Wednesday, 22 April 2015

"A bit of banter"

That's the PM's excuse for repeatedly and regularly physically harassing a waitress over the course of several months, pulling her hair (is he 6?!) despite being asked to stop, repeatedly, both by the waitress in question and by his embarrassed wife. She literally had to threaten him with physical violence for the message to sink in, to which he eventually responded with a token half-hearted apology and two bottles of JK-brand red wine. How lovely.

This would be absolutely appalling behaviour from any individual. Invading somebody's personal space like this without their consent is bad enough, but if it had been a one-off incident one could perhaps pass it off as a simple faux pas. Misunderstandings do happen. It's the repeated nature of it - after being quite explicitly told that she didn't like his behaviour - that makes this really offensive.

Being treated this way by somebody in a position of authority is always incredibly stressful, given the potential repercussions that can come from speaking out. Over the next few days she will be subjected to an enormous amount of media attention and have all sorts of awful misogynistic things said about her by the talkback radio crowd. Her anonymity is unlikely to hold for long. Going public about this is an incredibly brave move, and I don't envy her situation.

Those in high office are expected to set an example through their public conduct. Key's conduct brings the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute, and shows shockingly poor judgement from somebody who's been in that office as long as he has. Even his usual cheerleaders aren't defending him. Slater's comments are particularly interesting - while he tries to downplay the incidents, he does so by claiming that Key has covered up far more serious crimes which are more deserving of media attention. The cynic in me suspects that this is an attempt to deflect attention from a matter of established fact to matters of speculation which the PM could plausibly deny. If his beef with the PM was genuine, why be so vague in his accusations?

Further developments notwithstanding, chances are that he'll weather this storm - the waitress hasn't indicated any intention to press charges, and it's unlikely that it would meet the legal threshold for criminal harassment or assault. But if Key held himself to the same standard that he claims to hold his MPs to, he'd resign. At the very least, he ought to make a public apology for his misconduct and take it as an opportunity to raise awareness of harassment and the importance of consent. Not gonna happen, though.

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