supermarkets.

There’s no denying there’s a huge amount of revenue generated by the ‘trashy’ magazine market – supported largely by women who are in comparison and jealousy of other each other. Most girls are are brought up to pour over OK! and Hello magazines and judge other women by their figure/relationship/house/child/hairstyle/career/wealth. This is a deeper issue and will need re-education for all women to return to the harmonious, inclusive way of living we all crave.

This constant barrage of degradation of Women in/by the Media is having an impact on the lives of our children.

We are now experiencing the most accessible soft/pornography of all time and children all over the western world as young as 10 are “sexting” images of themselves to each other – they are your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews. The deepest concern for us all as a society is that these children think it’s normal to behave sexually with each other.

The United Nations UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child states that – “The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.” And, “It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences …”

Do we then have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to protect our children “from harmful influences”?

The mark of a broken society is illness in women. We are rotting.

The Australian High Court passed a law on August 14, 2012 to remove branding from cigarette packets. Nicotine related lung cancer costs the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare A$107m per year. Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual abuse costs that same Government A$8bn per year – an immense difference that we ignore. And the A$8bn a year doesn’t include the costs of ongoing counseling and healing – and the emotional costs for victims is unfathomable. From personal experience, having been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I can honestly say, it’s a long process of true recovery. Is there a link between pornography and violence towards women and children? Absolutely – and it’s an area that our society doesn’t want to address.

Reviewing the FACTS of these figures, should it be soft/pornography that is removed from the shelves and not the brand labels on cigarettes?

According to Cancer Research UK (updated 10 May 2012), in 2009, there were 48,417 new cases of breast cancer in the UK – and that doesn’t include the cases already being treated. Consider for a moment that Wembley Stadium holds 90,000 people – fill it up with those new ‘cases’, and top it up with the husbands, children, parents and siblings of those women and every year you have that many NEW people affected by our rot in society and the complacency in our treatment of women. Sure we are seeking a cure to the symptoms, but how deeply do we want to address the cause?

“Pear shaped” and “tits up” are expressions commonly used by men and women express when something’s gone wrong. Our colloquial language reveals that the denigration of women is part of our psyche. A woman’s anatomy has been commoditised to parts.

The Leveson Inquiry has a responsibility to consider guidelines, recommendations and regulations on the Abuse of Women in/by the Media to ensure we arrest this ill 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.

By choosing to ‘let this slide’ we are choosing to allow it to continue – and we have for many, many years. We need to clearly underline that we will not allow this to continue to give the opportunity for future generations to see there is another way.

Yours truly,

Sarah Cloutier

Abuse of Women in/by the Media – Leveson Inquiry submission

“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 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 July, 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?

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, put downs in meetings and judgement of my capability based on the fact that I have a vagina (yes, that word again). 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.

Now as a General Manager for a film post production company, and having worked my way up the ranks, I still have to deal with the “don’t get emotional” comments when I need to manage a difficult situation at work. I call it when it happens, and I can change my work environment because I am the boss. This attitude, and the fact that men feel they can make comments like this, is perpetuated by the onslaught of soft porn and opinion-based ‘journalism’ we are bombarded with from the mainstream media today.

If you haven’t read them already, 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 denigration 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 feel that more responsibility is needed from the Media and its regulators.

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”.

Amazing women inspire me, it’s simple mathematics that there are no stories written about them in the media – those representations don’t interest the Editors, obviously, as they believe they won’t sell papers. The print industry is dying and they need to sensationalise and sexualise stories about women  to drive people to their websites.

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 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, we continue to perpetuate a society that condones the abuse of women. This type of behaviour is certainly 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 this weekend 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.

The Australian Newspaper published a story on 31 August 2011 detailing the “Frightening’ rise in domestic violence in Australia. According to the NSPCC, states that “Including all costs, the total cost of domestic abuse for the state, employers and victims is estimated at around £16 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 are increasing?

The Leveson Inquiry has 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 with our complacent attitude towards the treatment of women in our society by the Media. We need to step up and take responsibility for the impact that the Media has on our attitude towards women.

I welcome any questions or for more information.

With thanks,

Sarah Cloutier
(address/number sent but withheld from this blog)

(*This is not solely about News Corporation, though they are the most overt in their representation of women in their publications so are an obvious ‘out’ for this type of journalism.)

Brand New Day

The glorious sun rises, sometimes from behind clouds, but it is always there, reminding us of a new beginning. The sun feels like a reflection to me of the opportunity I have every day to re-set and make new choices.

Yesterday was my final day at work – as predicted, they couldn’t get me out of there fast enough and I am feeling relieved to be returning to London, and a little sad that the Melbourne journey wasn’t as I expected. I know I had very high expectations and was in illusion about what the position held and what I thought the job was going to bring to me, instead of the truth – which would be to see the job for what I would bring to it.

I reflected yesterday about a comment from a very dear friend that said “Love yourself a billion percent” – and I know that there is an opportunity for me to have another crack at that in the next job! I know that I will continue to have opportunities to bring another dollop of Sarah to the corporate world 🙂

In truth, in every moment, I can Love myself a billion percent – and with every new sunrise and in every moment, I have that opportunity to change how I see myself and give myself the grace to take the sunrise into my heart and feel that new beginning. And a sense of graceful urgency to begin each day with tender acceptance of change and my responsibility to be me a billion percent.

Yesterday, one of my female colleagues gave me a big hug and said, “I’m going to miss the energy you bring.”

London here I come!

How High?

I was chatting with a female colleague about how we achieved our ‘manager’ status in highly technical and male dominated industries; television and IT. We both worked our way up from the bottom, a strategy that benefited our knowledge base and understanding of the industry as a whole, and respect for the depth of that knowledge. And it was the only way you did it 25 years ago!

What we both felt was that there is a need to experience the whole to understand the sum of the parts. From a thorough working knowledge, we can appreciate the whole team and the process and what is expected from us as managers.

I have reflected on how much, during the early years, that I chose to behave like a man. When I was asked to do a task that involved some manual labor, I wanted to prove my strength and that I could be as ‘good’ as a man.

When they asked me to jump, I asked ‘How High?’

That was all the option I knew when I was coming up through the ranks of television – that I had to perform at the same level as the guys around me. I was graded in the top three in my year for cinematography, a very physical, male dominated sector to this day. I loved creating images through the lens and lugging a huge camera and tripod around just came with the territory.

But I guess there was something in me that realized the stress that was putting on my body. Because when I was offered my first job, it was as a camera operator for a company that produced sport for television in 1988 – I turned it down for a production assistant job that was office/location based and didn’t require manual lifting to the extent being behind the camera would have required.

There is substantially more female production staff than men, and more technical crew who are men – I feel that balance is right.

What has happened is that a high proportion of women have taken the toughness of the industry on in another way – we have hardened to be resilient and survive the workplace.

This pattern needs reflection and questioning whether this toughness is still required of me as a manager today – and the answer is a resounding NO. As a role model and mentor of younger women working in my team, my priority is to show my femininity and gentleness as much as possible. This doesn’t mean I’m a sap in the executive meetings! The quality of fragility I now choose to express is so much easier on my body and the feeling of power with it is palpable.

Expressing fragility and vulnerability in the boardroom is an effective management tool and one that I am continuing to explore. It feels much more natural for me than the alternative!

With love, Sarah

Changes at Work

On Monday we were told that the business I manage has been sold. The new owners have been in the office for the last few days meeting with all of us and going through a consultation process to get more of an understanding of the business. This deal has been rumoured for many months so the first feeling was relief.

Since Monday’s announcement, I have experienced many different feelings and emotions which has posed the question for me – how much do I see myself as what I do?

There’s the obvious financial reliance on working, and the reflection on the excess in my life. But more than that, I have been contemplating on whether they will see me as a value to them or whether they will let me go.

Read – Will they like me or not?

The deep self-doubt – which I know is not real – has shown me that I still have a need for acceptance that drives how I am in pressured situations on which my livelihood depends. I felt anxious and nervous in one phone call in particular with the new MD and was “trying to say the right thing”. I was comparing myself to him without giving myself the space to see how far I’ve come and to honour my knowledge during the brief conversation. And it stayed with me after that and left me wondering if they were going to keep me on in the new structure.

That feeling of self-doubt is feeding from all the times I was hurt at work in the past. Yelled at, criticised, undermined, patronised, ridiculed – and the list goes on. There’s a battle scar from every one.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying – “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”

Once I got home, I realised I needed reassurance and a hug! With no hugs available, I had a little cry to release some of the hurt I was feeling, and phoned a friend. The support and clarity of true friendship is a God-send and the flow of that ‘let’s de-brief the day in 20 minutes’ conversation had us both laughing and realising that it’s only energy and I will be OK – I am already OK.

How the new business owners see me is their choice and I am not privy to their decision making or their master plan for the structure or my role within that. So today I will allow myself to be more ME and come back to the true knowing that I am OK and will be OK whatever the decision made in the boardroom. I have absolutely no control of that.

Another true friend responded in email to say that “If they are feeling the love you truly are, Sarah, they will either fight tooth and nail to keep you there … or get you out of the door as fast as they possibly can.”. How true is that! And still this morning the giggles over that comment keep a lovely smile on my face.

There is only one solution and that is to keep returning to love, no matter what. And to continue to keep counting my blessings and not my imperfections.

With Love, Sarah

From a Puppet to Essence – No Strings Attached!

Today I watched a documentary on a puppeteer on Sesame Street, Kevin Clash, “Being Elmo”. He felt so shy and sensitive growing up and didn’t know how to express that, so used puppets to be the vehicle. His parents were completely supportive of him making puppets and putting on shows for other children – but what I was contemplating while watching it was – Why do we hide behind a character or a created role?

Kevin is amazing and totally loves being the Executive Producer of Sesame Street and teaching children, being Elmo and working in his field – but his private life is not how he expected – spending more time as Elmo than being a husband and father had an impact and he’s divorced and his daughter had to write to him to remind him that she was going to college soon and would like to spend some time with him.

There is a truth to how Kevin expresses when he’s Elmo – a gorgeous, super gentle, loving quality/essence/expression that loves hugs and kisses and is tender with everyone, no matter what the colour of their skin, whether they are sick or healthy, young or old. And, in truth, every single one of us has those true qualities equally.

The reflection for me as I watched it was how I have spent many years not knowing how to express my essence with others and hiding behind a role or character I have developed to manage my life.

Working in film/television/advertising for 26 years has developed the ‘role’ into a career, which I love and always have (the career, not the ‘role’!). I just haven’t known that it could be possible to express and be in my essence within that. I used to say, “it’s who I am” – now that doesn’t fit anymore with the new person I see in the mirror. The old ‘role’ isn’t able to express my new awareness of the impact I have with everyone I meet.

The ‘role’ was developed over the years and was usually different with people at work, with friends and with family. I was exhausted, frustrated and felt that people didn’t understand me. Truth was that I didn’t understand myself and had no gauge of myself. All I had been shown was that you needed to get on with your career and be successful. But all the time I felt like a fraud. Like I was in a reality television show!! Always performing, on edge and a ‘forced’ persona that wanted everyone to like me. Being rejected was my worst fear.

We play a game of what we are NOT – we put out something we can’t sustain. There’s no where for me to hide anymore.

The groovy reflection of Elmo for me is the quality of expression of love we all have equally and when we allow that love to simply unfold and be super gentle and loving with others and ourselves, a new acceptance begins to break the hardness and protection I have put up as a barrier to keep myself from not being rejected. It’s been my choice to keep people away and stay in separation. Ouch.

Time to take off the puppeteers strings and express uninhibited by patterns and expectations I’ve put on myself in the past.

In slowly developing my connection with my essence, and letting people in, I have been exploring how I can simply be me and nurture the expression of my connection every day while still working in my field. There are times when I am simply me and there’s a panic that creeps in – can it be this easy?

I’m so much more than that panic and self-doubt and will have a crack at that barrier with a big smoochy Elmo hug (no strings attached!) for myself and know that when I re-connect to the love that I am I will always be there for myself and know the true essence of me.

With love,
Sarah

Contemplation on Self-Sabotage

I’ve been contemplating the choices I have made regarding the complacency I have towards myself and the lack of self-honouring with my body, time and money.

When I rush into a decision it means there’s never any space for me to truly feel in my body where the impulse is coming from – from a need, or a lack or to be recognised in some way? (All of the above!)

Underneath there is a strong pull that takes me out of myself when it happens – what’s that about?

There’s part of me that absolutely knows truth, what’s true for me and what’s not – the Soul. And the part that is reckless and doesn’t consider the consequences and treats the body with disregard – the Spirit.

The arrogance of the Spirit part of me has taken me on many a roller-coaster ride of disregard over the years and interestingly, even though I know what’s going on, and can see it clearly – I still choose to be taken for a ride and end up giving myself a hard time for the errors I make when I don’t stop and listen long enough to make a TRUE decision that’s loving for me. It’s crazy!

So the consequences bite me on the arse and I then literally have to pay for my mistakes for years.

What is it that drives that complacent disregard? There’s a conscious decision to leave the wisdom and grace of my Soul to go for a ride on the Spirit’s heady wave of intoxication. I know the feeling and it’s charged with determination and a mind that wants to do whatever is necessary to get or do the ‘thing’.

My wardrobe is fabulous, no doubt about that. But there’s an excess in how I accumulate goods that far out-weighs the loving expression of ME required in a corporate environment.

The force I call in takes charge and uses me like a puppet to manipulate my life, finances, decision making and career and relationship choices. I choose to give my power away to that force and don’t take responsibility for where my energy is coming from. I blame the ‘issue’ I have created as the problem and the gooey mess that is self-created I then have to wade through, stuck with the consequences of not being me – really Sarah??

There was a huge painted sign on a fence in a field on the M40 from Beaconsfield on the drive into London and it said – WHY DO I DO THIS EVERY DAY?

Great question!

Why don’t I simply be the Soul-full Love that I am and stop all the other behaviour that causes me so much pain-full implications?

I have a squillion excuses that are wearing very thin but here are a few to break the ice –

  1. It’s hard to slow down in a corporate environment
  2. I had to respond to the email straight immediately, it’s urgent
  3. That person needed immediate feedback
  4. I ran out of time
  5. I really need that new car, it will be an asset
  6. The suit/shirt/shoes/scarf/lingerie is on sale
  7. I’ve always wanted a (insert a million items here) and I’m earning good money now so am going to treat myself
  8. What the heck!
  9. I don’t trust myself enough
  10. It’s always been this way, it’s just how it is
  11. It’s too late to change
  12. It’s too hard to stop when everyone around me is running a million miles an hour
  13. The world is harsh
  14. I’m not strong enough
  15. It’s like a runaway train I can’t control
  16. Blah blah blah

Serge Benhayon sent me a response to an “It’s too hard – what’s wrong with me?” email yesterday with the very simple “It’s time to count your blessings and not your imperfections.”

The healing I felt was then expressed as TRUTH …

So just to clarify, the choices I’m making to self-sabotage are not being driven by anything from the past? They are from choices to not be the love that I am now

So all I need to do is just be the love that I am and stop punishing myself for things in the past?

“Very correct” came the reply – That’s it? That simple?

Note to self Sarah – take time to contemplate on everything – what I eat, how I eat, what I spend money on, how I send that email and how I type – everything. Slow it down gorgeous.

So my journey deeper to my own Soulful-Self-Love begins and the decision to simply be honest with myself and stop the perpetual motion of the Spirit that has driven me.

A new day, a new beginning and an opportunity to explore how I express with grace, tenderness and deep kindness.

With Love

Sarah