Radio personalities have a responsibility when it comes to tackling rape culture — but so do the show sponsors, says Suzanne Harrington
WHAT causes rape — flirting, hotel rooms, being drunk, or rapists? The answer, for the benefit of Newstalk FM’s George Hook, is of course rapists.
You may be aware that Hook, a76-year-old former sports commentator and — according to his website — ‘humanitarian’, wondered on his radio show last week “is there no blame now for the person who puts themselves in danger?”
He was referring to a British teenager who had been raped in a hotel room. By being in the hotel room with a man, he suggested that it was she who had put herself in danger, rather than the rapist who raped her.
Since then, Hook has apologised — three times on Twitter the day after his comments, then live on air as reaction to the toxicity he created continued to gather momentum.Despite admitting that he “played a part in perpetuating the stigma” of rape, and grovelling unreservedly that he was “truly sorry”, this did not prevent a key Newstalk FM sponsor, Dalata Hotels Group, from pulling their funding.
The hotel chain stated that it“cannot support any radio station that allowed inappropriate and hurtful comments to be made.” Which suggests that Hook is entirely the responsibility of Newstalk FM, and not just some free-range big-mouthed bigot of the airwaves who cannot be contained or curtailed. As well as Clayton Hotels (owned by the Dalata group), 25 other companies and organisations advertised during Hook’s show, High Noon, when he made his comments about blaming rape on the woman who has been raped. At the time of writing, just Clayton Hotels had withdrawn support.
Initially, only one of Hook’s Newstalk FM colleagues condemned his comments —political editor Chris Donohue called them “disgusting”. As online reaction escalated, by Monday the station’s managing editor Patricia Monahan had issued a statement saying that what Hook had said was “totally wrong and inappropriate and should never have been made.” She made no comment on Hook’s future at the station, prompting one Twitter user to say that by not firing him, the station was condoning Hook’s views.
Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) said Hook’s comments were “victim- blaming at its worst”, showing“complete ignorance as to its impact on women who have been raped”.
The NWCI tweeted how his words were “a perfect encapsulation of rape culture”, with a message that could “enable rapists”, while Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland tweeted that Hook’s “increasingly stupid, ignorant rants are grossly irresponsible”.
Or, as the satirical Waterford Whispers News site put it: “Ignorant Bollocks Says Something Ignorant.”
This is not Hook’s first pronouncement on rape. In 2015, he spoke — again on Newstalk FM — about something he termed “implied consent” while discussing a rape case where a woman’s partner raped her as she slept. Hook suggested that as the woman and the rapist were partners and sharing a bed, she had somehow consented, without words or without being awake. Perhaps Hook is unaware that relational rape was criminalised in Ireland in 1990.
A brief look at a passage from Hook’s 2005 autobiography, Time Added On, offers queasy insight to his attitude to women.
Describing meeting a woman in a bar, he writes, “Where I come from the only women who drink gin and tonic and wear eye shadow are fallen ones … I’ve struck gold … fill your boots! … I order tonic water for myself while pushing the G&Ts into her.”
Hook’s on air “heartfelt” and“unreserved” apology for his misogynistic discourse last week also included the following line: “We have a duty to our daughters and granddaughters to protect that right [to drink alcohol without being raped as a consequence]. On Friday I failed in that duty of care.”
Let’s unpack that statement a little.
In it, women are reclassified as “daughters and granddaughters”, rather than independent beings, whose right to live their lives must be protected by the patriarchy — by men like Hook. By bolstering misogyny in his monologue, he says he has failed in his duty to look after women, which he believes is what women need. To be looked after by old men like George Hook.
George Hook’s apologies are meaningless and self-serving, trotted out to save what’s left of his career.
Should he maintain his position at Newstalk, his employers are sending a clear signal to Irish men and women — men, do what you like, because women don’t matter.
Such attitudes are over, finished, dead in the water — as should be the talk show career of George Hook. Anything less would be too grotesque to countenance. Ugh.
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