My God, I thought to myself whilst watching last night’s channel 4’s documentary ‘Confessions of a Copper’. The documentary explained policing and what it was like to be an officer back in the 1970’s and 80’s. The racial issues raised were frustrating to watch. But what really got my blood boiling and a swollen lump inside my throat was listening to the female officers and all the horrific things they had to endure back in the “good old days”. One female officer recalled the time when she was dragged by her ankles and across the floor by her fellow male peers at an officer’s club. A club after shits had ended and a time to relax. But not for the women. She recalled how they cheered and laughed at her, watching her being dragged. Gave her a drink and then cracked jokes like nothing had happened. The woman slowly broke down as so did I. What a horrific ordeal that must have been for her. She stated that if she broke down and started to cry. Her life would not be worth living no more. Therefore, having no choice but to endure these bullies who were formally known as her work colleagues.
The female officers described how the police force was definitely a “man’s place”. Women were seen as burdens and not much use to the force. Observing from this harrowing documentary, from my perspective I bring the analogy of ‘male gaze’. I believe female officers in this era were there for only one purpose and that is indeed male gaze. I know it sounds harsh and I do not wish to offend anyone nor am I degrading the women, but trying to see this from the male officers’ take. For example, the way the women were made to dress. The work attire was very feminine; they were even given a handbag to wear whilst on duty! From hindsight, I can see the female officers were made to look “pretty” to look at, whereas the male officer’s uniforms and gadgets presented a more serious and refined image of them. Not to mention the “office banter” that took place in the 70’s and 80’s. Another one of the female officers interviewed, conversed about how she was the only female in the police office oppose to her five or six male co-workers. Jokes were mainly centred on her and her sexuality. She remembers feeling uneasy and slightly nervous about working in the offices with her male colleagues.
Of course sexism exits in the workplace and thankfully it is not as extreme as perhaps it may have been in the 80’s and 70’s and you’re probably thinking so what’s the big deal? But this is the police force in specific that we are looking at. Many male police officers interviewed spoke about how they were highly respected by society. However, these respected individuals failed to respect the woman who were on the same team as them. Behind closed doors, there were substantial amount of sexist abuse and “rapey jokes” constantly being thrown on women trying to be good officers and just do their job. The documentary highlighted the fact that institutions like the police, which are painted as role model citizens are not as good as gold as they seem. In fact, there is a much darker and cynical reality. For those who believe policing was more graceful “back in the days”, I beg to differ. If anything the unethical officers I believe were more likely to get off the hook easily as the public put so much of their trust onto the police. This trust could of course be so easily taken advantage off, giving the police more power to do what they please and right and wrong ethics were something that were very blurred in the police force in that era.