Louis Theroux, the genial filmmaker with the faux naivety and clueless-who-me? persona normally does a decent job with his documentaries, but the recent revisiting of his Jimmy Savile period made me wonder just how dense he really is. Then again, I know Theroux is anything but stupid and his Looking Back on Jimmy Savile now appears testimony to the all-encompassing nature of male power – even nice men like Theroux, men who are good and decent and who want to help – are still on the whole clueless about the depth and breadth of their male privilege, and the terrible misogyny it tacitly underpins and unwittingly nurtures.
Theroux wondered how Savile was able to get away with what he did, and perhaps feeling a tad guilty for colluding with the marathon-running liar, rapist and abuser, I can understand him wanting to wash his hands. And like Lady Macbeth, there’s no getting rid of the filth on his: it’s on film now, forever and for all to see. Louis, I am sorry, but wake the fuck up mate: men abuse women because they can, and they can – not because they are all potential rapists – but because our sexist and misogynistic societies create entire enabling infrastructures for them to do so.
Women don’t consent, they play dead, they smile, act nice and send all sorts of supposedly “mixed messages” because most of the time, when attacked or threatened, we are working out the best way to survive whatever is happening, or about to happen to us. One of Savile’s victims, in an insightful gender-turnaround and highlight of the whole thing, asked Theroux if he felt he’d been groomed by Savile, and I think she was on the money.
Blokes like Savile get away with it because really, that’s all women are good for and our culture for decades, nay centuries has been creating and sustaining gender roles: men take, women are taken. Patriarchy and misogyny aren't the two elephants in the room; they’re the room, the house, the street, the town, the country and continents we all inhabit. They are everywhere and in everything. And until that changes people like Savile will always get away with it and good men like Theroux will always wonder how.