Saturday, October 19

Vanessa Austin Locke: Sexual politics

- March 26, 2013

This week I’ve been stirring up trouble in the Lib Dem PR office. I like the Lib Dems… They’re liberal, they’re democratic, what’s not to like? She Said was offered the opportunity to advertise at their party conference. 2,500 naughty politicians on a jolly? I’ll pop a flyer in each delegate’s bag. The store’s tucked away, and the staff are known for being discreet so they always do a roaring trade at conference time.

With the party being in the doghouse I wasn’t surprised when the PR department (very sweetly) vetoed my scheme. But it amused me, so I tweeted it. Within 10 minutes the papers called.

Here’s where I’m a bit torn. There’s a nasty streak running through the Lord Rennard story, coming from sensible sources. Plus I’m aware how hard it is to pin these things down when it’s one person’s word against another. Most importantly sexual harassment is the gateway to collective attitudes that can encourage far more serious sexual crimes.

“The golden rule for me is this: always tell the truth. It will out”

But then again, these are powerful, intelligent women and there are procedures set up to prevent these things and (at the time of writing) the party line remains that no formal allegations were made. Why not? Fear of spoiling a career, or being ignored? So instead they allow themselves to become victims? These are the women with the power and position (not to mention responsibility) to stand up for themselves and set the example to women everywhere at the time of the incident, not years after, however unhelpful their managers are. Plus the timing of this could be read as a smear leak.

I’ve handled sexual harassment ever since I hit puberty, I think most women do. I haven’t made any accusations and when it’s suited me I’ve used it to get ahead. But when I haven’t wanted to I’ve been empowered to take a man’s hand off my thigh without it damaging my career. That’s politics right?

What I find distasteful is the paper-thin layer of externally moderated slime that lies between the public and the truth. ‘Lies’ being the operative word. We all know how the world works.Treat us like grown-ups. We can handle it. People are too clever and media is so fast and ahead of media law that everyone can see past it and everyone knows it.

I realise I’m writing this as someone who dabbles in the PR cesspit, but the golden rule for me in the business is this: Always tell the truth. It will out.  

The Lib Dems were perfectly within their rights to turn us down. But it could be called a double standard, because I can tell you with 100 per cent confidence that Lib Dems like sex. And that’s ok! Let’s not tar them all with the same brush.

10% off at She Said in Brighton for all cheeky Lib Dems because She Said stands for sexual empowerment!

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