Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Good Old Days ....

When Jimmy Savile was, finally, exposed as a predatory paedophile, rapist and serial git I wasn't that surprised. Apparently JUST like most of the UK entertainment industry *rolls eyes.*

I didn't like Jimmy Savile, never had and I always KNEW there was something funny about him. No really, I did. Though what has been discovered and is still being discovered is very far from funny. Savile, whatever else he was, was hugely popular in the 70s and 80s. All over radio and TV like a particularly distasteful rash, you couldn't escape him or his ever waggling cigar. And he made my skin crawl not because I have a sixth sense but well ... That hair? Those clothes? The bling thing? I mean, really? *Shudders*

But in the wake of vile revelations that never stop coming, there's been a whole host of other stories about what people in the public eye were doing when that eye wasn't looking, lots of dark stories of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment in the corridors of the BBC. And there is shock and disgust which is justified and commendable. Of course it is,

But does no-one remember what it was like in, what people have been known to call with misty-eyed nostalgia, the "good old days" ...

Being female was not a lot of fun back then. Sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour was just fun and games and a bit of banter. It's perpetrators were called "a bit of a lad"  said with a nudge and a wink. In fact there was a lot of nudging and winking all round.

When I was a teenager (I was 16 years old in 1980) I was, for a time, too embarrassed to walk past a building site because of the "Show us your tits" clarion call of builders everywhere. Builders shouted it with monotonous regularity to anything vaguely female and sometimes (because it WAS the 80s and heavy metal and tight jeans all the rage) male that passed by too.

When I was 13, I passed my Girl Guide's first aid badge by dint of sitting on the knee of the examiner, at his request, and answering one ridiculously easy question. I didn't think it odd at the time. Neither did it occur to me when I was 15 why the bouncer at the local hall would let me and my friend into all the gigs without tickets and then, after a gig had ended, backstage. At the time if we'd bothered to think about it at all we just thought that he thought we were genuine music fans. Which we were, with a passion. But not that kind.

We would go backstage in our leather and lycra brimful with enthusiasm to be greeted with equal enthusiasm by the band. This would, eventually, turn to bemusement as I started to grill them in my amateur guise of local music writer. Though I did once get led into spending a good ten minutes in a darkened room with a lead guitarist but his willingness to have a chat wilted when it became clear I really DID mean to have a chat. He ate an apple and chatted. Instead of, I suppose.

A few years later, when I was a real journalist and spent a large proportion of any interview fending off various musicians in the rehearsal rooms of West Yorkshire it rather belatedly occurred to me what the bouncer at the local music hall had really been expecting in return for our free ticket in.


But by that time of course I had been through every young female journalist's right of passage. Braving the photographers department of a local newspaper which should never be done lightly and, in 1984, shouldn't have been attempted at all unless armed with a tea-tray and hidden in a voluminous pinny.

And the local newspaper is exactly the place you don't want to find yourself in if you have issues with inappropriate behaviour, or at least they weren't in the 80s. Councillors, local businessmen, policemen and heads of the local NHS were patronising, rude, suggestive and downright foul-mouthed as the wont would take them. Though admittedly they were like that to male reporters too.

But I bet there weren't very many male reporters who had to fight off a member of the local CID if they were foolish enough to accept a lift or had to remove a local councillor's wandering hands during a discussion on local housing policy.

The 80s .. enough to drive a woman to drink,

I hope in the years since I last worked in the real world that we've all moved on and things have changed a bit. That my own daughters will be able to walk past a building site without blushing to the roots of their hair. That they can have a discussion with someone of the opposite sex without that person looking them up. And then down. And then leering a bit. I hope they will be recognised for what they are in the future they choose; bright, talented, exceptional PEOPLE. Real, all-round properly formed people who just happen to have breasts. Just as capable as a man, except a bit more intelligent and able to multi-task.

Jimmy Savile got away with what he got away with because of the climate of the time, the willingness of people to turn a blind eye and think him a bit of a lad. And I hope that, amid the genuine horror that has been felt in the wake of his overdue exposure, we won't spend all our time looking back and wondering where it all went wrong.

The "good old days" weren't that good and more than a little grubby. And I know because I was there.


  1. Very thought provoking. I experienced sexism of this sort when I worked as a young teacher, being sent to butter up lechy men who could give us extra funding, computers etc. Not nice to have your skin crawling and sort of feeling obliged to ignore the arm that keeps appearing around your waist. We seem to live in different times, but if they are really different the men who stood by and watched now need to stand up and be counted.

  2. Great post, really enjoyed reading this (came via BlowYourOwnBlogHorn). I had my share of sexual overtures at work (fashion, doh!) in my early 20s, and I hope that my daughter will be spared that, and will also have the confidence and chutzpah not to let anyone take advantage of her. You're quite right, the "good ol days" can't have been without it's tinges of grime if such stories keep on surfacing. Thanks to our world of over-sharing, they are just coming to light more and more, thank heavens.

  3. no this sort of thing has been "the norm" since Victorian times with all the rich doctors, lawyers, officials etc seeing it as their right to have sex with children, to use child brothels and send tiny children up chimneys to sweep them and if they got stuck they were left there and burnt to death when the fire was next lit. Im glad now more and more people are speaking up and it is no longer acceptable.

  4. Yep - agree with all of this - been there - since I was eight years old. Boy am I sick of it - but I consider myself lucky in " Savile" terms I was at least never raped or assualted while unable to move in a hospital bed. Even by the climate of the times he was extreme. But I also think while we have women's tits on display in "news"papers it's hard to see that attitude have really changed and hardly surprising lads on building sites think it's fine to comment on women's well - tits ( they still do by the way though less often - but that could just be because I'm older!)


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