Monday, 22 June 2009

Sexual harassment not ok anywhere, actually

There was much kerfuffle on Sunday about ACT MP David Garrett making stupid sexist comments. For those who missed it, here's the guts:
The Herald on Sunday learned that Hide was approached by a staff member who expressed concerns about comments made by Garrett. The comments were to another staff member inside the party office, and about her elsewhere in the Parliamentary complex.

Those comments allegedly included one made when the MP saw the woman filling a drink bottle at a water cooler. The comment described an oral sex act.

Hide said he had not heard of that comment but confirmed that Garrett had made "off-colour remarks". He had not sought details of the incidents as it was not his role to act as "judge and jury".

Instead, he spoke to Garrett "about the need to maintain high standards at all times".

Hide said the matter could be escalated to the Parliamentary Service - which employs the staff member - if there was a formal complaint. He had met with the staff member to assure her any complaint she made would be handled properly.

Hide said Garrett was "a guy who has come from a rough, tough background".

"I explained to him we set high standards in our Parliament across all parties.

"It is a learning experience in becoming an MP. I said it is good he can learn quickly - because he has to."
Now on the one hand sounds like Hide gets a bare pass mark for quick action (particulary in comparison with John Key re his erstwhile Minister of Whatever Richard Worth Was Minister Of).

However I'm not too chuffed about the implication that this kind of thing should/would be alright in other workplaces; that somehow Parliament works to some higher standard that an ordinary person (i.e. not a saint) would struggle to meet.

Actually it's not that hard to avoid sexually harassing people. The first step is to see others as human beings first, not just characters in your sexual fantasies. If someone seems uncomfortable (or tells you they are) with sexual innuendo then stop doing it around them. You can pretty safely assume that bjectifying a co-worker is not going to be cool with them. See, not that hard really, is it?


Anita said...

Rodney Hide is handling this really well on Morning Report (as I type). Amongst other good things he's talked about his responsibility as an employer and his awareness of the power difference.

Key should take lessons from Hide about how to talk (and think) about sexual harassment.

I am startled! (but pleased too :)

Tui said...

Thanks for picking up on this - I saw a quote from Garrett that explicitly said that he'd had to learn that what might have been appropriate in Tonga wasn't appropriate in Parliament. This, to me, basically says "there's nothing wrong with *what I was doing*" (i.e. sexual harassment)"- the problem is with my environment!" Which drives me CRAZY because it's more or less saying "I'm sorry that this matters to you", not "I'm sorry for what I did."

toad said...

I am told there has also been an incident of Garrett making a racist comment to a parliamentary staffer from another party whom he didn't even know.

Julie said...

The Standard points out Garrett was an employment lawyer for 15 years who reckons he mainly worked representing employees...

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

Being the party of personal responsibility and all that, I assume Garrett will get no sympathy whatsoever if the next woman he makes an "off-colour comment" to punches him in the face? :)


To be fair, I have female friends who I can get lewd, crude and bitchy with (and take as good as I give), and that's just how we roll. We've known each other for a long time, and we know where the lines are and what consequences come from crossing them.

But how we talk to each other during a weekend coffee and bitch session is not in order at work, and you don't have to be brain surgeon to figure that out.

portia said...

You also don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that you don't talk that way to someone you haven't been through the wars with, whatever the setting or context.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with Rodney, it doesn't surprise me he acted so seriously over the incident. I never felt threatened working in that office with him as the boss.

jen said...

I thought you might like to have a look at this ebook I put together on sexual harassment.