By Sarah Bates
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Why do state bodies breed sexist hate and violence?  

This article is over 1 years, 1 months old
Sexism scandals in the military and the police are not just a result of the culture of those organisations but due to the role they play in capitalist society
Issue 2837
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Royal Navy Vanguard Class submarine HMS Vigilant. Horrific sexism has been reported in the navy

Institutions that are part of the state and that protect the interests of the ruling class have recently come under fire for details of abuse and harassment within their ranks.  The revelations about the level of historic sexual violence within the Royal Navy, the army and the police aren’t incidental to the type of organisations they are.

Instead, they tell us about how the organisations are run, who is likely to be in them, and their wider function within capitalist society. Last month charity Salute Her UK said that 177 women have come forward to say they were raped at the elite Sandhurst military officer training centre. It described an “epidemic” of rapes across the military.

And it came just a month after a host of allegations about the Royal Navy showing that women were subject to endless sexual intimidation and violence.  One allegation detailed that submariners compiled a list about in which order women would be raped in the event of a catastrophic event. Former lieutenant Sophie Brook said, “The best thing I ever did was leave the Navy, but I worry about the women I left behind. It was a constant campaign of sexual bullying.”

It comes against a backdrop of court cases for cops accused of everything from multiple rapes to being part of WhatsApp groups containing sexist and racist content. A running thread through these instances is that women’s complaints were not treated seriously.

Capitalist societies rely on arms of the state, such as the secret service, cops and armed forces to protect what they see as the normal running of society. Capitalism is also riven with oppression, and within these institutions it can be particularly sharp.

For instance, the cops’ role in society is to suppress working class people and protect the interests of the rich.  They reflect the worst sorts of oppressive ideas that are pushed from the top of society. And the toxic culture becomes an endless cycle of fresh bigots rising through the ranks. They are attracted by an environment where racism, sexism and homophobia runs rampant.

But it’s not just a case about how sexist, bigoted individuals within their own ranks are treated, but how these political outlooks inform practice. In December, the independent review into the dramatic fall in rape prosecutions described “explicit victim blaming” within the police.

Authors of the review, which looked at 80,000 cases across five forces, found that “officers don’t think” that sexual offences “should be a priority for policing.” The day-to-day role of the army and navy are different in practice. But the ideological framework that shapes the institutions, alongside the hierarchal structures, are similar.

They reinforce internally the rotten power structures that encourage and amplify an abuse of power.

This is added to a pressure put on victims of sexual violence. They rely on the myth of mutual service to “King and country” to help hush up allegations of violence.

The details in each case are utterly horrendous. The case of cop Wayne Couzens is a good example of how some of the most violent people in society are comfortable within institutions of the state.

Sarah Everard’s rape and murder may have been shocking to the general public. But it probably wasn’t to Couzens’ colleagues at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, who nicknamed him “the rapist”. The wider sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour within these organisations is not an isolated problem for individuals. These institutions of the state use their systems of rank and hierarchy as an effective tool to shut down complaints in the first place.

Victims are told they’re unlikely to be believed. And organisations don’t like to scrutinise their own behaviour. The culture of sexual violence within these organisations is about the function of the institution in capitalist society.

The behaviour and culture of the arms of the state is no accident. It’s indicative of the wider rot of oppression under capitalism as a whole.

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