UK Politics

That Madeleine Moment

Madeleine Bunting is opining at length in the Guardian again. This time she’s demonstrating her displeasure at the less than friendly press treatment of two women in the news: Sharon Shoesmith, the ex-head of Haringey Children’s Services which failed to protect Baby P and Karen Matthews, who arranged the false imprisonment her own daughter.

Is it ‘coz they are wimmin? she wonders:

Sharon Shoesmith, the disgraced former Haringey director of children’s services, went to Pret a Manger last week and then out for a pizza with friends. Who knows, and who cares? But it still warranted a substantial picture and story in the tabloids, to whom this woman has become a hate figure. This is how the 21st century does voodoo: instead of sticking pins in wax dolls, newspaper reporters crawl all over the victim’s life – relatives, in-laws, homes, and even their trips to a sandwich shop.

Several hundred miles away and a million miles in life chances, another woman’s life has been mercilessly exposed to public vilification: Karen Matthews. She was “pure evil”, a slob who had never done a day’s work in her life. Matthews behaved appallingly to her daughter and she will rightly go to prison for it, but her life story was one of such desperate inadequacy that it demanded pity alongside our judgment, not demented mob hysteria.

These two have almost nothing in common – one the professional high flyer, the other an unemployed, unemployable mother of numerous children by different fathers. But they are both women, and the way their stories have been covered in many parts of the media in recent weeks is tantamount to deranged. What goes completely overlooked is the context that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men on their wives and children; instead, the moral outrage is whipped up to fever pitch and a few women are singled out to be subjected to its onslaught.

Oh dear God: where do you begin attempting to engage with thinking so woolly it could only be be from the perpetually-grinding mouth of the Guardian’s own pet herbivore? The press may have been ugly and intrusive in these cases, but is it really because of Shoesmith’s and Matthews’ gender?

CIF commenters aren’t so sure that it is:

So we can’t focus on women who have committed actual harm because its men who cause more harm? So even though these women have done horrible things we can’t condemn them because they belong to the wrong gender? Because apparently in your world moral outrage is never disproportionately targeted at men ever.

It’s a fair set of questions, isn’t it? They need answering.

Here’s another commenter despairing at Our Maddy’s lack of geographical knowledge of the country she pontificates about so regularly:

I presume Bunty lives in London and the North is a grey place where dreadful Lowry-like people talk in horrible accents, eat mushy peas, and keep whippets and pigeons. Bunty, it is not several hundred miles from Harringey, London to where Karen Matthews lives. She lives in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, not Inverness or Aberdeen. It`s about 160 or 170 miles from your Graun office in London.

That’s actual miles, mind, not kneejerk commentater miles.

Readers are invited to continue the time-honoured and traditional scourging of Our Maddy of the Sorrows in the comments box below.