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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Why Janet Street Porter's criticism of Rebecca Humphries' statement is utterly unhelpful

‘Get a grip, girl.’

ON MONDAY NIGHT, Rebecca Humphries released a statement commenting on her partner Seann Walsh’s public indiscretion with his Strictly Come Dancing co-star, Katya Jones.

PastedImage-60104 Source: YouTube

As public scrutiny intensified throughout the day and lacklustre apologies were offered by both Seann and Katya on Twitter, Rebecca, who had been in a relationship with the comedian for five years, decided to contribute her voice to the narrative.

Refusing offers to sell her story, the actress chose instead to ‘tell it on her own terms’ on Twitter, and in a dignified but heartwrenching statement, she did.

Rebecca’s story was illustrative of a story known by so many women; a relationship in which the woman’s gut instinct is dismissed and seamlessly parlayed into the well-worn ‘pyscho girlfriend’ trope.

We spoke and I told him not for the first time that his actions over the past three weeks had led me to believe something inappropriate was going on. He aggressively and repeatedly called me a psycho/ nuts/ mental. As he has done countless times throughout our relationship when I’ve questioned his inappropriate hurtful behaviour.

You need look no further than the messages of support Rebecca has received in the wake of the post to understand that her situation was by no means unique.

Her description of a relationship, which was based on a continuous dismissal of her instincts with the help of the tirelessly cliched ‘hysterical woman’ narrative, struck a chord with the public.

It saw reposts, retweets and countless articles highlighting the importance of the message.

Indeed, Scottish Women’s Aid even saw fit to reiterate a crucial point in Rebecca’s post: “Believe in yourself and your instincts. It’s more than lying. It’s controlling.”

So for Janet Street Porter to disregard Rebecca’s thoughts so casually on yesterday’s episode of Loose Women is damaging to any woman who had felt empowered or inspired by the actress’s candour.

jsp Source: PA Images

Addressing her co-host, Ruth, as she read Rebecca’s statement, Janet interjected:

Ruth, Ruth, Ruth, we’re already bored. I’m a former newspaper editor and we discussed this earlier and I went ‘get a grip girl’.

While Janet didn’t condone Seann’s behaviour or question Rebecca’s assessment of her relationship, she did dismiss the way in which Rebecca articulated herself in the message and how she allowed herself to be appeased by Seann’s protestations.

Now if she had brought this copy into my newspaper office – this is what I did to her statement; ‘I am mad as hell, I am cross, I was stupid and naive. I suspected he was up to something. I should have hung up and gone out to celebrate. My message to other women is you are better!’

In one fell swoop, Janet belittled the lived experience of a woman who had been humiliated on a public platform by her partner, and simply wanted to give herself a voice after five years of having it silenced.

For the journalist to suggest that Rebecca would have been better placed to call herself ‘stupid’ and ‘naive’ in her statement, Janet is indirectly branding each and every woman who is currently living Rebecca’s situation with those very terms.

For Janet to say Rebecca should have simply ignored her gut instinct and gone out to celebrate her birthday regardless of the fact her partner was having drinks with another woman is reductive; it ignores the impact half a decade of ‘aggressive dismissals’ will have on a person’s ability to throw caution to the wind and kick up their heels.

Whether she realises it or not, Janet’s commentary has far-reaching implications, and will directly or indirectly contribute to the number of people who may not speak up for fear of being branded stupid or naive.

Janet was not speaking to a woman who had now dubbed herself ‘strong, capable and free’ in the aftermath of her partner’s infidelity, she was speaking to women who had yet to extricate themselves; women who were perhaps fearful of doing exactly that.

When a woman’s charity sees fit to support the sentiments expressed by a person who described herself as ‘feeling trapped’ in her relationship, it’s not Janet Street Porter’s job to condense or modify those sentiments.

Rebecca’s thoughts and feelings have been dismissed enough already; she doesn’t need a woman to do it on national television.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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