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Jimmy Savile: A comment on those times

October 9, 2012

Most visiting me here probably think I deal with the more light-hearted side of life and perhaps you are right.  However, today, I am going to write about something which is in the news at the moment because I’ve lived and worked through the era which is the subject of so much discussion and disgust in relation to the behaviour of men such as Jimmy , and the way women were treated twenty, thirty, forty years ago in offices and work places.

I am fully aware that not just I but many women working in offices back then were subject to many forms of harassment which often took the form of  being ‘just a joke’,  and that failing to be amused at having your bottom pinched or being fondled in the office by someone in authority was seen as ‘a bit of fun’,  and that anyone objecting was either a lesbian or frigid.

When I first started work in a foreign country I was the youngest and only English speaker in my office.  It was my first job since leaving school and I was placed in an office with about ten men and three women, all much older than me.  As well as putting up with conversations in a dialect which I had a job following, I also had to put up with obviously derogatory comments about me and jokes at my expense – you know when someone is doing this and I certainly did regardless of the language problem.

I can take a joke along with anyone else and I don’t mind laughing at myself, but what went on in that office when I was in my teens was dreadful and sent me home in tears every day.  Not only was I groped in the photocopying room by my boss who  would not take no (in both languages) seriously, but when I complained he made sure that my end of probation period report was not a good one even though no-one had ever complained about my work.

He and his cronies made sure that I would be the one to open the stationery cupboard so that I would be confronted with full frontal nude photos (from Amsterdam) of people in all sorts of  ‘situations and positions’ -and every variation and combination of people you can imagine –  also with animals!  My blushes and embarrassment was a sense of amusement and being unable to understand a lot of the language because of the heavy local dialect I could not grasp most of what they said which caused such hilarity.  I loathed them all and I hated having to go to work every day.  I won’t go into detail fully, but this was just an example of their behaviour.

Fast forward to living and working in London – still at the end of the 1960’s/early 1970’s and I then had to run the gauntlet of the daily tube journey to work in Whitehall.  Heavily pregnant I used to stand most of the way into town in the heat of an exceptionally hot summer.  No seat was ever offered and often I passed out only to wake on the floor surrounded by people pretending they hadn’t noticed.  Men would just raise their Newspapers to cover their faces.

Packed in like sardines I often found myself jammed up against people who were just as squashed as I was.  You could not see who stood behind you and movement was impossible such was the squeeze.  Several mornings in a row I was grabbed by a man standing behind me.  The first time I thought I was mistaken and convinced myself to ignore it.  However, the following mornings I found myself squashed up against the door and I could see the reflection of the same man behind me.  As we left the station to go through the tunnel he grabbed me again (from behind) and this time I shouted at him but he ignored me and did it again, painfully and more intimately.  I managed to move my arm behind me and I took a handful of him (I think you can guess where) and squeezed him hard.  He nearly went into orbit and the whole train heard his yells and abuse of me. 

When everyone looked at him, he changed his tune. He informed the whole carriage that I must have been so desperate for a bloke – being pregnant – that he was only doing me ‘a favour’ and that I had ‘accidentally’ grabbed him too hard in my excitement at being able to get my hands on him at last!  Besides he only patted me in a ‘friendly way’ and rubbing my bump was for good luck!

Back then complaining got you the reputation of being a bad sport, a lesbian, frigid or unable to take a joke.  I often wonder how men would take constant groping and fondling in public by a woman!  Fun at first?  But soon an embarrassment, an annoying and humiliating unwanted experience.

None of this ever led to rape or anything near it, thankfully.  But I can understand how the women who are coming forward now felt back then when they were being abused, not just by Jimmy Savile but by others in authority or in power.  Who to turn to?  Who would listen and act upon it?  Often, no-one.

Back in the late 1960’s when my husband was a musician and his band were releasing and promoting albums the guys from Radio were an obvious target for the PR companies to woo.  Getting a Radio  DJ on your side made all the difference to your release getting air-play and exposure.  To having a hit.

It wasn’t until many, many years after he left his band that we discovered that certain ‘favours’ were provided for the guys from Radio which were supposed to ‘smooth the way’ for them to think more ‘favourably’ about pushing the band’s releases on Radio.   Without naming names and going into situations in detail for obvious reasons, the band discovered that there had been ‘girls’ provided for certain famous individuals as a ‘sweetner’. 

Imagine their horror when they found out about this. None of them knew anything about it at the time and it would certainly have been stopped had they known.  Yet, would anyone have listened to them if they had complained?  Who would they have gone to?  It seems to me listening to the details of the BBC and other entertainment entities involvement in this disgusting mess involving Jimmy Savile and others, that complaints would have fallen on deaf ears.

Just as my complaints years ago had been ignored, sneered at and eventually led to my work report being ‘doctored’ out of spite, I think that the band would have lost promotion on the Radio, and most likely had other things done to them to ruin their careers – who knows.

I left my job to work back in England where it was better – apart from the tube – but it seems to me this ‘Rugby Club changing room’ behaviour has gone on unchecked for decades in offices and places where women work and not just the entertainment industry.

I hope things have changed in this day and age, but somehow I doubt it really, in-spite of the laws and legislation to protect women and others from bullying and sexual harassment, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it still goes on.

There, that is my serious piece for now.  Normal service will be resumed soon.

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8 Comments
  1. I don’t think I can actually bear to look at Savile any longer, thank goodness it’s slightly gone of the boil on TV and his picture isn’t being plastered all over our screens every evening. There was always a lot of innuendo going about at the time but what I heard concerned young women rather than children. Even then I honestly couldn’t see why anyone would want to get physically close to him! Now to find the depth of his dreadful activities my skin crawls. The only pity is that he isn’t still alive so he could pay for what he has done.

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    • I agree…nasty little man. Well perhaps he will get what is coming to him in another world. His victims need some sort of resolution and I hope this will soon be achieved and they can get on with their lives, happier than before. Nice to see you here. Thanks for visiting and do come again xx

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  2. So many women have encountered such unpleasantness and worse. I’m finding it difficult watching this story unravel. More has to be done, especially where children are concerned, as they are the most vulnerable. Predators can spot the vulnerable children, such easy targets. Of course, when it happens to you, you always think the problem lies with you, you feel ashamed.
    This is why it’s so important to talk about it. No matter how long ago events took place.

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    • I know Elle, it is a dreadful thing to contemplate and this must drag up and open old wounds and nightmares for many who have suffered. I should think there are many stars quaking in their boots at the thought of being unmasked. I hope they throw the book at them and they rot in hell. Hoping you are well and book sales going good. Nice to chat here. I have been away from here a lot as working on two novels at the same time….duh! xx

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  3. kimcox37 permalink

    Hi Jane, looks like I picked the right day to stop by. Loved the the serious piece and that you were so open to putting your experiences out there. Thanks for sharing! All the best!

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    • Jane Risdon permalink

      That is great Kim, thanks for visiting and do pop back and by all means leave a comment. I suppose I always thought, like the band, that what had happened to them was a ‘one off’, but of course after 40 years in music I now know differently and if I didn’t fear being sued I would write about it! I just add little snippets in my books in other ways. Personally, when younger I found the whole groping thing really upsetting. today I would probably have the verbal skills to wipe the floor loudly as hell with the person or just smack him one! Some women even find it funny and brush it off…but I guess there are degrees of groping….on the tube was not nice….it was intimate and it hurt!! Anyway, I have visited and liked your pieces and will pop in again and comment at some point I am sure. Thanks again, appreciated. xx

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  4. I got off relatively lightly during much the same period, Jane! In my first job I was innocently astonished when a colleague invited me out for a drink – I knew his wife was in hospital with a brand new baby. I think my complete inability to take on board the idea that a married man could possibly do such a thing was my protection, in many ways! I did, however, have to walk from my office to my boss’s through a long drawing office, with about 20 designers and draughtsmen either side. To their credit they were never offensive, but they used to set up a sibilant whisper: ‘Here’s Nic, what’s she wearing today? Nice short skirt. Oh-oh, there she goes, she’s blushing.’ They were nice men and it was done in fun and to be honest, it helped me to be far less shy. But today they’d never get away with it.
    In another job, at a college (now a uni), a senior lecturer asked me out for a drink. Again, I knew he was married but by then I’d cottoned on to the fact that married men did, sometimes, do such things! He was stumped though, when I said – completely truthfully – that I had to get home because the cat had been to the vet’s and I was worried about him!

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    • Jane Risdon permalink

      Oh I know how easy it is not to find something funny or not to understand the signals until too late. Have had plenty of those, but sometimes the comments are really offensive and worse than rude and the grabbing in intimate places not very nice and so uncomfortable. I even had friends of my father’s misbehaving when I was a teen and that was terrible. My experience in Germany was an education and about things I really didn’t need to know about as such a young age…later they do not upset me but back then I was bewildered….a convent girl I admit! I am not a prude but looking back at the whole carry on there fills me with disgust. The Radio DJ thing is another matter…the girls involved were young and under pressure I think and the people involved are all household names with ‘reputations’………if it ever came out I think people would be stunned. It goes on still. I see that over 100 women have come forward so far……

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