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Sexism is not merely “foolish” behaviour

Danczuk and the SunThe debate on whether what Danczuk has been accused of (accurately or otherwise) is worthy of suspension (and investigation) is a worrying one for a party that proclaims to be progressive. There appears to be, in some quarters, no real understanding of what the concern is.

Two examples of this can be found firstly in Danczuk’s apology where he states “there is no fool like an old fool”. And later in the John Stapleton LBC interview with Ken Livingstone, where John talks about Danczuk “being a much older man who has just fallen for a ‘nice pair of ankles’” (whatever that means?) he then went on to ask Livingstone “is it really justifiable to suspend him from the Labour party, we’ve all done daft things”.


What we see demonstrated is a traditional pillar of sexism that believes men have uncontrollable sexual desires which women are responsible for unleashing through the way they behave, dress and provoke. There is an undertone that as an older man he was seduced and manipulated by a younger woman (and her ankles!) making him the victim of her behaviour. Danczuk’s ‘old fool’ remark a code to other men who have either previously fallen or know the struggles of resistance to women who entrap them. He is sorry to be fooled by her. His actions would somehow be understood as a natural flaw in how men were created that should gain him empathy.

As typical in these situations, the reputation of the woman must be called into question, her deep cleavage pictures published similar to how we have seen victims of police shootings posing with gangster signs. The painting of character psychologically justifying the act as deserving and self-inflicted.

Over the past few days we have had a plethora of men inform us that it is a ‘private/personal matter’ of two consenting adults. An insinuation that those angered by Danczuk’s alleged behaviour is based purely on our prudish attitudes and shock that people even have sex or sexual engagement. That we should understand the normality of the situation and our irrational reaction to it is based on our inability to accept babies are not actually delivered by storks (and whilst we’re having this patronising conversation, Santa isn’t real either!).

We have also had those that inform us that he has not ‘committed a criminal act” – like we can only be polarised by the definition of right and wrong solely by whether it is criminally legal or illegal. Yet, many of the same people were outraged 24 hours earlier by Letwin’s moral standing on race (which I totally agree with) even though not criminally illegal.

Only male privilege and deep rooted patriarchy can rely on these conclusions and ignore that this young woman made contact with Danczuk for employment. Their interactions appear to continue with that initial objective still being part of the engagement. The dismissal of the primary accusation that this woman was subjected to an additional layer of assessment based on sex as part of a recruitment process to obtain employment with Danczuk demonstrates how far women still have to go to obtain equality.

Institutional sexism is still rife in many professions/industries and this current accusation is a typical example of it in practice. No woman should have to, or feel they have to, engage in sexual dialogue to obtain employment.

Unless we are saying that this is standard recruitment practice for all (regardless of age, gender, sexuality) those wanting to work for an MP, it is clearly obvious that there is currently grounds for the Party to investigate and the NEC were absolutely right to suspend Danczuk [and allow him to defend himself] for what he has been accused of.

Sexism is not merely foolish behaviour, it is one of the key diseases of inequality in our society and I for one am proud our party has taken it seriously.

9 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Excellent article, thanks. Although not at the same level the previous article also implies that That SD is a victim of her behavour ie she is after a “day of fame”. Hope Jon will accept his stance was totally wrong.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I don’t accept that the phrase “day of fame” implies Danczuk is a victim of her behaviour at all – it certainly wasn’t my intention. On the contrary, my point was that the Sun‘s treatment of her further victimised Sophena Houlihan. The phone-hacking scandal showed us clearly that the Murdoch press has no boundaries in how far it is prepared to go in exploiting victims. I don’t know the circumstances in which she agreed to speak to the Sun but my advice in such circumstances would be not to speak to them at all. Many people do agree voluntarily – whether or not they are paid – to have their misfortune or mistreatment exploited by lurid TV programmes or tabloid newspaper stories that serve only to turn them into a sort of latterday “freak show”. A “day of fame” is something to be avoided.

  2. James Martin says:

    Much needed article, I have been appalled by how some on the (male) left have missed entirely the real issues that underlay these allegations that centre of patriarchy and power in relation to an offer of employment and and interview being connected by Danczuk to sex. I’m very glad that Seema has now focussed matters back to the real issues.

    1. Robert says:

      The male left , thank god the male right are so honest in their opinions but is that because the person in question is from the right.

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    Very thought-provoking and challenging article, which I’ve read a couple of times now, written by someone who’s also written well on other subjects.

    The point about ‘pillars of sexism’ portraying the man as physically incapable of resisting sexual advances and the common need by many in situations like this to attack the character of the woman is a point well made too.

    Is there, though, another ‘pillar of sexism’ that suggests that a woman does not herself have agency? And that a woman is not herself capable of desire or of simply, for want of a better term, of ‘fancying someone’?

    It seems to me that this woman developed a crush on Danczuk and that the two then exchanged a few flirty text messages.

    The question of the woman having wanted to become involved in politics doesn’t seem to be bourne out by any political ideas, or even political views from her. It does seem that her interest was entirely in him as an individual and not in political idealism at all.

    Having said that, yes of course he should have made that point from the outset: “OK, it’s great you want to get involved in politics, there’s no paid job here, but we always want volunteers – I’ll put you in touch with your local organiser.”

    1. Paul Lynch says:

      I’m the same age as Danczuk and it seems to me “the woman” you talk of is in fact a girl who was not yet classed as an adult, nor old enough to even buy him a drink! Indeed, had he pulled her he may very well have had to take her to an under 18 year olds ‘Blue light’ disco held by the local constabulary..

      As for her job application, there was no suggestion of any interest in becoming involved with politics, she was looking for work experience with someone she thought likely to take on someone voluntary.

      Danczuk abused his position of power and seriously undermined his position as someone trusted with judging others, especially in relation to the Westminster child abuse scandal due to the fact she was not yet classed as an adult and he was in a position of trust.

  4. Tim Turner says:

    Although some will doubt the story because it is in the Mail on Sunday, Danczuk’s first wife has accused him of raping her. He faces very serious allegations from a number of different women.

  5. Chris says:

    Let’s cut to the chase and state what we all know but are nervous about saying: sexism doesn’t exist.

    It is a con perpetrated by an elite of media commentators (ie Guardianistas) to shut down opposition to their opinions.

    Don’t get me wrong, racism exists, homophobia exists, but sexism doesn’t and it never has.

    1. James Martin says:

      Although there were a great many working class women activists before this, for myself I personally learned about the socialist and trade union approach to sexism from groups like Woman Against Pit Closures in 84/85, and then later from Women of the Waterfront during the 2-year Liverpool docks lockout, and in each case these ‘ordinary’ extraordinary women activists had to first overcome sexism and prejudice from their own side and often their own trade unionist husbands to take their rightful place on picket lines and in occupations and demonstrations. I can only hope from your particularly stupid comments that you are very young and have never experienced a serious dispute like these to know the score, but if you are not a kid then you have no excuse at all. This is a good thing to read about how sexism was fought during the heat of a trade union battle – http://www.labournet.net/docks2/9511/WOWMTG.HTM – “…The vast majority of us have never before belonged to an organised group of this nature, even those of us who are committee members. Most of us have led our lives on the sidelines…”. I saw myself, because I was there, that by the end of that bitter two year dispute the women were no longer on the sidelines but were at the heart of the struggle, having overcome the barriers of sexism from their own side along the way.

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