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Jane Fae

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How to stay safe while banking: the double standard for women

Posted: 25/01/2013 18:32

Now listen very carefully - lawyers especially - I shall say this just the once: this is not incitement. Oh no. Definitely not. If, in any way, you should happen to read it as that, stop: go back and put on your post-modern super-ironic goggles and, I'm sure, you'll see the error of your ways.

New risk

This is safety advice, pure and simple, and something you just can't get enough of in this day and age. Safety advice for bankers. Not to mention politicians. Media tycoons. Senior policemen. Pretty much every individual who has, how shall I put this, lost the confidence of the public due to their extravagant, exploitative, self-interested, mendacious ways. Am I singling out any old Tom, Dick, Harry - let alone Bob or Fred? Absolutely not.

I am merely noticing that following a wide range of scandals, from Hillsborough to Libor, Leveson to parliamentary expenses, there is a good deal more public anger directed towards these pillars of our society than once was. This, in turn, is probably best summed by the man on the Clapham omnibus expressing a desire to punch them, one and all, on their collective snout. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Though there is perhaps a special warning here for media types thinking of attending public inquiries any time soon: beware strangers bearing custard pies!

Safety basics

What, though, must these important peeps do to ensure nothing bad happens to them. Well, first up, "have a plan!" Always. Don't just head out for your lunchtime coffee and quails egg sandwiches WITHOUT being ready to repel nose-punchers at all times, or, if repelling isn't quite your style, knowing where you're going to escape to.

Although, as you stride along in your Gucci suit and shoes, you're probably already doing some of the other stuff likely to keep yourself safe: is your head up? Are you swinging your arms and standing straight? Are you looking, acting, BEING confident?

That's good: you, my son, are already looking far less like a nose-punch victim.

Except - oh dear! - is someone coming towards you menacingly? Then - and I know this sounds awfully silly - find an obstacle, a parked car, for instance , and run round and round it. It's a bit of a fag - especially if you've just finished one of those tedious business lunches that you may be forced to eat in the course of your working day. But it could yet save your nose.

If that fails, just get UNDER the car. Sorry about the suit: but its that or your nose, and to be honest, if you can afford one Gucci, you can probably afford several more. Hang on to some of those nasty dirty pipes under the chassis: that will make it extra difficult to pull you out. Remember, too: members of the public can rarely be bothered to come under the car to get at you.

Don't park next to vans. Or cars with other peeps already sat in them. Don't give out your name on the phone - just say "hello". Change your route to and from work, regularly. Don't walk alone in the dark - ever! Mark out safe houses to run to along your route.

Don't blame the banker!

Have you, dearest banker, done all of the above? Are you prepared to face a full-on nasal assault? Or is it possible, being one of the lads, that you've never in your life given the least thought to such matters.

No, of course I'm not saying its YOUR fault if someone just walks up to you in the street and bloodies your hooter. Still, you knew the risks. I'm not blaming you at all. But you didn't have a plan and, and, and...

A double standard for women

Alright. Here's the point at which not even the densest of readers can have failed to notice that I'm spoofing. The advice above, plus plenty more, comes from the crime-stoppers website. Its all about being safe and staying safe. Outwardly, its not directed at women: the headings are gender neutral. We are spared the patronising "Safety tips for women"tag.

Still, it is pretty clear from internal clues - whether its mentions of sitting in your car doing your make-up, or carrying your bag with the clasp facing inwards - who this advice is for. Not worked it out yet? "Ladies, you are naturally more sympathetic than men."

Oh. OK. He means us.

And I know its meant well. I know that the chances of a woman being attacked on her way home from work is greater than anything remotely violent happening to a random banker. Still, there is something both humiliating and belittling about this sort of advice. Not just the content, but the tone, too.

Which is why I shifted it sideways onto bankers, in this instance stand-in and cipher for every recently diminished figure of male privilege.

Can you see the police stopping off in the City, calmly advising bankers on how to stay safe by crawling under their car? Or running round and round it Benny Hill-style? No: they'd be laughed at, not least because what they are asking bankers to do is accept that staying safe requires them to surrender their dignity.

Then, too, no matter how this is framed, there is the implicit blaming. In the end, I lost count of the techniques women are supposed to know in order to stay safe. Though I can imagine commentators tutting knowingly and judging victims according to how many they put into practice. OK. You walked confidently: but did you vary your route? No? Well, I'm not blaming you, but...

There it is. The very existence of these facile checklists makes it plain. Women are complicit in the violence they suffer, in ways that men are not.

Only joking: never having to say you're sorry

Last up is something even more interesting: possibly, even, the reason you won't be reading all of this article. Am I, by poking fun at poking bankers proboscally, being just a teensy bit too clever? By warning, no matter how ironically, jokily, of the possibility, am I inciting the action?

Certainly not, I'd say. Though here, too, there is an interesting parallel. Joke about bombing an airport - the #twitterjoke incident - and the police will pull out all the stops to have you convicted. Run a website, as one angry resident in Canterbury did a decade or so back, identifying parking attendants and referencing them as clowns and expect the police to request that you desist, lest you incite violence against those patrolling the local yellow lines.

Oddly, the fact that they themselves wore uniforms that were a bit of a giveaway as to what they did during the day never entered the debate.

But joke about rape, or vioence against women.: use such jokes as a means to harass and intimidate survivors online; and the chances are that no action will be taken. Cos you are, indeed, considered to be "only joking" - and while police will happily get the link between joke and incitement in respect of public officials, for some reason they are far slower on the uptake where women are concerned.

 

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