Last week the actor Noel Clarke was accused of groping, harassment and bullying by 20 women. The investigation was uncomfortable reading but what was just as uncomfortable was the ease with which fellow actors took to Twitter to share their stories and say how they had known for years.
A friend called to tell me how everyone in her acting circle knew but did nothing. She was distressed that these apparently good people were as much part of the problem as Clarke himself. Clarke says he is “deeply” sorry for his actions, but “vehemently” denies sexual misconduct.
Many of those tweeting were men with a platform and standing within the media world which meant if they had wanted to they could have done more. I have spent that past few months talking to women and girls about violence against women and girls and we all have a story. We also have a fear of speaking up because we have seen what has happened to brave women and girls who take a stand.
That is why I am so angry about the number of those apparently happy to stand by and do nothing within the acting world. After #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s a joke that women are still not being believed. I am troubled by that and so should we all be.
Maybe my visceral reaction is because growing up I saw those who could have done more when it came to FGM turn a blind eye.
Bafta has now suspended Clarke over the allegations. But sexual predators and abusers hide in plain sight because of the patriarchal culture that supports men raised to believe they have a right over women’s bodies.
A culture which in turn feeds women with fear and teaches them that their feelings don’t matter. What Clarke is accused of doing is criminal, but the fact that women did not feel like they could report him, tells us it’s not about more legislation, but education and enforcement. We need to start talking about the broken social contact between men and women and how the abuse of women and girls has been normalised. It is unacceptable that it is only after it hits the headlines that we start taking abuse seriously.
I want us to believe women and girls and to accept that enough is finally enough. There may be countless men out there in other industries abusing their positions. They won’t make front-page news but they should also be held accountable by those of us who can and should know better.
When I first read that Bill and Melinda Gates were divorcing after 27 years I thought, “Why bother?”. OK, I have never been married — so what would I know — but having met them a few times I assumed they were the real-life Sheldon and Amy and therefore would just be together forever.
But I guess the pandemic might have forced the globetrotting couple to spend too much time with each other, leading to this, or maybe Melinda just couldn’t deal with an adult who drinks so much Diet Coke any longer. Yes, the amount of Diet Coke Bill Gates consumed was my main takeaway from the documentary about him. Whatever is behind their separation I wish them well. If she does end up leading the foundation expands further its already considerable investment in women and girls.
Or maybe he will do that — let’s not assume she was the only feminist in that relationship.