Her Name was Reeva Steenkamp : It’s Time We Take Personal Responsibility for our Media Culture

I am so very angry at the reporting of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The hypocrisy and women-hating of our media never fails to shock me.

I have written numerous times on the issue of personal responsibility in maintaining the women-blaming rhetoric in our celebrity- obsessed mass media culture; the hypocrisy of the British press publishing nude photos of some celebrities without consent whilst whining about other news media publishing those of others. I’ve written about the mass media’s sensationalising and eroticising male violence for entertainment purposes and of the harmful nature of “women’s” magazines. I’ve written about the links between reality television, bullying culture and the lack of personal responsibility in the Huffington Post.  

The media response to the murder of Reeva Steenkamp by her partner has been just as offensive as every other story of the murder of a woman by a man. The failure to name Reeva Steenkamp and the rendering her as an object has even surpassed even my cynicism of the media’s desire to reinforce rape culture and VAW. I’m not going to link to the picture in the Sun or the article in the Daily Mail since both have been shredded on twitter this morning. And, really, no one expects much from either since they both stopped publishing the news years ago. 

However, they aren’t the only mainstream media who’ve gone with worshipping a murderer at the expense of the victim. I found the Guardian’s retrospective on the life of the murderer of Reeva Steenkamp particularly galling. The Washington Post went with a quote on how some man never saw Reeva Steenkamp’s murderer as “violent”. He’s just murdered someone. I think the boats sailed on the question as to whether or not the man was violent. The BBC can’t seem to remember Reeva Steenkamp’s name. The mainstream media is effectively removing Reeva Steenkamp for the reporting of her own murder.

So far, I’ve only read two articles on the murder of Reeva Steenkamp which weren’t offensive: Mother Jones wrote about it relation to the issue of gun violence in South Africa whilst the F-Word UK wrote about the sensationalising and obfuscation of responsibility of VAW committed by athletes. It is utterly pathetic that the mainstream media has not managed to report this case with anything approaching empathy.

You can complain to the Sun about their front page by phone:  0207 782 4104 

Or, email: dominic.mohan@the-sun.co.uk  and ombudsman@the-sun.co.uk

Do feel free to tweet your anger to @rupertmurdoch

There is a petition here demanding that the Sun apologise for their front page.

Sian and Crooked Rib has written a form letter here.

There are other suggestions for activism here.

Please make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. As EVAW has been tweeting, you can use article 12 of the Code of Practise to make your complaint.

More importantly though, we have got to start taking personal responsibility and stop financially supporting the media outlets which perpetuate VAW as entertainment. There is no point in complaining about the Sun running such an offensive front page if people are clicking on it which increases their advertising revenue. The same goes for the Daily Mail. Complaining about the hateful nature of celebrity culture  whilst financially supporting it is hypocritical.  If we genuinely want to stop this shit from being published, we need to stop buying the Sun, Daily Mail, Heat and OK Magazine. We need to stop financially supporting a culture of bullying vulnerable people for entertainment. 

The Sun may have chosen to run an offensive picture but they did knowing full well that people will buy it. 

We need to start boycotting all forms of media which sensationalise violence in society. We need to start making formal complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. We need to start getting our media coverage from sources interested in justice rather than profit.

We need to force our media to cover actual news without glorifying male violence.

UPDATE:

Here are some very good criticisms of the treatment of Reeva Steenkamp within mainstream media:

Helen Lewis in the New Statesman
Marina Hyde in the Guardian
Jane Fae in politics.co.uk

Aminatta Forma’s Ancestor Stones



“After I married  learned a lot. I did not learn so much about men – after all, Osman Iscandari was not all men. Rather I learned about myself. I learned about women – how we shape ourselves, how we shape each other.”

The first book I read by Aminatta Forna was The Memory of Love which I loved but I love Ancestor Stones more. Normally, the first book I read by an author remains my favourite but Ancestor Stones is so powerful and wise that I just want to reread it all over again today.

Ancestor Stones is set in an unnamed place in West Africa, although Forma has since confirmed that it is indeed Sierra Leone, the country in which she was born. The novel is narrated by four women, Asana, Mary, Hawa and Serah, within the Kholifa family whose mothers are all married to the patriarch Gibril; a man rich enough to have 11 wives. It is simply the story of women: of loss, friendship, desire, and motherhood set within a culture slowly destroyed by misogyny, racism, colonialism, independence and civil war. These ‘simple’ stories, much maligned by male literary critics, are never simple but the reality of women’s lived experience is always dismissed as irrelevant in the face if men’s lives. 

I knew I was going to love this one a few pages in when I read this (referring to arrival of Portuguese soldiers near Cape Verde islands):

The sailors saw what they took to be nature’s abundance and stole from the women’s gardens. They thought they had found Eden, and perhaps they had. But it was an Eden created not by the hand of God, but the hands of women.

Women’s work is consistently devalued and elided from history. When men aren’t taking personal ownership for our work, they are attributing it work to God.

I believe, with all my heart, that women are the keeper of stories:

“For the past survives in the scent of a coffee bean, a person’s history is captured in the shape of an ear, and those most precious memories are hidden in the safest place of all. Safe from fire or floods or war. In stories. Stories remembered, until they are ready to be told. Or perhaps simply ready to be heard.
And it is women’s work, this guarding of stories, like the tending of gardens.”

We create beauty and we remember beauty. We pass on our stories. After all, what is the much maligned toddler group but a way for women to gather and tell our stories to the only people who will listen: other women. 

Jimmy Savile Did Not "Groom the Nation"

I thought this was obvious. I didn’t think it was something that feminists would have to start shouting from the rooftops:

Met Commander Peter Spindler was correct when he called Savile a “predatory, serial sex offender”.


Spindler was wrong about Savile ‘grooming the nation”.

Jimmy Savile did NOT groom the nation.

Millions of people had no idea he was predatory, serial sex offender.

But, people did know.

We know they knew because Savile was not allowed to be involved in Children in Need.

We know people knew because they have been telling us they knew.


We know the police and CPS were aware because people told them.

Jimmy Savile did not groom the nation. He was allowed to continue abusing because he was a ‘celebrity’. Pretending that he “groomed the nation” allows those who knew to minimise and obfuscate their guilt. Those who knew and did nothing are guilty of helping Savile in sexually assaulting hundreds of children and adults. I say hundreds but we will never know how many.


The term “grooming the nation” only serves to silence victims. It serves those predatory, serial sex offenders who are still harming people. It makes Jimmy Savile a one-off case that will never be repeated. 

But, Jimmy Savile isn’t the only one. He will never be the only one. 

“Grooming the Nation” is about making bystanders feel better about having done absolutely nothing to protect vulnerable children and adults from a serial sex offender.

It not only absolved bystanders of responsibility; it gives them a space to be feted and petted in the press by journalists unwilling to look too closely at their own responsibility for reinforcing rape culture.

Jimmy Savile was a predatory, serial sex offender because people stood by and did nothing to stop him

How many other men are there today harming children and other adults safe in the knowledge that those around know and will do nothing to stop them?

(A longer version of this piece has been published by the Huffington Post)

Apparently, murdering your wife is not a sufficient reason to lose custody of your children.

Neil Ellerbeck murdered his wife Kate Ellerbeck on November 14th, 2008. Kate received 43 separate injuries in the attack before being strangled to death. Neil was sentenced to 8 years in prison for “manslaughter” The jury cleared him of murder “on the basis of lack of intent to cause serious harm”; 43 separate injuries which lead to her death but it was still judged a “lack of intent to cause serious harm”. How did we get to a point where 43 separate injuries leading to death aren’t considered intent to cause serious harm? 

Neil’s responsibility for the murder of Kate was minimised by the press in a myriad of ways, with their obsession over Kate’s affairs whilst simultaneously downplaying Neil’s own affair. The Telegraph and Daily Mail were both obsessed with how much money Neil earned as an investment banker, as if being a rich white man was more important than his status as a murderer. The very obvious  signs of domestic violence were ignored and the quite clear indicator of Neil’s potential to physical violence downplayed. Neil was tracking his wife’s movements. He was recording her conversations. Jealously and controlling behaviour are obvious indicators of a propensity to violence, yet these were minimised in the media

This is, apparently, part of the Judge’s statement at sentencing: 

‘We have studied and dissected a marriage which was obviously in terminal decline. It should have ended in separation and divorce. Tragically it ended in death. 

‘The jury have found that you did not intend to kill or cause really serious harm during the long eruption of violence which ended in her death. 

‘You achieved a great deal in your life, but it is plain to me there was a darker side of your character – the secretive obsessively jealous husband who spied on his wife, invaded her privacy and contributed to the unhappiness in the final months and years of her life. 

‘A husband who knew divorce was coming and would go to almost any length to prevent that from happening.  

‘You squirreled money away intending to keep it from your wife. It was the darker side to your character that boiled over. 

‘I am sure you intended some harm to your wife albeit not serious harm. I am sure your anger and frustration erupted that morning when it became clear your wife was serious about divorce and it was then you applied constant and deliberate pressure to her neck.’

Neil was sentenced to eight years for the murder of his wife. He served four before being released. He is now living in his former home with his two children. He murdered their mother and only spent 4 years in prison. He now has access to his million dollar home. He has custody of his children. A man who brutally murdered his wife because she asked for a divorce is now living in their former home with their children. 

Because, murdering their mother in anger doesn’t constitute a significant risk to the children’s lives. 

Because, a middle class white man who violently murdered a woman shouldn’t lose custody of his children. 

Because, a middle class white man couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children. After all, no middle class white man has ever murdered his children.

Because, a middle class white man with a clear history of domestic violence against his partner couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children. 

The facts that he has already abused the children by forcing them to live in the house where he was abusing their mother, that he has already committed child abuse by killing their mother, and the fact that he is continuing to abuse his children by forcing them to live in the house where he killed their mother with him are all, well, just irrelevant really. 

Instead, he gets to move back into his expensive house and pretend that he hasn’t already destroyed the lives of his children. 

Welcome to the Patriarchy: where women and children don’t matter. 


Hugo Schwyzer is Not a Feminist

Normally, I’m not one for telling people whether or not they can self-define as feminists. I think it’s rude and pointless. We all come to feminism from different perspectives and are all at different points of our feminist journey. It’s counter-productive to insist on the right to label, or not, others. That said, there some pretty basic tenets of feminism that aren’t negotiable. Perpetrators of domestic violence, rape and other forms of MVAW aren’t feminists. I do think it is possible for men who express anti-feminist statements to change. I don’t think violent men can change enough to ever be feminists.

This is why I am genuinely perplexed by the fawning that Hugo Schwyzer receives. He has consistently minimised his history of violence against women. Schwyzer writes of being an “accidental rapist” and “accidentally endangering” a former partner in a murder-suicide attempt.

I have no time for men who seek to minimise their personal history of MVAW by claiming personality disorders or drug addiction. Being a feminist means taking responsibility for one’s actions and the consequences therein. Claiming that an episode of MVAW was “drug-fuelled” isn’t taking responsibility. It is minimising one’s responsibility. There is a huge difference between the statements “I am a recovering drug addict but my addiction does not minimise my culpability for the violence I committed” and “it was accidental VAW because I was stoned”. 

One is forgivable because it involves genuine remorse. The other is not. 

Real male feminist/ feminist allies get this. They understand that their behaviour has no excuse, that it would remain unforgivable for many women and they don’t insist on trying to get women to forgive them. They take responsibility for their actions and words quietly and without requiring cookies and blowjobs for being good boys.

Hugo Schwyzer needs to start listening to women. He needs to start acknowledging that there are valid reasons that women find him frightening and then he needs to stop trying to intimidate them into silence. When he stops trying to silence women, I might be willing to engage with his work. As long as he continues to embrace the silencing of women who disagree with him, Schwyzer will never be a feminist.

And, let’s be realistic here, if Mike Tyson, who has a similar history of domestic violence and rape, were to start referring to himself as a feminist whilst blithering on about hegemonic masculinity, no feminists would be lining up behind him to stroke his ego and insist on his admittance to feminist spaces. We’d be laughing our asses off at him. Schwyzer is allowed in because he’s white. That’s a huge problem that white feminists need to address because we are silencing our sisters by allowing Schwyzer to continue pontificating as if he were the Messiah of Feminism.


Barbie and the 3 Musketeers: Not actually anti-feminist sludge

I know, Barbie is really an odd choice for a feminist blog to be writing about in anything but negative tones but Barbie and the 3 Musketeers is a really interesting film. It many ways it is actually quite a feminist film; if you ignore all the references to crushes on princes, fashion, the dancing kitten and the fact that they use fans and ribbons as weapons. Yes, it’s a lot to ignore but there is a really odd pro-feminist sisterhood message running through the film and not just in the reference to the original Buffy film. 

The film is about 4 women whose dream is to be Musketeers, which, obviously, women aren’t actually allowed to be. But, they do become Musketeers without the help of any men and in spite of the malicious interference of an old woman [because they couldn’t quite escape the evil witch motif so enamoured by fairy tales]. They become Musketeers and don’t date the prince. They ride off into the sunset together. To defend their kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole lot wrong with this film but the emphasis on the power of sisterhood, the direct challenge to Patriarchal constructions of femininity and a film aimed a little girls which does not end with a marriage to the incredibly dim prince is a whole lot better than the insipid Disney princesses. It’s actually pretty radical, despite being wrapped in pink ribbons. 

On the other hand, these lyrics are just sludge:

What are the chances, that we’d be here today?
Different girls from different worlds
Tryin’ to find our own way
Now we’re the perfect team, sharin’ the same dream…

All for one who knew,
Together we’d know what to do?
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one… one for all

Don’t try to stop us, or keep us down and out
The power of four forevermore
And now there is no doubt
Answering the call, breaking down the wall

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

We may look beautiful
We may be dutiful
But don’t be fooled of our finesse
We’re here to save the day
Come on, on grade, touche
We’re no damsels in distress
Don’t mess with the dress

All for one you too,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one and one for all
All for one, one for all x2

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Axt of Esme Lennox


Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Axt of Esme Lennox is one of my school Christmas Fair finds. There is a reason I always ‘help’ at the book stall. This year I did exceptionally well on the first trawl through the donations. And, promptly wrapped them up and shoved them under the Christmas Tree as ‘birthday presents’. The best part of having a Christmas birthday is being able to put another stack of presents under the tree. Inevitably, I wind up buying myself books in charity shops whilst trawling through them for the teenager [and a big thank you to whoever donated all the Anne Rice books. That was the Teenager sorted].

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is so very beautiful and so very heart-breaking. It is just the story of two young girls born in India who return “home” to Edinburgh to find husbands. As with so many of the children of British Raj, the two girls are traumatised and lonely. They are the unloved pawns of a society obsessed with appearance. They, inevitably, are punished for the transgressions of their parents and their parents’ parents. 

It is about families and betrayal and the destruction of generations after one malicious act. It is the story of madness, rape, betrayal and the Patriarchy. 

There is no redemption. There is no forgiveness. There is only the waves of destruction which threaten them all.





Isabel Ashdown’s Glasshopper and Hurry Up and Wait

I read Isabel Ashdown’s Hurry Up and Wait first. It was one of those multiple-narrator-exposing-a-secret books which I generally enjoy. I wasn’t very sure about this one though. I’m never very fond of books which use school reunions as a plot device. It’s too tired a plot device and, unfortunately, the secret far too obvious from the beginning. I wouldn’t have bothered reading her other books had I not been stuck in the car and Glasshopper was the only book downloaded on my kindle app. It was Glasshopper. Glasshopper was just wrong; in many ways.  Unlike Hurry Up and Wait, Glasshopper had a male protagonist and that made the problem with Ashdown’s books obvious.

Ashdown really doesn’t like the women characters in her books. All of the characters are flawed but Ashdown seems to blame the women for not being able to deal psychologically with their trauma whilst the men are forgiven. In Glasshopper’, male violence isn’t even considered a reason worthy of exploring when the real problem is male violence. I would have snarled and then ignored had I not come across this blurb for Hurry Up and Wait which appears on Ashdown’s website:

In her eagerly anticipated second novel Mail on Sunday Novel Competition winner Isabel Ashdown explores the treacherous territory of adolescent friendships, and traces across the decades the repercussions of a dangerous relationship.

There was no “dangerous relationship”.  A violent sexual predator targeting teenagers does not enter into a “relationship” with them. He was a rapist. He targeted young, vulnerable girls. And, he raped them. The moment people start using phrases like “dangerous relationships” is the moment we start obfuscating child rape. Ashdown has done for child rape what Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife did for domestic violence.

I would like back the 3 hours it took me to read both books and the 20 minutes I spent writing this. 

Apparently, "my politics" are the problem: Mumsnet, Vagenda and Feminism

I’ve been struggling to write a proper response to Holly Baxter’s guest blog for Mumsnet. I remain incredibly saddened that Mumsnet chose to run this particular blogpost by Holly Baxter from Vagenda as part of the 16 Days of Activism on VAW.* I am unhappy that they linked my bloghop, which I intended to be a celebration of women’s voices, with a blog post which erases women from the feminist movement. I am annoyed that they locked the thread on the blog post where many of us were raising our concerns. I am disappointed that they dismissed our concerns as irrelevant to the point where they locked a thread and did not return to it. But, mostly, I am hurt that my concerns have been dismissed because of “my politics”, as if my “politics” make me incapable of rational thought. I am hurt that the concerns of other women are also being dismissed. As Lynn Schreiber said when commenting on a draft of this piece “if it is your politics, then it is our politics, as we were just as dismayed and angered by the reaction of Mumsnet.”

There really is so much wrong with Baxter’s post that it’s difficult to know where to start. At best, Baxter’s post was extremely naive but, to be honest, I think I am being over-kind with that description. Using the violent murder of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 to start a debate about the role of men within the feminist movement is, simply, offensive. There are valid debates to be had about the role of men in the feminist movement. This was neither the time nor the place.

Baxter compounds this offence by failing to name the 14 women who were murdered.

Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21;
Hélène Colgan, 23;
Nathalie Croteau, 23;
Barbara Daigneault, 22;
Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
Maud Haviernick, 29;
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
Maryse Leclair, 23;
Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
Michèle Richard, 21;
Maryse Laganière, 25;
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
Annie Turcotte, aged 21. 

And, that is what is wrong with Holly Baxter’s blog. She makes it about the man rather than the women who were murdered. This isn’t unusual since this is precisely what the mainstream media does when violent men murder women. But, this isn’t a feminist position. It has never been a feminist position. Feminism is a woman-centred movement. 

What Baxter seems to miss is that the man who murdered 14 women for being ‘feminists’ was never going to be a part of the feminist movement. He was never going to understand that the reason he didn’t get into the Canadian airforce or the Ecole Polytechnique was because of his personal failings. Men like that don’t respond to reason or constructive discourse. The men who do, the men we want involved in the feminist movement, don’t need to be told what to do or have to be in charge. They are already involved although sometimes their ‘help’ can be of questionable value as seen in the ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ marches. The point is we don’t have to make a special effort to involve those men. If they want to be involved, they will be. Yet, Baxter seems to be implying that if feminists spent more time worrying about the involvement of men in the feminist movement, then men would be less likely to kill us. So, really it’s our fault that violent, anti-feminist men kill women they identify as feminists because we aren’t nice enough. It’s just another form of victim-blaming. 

Frankly, I struggle to take any self-defined feminist who says this seriously: 

But it’s important to remember that feminism is about destroying patriarchal assumptions (which, incidentally, include the assumptions that men are naturally aggressive, animalistic and hypersexual – insulting, to say in the least.) It’s not about destroying men, or holding innocent men to account for the actions of people who share nothing in common with them except a penis. That’s just biblical.

Feminists are already aware that feminism is about destroying patriarchal assumptions. The thing is feminists aren’t the ones labelling men as “naturally aggressive, animalistic and hypersexual”. That is the position the Patriarchy takes in its efforts to minimise and excuse male behaviour. Jack Layton, one of the co-founders of the White Ribbon Movement in 1991, has been explicit that he was talking about male violence against women. The fact that the White Ribbon Campaign has become gender-neutral is testimony more to the power of those who want to ignore the issue of male violence than it is to men’s interest in the feminist movement. The men I know, who support the feminist movement, are more than aware that the vast majority of violence committed against women and children is by men. They know that the vast majority of violence committed against men is by other men. 


Marc Lepine was not an isolated “madman“. To imply that ignores the lived realities of billions of women across the world. If Lepine were one isolated man, millions of women each year would not by murdered by men. If Marc Lepine was an “isolated” madman, then we have an epidemic of “isolated” madmen causing devastation and mass murder on an almost daily basis. Or, we could start discussing the reality of male violence and start expecting men to take responsibility for male violence, particularly since there are already men willing to address this issue.
The Massacre at the Polytechnique in Montreal was Canada’s Dunblane. This is something that we will never forget. It is something that has changed us all. To conflate it with the issue of men’s participation in the feminist movement is, simply, disrespectful. There are very valid discussions to be had about the involvement of men but this isn’t the time and it is most certainly not the ‘hook’ to use to make a cheap political point.


* I am not going to address the personal attack made by Holly Baxter on Dr. Julia Long. Dr. Long has addressed the issue here. What I will say is that Baxter owes Dr. Long an apology and it’s telling that despite being factually wrong, Baxter has made no public statement retracting her personal attack.

Circus Freak Shows: Bullying Culture, Mass Media and Personal Responsibility

This past Halloween, I watched the film Monster House with my children. It is one of the unnecessary DVDs that we own but one that I had not actively watched before. It is a childrens film about a haunted house. I expected puerile jokes and unnecessary references to films that no one cares about anymore. I was wrong.

The basic plot of Monster House is that a house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman, Constance, who steals children’s toys, which land on the grass around it. Before being rescued by the man she marries, Constance had spent her life as an unwilling freak show act in a circus where children paid money to laugh, belittle and humiliate her. Constance dies falling into the foundations of the house she was building with her rescuer-husband, after, once again, being belittled by a group of small children, and the house thus becomes both Constances grave and her avenger.

Possessed by the spirit of the abused Constance, the house is portrayed as insane, evil and violent. There is no discussion of whether or not she was justified in her paranoia following years of intense bullying. The house is angry and frightened because Constance was angry and frightened. But, no one listened when Constance was alive and no one listened when she died. Instead, the climax of the film is the complete destruction of Constance.

It is easy to dismiss Monster House as just another poorly executed childrens movie but this film is simply a reflection of our culture. We may no longer have circus freak shows designed to bully and humiliate those who do not fit our gendered dichotomy of human bodies, but our bullying culture still exists in the form of reality television, shock-jock radio programs, the ubiquity of  lifestyle and celebrity magazines, and mass media coverage of news. Much of our entertainmentnow rests on the same constructions as the circus freak show, we are simply unwilling to acknowledge our own personal responsibility in consuming these forms of entertainment and the harm that they cause.

Just as we now blame Mel Greig and Michael Christian for the death of Jacintha Saldanha, we blame Constance for her actions without looking at the context. I do not want to minimize what Greig and Christian did, since anyone who is no longer 15 should know the potential consequences of pranks, but they are not the only ones who are guilty in the death of Saldanha. Focusing our blame on Greig and Christian is a convenient way to minimize our collective guilt as a society that actively encourages the same bullying experienced by Constance.

Greig and Christian would not have made the prank call if there was not an audience for it. We cannot simply blame the two, although their culpability is without doubt, we also need to examine our own behaviour. We need to take personal responsibility for perpetuating and perpetrating bullying culture. Without an audience of consumers buying magazines like Heat and Grazia or newspapers like the Sun and the Daily Mail or watching/listening to shock jocks like Howard Stern and Matthew Wright, there would be no financial incentive for these people to behave in a crass and offensive manner. Before we start blaming others, we need to check our own behaviour, examine our own privilege, and stop financially supporting an industry based on the abject humiliation of others. The harm caused to vulnerable people who participate in reality television is obvious, yet millions of people watch shows like Big Brother and X-Factor and laugh at the judges’ vile comments. Millions of people take to Twitter to insult the physical appearance of contestants.
We shouldn’t need the Leveson Inquiry to regulate the media. We should be holding the media accountable through our financial power. We can change print media simply by refusing to consume misogynistic, racist, disablist and homophobic stories. We can change talk radio by switching off Greig, Christian and Stern. We can change the culture of bullying traumatised families by refusing to purchase newspapers or watch television newscasts that show images of traumatised parents mourning the loss of their children. We can stop buying newspapers that doorstop grieving parents. We can stop consuming media that suggest that women and children are somehow responsible for their own deaths at the hands of violent men for just exisiting.

Monster House is a film, which uses the emotional and physical abuse experienced by a vulnerable woman and then blames the woman for her behavior, whilst excusing the children, and their parents, who bullied her during her life. In fact, the film never makes the direct correlation between the long-term abuse experienced by Constance and her quite justified paranoia. The blame is entirely Constances despite the fact that society had conspired against her for cheap entertainment.

Contemporary mass media from reality television to celebrity culture, from talk shows to shock jocks, together form a 21st century freak show, only now the phenomenon is 24/7 and shows no respect for private boundaries or personal space. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people, like Constance, and we pay to financially support their exploitation. We continue to exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, in traditional and online media, in the music industry and in pornography.

Life isn’t a circus freak show. Lets just stop acting like it is.