Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A nuisance

John Key has said that he had received more than one complaint that Richard Worth was "making a nuisance of himself towards women." He told the media:
All I can say I treated the allegation seriously. I investigated it and I was satisfied with the answers I received.
From the statements John Key has made it seems to be a reasonable supposition that the unknown crime the police are investigating Richard Worth for is an offence that is in some way similar to 'making a nuisance of himself towards women'.

Now if you want the political point scoring I suggest The Standard or Kiwiblog. They will argue about how this compares with Clark's actions, and the political management of it all. These are not things I care about.

There's something very born to rule about the euphemism 'making a nuisance of himself'. Just the language, unfortunately, not the activity. Like many born to rule terms, it's quite honest. I can imagine quite a range of activities that Key would refer to in this way: it could refer to language, either abusive or explicitly sexual, or unwanted physical contact, even protracted unwanted physical contact. These are all nuisances, women should put up with them in the same way they might a missed bus.

And what is telling is that John Key ignored the first indications that Richard Worth was nuisance-ing woman (and we can only conjecture what that euphamism covers in John Key's mind). Or in the language of politicians - John Key was satisfied with the explanation the Minister gave him.

Which, if you think about it, isn't that different to what happens outside of parliament. A man (say) hears that his friend has been 'being a nuisance to' (or the euphemism which is most appropriate to the social circle they belong to) a woman. The man talks to his friend about it. His friends gives a response, which is either "she's lying" or "she was asking for it" (both these responses will probably be clouded in layers of euphemism as well). And he is satisfied with that response.

And so the friend keeps doing it. Who wouldn't? Everyone is satisfied.

Except the woman involved, who is, as so often happens, rendered invisible with the focus on the man, and his explanations.


stargazer said...

thank you for posting this. it was exactly what i thought as soon as i heard the phrase: what a nasty euphemism. being a nuisance? given that the indications are that the allegations against mr worth arevery serious, it's a terrible way to minimise them. or, i guess, to protect yourself from defamation suits. it's just such a bad choice of words.

Deborah said...

I agree. It has the same nasty flavour of euphemism that you can taste when people say that someone "interfered with" a child.

Tui said...

Agree, agree, agree - and when John Key says emphatically that he "would not have him in [Key's] cabinet", I begin to feel very uncomfortable. Because this is the party that stood Bob Clarke last election and let him fondle his balls at everyone; this is the party whose last leader claimed that he routinely lost debates against Helen Clark because he was being polite to the wimmins. I find it difficult to believe that the old boys' club is going to back away so emphatically from anything as "mild" as, say, workplace harassment (especially when a similar complaint was made through Goff a month ago and handled "quietly" - i.e. through the old boys protecting each others' reputations.) So this feels very serious to me. :-/

Anonymous said...

Err,Tui what is wrong with Brash being polite to Ms Clark? If anything that was him showing her complete respect as a leader and woman.

Cactus Kate said...

Nonsense. Richard Worth if you have met him has a terrible affliction that he comes across to women (yes even myself) as horribly creepy and awkward. He's the guy who compliments you on having marvellous blue eyes while he is staring at your breasts.

If he's committed definitive sexual assault or rape that's one thing, however I would imagine the "nuisance" offending is on a scale of what I call uneuphemistically a "sex pest". That is the scale of subjective disgustingness depending on how a woman interprets the situation without physical interference. John Key of course couldn't stand up and say the word "sex pest" could he? He had to use a euphemism for public consumption until the Police release details of charges, if any.

I thought the "nuisance" comment also referred to the act in the past, not the one the Police have charged him with now.

If you have met the man he's not physically very imposing. He has bad shoulderpads in this suits that make him look far larger than he is. I felt more than comfortable that if need be I could give him a whack if I felt offended by his "nuisance" value.

All and all I think before jumping to conclusions we should wait until the actual charges are made public. His career as an MP is over make no mistake about that. No need for a pound of flesh as he's giving it right now.

Anita said...

Key "accepted Dr Worth's version of events."

Awesome, I like a man in a leadership position who sides with the man over sexual harassment complaints without even checking with the woman, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and enveloped by the 1950s when men were real men and women knew their place.

Luke H said...

Key ejected this pathetic little creep from Cabinet with the strongest language I've heard a PM use for many years. If we haven't heard the woman's side of the story, that's because she wants to stay anonymous (I would too!).

Yes the euphemism is uncool, but a[part from a clumsy choice of worrds, I don't see exactly what your problem is with what Key did.

Psycho Milt said...

As Danyl said over at his place, Key's best careful what he says about a guy with plenty of experience as a lawyer and plenty of money to fund libel suits. You certainly don't go blurting out words like "sexual harrassment" about rich lawyers without having secured some pretty indisputable evidence of it, unless you're a complete loony. Key obviously hasn't, and isn't.

Julie said...

The Sprout's come up with a LOLKey to go with this post.

Maia said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. What's come out since I wrote this post just confirms my interpretation of it.

Luke - the purpose of this post wasn't to score political points about what Key should or shouldn't have done, but to point out what this tells us about the way our society views women.

But I don't think accepting Richard Worth's word for whether or not he was attempting to use his position of power to coerce someone into sex is an adequate response.

Cactus Kate - I think that coming across as creepy towards woman is not an affliction, but a sign you are a creep. For instance, the easiest way not to creep women out by looking at their breasts, is to not look at their breasts.

Anonymous said...

Maia - You don't know Richard, Cactus Kate does and has met him on several occasions.

Stop making this into something it isn't. Where are the police reports and why is the woman not releasing the texts?

Lets not hang the man until due process takes place.