“Ever since Eve has been blamed for tempting Adam with an apple, women have been blamed for things men have done.”
These were the words of Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, and they stuck in the throat of feminists everywhere.
But regardless of the verdict, Maxwell isn’t a victim of gender inequality. If anything, she took advantage of it.
She is accused of using her gender to lure young, vulnerable girls who were sexually abused and raped by Jeffrey Epstein and others.
It is not that Sternheim’s statement is wrong, just that it doesn’t apply to Maxwell.
The majority of women who go through the criminal justice system are victims not perpetrators. They are usually poor, coerced and trapped by abuse or addiction.
But a small minority of women are also capable of predatory behaviour, violence and premeditated crimes in the same way as men.
Last week Savannah Brockhill was found guilty of murdering her girlfriend’s 16-month-old daughter Star Hobson by punching her to death.
She made her own choices and no one forced her hand.
But the justice system has historically failed women, who are often imprisoned for petty crime, committed to feed habits and exploitative relationships. In Scotland women such as rape victims are dragged through an inadequate legal process only to find themselves largely without justice.
Women are still assessed on their purity and demeanour by judges and juries, whether they are in the dock for shoplifting or the witness stand having been raped.
But Maxwell is far from one of those victims and there is not always a “master manipulator” behind a transgressing woman.
Maxwell was raised privileged and empowered, in a society where money is a higher God than morality.
She is said to have received millions from Epstein for her “services”. This wasn’t some poor woman coerced to steal for a partner for a tenner bag of heroin.
In her social whirl of royals and billionaires, every warped desire and fantasy could be indulged.
Hers was a rarefied bubble she assumed to be impenetrable by the law and for decades she was right. If anything Ghislaine is a victim of her appetite for Caligulan excess.
But Ghislaine didn’t indulge alone and young girls weren’t procured only for Epstein.
Maxwell and Epstein were rotten apples in a stinking barrelful. The majority of men she is accused of enabling in their predatory pursuits will never face any justice.
Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew were all friends with Epstein, yet they claim to have known nothing of his predatory behaviour.
Their assertion of ignorance will never be tested by the law because they don’t have to co-operate like normal people.
In the midst of it all are the young women who were troubled and naive but have been painted as temptresses, just like Eve.
Maxwell’s defence have labelled them money grabbers, motivated by the prospect of financial settlements. These girls, now women, are broken having spent decades not being believed and fighting against a system weighted against them.
It is a story of societal and gender inequality, an age old tale of vulnerable women being commodified.
This week the Encompass Network in Scotland produced data which revealed the damaged lives of women working in the sex industry.
In a survey of one week in November Encompass found women they helped were abused as children, suffering mental health issues, were trafficked and subjected to domestic abuse.
In our own country where women can be bought and sold like a burger at a stall, we should remember women and girls are suffering from predatory men every day.
It may not be happening in as salubrious surroundings but they are just as vulnerable as Epstein’s victims and just as damaged by their exploitation.
Whether a trafficked woman is raped by a billionaire or a builder doesn’t alter the horror.
Widescale sexual exploitation of women and girls is all about gender inequality, yet we tolerate it.
History will judge our society, just as it will Maxwell, for the harm done to such women.
Resurrecting Sex and The City a mistake
The Sex and the City actresses have taken their time in voicing support for the alleged victims of co-star Chris Noth.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis said they were “deeply saddened” to hear of the allegations. “We support the women who have come forward and shared their painful experiences,” they said in a joint statement.
Noth, 67, has rejected the accusations as “categorically false” but they are piling up.
Let’s hope the allegations kick the dire reboot of SATC into the long grass. Noth’s Mr Big dies in the first episode, also the graveyard of any affection any of us still had for the show.
The script of the revamp And Just Like That needs to be impaled on the spiked stiletto of one of Carrie’s Jimmy Choos.
When the show first emerged, it was a refreshing reflection of how women actually talk about sex, although it doesn’t date well.
But it’s become as dry as the desert where they filmed one of the crap movies.
If ever there was a time to put this cash cow out to pasture, it’s when its central hero is accused of being a sexual predator.
Set the sexist record straight
I’m looking forward to the modern take on the “dirty” duchess of Argyll in BBC drama A Very British Scandal.
Multiple love affairs of the “fellatio duchess” were alleged by her husband to discredit her and paint her as a fallen woman.
Men in newsrooms have always theorised about the unidentified man the duchess was photographed performing a sex act on.
So it will be refreshing to see a fairer story that does not indulge in the sexist slut shaming the duchess has been subjected to for years.
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