British politician and “Absolutely Fabulous” star advise women not to wear short skirts to avoid rape

A Tory (British for Conservative) Member of Parliament from Gloucester basically advised women not to wear short skirts and high heels if they didn’t want to get raped on Friday. MP Richard Graham’s exact words were: “If you are a young woman on her own trying to walk back home through Gloucester Park, early in the morning in a tight, short skirt and high shoes and there’s a predator and if you are blind drunk and wearing those clothes how able are you to get away?”

Graham’s unsolicited advise comes on the heels of absolutely disturbing comments from Joanna Lumley, of Absolutely Fabulous fame:

“Don’t look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t be sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes at midnight. This is bad. It’s not me being a snob about it. It’s not me being an old woman talking to young women, its just standard practice for how our species should behave. Don’t behave badly.

I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly, which means behave properly, be polite, be on time, dress properly – I don’t mean dully – but don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they’ll rape you, or they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.”

Graham said that Lumley was, “right to highlight the problem.” But it’s totes, cool, guys. Graham, according to Graham, at least, wasn’t blaming rape victims and exculpating rapists. He was merely offering some “risk management” tips: “I stressed the issue was about risk management, about being aware of what behaviour or clothes might put you more at risk and less at risk. Risk management is a million miles from saying anything like ‘she was asking for it’.” I feel so much better. 

But not everyone is buying Graham’s “risk management” clarification. Labour party activist Ben Mosley said, “This talk of ‘risk management’ sends my blood boiling….Risk management should be not cutting the police force, providing better lighting in dark areas such as the park and not cutting CCTV. It should not be about what people choose to wear.” Exactly. Politicians should offer risk management based in policy, not outfit choices.

And Gloucester city councillor Kate Haigh responded by saying, “It is still not clear to me how he feels women should be managing risks….They should be able to go out, wearing what they want, and feel safe.” She’s also organizing a “slut walk,” encouraging women dressed in short skirts and high heels.


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Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • smash

    The article says, ” She’s also organizing a “slut walk,” encouraging women dressed in short skirts and high heels.”

    Why is she encouraging women to dress in short skirts and heels? I am confused.

  • Lindsey Weedston

    Yes, being drunk at night while being a woman in women’s clothing is “behaving badly.” When are we finally going to get to the point when we can acknowledge that raping people is the bad behavior? Men can get drunk and stumble around in the middle of the night without getting raped, why can’t we?

    Smash: Kate Haigh is the one organizing the slut walk.

  • antonia

    hi, just so you know Joanna Lumley isn’t a politician, she’s an activist and she is more allied with the Green party than the Tories..

    • antonia

      and she’s not from Gloucester…

  • AK

    I’m not quite sure how to parse that sentence, but I suspect that it means either that she’s encouraging women to dress as they choose (as in, saying women in “silly dresses” don’t deserve scorn, violence or victim-blaming), or that she’s encouraging women to dress in short skirts and heels at the event she is organizing–which is basically a protest against that sort of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. I don’t get the impression that she’s universally encouraging women to wear short skirts and heels no matter what.

  • AK

    And it’s bothering me so I want to add…the thing that always gets me when people make comments like that, is I have to wonder what kind of people they are. I mean, to me, the proper response when you see someone stumbling around drunk, vomiting down the front of the clothing, staggering around is concern for their well-being. Regardless of gender, any reasonable person should see someone in that state as in danger–not just from predators, but from alcohol poisoning or tripping and cracking their head open or even freaking hypothermia if it’s cold out and they can’t find their way to safety. Who the hell responds with judgment and a “you get what you deserve” attitude towards that, particularly based on her gender or how she’s dressed? I think these people must not have much empathy or humanity themselves.

  • emmie

    What! Oh Ms. Lumley… I’ve always loved Joanna Lumley too. This is very sad. :(