I first knew Noel Clarke from the first series of the reincarnated (regenerated?) Doctor Who. Since then Noel has produced and acted in much lauded films and has become a bit of a Brit made good.
But, yesterday, turns out he’s Brit made bad. Twenty or so women (such as Jing Lusi, pictured) have come out in a national newspaper detailing their not so great experiences with him ranging from bullying to straight up sexual harassment.
I’m freshly raw from the revelations that my director/writing hero, Joss Whedon (him of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) acts like a bully on set, not to mention all those caught out by Operation Yewtree, and Johnny Depp. The more I think, the more I remember.
Is it misogyny? Doesn’t misogyny mean hatred of women? Looking it up…”dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women” (Wikipedia): These don’t really fit. The #MeToo-ishness of Noel Clarke could be someone who is obsessed by women, albeit a massively fucked up version of love. Someone who’s desperate to be noticed by them, possess them, touch them. I can just see that in his mind he is worshipping them. There’s a sad lack of esteem running through this story. There’s a beautiful girl he must have or he will be worthless. He doesn’t have the confidence to woo her in a healthy way that’s fun for both: there’s too much at stake to risk rejection. So he must ensure it by a thrilling exercise of power.
(The tag of misogyny almost lends itself to men getting away with it: I can’t be a misogynist, says Trump, I have a couple of women in my cabinet. I love my daughters, my wife.)
I’m reminded of another fallen hero, this time a Bristolian. (My other half is from Bristol so we have close ties.) When zeitgeist comedian and TV presenter Justin Lee Collins, Brizzle accent and all, was revealed in 2012 as a control freak who subjected his girlfriend to minute-by-minute subjugation, it took a court case and phone recordings of what he said for him to admit he had a problem. Same for Noel. Same for Johnny. The kind of narcism where they build up their nearest and dearest, control, bully or subject them to unwanted advances, then absolutely gaslight their victims’ experiences to newspapers and courts alike because they believe they are doing nothing wrong.
How does this dysfunction come about? Surely it’s an acceptable risk, extreme talent comes with character flaws? Er, no. Leaders (and artists) need to inspire, bring people with them, not subjugate and exploit to further their own glory and negative egos.
If we valued cooperative and integrity, the sharing of triumphs of team work over the (film trailer voice:) ‘one man’, if we encouraged men to seek help when they are feeling alone and frightened then perhaps we would not be in this situation. If women, and the way women traditionally go about things, were valued then we would not treat them as ego-bolsters.
I read a piece about PM Boris Johnson yesterday (annoyingly I can’t find it to source it) which interviewed some men up North during the 2019 election, working class people who once may have considered themselves natural Labour voters. He’s one of us, they said. But he’s an Etonian who reads Greek poetry at bedtime, the journalist said. But we could have a pint with him, they said. What about his track record on women, two-timing them? the journalist asked. I wish I had his sex life, they said. When the prime minister’s attitude (and Trump of course) to women is seen as a badge of honour take it as a sign, in big flickering neon red, that our society is still in trouble. Interesting that we have bypassed the kind of sexual scandal that in years gone by have brought down powerful ministers and, instead of saying, your private life is your own but treating women like trophies, like notches on the bedpost, is deplorable and unacceptable for a world leader, goodbye, they have instead dispensed with the hypocritical veneer and just come right out and admitted that sexual conquest of women simply shows what a powerhouse they are.
Well here’s some headline news: Women are not a gauge to track your importance in the world. Stick that in your ministerial code of conduct.
There’s hope, though. The BAFTAs quickly withdrew Noel’s achievement award. More prompt action like this will drip, drip drip it’s no longer a strength to act like this, installing a new instinct: be kind. If only voters would act like this too.
What can we women do? We don’t have to put up with men like that. We should reject them, not tie our own self-worth to a man scattering the crumbs of his attention, as girlfriends, wives and voters. But it’s often not easy, almost impossible; solidarity and sisterhood are essential so these narcissists can’t divide and alienate us and make us feel like we are making a fuss, powerless. We need to share these experiences with our family and friends and have these experiences acknowledged and resolved.
Home Secretary Priti Patel: successful woman or indoctrinated into toxic maleness, with her handling of refugees, the bullying of civil servants passed off as ignorance, wanting to criminalise those who deface and topple memorials to slavers (as in the new Police Bill) and give a maximum sentence equal to the minimum sentence for murder?
After blowing on the ink of The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, carefully blotting Chapter 4: 46, Part 3 and 4, she looks up to the rest of the cabinet who look at each other and say, don’t mind Priti, she’s one of the boys.