Last week, I have to say that I was shocked and also a little appalled by some of my friends’ reactions to the ‘Chris Gayle’ palaver. When are we as women going to say “Enough is enough. This is not appropriate and has to stop”? We need to start with all women not condoning or devaluing the experience or putting the responsibility on the woman herself to ‘deal’ with it.
Sitting in front of the TV, I was watching the interview with Mel McLaughlin and then saw some comments from female friends on Facebook saying things like “media beat up”, “are we princesses that need protecting” or “she should give it back to him with a funny or smart comeback”. I am surprised — why do we think that this is OK? There was even a defence that Chris Gayle is known for that — so what? Does that make it OK?
The reality is not all all women have the ability, confidence or wit to make these comments or rebuttals and suffer in silence instead. I know that my friends could ‘give as good as they get’ but many others can’t, which makes them a more likely target. Regardless, he took advantage of the fact that she was ‘live on air’. She was sent there to do a job and has professional standards she needs to meet. Her interview was impacted and that was not the job outcome she expected or wanted. She is entitled to be able to do her job without any such unprofessional comments.
I personally had a nasty sexual harassment, employment experience when I was in my early 20s. I ended up being fired because, after 3 weeks, I finally said “enough is enough”. I was not paid the salary I was owed. I raised a complaint and after a lengthy battle, I received my salary and a weakly worded apology. The interesting thing was, when I shared this experience with my netball team, 7 out of 10 girls had experienced something similar or, in one case, much worse. None — and I repeat, none of them, ever said or did anything about it! They suffered in silence.
Mel McLaughlin wants to move on and she definitely does not want this incident to define her or her career and I totally get that. Remember Kristy Fraser-Kirk? Well, she now works overseas unable to get a job in Australia. I remember my Dad cautioning me to stay quiet about my experience. He wanted to protect me and feared it would damage my career. Mmmm, interesting — given I was the victim, as was Kristy, as was Mel. Thousands of sexual harassment complaints go unreported every year as we continue to make excuses and ‘brush the issue under the carpet’. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal — simple as that.
So next time a woman is sexually harassed, let’s stand up for her and say loudly and publicly “This is not OK”.