Sexual misconduct issue hampered by generalised attacks

Generalised anti-men attacks are common in social media – as are anti-women attacks for that matter. Sad but inevitable.

However they are more troubling when attacks are via media. Especially when it involves such a serious problems like sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

Catriona MacLennan (Opinion) at The Spinoff – NZ’s failure on sexual misconduct is much, much bigger than any one case

Sexual harassment is still not regarded a serious issue in Aotearoa.

That is what we have learned since 2014, as a pattern of inadequate responses to harassment has played out in the public and media spotlight.

Not a good start – yes, there have been prominent inadequate responses to harassment played out in the media spotlight, but the fact that they have received so much scrutiny suggests that sexual harassment is regarded as a serious issue by many people.

MacLennan goes on the detail a number of issues that have been given serious attention by media.

There are five common threads running through all these cases.

  • Many employers and other organisations do not have proper procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. It is difficult to put this down to anything other than them not considering sexual harassment to be important. I can guarantee that all of the above organisations have robust procedures for dealing with, for example, theft and would know exactly what to do if money disappeared;
  • The immediate response of a majority of organisations is to downplay sexual harassment and assault, minimising and trivialising it. This is because the key concern of those to whom sexual harassment is reported is with protecting the organisation, rather than supporting the victims;
  • Sexual harassment – like rape, domestic violence, the gender pay gap and other issues – is pigeon-holed as a “women’s issue”. This means that women are regarded as being responsible for solving it. Men are the perpetrators, but calling sexual harassment a “women’s issue” gives men a get-out-of-jail-free card. Not a single male lawyer has spoken out about sexual harassment in the legal profession. They have – gutlessly –sat by and left it to women to speak;
  • The role of the media is incredibly important. It seems that it is only when journalists do stories about sexual harassment that employers are forced to deal with it properly;
  • It is the victims who continue to pay the heaviest price. In addition to dealing with the behaviour to which they are subjected, they are forced to weigh up the likely impact on their careers of seeking justice for what they have endured.

The first two and last two points are fair.

But I question a number of assertions in the middle bullet point.

Sexual harassment is pigeon-holed as a “women’s issue”.

Perhaps in the past, but increasingly less so. It is becoming widely accepted that men need to take responsibility for inappropriate attitudes and behaviour.

This means that women are regarded as being responsible for solving it.

Who thinks that? Male journalists have been very involved in spotlighting issues. Male Labour Party officials were responsible for dealing with Labour current issues. They admit stuffing up, but Jacinda Ardern hasn’t been particularly prominent in resolving things either.

Men are the perpetrators, but calling sexual harassment a “women’s issue” gives men a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Only some men (a small minority) are ‘the perpetrators’.

How many men call sexual harassment a “women’s issue”? I haven’t seen it. This is generalised men bashing, which doesn’t help the issue.

Not a single male lawyer has spoken out about sexual harassment in the legal profession. They have – gutlessly –sat by and left it to women to speak;

That’s just patently untrue. Newsroom:  All six law schools cut ties with Russell McVeagh

Auckland’s Dean of Law, Professor Andrew Stockley, told staff and students today that students “invited to an event or employed in any capacity should expect appropriate and professional behaviour at all times, and that the school would not accept any student being subjected to inappropriate behaviour, pressure, or sexual harassment”.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Law Students’ Society (VUWLSS) also said it was ending its relationship with the firm over the way it handled the misconduct and assault complaints. VUWLSS President Fletcher Boswell wrote on Facebook:

“The assaults should have been reported as an official complaint to the Law Society immediately after they occurred. Russell McVeagh have confirmed that this was not done at the time, and that this still has not been done. From our understanding, this is a breach of what the firm is legally and ethically obliged to do”.

Law Faculty Dean Professor Charles Rickett said the law school withdrew because of concerns over the behaviour of some Russell McVeagh staff.

“On balance, we believe it is suitable to be cautious about the safety and wellbeing of our students and to wait until the outcome of the external review before deciding how to proceed.”

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford confirmed the university had been in discussions with NZLSA about covering any incurred costs.

“Victoria awaits the outcome of the external review of Russell McVeagh and the firm’s response to the review before deciding whether to resume activities with the firm. We believe it is in the best interests of our students and staff to await the external review of Russell McVeagh’s workplace culture and – perhaps more importantly – the firm’s response to the review.”

Waikato University’s Dean of Law, Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles, told Newsroom the university will not be hosting Russell McVeagh on campus, “nor will it be engaging with the firm for student recruitment, at this stage. The University will also be paying for its team to take part in the Client Interviewing competitions this year, rather than accepting sponsorship from Russell McVeagh. While investigations are carried out, our priority remains the well-being of our students and graduates.”

Back to MacLennan :

As a result of the latest stories, there will be reviews and new procedures.

But, fundamentally, nothing will change.

I think that things are noticeably changing.

That is because the root cause of sexual harassment is power.

In our society, it is middle-class, Pākehā males who hold power.

In their heart of hearts, they view women as inferior. They are used to women in their lives deferring to them.

This is generalised ‘middle-class, Pākehā male’ bashing. It is also sexist and racist. And I’m sure that it is false and unfair on many men.

Until we not only tackle but actually solve the power imbalance, Pākehā males will continue to believe that women’s bodies are theirs for the taking – whether it is in the workplace or elsewhere.

I’m quite disgusted by this. Attacking a wide group for the offences of some is wrong, and it ignores the fact that perpertrators are also outside the group that MacClennan is attacking.

This broad brush single colour attack won’t help solve the real serious issues.

Sure, men in general should do more to oppose sexual harassment and attacks, they need to speak up more, and stand up more for decency.

Women also need to do more. Some are, and that’s a good thing.

Some men have been and are doing more too. More need to be encouraged to do more. Tarring them with a generalised brush won’t help with that.

Making this an all men versus women issue is one of the worst approaches to dealing with the real problems that need resolved and that’s what MacLennan is doing here.

I think that fortunately most women don’t share these ‘all men are bad’ attitudes.

There are things that women can do, and there are things that men can and should do, to combat the sexual harassment and violence issues.

Most importantly, good men and women need to work together to improve our society, not see each other as inferior or as enemies.

 

28 Comments

  1. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  March 16, 2018

    Yep, some Labour folk just don’t get it.
    Abusers are not restricted to middle-class, Pākehā males who vote National/Act etc.

    Abusers come from all walks of life… they can be poor, brown, trans-gendered; they can be disturbed, oppressed females; they can be your brother, your sister, your lover, your neighbour.
    They can even be you.

    Until the Labour elite free themselves from the dogma they have swallowed and start embracing some principles about upholding the rights of all folks (young/old/rich/poor/brown/white/male/female) to be free from abuse, they will continue to flounder in the morass of lies and obfuscation when one of their own indulges in sexual abuse.

    • PartisanZ

       /  March 16, 2018

      Conflation of the highest order Maggy Wassilieff …

      Who said the “middle-class Pakeha males” all vote National/Act?

      Do MacLennan’s comments even have anything much to do with Labour’s Summer Camp scandal? I guess they do by implication but I think she’s largely referring to the legal profession revelations …

      I like this from Pete – “The first two and last two points are fair.”

      So FOUR out of FIVE points are “fair” … Not bad!

      Very defensive indeed about the ONE remaining point though … Attack the one point that contains a ‘generalization’ … (Quite the opposite of the common penchant on here for attacking the point WITH a generalization)

      It’s good in a way …

      After this topic we shouldn’t tolerate any generalizations about other things.

      Should we? Yeah … Right!

      Also for the record Pete, MacLennan clearly states, “Not a single MALE LAWYER has spoken out about sexual harassment in the legal profession. They have – gutlessly –sat by and left it to women to speak” To me this strongly implies male lawyers out there in the ‘real world’ legal profession.

      Citing a bunch of Law Deans and Professors and a Law Student’s Society President is disingenuous IMHO and probably wouldn’t stand up as a defense in a Court of Law …?

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 16, 2018

    Yep, once she gets on to the Pakeha males bit she is ranting and drivelling.

    • PartisanZ

       /  March 16, 2018

      Headline: Victims of sexual harassment admitted to Media: Male ‘establishment’ closes ranks.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  March 16, 2018

        Headline: Political axe-grinders seize sexual harassment issue.

  3. Pickled Possum

     /  March 16, 2018

    C. MacLennan says …”That is because the root cause of sexual harassment is power.
    In our society, it is middle-class, Pākehā males who hold power.
    In their heart of hearts, they view women as inferior. They are used to women in their lives deferring to them.

    Pete says …. This is generalised ‘middle-class, Pākehā male’ bashing. It is also sexist and racist. And I’m sure that it is false and unfair on many men”.

    A teaching I came across when doing study at a Pakeha institute
    was; On top of the ‘ladder we have ..
    White men
    White woman
    Maori men
    Maori woman

    Maori woman marry White men; for supposed acceptance and relevance?
    Maori men marry White woman; for supposed acceptance and relevance?

    At the bottom of the ‘rung’ we have Maori women, who will have their say
    about how they perceive their truth.

    Will White men say “This is generalised ‘middle-class, Pākehā male’ bashing.
    It is also sexist and racist. And I’m sure that it is false and unfair on many men”
    in answer to the truth of woman.

    By labelling woman who speak out on these issues as sexist racist pakeha bashers,
    it is much easier to dismiss them and it discourages other woman from speaking publicly
    on issues.

    Can white men generalise about this womans korero and find it acceptable?.

    Who says there is NO racism or sexism or bigotry in NZ …. Not I.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 16, 2018

      Generalisation is false whether it comes from the top or the bottom, Possum. And MacLennan is at the top.

    • Corky

       /  March 16, 2018

      ”In our society, it is middle-class, Pākehā males who hold power.
      In their heart of hearts, they view women as inferior. They are used to women in their lives deferring to them.”

      Wow!.Many middlclass white males would probably wish they felt that way.

      ”Maori woman marry White men; for supposed acceptance and relevance?
      Maori men marry White woman; for supposed acceptance and relevance?”

      Do you think any have married because of attraction?

      Ah, fug it. I can’t be bothered carrying on. Maybe I suffer from self hate brought on by colonial conditioning to make me feel inferior.

      • phantom snowflake

         /  March 16, 2018

        Suspiciously Way too much self-awareness in that last sentence. I’m imagining the scene when Corky discovers that his nephew who had borrowed his laptop has been trolling him by using his pseudonym to comment on Your NZ!

        • Corky

           /  March 16, 2018

          You are well named. The last sentience is a parody of people like you. I bet you wish it was true. But alas..I like myself.

          • phantom snowflake

             /  March 16, 2018

            FYI, my pseudonym is a piece of self-mockery. But I’m not what you think I am. I may dislike your attitudes and might maybe possibly occasionally troll you just a little, but I wish you well. By the way “The last sentience” is a great Freudian Slip. Think about it.

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              ”The last sentience” is a great Freudian Slip. Think about it.”

              It sure was. But now that you’ve mentioned it, it’s taken on new meaning.

              ”FYI, my pseudonym is a piece of self-mockery. ”

              I’m sure it is. Thanks for telling me. Mine is too, at least that’s what I’m told.

              And thank you for wishing me well.

          • Pickled Possum

             /  March 16, 2018

            Can’t help myself … unlike you. Must carry on.
            Butt just in case YDK … sentience means;
            Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). … In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that require respect and care.

  4. artcroft

     /  March 16, 2018

    Perhaps John Campbell can apologise to her for being a man.

    • artcroft

       /  March 16, 2018

      Live on air please John.

    • PartisanZ

       /  March 16, 2018

      Headline: Victims of sexual harassment admitted to Media: Male ‘establishment’ fires back.

      • artcroft

         /  March 16, 2018

        You need reading lessons: Headline “Unhinged Liberal brands all white men rapists: White men gently speak truth to power.

      • artcroft

         /  March 16, 2018

        More to the point if RNZ is to receive millions of taxpayer dollars and only represent a narrow liberal worldview it will enable Rupert Murdock to set up shop in NZ with FOXNZ – not what we need.

        • PartisanZ

           /  March 16, 2018

          Well, to paraphrase a famous song, “You can’t always get what you need … but if don’t try sometime … you just might find … You get what you WANT”

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 16, 2018

            What ‘male establishment ‘ ?

            This generalisation is as stupid as almost all generalisations are. It gives women an excuse to be feeble and whiny victims.

  5. Revel

     /  March 16, 2018

    The Wellington Partner at the centre of the first headlines at Russell McVeagh is actually Polynesian and worked in the Maori affairs division of the firm. He is now a Barrister sole. Blows the theory out of the water that it is old, rich white men in power somewhat. He is young, brown and from a working class background.

    • Gezza

       /  March 16, 2018

      I’m not seeing your link to any confirmation of this claim?

      • Revel

         /  March 17, 2018

        Then actually take the time to read Pete’s post above from –

        “In our society, it is middle-class, Pākehā males who hold power”.

        If you want confirmation of the identity of the lawyer involved I’m not going to give it to you on this blog. Ask anyone in the profession in Wellington.

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