Home Office minister calls for ‘pickup artist’ Julien Blanc to be denied UK visa
- The Guardian, Friday 14 November 2014 17.07 GMT
More than 110,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Blanc to be refused entry after he was forced to cut short a visit to Australia following widespread protests.
Blanc has been criticised over seminars in which he is said to teach men sexually abusive and racist methods to attract women. Twitter users have posted pictures of Blanc with his hand around the throats of women that he tweeted with the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld.
Featherstone took the rare step for a minister, even in a coalition, of speaking out publicly to say she was lobbying the home secretary to examine the grounds for denying Blanc a visa.
The minister for crime prevention told the Guardian: “As the Home Office minister with responsibility for tackling violence against women and girls, I am extremely concerned by the sexist and utterly abhorrent statements Julien Blanc has made about women. If he was allowed to perform in the UK I have no doubt that cases of sexual harassment and intimidation would increase.
“Free speech is obviously hugely important, but with free speech comes responsibility. It is not appropriate to talk about choking girls under any circumstances.”
The minister wrote her letter before an intervention by Cooper, who called on May to block Blanc’s visit on the grounds that his promotion of violence against women was “not conducive to the public good”. In her letter the shadow home secretary highlighted some of the powers that could be used to stop a person coming into the country where they have displayed “unacceptable behaviour”.
Cooper pointed to reports of Blanc having a history of behaviour that incites violence against women, including his promise to teach men how to overcome last-minute resistance from women to having sex.
“It is important that respect for the laws on sexual assault and violence are upheld and that we send a clear message from Britain about zero tolerance of violence against women and girls,” she said.
Cooper asked the Home Office to “urgently review this evidence and gather further evidence about his activities, with a view to exercising your exclusion powers to prevent him coming to the UK.”
She said: “Why should we let someone into this country to incite sexual assaults or violence against women? Australia has already sent this man home. Canada wants to keep him out. There is plenty of evidence of Mr Blanc’s vile views and misogynist business, and no interest for Britain in him being able to promote them here in our communities.
“The Home Office needs to investigate him urgently. Theresa May should be able to exercise sensible border control and stop him holding these seminars in our country.”
The Change.org petition, drawn up by a city worker using the pseudonym Caroline Charles to protect herself from abuse, says Blanc and his association Real Social Dynamics (RSD) promote “sexist, racist and criminal approaches to women”.
It says: “Julien Blanc and his group RSD are a group of sexist and racist ‘pickup artists’ who have made a living by teaching men how to violate women through physical and emotional abuse. Do not associate the UK with a man who chokes women around the world as part of his pickup game.
“Please help us stand with the women of Australia, the women of America, and women everywhere, and do not let the UK play host to events where men are being taught how to violate and harass women. It’s not only women who are affected: Blanc’s misogynistic ‘pickup techniques’ directly exploit vulnerable men who buy into rape culture and end up believing that this is an appropriate way to behave.
“To allow this man into the UK legitimises sexual assault and predation, and sends a message that women are playthings or objects without agency. Australia has already taken a stand by revoking his visa, let us demonstrate that we feel the same way about his message.”
The Home Office said: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits in line with the immigration rules. The home secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.”
Julien Blanc’s methodology in what he terms “female attraction” shows a fixation with physical violence, but there was a particularly grotesque irony in one tweet apparently sent by the self-styled “pick-up artist” which reproduced a resource used to challenge violent abusers. He suggested it would instead make a good “checklist” for his followers.
The tweet, now deleted, reproduced a “wheel” that had been developed by campaigners against domestic violence as a way to challenge abusive behaviour by detailing the different types of physical and emotional abuse that victims experience.
According to Buzzfeed, Blanc tweeted the chart with the comment: “May as well be a checklist … #Howtomakeherstay”.
The “Duluth model”, the technique of which the wheel is a part, is designed to “hold batterers accountable and keep victims safe”, according to those behind the programme. It was developed in the early 1980s in the small Minnesota town of Duluth and is now widely used across the United States.