Tag Archives: Gender

Inspector Gadget And The Politics Of Gender

18 Feb

“The Maddest Diversity Nonsense Ever”

Women make up 51% of the overall population in England and Wales. However, women’s representation in the major agencies which constitute the criminal justice system varies.

In the Crown Prosecution Service, for example, women represented 66% all staff on 31 March 2010. The Magistracy comprised 51% women in 2009/10. Women were just over 12% of senior judges. Data for the Probation Service indicate that women represented 71% of probation staff in 2009.

In policing, however, women are under-represented. They comprise just 26% of the 143,734 police officers in post (based on full-time equivalent posts) in 2009/10. At senior ranks, it was rarer still to find women officers. Only 13% of senior police officers were female.

Frances Heidensohn,  in her chapter on Gender and Policing in the ‘Handbook of Policing’ edited by Tim Newburn, argued that the police have had a clear awareness of gender, though it is understood in an explicit male way. She summarised police attitudes by pointing to the “world of old fashioned machismo” within which they function.

Old fashioned machismo notwithstanding, one might be forgiven for expecting rational human beings interested in equality to be concerned about any situation where women were not equally represented in the workforce. This is the concern that was articulated by Denise Milani, Director of the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate in London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

Earlier this week, she informed staff that she was “keen to learn staff views on the progress the MPS has made around gender equality”. To mark International Women’s Day 2012, she invited officers and police staff to be creative and record their views in verse.

Poems had to focus on the themes of recruitment, retention and progression in the MPS; creating a gender sensitive working environment; or successfully managing gender diverse teams. They had to provide the DCFD director with insight on the progress made with the ‘Gender Agenda’ and a offer a positive future vision for the MPS.

This poetry competition clearly aimed to sharpen the focus on the dynamics of gender within the Met. Responses have been illuminating, and show the depth of cultural resistance to gender equality within the Met. This has been well illustrated by the outpouring of neanderthal masculinity that has surfaced on Inspector Gadget’s blog.

The Inspector’s blog has been offering its subversive take on modern policing for 6 years. Gadget is thought to be a serving inspector in a southern English force, which he calls  “Ruralshire” in the blog. His Twitter profile accurately describes him as dispensing “weapons grade cynicism” and he claims (with some justification in terms of the blog traffic statistics) the title of “Britain’s most widely-read police Blogger”.

Gadget’s blog notes that it has chalked up almost 9 million hits, which suggests that his acerbic observations resonate with a very wide audience. His blog, he notes online, received the accolade of being  named one of Britain’s Top 40 blogs by The Times, who noted that his writing was ‘provocative stuff, and as an insight into life on the policing front line in 2010, it’s invaluable’.

Gadget cheerfully labels Milani’s poetry initiative as a “piece of utter nonsense”, while simultaneously acknowledging:

“I love this kind of stuff. It lends such credibility to my claims that senior officers are all mad, and they have completely forgotten what policing is all about.”

His comments do not quite amount to an admission that he hankers for a return to the days when police officers were men and women knew their place, but he is not far from saying so. He positions himself as a realist, unburdened with politically correct notions of diversity which in Gadget’s world appear to be a gross irrelevance in terms of the daily lived experience of police officers.

“I particularly like reading internal communications like this when I have just come in from a 10 hour marathon shift during which the local drunken yobs have been trying to give us a good kicking, or if we have been dealing with a fatal road crash.”

Alternatively, as that great paper of record, the Daily Mail, observes, “It’s enough to make the hard men of the Sweeney choke on their cigars and double whiskies.”

More than 500 comments have been added to Gadget’s blog in a short period. Clearly his views resonate with many. Stereotypical attitudes towards gender are given free rein.  Some of the all-too-predictable comments made included these:

From Jeremy Beadles Withered Hand comes the assertion that diversity initiatives are a kind of smokescreen for gay women to gain preferment: “A WPC friend of mine got invited to a similar women in policing conference and told me that in actual fact it was literally just a meeting for butch, man-hating lesbians to talk about how much they hate men and how they can use their sexuality to get promoted, and then tried it on with her.”

What these critiques of gender equality initiatives may lack in subtlety, nuance and reflection, they make up for in their strength of emotion. Two of the milder examples are from Taff Taff and Bobby.

From Taff Taff: “Anyone who seriously takes part in this competition is a twat who needs to be put into a a rocket and fired into the sun, I am sick of this type of shit.”

From Bobby: “That beggars belief. I am stunned at that. What a pile of shite. Walks off shaking head.”

The comments would have been incomplete without a man indignantly asserting that it is, of course, men who are the real victims of discrimination within the police.  An example from the many who make this assertion comes from Pathe: “No real research has been carried out into how men are discriminated against in the Police”.

Inspector Gadget adds a coda to his orginal comments: “I have just read the post again. I can categorically say that this is the maddest diversity nonsense we have ever featured on this Blog…  I would like to hear from more female officers to see what they think of this, in between making tea for the lads of course!”

The police have made considerable strides in the past two decades on the way in which crimes such as sexual abuse and domestic violence are policed. Even so, the response to Gadget’s blog suggests that the dawn of gender equality appears to be some way off. It clearly remains a live issue. There are a range of entrenched views and a cultural reluctance to acknowledge diversity as an issue.

Anyone who remembers Roger Graef’s classic ‘Talking Blues’ on police canteeen culture may conclude that, if supporting gender equality amounts to “the maddest diversity nonsense”, then two decades down the line from Graef’s original account, not a great deal has changed.