Sally Allen: #MeToo – no thank you

The Media Centre at Lords for which I raised the £3m sponsorship from NatWest in 1995 (which equates

The Media Centre at Lords for which I raised the £3m sponsorship from NatWest in 1995 (which equates to around £10m today) to enable the building. Sadly, it took the MCC over four years to pay me my commission on the deal – not something that would have happened to a man! - Credit: Archant

The #MeToo movement frankly makes me angry. Very sadly, in my view, it trivialises the horrors of rape by including suggestive comments and groping hands in their agenda.

I was delighted to see that last week I was in extremely good company when I found out that the super talented and outspoken Dame Diana Rigg shared the same view.

This ground-breaking, and on-screen ball-busting icon, had no truck with #MeToo and strongly believed that every wronged woman should deal with the average ‘groper’ herself. Rape, of course, is one of the most serious offences and should be dealt with by giving very severe sentences.

During my career I have been the first woman in a number of different sectors – mostly back in the 1980s and early 1990s – and needless to say, it was not welcomed by most of the men.

When I became the first female executive in cricket, as financial controller of the National Cricket Association at Lords back in the 1980s, my morning welcome was ‘hello blondie’ followed swiftly by crass and suggestive inuendo – and at meetings by an unwelcome grope.

However, it was all dealt with by being quicker on my toes and the growing ability to produce a quick sarcastic repost or even a knee in the groin.

When I left Lords to start my own sports marketing, sponsorship and PR agency in the late 1980s the abuse continued, reaching a high point when we handled the PR for the Football League.

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With Guinness, our main client for 30-odd years, running boozy sports press conferences at 8am at the FA was de rigueur! I was treated very badly, and I have many stories I can tell, but to what purpose other than for entertainment.

Sadly, the bad behaviour even extended to the Houses of Commons and Lords. I have told the stories to audiences but never divulged the names.

It would ruin careers and families plus I survived it and it made me more determined to succeed in a ‘mans’ world’. So, in a way, I won in the end.

It astounded me that when the spotlight fell on the Harvey Weinstein case all these women came out of the shadows accusing numerous film stars, directors, etc of abuse.

As I said, rape should carry the highest penalty possible but a wannabe starlet going up to someone’s suite in a hotel late at night or in the early hours of the morning to read a script beggars belief.

Beyond stupid – did they really think that they were actually going to get to read the script or maybe take part in a game of tiddlywinks!

Could they not have said they would meet the person in the lobby of the hotel, an area which is always busy.

Women’s rights are hugely important to me. Emmiline Pankhurst used to hold some of her meetings at my grandmother’s restaurant in London, so women’s rights are in my blood.

Surely rape cannot be spoken about in the same breath as an unfortunate grope or a hand on a knee.

In my view, #MeToo is fundamentally correct but they are including too many trivial misdemeanours into the overall ethos of the movement.

Thank you Jim Parker for the opportunity to have a rant – there will be more. Watch this space!