Your say: ‘A dangerous and damaging message to the public’

Sian Webb, March 6, 2017

It came to the attention of Bristol Women’s Voice in January that Floyd Mayweather, professional boxer and convicted domestic violence perpetrator, was planning to come to Bristol on March 8: coinciding with International Women’s Day.

Floyd Mayweather has been convicted on numerous occasions of violence against women. Over 12 years, he was arrested or cited in seven assaults on five different women (not including the times police were called in response to threatened violence). Domestic violence does just not affect the women who are assaulted, but often their children too. When previously questioned about his abusive behaviour, Mayweather has shown little remorse. Whilst some boxers have been suspended from professional boxing for non-violent offences, Mayweather has never been suspended.

In February 2016, The Colston Hall cancelled a similar event after objections from women’s charities and groups. Tour events in other cities including Cardiff were also cancelled, and Jonathan Ross pulled out of hosting the event. Ashton Gate Stadium were originally due to be hosting Mayweather this March, but backed out stating it would “damage the family-friendly reputation of the stadium and the clubs associated with it”. The Marriott Hotel in Bristol City Centre are now hosting the event. We do not believe that the Marriott Hotel should be providing a platform for Mayweather to speak and sell his image, especially on a day celebrating the achievements of women.

Almost 15,000 women reported experiencing domestic violence in Bristol last year, although we know that the actual figure is likely to be much higher. In a time of austerity, when services for domestic violence are being cut, and two women die every week at the hands of male ex/partners, we believe providing Mayweather with a platform to speak – particularly without questioning him about his violent, misogynist acts – gives a dangerous and damaging message to the public.

Together, as a city with a zero-tolerance commitment to all forms of gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation, we should be sending a strong and unified message that domestic violence is not acceptable.

Bristol Women’s Voice have sent an open letter to the Marriott, alongside SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support) and many more local organisations, asking the Marriott to reconsider hosting the event. Their only response has been to state that they are “a hospitality company that simply provides public accommodations and function space” – which fails to acknowledge the bigger issue around the cultural acceptance of domestic abuse.

Why does domestic violence remain a vastly under-reported issue of epidemic proportions, which displaces, injures and kills thousands of women each year? Victims are silenced, and families are greatly impacted whilst we knowingly provide money, recognition and praise to a serial perpetrator of domestic violence. By organising, promoting and attending this event, we are contributing to Mayweather’s income, and condoning a culture that devalues victims of domestic violence and makes it more difficult for them to speak up, seek help and escape abuse.

As a community, we must stand together against violence against women and challenge the idea that talent and money make it excusable. By not providing Mayweather with a platform we can make that stand and choose to tell him and others that his actions and behaviour are not acceptable. Many of the women that face domestic violence do not have a platform to speak from and we believe that seeing Mayweather celebrated on a public stage will further their suffering and anxiety. Those who face domestic violence often have a long and difficult recovery, encountering social stigma, lack of action and reduced access to justice. We do not want them to feel that justice is dependent on celebrity status.

The Bristol Post and Bath Chronicle have since moved their Women of the Year awards from the Marriott to an alternative venue on March 9 as Mayweather’s appearance is “not in keeping with the values of Women of the Year” and we are proud to stand alongside them, sending a strong message to survivors that we support them.

We certainly welcome strong, positive role models in sport, but perpetrators of gender-based violence are not the role models we want to see. Mayweather’s prolific domestic abuses damage the sport, and fans who choose not to hold him accountable are condoning his behaviour. By publicly glorifying his skill, fitness and achievement in his professional capacity, it contributes to a culture of ignoring the significance of domestic violence and abuse.

An event that celebrates Mayweather’s professional feats does not excuse his previous behaviour and lack of remorse for his actions. We will continue to hold individuals accountable, and by doing so, we hope that we can continue to bring about a cultural change. We will be delivering a petition to the Marriott and peaceful protesting outside the hotel on International Women’s Day (March 8, 5.30pm) to show our opposition.

Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid articulates our point accurately:

“Until domestic abuse severely damages the perpetrator’s reputation, we won’t have the culture that can prevent it.”

Sian Webb is the Programme and Campaigns Manager for Bristol Women’s Voice, a local charity in Bristol that aims to make women’s equality in Bristol a reality.

 

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