I am officially old. I am starting to become incredibly politically correct. I have my eldest son on Facebook, I really should block him. It’s not what he does, its often what his friends do. Last week I opened up Facebook to a picture of his friends bare bottom mooning me. Apparently, entirely sober, the friend thought it was funny to do that and tag my son to the post. I was livid and posted a comment reminding the friend that it wasn’t just my son that could see this but his grandparents, his brothers, his parents, his cousins and even my friends who my son has friended. I didn’t hold back. I told the said friend to grow up and called him a cretin. I then reported the post to Facebook. He was just being a lad right?
This week it seems that men are getting in trouble for being lads. Minister Briggs sexually harassed one of his staffers in a bar in Hong Kong. Apparently kissing her and telling her she had piercing eyes. The staffer made an official complaint. On hearing this Briggs apparently shared a photograph of the woman in the bar with him. Why? I do not know. In the end he was forced to resign for poor conduct. A harsh price for just being a lad and flirting in a bar. Right?
Following straight on from that Minister Dutton, a rather unpleasant character, attempted to send Briggs a message concerning the journalist that revealed the story. Dutton called her a, “Mad fucking witch”. Unfortunately in a moment of confusion Dutton actually sent the text to the journalist concerned. His excuse, “Sam and I (the journalist) have exchanged some robust language over the years, so we had a laugh after this and I apologised to her straight away which she took in good faith,” Dutton being a lad among friends. Simple mistake. No need for his resignation. Right?
The lads are up in lights this week. Enter Chris Gayle, the swashbuckling West Indies cricketer. Dismissed for 41 from 15 balls he was approached by a female journalist for an interview. Where upon he began flirting with her, mentioned something along the lines that he’d been waiting for the moment, asked her out for a drink in front of possibly millions of TV viewers and then told her, “Don’t blush baby.” What a lad! What a cheeky lad! All in good fun! Right?
Even I have been a lad! I’ve flirted with women. Asked them out in bars. Even successfully asked out the receptionist at my work and nearly married her. I’ve had moments with the lads when an attractive woman has walked by and made inappropriate comments as well. We humans are programmed to respond to attractiveness and sometimes in the blur of the moment our response is probably not something we would do in normal circumstances. I am no angel, let’s acknowledge that.
BUT – I was horrified at what Briggs did. I was horrified at what Dutton did. I was mortified at what Gayle did. Why? Well, because their actions showed absolute contempt for women. All three women were professionals doing their job. They were not seeking dates or attention. They were just doing their job. The respect shown to them was zilch!
This is what really riles me. I am a disability advocate. I have fought for years for access and equal rights. It’s a hard slog. Attitudes, respect and prejudice are the biggest barriers to change. There are those that still think that people with a disability are some sort of lesser beings. That they are not capable of the things that “able bod” people can do. The expectations are low. Often disability can be a figure of fun. Often the focus is on deficit rather than assets. Opportunities for people with a disability are so hard to come by that 45% of them live in poverty.
Any gains that people with a disability have earned over the years have been hard fought. It has been a constant slog to change attitudes and convince society that people with a disability are up to it and capable. God, it can be a struggle to convince society that people with a disability have a right to exist and be valued in the same way as everyone else. The gains that have been made over many years need to be reinforced and protected with gusto!
This is exactly the case with women. Women have fought hard to be taken seriously. They have fought hard for recognition. They have fought hard for equal opportunity and to be able to do male dominated jobs. They have fought hard to be valued and respected. Even now women still do not get equal pay, even though they should by law. And just because they are women. How is that right?
All these women were just doing their job. Instead of being respected they were sexualised and degraded. Women, like people with a disability, need to be constantly on their guard to protect the hard earned gains that they have made. In a nano-second these gains can come crashing down if the behaviours such as these men were to go down without being challenged. Being a lad, even a lad that isn’t too bright, does not and can never excuse sexism.
The Gayle incident gets me the most for some reason, though all the examples are equally abhorrent. Here was a woman who has fought hard to be given an opportunity to be a journalist in a male dominated sports area, particularly cricket. She goes to interview the cricketer. Professional and proud. What respect does she get? “Don’t blush baby!” If I did this in my workplace I’d be dismissed in an instance and rightfully so! All the men mentioned have treated women with contempt and should be shown the door – No excuses!
Poor form lads. Poor form indeed!
Footnote: And yes I know Sharapova did it too – Read the story here and judge whether it ranks with the sleaze described above –