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Under The Radar – 23 July

Heather Barnes on Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. Wolf-whistling to be criminalised

  2. Ben & Jerry’s

  3. The Alienation Game

Wolf-whistling to be criminalised

What happened?

Street harassment like wolf-whistling and the targeting of women in a sexually graphic or lewd way could become a crime under new government plans to protect the female population.

What does it mean?

Priti Patel’s pledge to make the public harassment of women and girls a criminal offence is a move in the right direction. However, the execution and follow-through is a far more salient issue and relies on institutions such as universities, schools, industry and law enforcement to make meaningful change, which is no easy feat.

It’s also questionable whether the legislation goes far enough. The new measures disregard that sexual harassment is not only isolated to male on female violence, and an urgent reconfiguration to include all sexual harassment victims – from male to trans – is needed.

But no matter how comprehensive the law is, powerful institutions that are often guilty of silencing accusations of harassment must be overhauled to create a society where victims believe their claims will be taken seriously and appropriately dealt with.

For example, despite being hotspots for sexual harassment and violence, a third of universities use ‘gagging’ clauses and NDAs to prevent students from speaking out about sexual assault on campuses. Meanwhile, recent accusations made by charity campaigners that police forces are often happy for rape and harassment victims to withdraw their cases as it lightens their burden only underlines how those with the power to enforce the new laws cannot be trusted to do so.

The material impact of such measures is yet to be seen, but without institutional change, this legislation will do little to combat sexual harassment and restore a real feeling of safety on the streets.

Ben & Jerry’s

What happened?

Ben & Jerry’s has announced that it will no longer sell its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The US company said that sales in the territories were “inconsistent with our values”.

What does it mean?

With Ben & Jerry’s long being known for its strongly-held political values, its decision to end ice cream sales in Israeli settlements is not out of character. But in recent years, as part of a growing trend, a chorus of other companies have also caught on to the merits of espousing clear stances on the biggest political and social issues of our time.

Within certain circles, this phenomenon has become known as ‘Woke Capitalism’, which was described by Helen Lewis in an article for The Atlantic last year as brands gravitating “toward low-cost, high-noise signals as a substitute for genuine reform, to ensure their survival.”

No doubt then that the boundaries between business and politics have never been more blurred, with no end in sight for a process that appears to be a long way from meeting its nadir.

Though if, and when, such a nadir does transpire, it will not be difficult to understand why: the company still sells its ice cream in China, which continues to hold roughly one million Uighurs in forced labour camps.

Seemingly though, running forced labour camps is not a practice Ben & Jerry’s considers to be inconsistent with their values.

The Alienation Game

What happened?

This week, Channel 4 aired an episode of its investigative programme Dispatches, which offered a rare insight into the UK’s family court system.

An Act of Parliament dictates that what happens in family courts must be kept secret, but the programme pushed the limits of this mandate to show how family courts are failing victims of domestic abuse.

What does it mean?

The episode revealed the alarmingly common practice of children being forcibly removed from one of their parents on charges of “parental alienation.”

The term was first coined by the American child psychiatrist Richard Gardner, who claimed that one parent can brainwash a child to distance it from the other parent. Gardner is a controversial figure, who has claimed that 90 percent of mothers are liars and that paedophilia is a “widespread and accepted practice”. His “science” has been discredited, with the US Supreme Court ruling that the term is based on “soft sciences” and therefore inadmissible in court; here in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence does not recognise parental alienation as a legitimate clinical term.

And yet, in family courts, it is gaining traction. The episode highlighted painful cases in which the charge is brought against mothers who are trying to protect their children from an abusive father. These women are told that they cannot “alienate” the children from the perpetrator and that they must even actively promote contact between them or else risk the children being moved away.

Family courts have long been shrouded in mystery. By lifting the lid on this concerning phenomenon, Channel 4’s episode will hopefully put pressure on the Government to reform the system.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. The Republicans Have Already Given Biden What He Needs by Russel Berman for The Atlantic

  2. Obscured by bias and opinion the news no longer feels like the news by Ben Cobley for the Critic

  3. Bitcoin’s gold rush was always an illusion by Will Dunn for the New Statesman

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