Snog scan­dal was Strictly em­pow­er­ing for women

Kiss story wasn’t ex­actly front-page wor­thy, but it pro­vided coun­ter­bal­ance to a wider in­jus­tice, writes So­phie Don­ald­son

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - People -

AS far as celebrity cheat­ing scan­dals go, it was hardly what you’d call high stakes. A Strictly Come Danc­ing cou­ple, he a mid­dling co­me­dian, she a pro­fes­sional dancer. A few grainy pho­tos of them snog­ging out­side a pub. Two grov­el­ling Twit­ter apolo­gies.

Yet, the scan­dal that erupted last week af­ter co­me­dian Seann Walsh and his mar­ried danc­ing part­ner, Katya Jones, in­dulged in a sup­pos­edly one­off kiss, was one be­fit­ting of an A-list af­fair.

Last week, tabloids pub­lished im­ages of the pair in­dulging in a pas­sion­ate kiss out­side a Lon­don pub. That evening, both is­sued apolo­gies via their Twit­ter ac­counts. While Jones stated that she loves her hus­band and that “this is not a re­flec­tion on our re­la­tion­ship”, Walsh made no men­tion of his girl­friend of five years, ac­tress Re­becca Humphries.

A tabloid story that should have been met with a raised eye­brow and a mut­tered “well, that’s the Strictly curse”, as the page is turned and the story all but for­got­ten, has in­stead been caught up in a mael­strom of fiery TV de­bates, con­cerned state­ments from women’s char­i­ties, heated opin­ion col­umns and de­mands for the cou­ple to be re­moved from the show, forc­ing the BBC to shift into cri­sis-con­trol.

It was widely re­ported that the pair were ini­tially billed to dance a salsa or rumba on last night’s show, typ­i­cally sen­sual Latin Amer­i­can dances, but were in­stead given a jaunty Charles­ton, a rou­tine with far less phys­i­cal con­tact and sex­ual ten­sion.

In the wake of the scan­dal, re-watch­ing their per­for­mance of the paso doble from the pre­vi­ous week makes for un­com­fort­able view­ing. The tra­di­tional Span­ish rou­tine sees the male dancer por­tray a bull fighter while the woman is ei­ther the cape or the bull — in both in­stances, he pas­sion­ately pur­sues her. Walsh and Jones’s dance was Ma­trix-themed, with both clad in black leather. Ooph.

What pre­vented this from be­ing just an­other quickly for­got­ten piece of gos­sip was the elo­quent and ever-so-slightly caus­tic re­sponse from Humphries the fol­low­ing day. In an open let­ter posted to her Twit­ter ac­count, Humphries ad­dressed the scan­dal that had en­gulfed her pri­vate life, while at the same time de­ploy­ing an ex­traor­di­nar­ily damn­ing char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion of her now ex-boyfriend.

Each sen­tence drops a new de­tail that, when read in full, cre­ates a nar­ra­tive far darker than the drunken snog it was ini­tially framed as.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly good of Sean(n) and Katya to apol­o­gise in the me­dia. I have re­ceived noth­ing other than the sup­port of my fam­ily, friends, and a host of strangers on the in­ter­net who all wanted to make sure I was OK.

“Those pic­tures were taken on Oc­to­ber 3. It was my birth­day. I was alone at home when Sean(n) texted at 10pm say­ing the two of them were go­ing for one in­no­cent drink.

“We spoke and I told him, not for the first time, that his ac­tions over the past three weeks had led me to be­lieve some­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate was go­ing on. He ag­gres­sively, and re­peat­edly, called me a psy­cho/nuts/men­tal. As he has done count­less times through­out our re­la­tion­ship when I’ve ques­tioned his in­ap­pro­pri­ate, hurt­ful be­hav­iour.”

Humphries goes on to en­cour­age other women who feel “worth­less and trapped” by their part­ner to seek help and leave, as she had just done, tak­ing the cou­ple’s cat with them. It is these few lines that have given rise to a wider dis­cus­sion about emo­tion­ally abusive part­ners and the gaslight­ing of women.

Whether or not we be­lieve Walsh to be one of these men, it is ir­refutable that women are so of­ten told to ig­nore their in­stincts. Whether they are cast as a ‘hys­ter­i­cal harpy’ or nag­ging wife, women’s fears that they are be­ing treated ei­ther un­fairly or im­morally are so of­ten laughed off.

While this has been a dev­as­tat­ing time for Humphries, it is clear that the vin­di­ca­tion that has arisen from this is some­thing of a salve for her heartbreak and hu­mil­i­a­tion. That nag­ging sense that Walsh was ma­nip­u­lat­ing and un­trust­wor­thy have been proven not just to Humphries, but the world at large.

In a week that saw Brett Ka­vanaugh el­e­vated to the US Supreme court be­cause the tes­ti­mony of Chris­tine Ford was not suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove he sex­u­ally as­saulted her, per­haps we find it heart­en­ing that at least one woman who was wronged has been pub­licly vin­di­cated. When a woman’s dis­tress­ing story of an al­leged sex­ual as­sault is not enough, a few grainy pho­tos of an­other’s cheat­ing boyfriend are sud­denly deeply sat­is­fy­ing. It is iron-clad proof that Humphries is not a ‘psy­cho’ and Walsh is ab­so­lutely a liar.

Per­haps this is why we have been trans­fixed on the un­fold­ing sce­nario, why we won’t al­low it to be­come yet an­other piece of tabloid fod­der, why Walsh is be­ing cast as so much more than a lousy boyfriend.

De­bate rages as to whether Walsh has be­come a scape­goat or whether his be­hav­iour is in­dica­tive of a far more per­va­sive at­ti­tude to­wards women.

Walsh, of course, is en­tirely aware of this. Last Wed­nes­day, he ap­peared along­side Katya on It Takes Two, the be­hindthe-scenes spin off that ac­com­pa­nies Strictly each week. It was the first time the pair had ad­dressed the sit­u­a­tion on cam­era. Again, Katya’s pri­or­ity was to shield her hus­band from the scan­dal, while Walsh seemed to want to do the same thing for him­self.

“I’m not per­fect, far from it. Our re­la­tion­ship wasn’t per­fect, that doesn’t mean I wanted it to end the way it fi­nally did,” he said.

“It’s also im­por­tant for me to say that the peo­ple that know me the most, that love me, they know I am not the per­son I’m be­ing por­trayed as. I’m still sorry for what I did, but it’s very im­por­tant for me to get that out there.”

Fans have been di­vided, with some out­raged the cou­ple are still al­lowed on the show while oth­ers feel the pair have been painted as vil­lains for what was a gen­uine moral trans­gres­sion.

The lure of Strictly for mid-level per­son­al­i­ties like Walsh is this au­di­ence — it is hoped that af­ter a stint on the show their star will rise. De­spite hav­ing to don some re­gret­table cos­tumes, the trade-off is worth the gar­ish se­quins. Un­for­tu­nately for Walsh, Strictly has drawn him the wrong type of at­ten­tion and it is pos­si­ble that his be­hav­iour could re­sult in an ear­lier exit from the show.

Humphries’s ca­reer, on the other hand, may well ben­e­fit from the whole sorry sce­nario. She has been thrust into the spot­light for a hor­rific rea­son, but as a wronged woman she has masses of view­ers on side al­ready. She’s a tal­ented per­former, as well as wry and funny. In fact, she has all the mak­ings of a crowd favourite. Who knows, per­haps next sea­son she could be tempted to take to the dance floor?

‘What stopped this from be­ing an­other piece of quickly for­got­ten gos­sip was Humphries’ elo­quent re­sponse’

NOW OUT OF STEP WITH THE PUB­LIC: Seann Walsh and Katya Jones get fiery on ‘Strictly’ be­fore the scan­dalous snog

WELL-TIMED RE­SPONSE: Ac­tor Re­becca Humphries

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.