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Image / Editorial

The thing to remember when talking about Caroline Flack’s arrest

by Jennifer McShane
14th Dec 2019

The TV presenter was arrested and charged with assault, but subsequent media coverage of the event is a reminder that women are frequently judged more harshly for similar crimes than men, writes Jennifer McShane. 

That Caroline Flack committed an assault on her partner is not up for debate. We know the seriousness of it because she was arrested and charged for the offence.

The Guardian reports that she was arrested on Friday after an incident the day before. A spokeswoman confirmed Flack would appear on bail at Highbury Corner magistrates court on Monday 23 December. The 40-year-old was charged with assault by beating. The man was not seriously injured.

Quickly the calls for her to be fired took up social media. She should be taken to task for the assault in this way, because “if the shoe was on the other foot” that’s what would happen.

That she shouldn’t be allowed to go on as before in terms of her high-profile celebrity presenting job seems a fair and reasonable ask given her arrest – what she did was wrong and utterly unacceptable.

However, to say this would always be the case if it was a male isn’t necessarily the truth.

Uneven judgement 

We’ve long known that women are judged more harshly for similar crimes than men because we’ve seen it – and we continue to see it – time and time again.

Men might get charged, but it doesn’t always mean their lives are forever ruined as a result. Some even receive notoriety, some can start again. If you’re a women, often it’s never that simple. 

Look at Chris Brown. His career continued to soar after he was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna.

Actor Mel Gibson disappeared from public life for years following details of verbal abuse towards a former girlfriend. He was shunned by the industry, until Hollywood “forgave him” years later and he resumed making movies.

Batman actor Christian Bale was arrested and released on bail after a subsequent assault charge. He denied it, moved on and also resumed making movies.

Finally, it emerged this week that disgraced Harvey Weinstein, accused of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape, won’t have to admit wrongdoing or pay his own money to any of his victims.

His decades-long abuse of power is the reason the #MeToo movement gained momentum. Yet Weinstein believes he will be exonerated, make a comeback and that women ultimately will still pay the price for his actions. And sickeningly, he might be right.

Related: Two women confronted Harvey Weinstein at an event. They, and not Weinstein, were thrown out

He is a symbol of the way influential men can abuse their power, unchecked and even aided by those around them. Hollywood has a history of protecting these men. Of shaming their victims into silence. Hollywood also has a history of forgiving them. ‘Them” usually being men.

In the case of Caroline Flack, she should absolutely be held accountable for her actions, but to say things would be totally even if she were a male cannot be said as a fact.

Often we’ve seen nothing be further from the truth.