The price of sexist insults versus the wounds of war
The award of a potential £575,000 to a policewoman for years of sexist abuse has unleashed a storm of indignation from war veterans and popular newspapers.
It was clear what The Sun thought. “Cash Insult” read yesterday’s headline over its opinion article about 41-year-old Barbara Lynford’s potential £575,000 compensation award for sexual discrimination against Sussex Police Authority. “Wounded squaddies will be disgusted”, said the paper. The Mirror, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express wrote up the story with incredulity, though not the open indignation of The Sun.
Barbara Lynford joined Sussex Police in 1993 and was transferred with an exemplary record to the Gatwick airport firearms division in August 2002. The only woman in an 18-strong team, she had to put up with an office littered with soft porn and colleagues who used their radios to locate pretty women around the airport. She was called a “daisy”, a “whoopsy” and a “lipstick”.
“I survived backpacking around India at the age of 19 where I was even kidnapped and held against my will for a few days in Bombay. Nothing, however, prepared me for the people at Gatwick”, she said.
One officer giving evidence at the tribunal alleged that male colleagues would watch x-rated TV in the gym, sleep on the job and fake patrol reports. The only punishment for serious breaches such as leaving guns lying around was to buy each other doughnuts.
Another compared them to Chief Wiggum in The Simpsons.
It was three years before Barbara Lynford took sick leave with stress and a further five years before getting compensation. She has been awarded £275,000, plus £300,000 if she can’t access her pension.
Reactions to the story are sharply divided. Jamie Cooper, who walks with a stick four years after being wounded in Iraq, says he only got £200,000 for his injuries. “There are soldiers who have to make do on less than a woman who can’t take a bit of banter”. Many people, all of them men, mirror his view.
Large numbers – both men and women -- disagree. Those who join the army know they may be wounded. Barbara Lynford did not volunteer to be insulted every day of her working life. One comment on a website says: “How would those officers like it if it was the other way around? This kind of conduct does not belong in today’s workplace: full stop”.
- If you join the army should you get any compensation at all for being wounded? Isn’t it part of the job that you accept when you sign up?
- Is Barbara Lynford’s award justifiable partly as a warning to police forces to clean up their employment practices, as well as compensation for her hardships?
- Should physical injuries be compensated more highly than emotional injuries?
- In groups, write a scene that depicts workplace inequality.
Some People Say...
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What do you think?