The Ched Evans furore has me in two minds – on the one hand, as a convicted rapist, why should Evans be allowed to go back to a high profile job in which he would receive almost celebrity-like status and be perceived as a role model, having ruined someone else’s life; but on the other hand, as someone who has been to jail, surely he has a right to resume his life and try to move on?
Mostly I think that simply going to jail (and serving half your sentence, if that, in this case), is not enough to imply rehabilitation and to then waltz into a high profile job seems wrong. This article on the independent.co.uk summarises a lot of how I feel why he shouldn’t be allowed a high profile role in the public eye.
However, reading a comment piece on the guardian website by Marina Hyde, while making some valid points that I agree with, seems to have missed the mark on one point.
Saying that it is not the football clubs’ responsibility or problem if people are too thick to realise that hiring Evans is not an endorsement of his behaviour, of rape culture, does not hit the right note in this debate for me.
Marina Hyde says: ‘[The] idea that all clubs should be stopped from signing him … is wrongheaded. Upon what is it based? That Ched Evans being allowed to take a job – any job – in football will “send a message” to people evidently too stupid to regard it as anything other than an endorsement of his behaviour?’
The issue of hiring Evans is not just that the public at large or supporters will view it as rape endorsement, but is as much about sending other players and the rest of the sports world a message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
With high profile professional sports players already placed on a pedestal and given celebrity status due to constant media and public scrutiny, it often leads to a belief that they are above others and have free reign to behave as they wish. This can and does create an imbalance in morality and responsibility. Then when clubs and professional sporting bodies seem to be sending the message that do what you will, we will continue to hire and sponsor you, the damage can be long-lasting. And then, as seen in many cases, with sports players brushing up against the wrong side of the law, the individuals are driven by a sense of being untouchable and irresistible to everyone.
Take Mike Tyson as an example, who was convicted of rape and upon release from jail, went straight back to his old job and lifestyle in a fashion that reeks of a flagrant disregard for the life of the woman he ruined. It perpetuates a rape culture in which celebrities and high profile individuals receive a message that do what they will, their old lifestyle will be waiting for them afterwards.
What of the lifelong punishment the victim is meted out in all this?
Speaking in analogous terms, the message we should be conveying is not to school the victim and public at large to change attitudes and behaviours towards such misconduct, but teach those who are in such positions to change their attitudes and behaviours.
In more specific terms, a movement, an ideology I have seen emerge from India around the time of the December 2012 rape case, speaks of such an attitude.
‘Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly.’
It is the prevention, not cure, adage.