I Wish I Was Surprised By Mark Field’s Violence
CW: discussion of assault, violence
Yesterday, Foreign Office minister, Mark Field, physically assaulted a climate change activist at a black-tie banquet. As she walked by him with a stack of flyers in hand, Field took forceful hold of Janet Barker and slammed her against a marble pillar, before grabbing her by the neck and pushing her roughly from the room.
The video footage of the assault is deeply uncomfortable; I would go as far as to say that I’m certain most womxn, and a proportion of men, are familiar with the feeling of being on the receiving end of this kind of physical power dynamic, if not in this exact position. This footage is also, sadly, only the very tip of the iceberg. If you haven’t seen the footage, it’s very easy to find with a simple Google but I’m not including it here because, honestly, it’s upsetting.
(Let’s not forget the hilariously macabre symbolism here of a politician literally shoving a reminder of climate change out of the door so that he can enjoy his expensive bougie banquet with his other expensive bougie politician friends, but that’s a topic for another article.)
I cannot emphasise enough that he did this with cameras rolling. He, a wealthy, white minister, likely thought he would get off with a light slap on the wrists. Simple PR management for white male politicians: issue a half-baked apology and sweep it all under the rug, right? After all, the President of the United States has got away with far worse. In a post-‘Grab Them By The Pussy’ world, politicians seem to have taken the bar set by 45 and played a game of ‘assault chicken’ with it (not ‘chicken assault, don’t come at us plz vegans). What can they get away with? How far can they push it? So long as it’s not as bad as Trump, it’s fine, right?
If this is what he’s comfortable doing on camera, imagine what he does when there are none.
Really the most upsetting part is that every time a story such as this one hits the news, it becomes painfully, undeniably clear that we are not being listened to. Every time we have to read another headline about violence against womxn, people of colour, minorities, LGBTQ+ folk, or immigrants, we see the people around us, both in our daily lives and online, come out and express their shock. Their unadulterated shock. How could this possibly happen? This is totally unexpected!!
No, Karen, I hate to break it to you but I am not shocked. This is totally expected and I’m not surprised it happened. I’m least of all surprised at who did it. Of course not the individual himself, but the type of person. If you listened closely enough, or paid attention to the people around you who are constantly trying to tell you that we are daily being assaulted, silenced, killed, you would also not be shocked. If you were truly invested in our wellbeing beyond a flimsy public statement about how shocked you are to try to demonstrate your fickle, performative support, you would also not be shocked.
Field tried to explain his actions as “an instinctive response”. Um. You know there’s a name for a man who instinctively grabs women by the throat when he finds their presence or ideas disagreeable? Any woman will tell you who that man is, and he sure as shit not one who should be holding public office. You also know that neck-grabbing and non-fatal strangulation is a significant indicator that a man is likely to murder a women?
Field has since been suspended, pending investigation, by the Conservative Party. There are, however, a staggering amount of very vocal people who believe that he was justified in his response. If other recent judgements are anything to go by I suspect that the investigation will let him off the hook.
He also tried to suggest that he reacted as he did because she “may have had a weapon”. Where? Concealed under that close-fitting evening dress? Hidden in her non-existent sleeves? In between her pile of flyers? Many have pointed out on Twitter that the same people who were in uproar mere weeks ago demanding that throwing milkshakes at politicians be treated as violent terrorism are the same ones now excusing Field’s actions. Perhaps he was worried she had made a tactical McDonalds stop on the way over and didn’t want to spoil his nice new suit?