Irony is a hard concept to define but easy to recognise. The other day a woman contacted a police station in Worcester to report that she had been repeatedly and persistently sexually harassed by construction workers on a site in Worcester. Police heard her complaint, went and had a word with the company concerned and decided no further action was necessary.
This morning this story is splashed on the front page of the Daily Mail, and is reported at length in the Express, the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Metro and several international news sites, and as I write, it is being discussed on the phone-in show on the BBC’s talk station, 5Live. All these media outlets want to know the same thing… who has over-reacted? Was it the police? Should they have simply told her to piss off and stop wasting their time? Or was it the woman who made the complaint? Should she have grown a thicker skin or accepted the harassment as a compliment.
The answer, my dear friends and colleagues in the media, is that the only people who have over-reacted are YOU, you pustulating cluster of pillow-brained wazzocks, YOU have over-reacted, no one else. Irony.
Now, before I go any further, let me turn this into a bit of a public information service. Among many strings to my bow, I do contract work sporadically for the construction industry, turning tender bid documents and suchlike into something approximating English. Most if not all major construction companies are members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, an industry body that appraises and rewards performance in interactions between constructors and the public, which can be anything from noise pollution to tidying traffic cones, and very much includes the traditional builder’s cat-call and wolf-whistle. Previous performance under Considerate Constructors is often as an important factor in winning future contracts, so responsible companies should be very motivated to ensure their employees and any subcontractors stick to the code of conduct. Within companies I’ve worked for, sexual harassment of the public is an immediate sacking offence.
On the hoardings of any UK building site, you should see large Considerate Constructors scheme stickers which will have the number to call the company site manager and also the CCS itself. If you are harassed or wolf-whistled or whatever by someone on a member site, do call those numbers to report and it should be the case that your complaint will be considered very seriously indeed. If that doesn’t work or if the building company is not displaying such numbers, you are perfectly within your rights to go to the police and let them decide whether a offence has been committed and whether they want to take it further.
Now that public service duty has been fulfilled, permit me to rant.
Of all the regular debates around issues of gender politics and sexual norms, the one with which I have least patience and tolerance is sexual harassment on the streets. Every argument raised in its defence makes me want to scream at the sheer inane, vacuous idiocy of the proponent.
“It’s just a bit of fun, women should take it as a complime…” NO, SHUT UP! You do not get to decide how someone reacts to your intrusion or harassment.
“But some women say they like it when…” NO, SHUT UP! Some people like all kinds of strange shit. Some men like getting into fights at the football, that doesn’t mean you can punch anyone in a Millwall scarf. Some kidnapping victims fall in love with their captors, that doesn’t make kidnapping OK.
“Women do it too! Have you ever seen a hen p…” NO, SHUT UP! Sexually harassing people is wrong. It doesn’t get any less wrong if women can also behave like morons.
“I wish someone would sexually harass m…” NO, SHUT UP! Do not even finish that sentence. Your stupidity is so toxic there are fish turning bottom up in rivers for miles around.
“The guys who do it are only wanting a bit of attenti…” NO, SHUT UP! They are not ‘wanting’ attention, they are demanding it. They are demanding something to which they have no innate right or entitlement whatsoever.
“You’ll be banning flirting ne…” NO, SHUT UP! Flirting is one of the great pleasures of life. It is an interaction, a dialogue not a monologue. Flirting is to wolf-whistling as salsa dancing is to kicking someone in the shins.
“You must want to live in a joyless worl….” NO, SHUT UP! I find no joy in crudely asserting power and control over another human being. A cat-call or wolf-whistle is not a joyous act but a snide, cowardly grab at a fleeting moment of dominance.
“Oh come on, is it really such a big deal?” You know what? No, it isn’t. It’s not that big a deal. As we now know, it barely even qualifies as a criminal offence. It is an insignificant, entirely unnecessary act. So let’s just cut it out, eh?