Samantha Blaney - "These Women"
“These women have the luxury of anonymity; Salmond does not”, was one of the first comments that I read. It was by a man (no surprise), and I did what I always do, I clicked on his profile to check if he was a troll. There are some troll clues to look out for; less than fifty friends, no pictures of face, links to extreme articles with no viable source, many, many petitions. Of course, not all trolls are trolls in the traditional sense -- some people just have very loud views, but don’t want to be hidden. This man was the latter. The word luxury is an interesting choice. It makes me think of a holiday in Bali, a spa weekend at a hydro, getting my nails done, sunsets and white sand beaches. Even the word lux-u-ri-ous is decadent with its syllables, it rolls off the tongue. To me; luxury is the women who accused Salmond sitting in a hotel room, sipping a gin (distilled in the highlands of Scotland) and tonic, wrapped up in a warm cotton dressing gown watching re-runs of her favourite television shows, while occasionally glancing at the front pages of the hostile main stream media’s storm. No. I don’t think luxury is the right word. Right. Right? Yes. These women have the right to anonymity; Salmond does not. But it’s still not right. These women? How many are there? Are the rates of women who falsely accuse men of harassment and assault extremely high? Research from the home office suggests that only 4% of cases reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. So why then do we have a common fear of this in society? Of the man being falsely accused by the slippery siren, by the revengeful ex? Why is it these women? Ok I think I have it now. Women have the right to anonymity; Salmond does not. No, it’s still not right. I don’t believe that Alex Salmond should be tried by the grotesque circus that is the mainstream media. I don’t think that is appropriate either. Ok so I think I’ve made it better: Victims of sexual assault and harassment have the right to anonymity; as do the accused. Initially.
The thing is, that comment, the one I’ve just spent half an hour dissecting; it wasn’t even the worst. It wasn’t the tip of the iceberg. I typed Alex Salmond’s name into the search bar and it came up with result upon result of people sharing articles and calling the women liars, saying they would support this innocent man to the end. One woman said, “why would a guilty man go to all these lengths”, as if being loud and noisy and banging a drum insinuates innocence. There were more, so many in fact I became entirely disheartened by it and had to stop searching. Salmond and Scottish Independence are not the same thing. Yes, he was part of a movement, yes, he was the First Minister. Yes, he did a huge amount for pushing forward the cause I feel very, very passionately about. But really, it’s about us. It always has been. Blindly defending a man who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault just because he is politically aligned with you is wrong. I shouldn’t have to say this. It should be glaringly obvious that it’s wrong, but apparently not. Alex Salmond crowdfunding for the money to pay for a judicial review is also wrong. Perhaps it says more about our judicial system than it does about him personally, but it’s wrong, and it adds to the already theatrical proceedings.
Politics in Scotland are currently so polarised, and this can be displayed none more so than on the pages of social media. It’s led to people to become so stubborn in their views, that they’re willing to defend a man (without any evidence) and condemn some women (without any evidence) wholly because he is a champion of Scottish Independence. It gives opponents, of which there are many, political fodder to associate his actions with the SNP, the Scottish Government, and the whole Indy movement.
The truth is; women are harassed and assaulted and raped every day. Whether it’s rape being used as a weapon of war in Syria, or a partner who demands sex when he wants it, or a group of guys in a car following a young girl who is walking home. It’s when a colleague gets a bit too close, or when you’re on crowded public transport and you freeze because maybe it’s just his bag, maybe you’re the one being paranoid, or maybe you just had a little bit too much to drink, maybe you did lead him on maybe you should have worn a longer dress, or a pair or tights or maybe maybe maybe. These women become a maybe. Women rarely report sexual assaults. I haven’t. You couldn’t pay me to. Perhaps I am a double agent for the patriarchy, and in doing nothing I am doing something negative. But I would never exhaust myself with the process. It’s far too ugly, and it’s not in my favour, so why bother?
There are many women who have been spurred on by recent movements. Me Too, Everyday Sexism, Time’s Up, are a few of the most prominent ones. They have given some women the confidence to confront ugly behaviours and attitudes towards them in the workplace, the home and in society at large. And they have given lots of us the tools and the language to prevent further assaults, minimise harassment for our nieces, granddaughters, daughters and little girls we don’t even know; little girls we’ll never know. We’ll know they’re a little bit safer than we were. We dismantle the patriarchy more gently than it was assembled.
If a women who is considering reporting sexual misconduct sees the crowdfunding campaign by Alex Salmond, what will she think? Will she continue? Or will she leave it?
It sets a dangerous precedent, not one that I’m interested in seeing.
I was offered the luxury of anonymity when writing this article.