Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sexual harassment and the Nats

Julie has covered John Key's disturbing sense of entitlement in his local cafe, where he clearly feels he can treat a woman as his own personal property because she's waiting tables.  Not much more to say there.

I've lots more to say though about the patterns of behaviour from this National Government.

It's not the first time a National MP has been caught out treating hospitality staff with disdain.  When Aaron Gilmore resigned after asking bar staff "Don't you know who I am?" because they refused to serve him, John Key said it was "the right decision."

It's also not the first time sexual harassment scandals have bedevilled the personnel in this government.  Or even the second or third time.

First there's Michael Woodhouse, before he was even in parliament, telling the student press in Dunedin what he thought of young women:
"I love spring around here, it's bloody fantastic, the skirts were never this short in my day."
He was a 42 year old father of three at the time.  Now he's the Minister of Police, responding to the Police bungling of Roastbusters. 

Then there's Minister Richard Worth, serial sexual harasser, forced to resign after the Police began investigations into his behaviour.  John Key "washed his hands" of Mr Worth at the time.

Or what about Gerry Brownlee appointee to CERA, Roger Sutton, who had to resign after being found guilty of sexual harassment?

And then there are the allegations from Dirty Politics, about National Party pollster David Farrar organising parties for "National Party friends" which treated Young Nats women as potential "targets". 

It's almost like National Party men and friends of National Party men think women are playthings for their own amusement.  That it's ok to touch us when we don't want to be touched, text us when we don't want to be texted, call us when we don't want to be called, make sexual comments about us when we are walking around our campuses, and target us for sex when we are drunk (otherwise known as rape).  National Party men appear to think women at work - or anywhere else - are fair game for whatever they feel like doing to us.  Hell, John Key appears to think even little girls are on the menu for unwanted touching.

What's the answer to this blatant, entitled sexism?  To be fair, lots of the culprits have gone already.  But it's scarcely an individual issue when it's happening this frequently.  If John Key wants to show he doesn't condone sexual harassment, he might have to think about more than just his own apology, more than just curtailing his own behaviour.

He might need to change the culture in his party.  He might need to work out how he shows New Zealand women that he does have some respect for us.  He might need to stop presiding over a government so blatantly tilted towards the powerful.  And he might need to start keeping his creepy hands to himself.


ChundaMars said...

The Michael Woodhouse example seems a little out of place LJ. The others, sure, but that one could hardly be classed as sexual harassment. Also, not sure what being a father of 3 has to do with it... But maybe I'm just sensitive to suggestions I should grow up now that I'm a father!

John Key seems to have a thing about pony tails, doesn't he? Which would be fine... If he asked before touching them!

Incidentally, I live across the road from someone who was present at the Aaron Gilmore incident. He was extremely unimpressed when Mr. Gilmore tried to palm it off as a misbehaving group, of which he was just one member. I believe my neighbour was the person who wrote the apology letter for the staff member the next day, in fact.

LudditeJourno said...

Hey Chunda,
I think the entitlement to comment publically on looking at 17 year old young women (the age I started Varsity) sexually when you're 25 years older is creepy as hell, hence Michael Woodhouse's inclusion. I also think it's relevant because he's responsible for NZ Police, and they seem to struggle, based on the IPCA report, on taking rape cases seriously if they can blame the complaint on alcohol or something else about the victim. Like say, the length of her skirt.
I'm also suggesting him being a father is relevant because of the age of the young women - will he feel ok about his daughters being ogled by men 25 years older than them? Probably not.
I do think sexualised comments in the media contribute to making sexual harassment possible in other parts of real life. And I can imagine how creeped out I'd have been as a 17 year old by such a comment.
Aaron Gilmore does not sound like a fabulous human being alright, glad your neighbour had the integrity to apologise.
Ta, LJ

ChundaMars said...

No debate on my part regarding the relevance with him being responsible for NZ Police.
I'm interested though: is it the commenting publically you have a problem with, or the "ogling" itself? And at what age gap does "ogling" become acceptable? Do you see my point?
(If this is starting to seem like a derail, by all means, we can stop or move the conversation elsewhere.)

LudditeJourno said...

They are both creepy Chunda, in my opinion. I'm 44 now and would not find it appropriate at all to be ogling teenagers or writing about how hot they were. I wrote a blog about this at the time that might make how I feel clearer -

ChundaMars said...

Thanks LJ, read your post.
I am with you 100% on calling out people for staring at cleavage, grabbing other people's bodies without permission (Hi John!), catcalling etc. My issue with those things is the way they make other people feel, as you say the "entitlement" to speak or act out in public, regardless of what other people are thinking or feeling.

However, when you start having an issue with what someone else thinks or feels inside their own head, then you lose me. For instance, "I do find it highly creepy that a 42-year-old with a wife is letching after student women – who will be as young as 17". What does having a wife have to do with this? As a married man, should I no longer find anyone else attractive? Also, at what age am I no longer allowed to find younger people attractive? (Putting aside for a minute that it is you, not him, who keeps conflating this with finding 17 year olds attractive - the vast majority of people at university are older than that of course)

If it's the speaking out about this you have a problem with, then that's fine, I agree, as per above. But if I, as a married man (with children) in his 30s, am attracted to a university student in a short skirt, I don't think I should be feeling any shame in that. Especially because it's not exactly a choice I have. (Once again, I certainly have the choice not to stare, or whistle, or call out to her, but the finding attractive isn't something that I can consciously control).

Anyway, my point being that bringing those things into it weakens your argument - catcalling and ogling and sexualised comments are wrong regardless of whether someone is married, or 25 years older, or has children, so there's no need to bring that into it. Am I making sense?

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks Chunda, yep, you have a point on his relationship status, that's irrelevant, and I think it's slightly lazy shorthand for my wanting to demonstrate he could easily have daughters the age of the young women he's leering at.
We disagree about the age difference though. The sexualising of young people by older people is problematic in my view, because of power differences. And I guess for me, the having children thing is one situation which I think offers men who may not have thought about it before the chance to reflect on how they want girls and young women to be treated by other men. I know many men have thought about that already, but I also know for others, fatherhood allowed different opportunities to critique sexism, which is a great thing.
Shall we leave this now, kinda feels played out to me.

Mercy Seat said...

Luddite, I strongly disagree with you that it is wrong for older people to "ogle" younger people.

Would you say the same thing of Ellen DeGeneres, who is married to a woman 15 years younger than her? Is it problematic because of the power differences? I'm guessing she's sexualises her wife.

LudditeJourno said...

Hi Mercy, I think it's different when you are both adults and power differences are less stark, other things being equal (eg wealth, race, not their employer etc). Let's put it another way though; if someone has a pattern of seeking much, much younger partners, what might that mean? Woody Allen say?

Mercy Seat said...

So you're saying that 17 year old university students aren't adults?

Woody Allen is a rapist. That has nothing to do with the age of his partners and everything to do with their lack of consent.

I have a good friend who usually dates men who are between 10 and 15 years younger than her. She dated a 16 year old when she was 29. She has for the past three years been married to a man who is seven years younger than her. Should I be suspicious of her?

LudditeJourno said...

No, I'm saying 17 year old students have very little financial and material power in comparison with 42 year olds, for very obvious reasons, because they have only just become adults. And yep, I see it as problematic when much older women target male teenagers too, and so do male survivor groups. You'll have to decide for yourself if you consider your friend in that light.
I'm not interested in responding to this straw woman argument any more, it feels like we're a long way from the OP.

Mercy Seat said...

LOL @ male survivor groups

I seem to remember you yourself had some choice words to say about men who prioritise male domestic abuse survivors a while ago, LudditeJourno

But now that they are saying something you agree with, you consider them authoritative?

You're saying that the enthusiastic consent of a 17 year old doesn't count because they lack privilege.

OK then

I can see why you don't want to pursue this "straw feminist" argument further - it's not nice to be called out on your denying others agency, is it?