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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 03-Mar-14 12:11:41

Guest post: 'Paddy Power is turning the death of a young woman into a game'

Bookmaker Paddy Power have caused outrage by offering odds on whether or not paralympian Oscar Pistorius will be found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

They have also published an advert - emblazoned with the words 'It's Oscar time - money back if he walks' - offering losing bets a refund if the 27-year-old is found not guilty.

In this guest post, Holly Dustin, the Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, argues that the trivialisation of a young woman's death is just another way to normalise violence against women, and urges those who object to the Paddy Power ad to make a stand.

Do read the post and tell us what you think on the thread below.

Holly Dustin

Director End Violence Against Women Coalition

Posted on: Mon 03-Mar-14 12:11:41


Lead photo

'It's Oscar time': the advert Paddy Power has published both in print and online

Bookmaker Paddy Power had already caused outrage by offering odds on the outcome of the trial, starting today, of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

The company upped the ante over the weekend with its 'money back if he walks' offer (appearing to be unaware that even if Pistorius is acquitted of murder it’s quite possible that he will be convicted of manslaughter - he has admitted responsibility for the killing).

Echoing the ‘Pistorius as hero’ narrative evident in so much of the media coverage so far, and piggybacking on the Academy Awards zeitgeist, their marketing campaign has Pistorius represented in gold as… wait for it... an Oscar statuette. Hilarious.

For Paddy Power, the killing of a woman is just a game. Sadly, the bookmaker isn't alone in trivialising Steenkamp’s death. The Sunday Times compares the Pistorius trial to the trial of OJ Simpson for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson: “the core allegation in both stories is a riveting one: famous athlete kills the beautiful woman he loved.” For the Mirror, “Oscar Pistorius murder trial is more whydunnit than whodunit - but what a spectacle it promises to be.” The death of a young woman - with a future ahead of her, and grieving family and friends - is quite literally seen as entertainment.

What Paddy Power is doing is turning male violence into a game for punters that are primarily male, and contributing to a culture in which women are killed, beaten, abused, coerced, raped and harassed on a daily basis around the world.

Women’s groups gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about the normalisation, trivialisation and condoning of domestic and sexual abuse, and other violence against women, that is routine in the British press.

We followed this up with our Just the Women report, in which we monitored the media over the course of two weeks in 2012. Some low points:

On the 3rd of September 2012 The Metro reported the case of Graham Anderson who had a history of violence and killed his children and himself after his relationship broke down. ‘Graham Anderson may have killed two sons out of fear, say neighbours’. He is also described as a ‘nice guy’.

A Daily Mail report on the same day of a case of extreme violence by a man against his ex said, “Soldier ‘stabbed ex-girlfriend to death after he hacked her Facebook account and discovered she’d had an abortion” with the report focusing heavily on the fact that the victim had secretly aborted the baby of her partner.

At the time of her killing, the reporting of Reeve Steenkamp’s death was already generating complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, after the Sun published a full-page bikini picture of Steenkamp with the words; “3 shots. Screams. Silence. 3 more shots”

Of course, outrage and publicity is exactly what Paddy Power intended - they have form for this kind of gimmick. And it might be easy to dismiss as just another silly, money-grabbing stunt – but turning male violence into a game for punters, who are primarily male, is part of a culture in which women are killed, beaten, abused, coerced, raped and harassed on a daily basis around the world.

In South Africa, a woman is killed by her partner every 8 hours. Here in the UK, according to the Counting Dead Women project, 140 women were killed by men in England and Wales in 2013. These are not isolated one-off incidents that take place in a vacuum, but part of a pattern of behaviour of male violence. The UN recognises violence against women as a global human rights abuse and the Coalition Government will be publishing its new Violence Against Women Action Plan this week to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March.

If you want to register your anger and dismay at yet another woman's brutal death being diminished - turned into salacious scandal for us to slaver over - Ending Victimisation and Blame are encouraging complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency about the Paddy Power advert, and a petition has been set up calling on politicians to take action.

So, Paddy Power are you still happy to turn the killing of Reeva Steenkamp into a bet?

By Holly Dustin

Twitter: @EVAWhd

AuntieStella Mon 03-Mar-14 13:47:42

There's an active AIBU thread currently running about this here.

captainmummy Mon 03-Mar-14 16:10:16

It should be illegal to bet on a court case.

And of course they are not 'unaware' of the fact that even if he is not convicted of murder, he is still not going to 'walk' (off a manslaughter verdict) - they will not pay out in any case.

perfectstorm Mon 03-Mar-14 17:47:52

Thank you for this thoughtful post. It beautifully articulates why this latest idiocy is so deeply disturbing.

caketinrosie Tue 04-Mar-14 00:12:11

Just horrifying. Petition signed. International women's day only a few days away, it makes me want to weep. sad

ThatVikRinA22 Tue 04-Mar-14 11:01:23

vile. i hope it backfires on them.

SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius Tue 04-Mar-14 11:51:02

I agree - this is utterly vile and unacceptable.

AngelaDaviesHair Tue 04-Mar-14 11:58:13

I don't think they are even treating Steenkamp's death as a game. It seems not even to have registered at all, except as a dull background fact that explains why he is on trial. There is less sense of loss and tragedy about her death than about his (potential) loss of career and position. It is, truly, all about the man.

SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius Tue 04-Mar-14 12:18:25

Yes - even if Pistorius' account of what happened is correct, a young woman is still dead, and a family are still bereaved and traumatised.

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