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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Jack Straw, Pakistani Men and White Girls

Jack Straw has made headlines with the bold claim that Pakistani men sexually target vulnerable white girls in the UK as 'easy meat' as a result of the values of their cultural heritage. In the wake of the arrests of Abid Mohammed Saddique and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, the 'ringleaders' in a gang of Pakistani men alleged to have befriended and groomed vulnerable 12-18 year old girls in Derby. He acknowledges that it is not a problem isolated to the Pakistani community, but goes on to state that there is a specific cultural problem emanating from the Pakistani cultural heritage.

I cannot accurately say whether he is right or wrong in his claim but it seems to me as though he has turned a sex issue into a race issue - is it that the exploitation of women is somehow a more worthy point of discussion if the women are presented through a racialised lens as the white victim? Different cultural backgrounds do inevitably carry different notions of masculinity and different views of women - social attitudes about the 'proper place' of women and the correct mode of man-wife relations will sculpt active lived behaviours.

Straw said "These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically". Testosterone is here conflated with a heterosexual desire which needs to be dumped inside somebody for their own sake, before that 'fizzing and popping' explodes like a firework. The way Straw phrases it implies it is better for these men to use girls from Pakistani heritage as the outlet for their raging hormones, as though this is the proper order of things and it is only once this particular 'usage' of women affects white girls that it become exploitative and problematc.

A few days ago, Cameron stated that 'We should not be put off by cultural sensitivities or anything like that. Pursue the evidence, pursue criminality wherever it leads.'

It isn't a matter of being 'put off' by cultural sensitivities, as though the sole purpose of them is to obstruct 'normal' culture - this statement betrays a rhetoric of cultural blindness which though it may appear egalitarian, serves to reiterate the white native cultural imperative.

What about the normalised practices of gender which don't activate cultural sensitivities? Jack Straw speaks of older Pakistani men plying vulnerable white teenagers with gifts as part of their racialised grooming ritual but is it much better to locate your 'easy meat' straining to hold herself up in a bar or club?

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