The Sun will protect Jeremy Clarkson. Who will protect women who suffer violence every day? | VV Brown

In the wake of Clarkson’s diatribe, we urgently need to challenge the role the media plays in perpetuating misogynistic attitudes

It was 7pm. I finished the bedtime routine with my daughters, kissed them gently and shut the door. I took myself to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and within seconds burst into floods of tears. The physical memories of humiliation and sexual trauma from being raped when I was 21 flooded back – all because I had read an article written by Jeremy Clarkson in the Sun.

Over the years, many have spoken about Clarkson and his bigoted, contrarian opinions. It seems that in writing an article suggesting Meghan Markle ought to meet a misogynistic fate that was depicted in Game of Thrones, and be paraded down the street while people throw excrement at her, he has tripped over his own caricature. What’s worse is that many men and even some women have praised this despicable behaviour.

Many people, including a number of journalists, have defended Clarkson’s remarks on the grounds of freedom of speech. This is distorted and utterly distasteful. His remarks weren’t a joke about a popular TV show; they were hate. Language has power and satire reconfigures to serve the needs of the zeitgeist. Clarkson’s comments reminded me of the colonial, historical trauma where slave masters would print details of rapes and beatings in newspapers, condemning runaway enslaved people who had refused to conform to the rules of the plantation.

Freedom of speech is something that has wondrous power. There is beauty in the art of debate and differences of opinion. Such freedom is an essential part of democracy – but without ethics, how can we call ourselves civilised? Printing articles like this normalises violence against women. It desensitises cruelty and debases the credibility of journalism. So it’s no wonder that more than 60 MPs from different parties have written to the Sun’s editor – herself a woman – to demand an apology and that action is taken against Clarkson, or that more than 10,000 people have signed a petition I started opposing the article.

Women are sexually assaulted on a daily basis. Rape Crisis has reported that one in four women is raped or sexually assaulted as an adult; in March 2022, 70,330 rape cases were reported to the police. According to the charity, 618,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted every year. The criminal justice system consistently fails to protect us from these brutal forms of terrorism.

Violence against women doesn’t come from nowhere. It is normalised and encouraged, particularly by language such as Clarkson’s. To me, his words seemed a form of “misogynoir”discrimination prejudice, and violence aimed specifically at women of colour. Perhaps the Sun hedged their bets on this detail, and chose to monetise hate and sensationalise violence. While Clarkson will probably enjoy protection, women who suffer violence daily do not.

What happens when this public hysteria is over? One possible legal route is making misogyny a hate crime – something that activists and politicians such as the Labour MP Stella Creasy have long campaigned for. I’d like to see Clarkson, his editor and the media held truly accountable. It’s time to question and challenge our definitions of misogyny and racism perpetuated by the press. The racism shown towards Meghan doesn’t just affect one individual: it normalises racism and violence towards women of colour in general. Surely after the past few days we need to challenge the definitions of hate crime and misogyny in the media.

  • VV Brown is a musician and entrepreneur, and a trustee of the charity Say Something Collective.

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here.


VV Brown

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