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Posts Tagged ‘Tania Billingsley’

John Key, Tania Billingsley, The Waitress, and me

29 April 2015 5 comments

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it's never ok to touch someone without their consent

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After The Daily Blog published the story of the [then un-named] cafe waitress who has been harassed by our esteemed Prime Minister for seven months, it now becomes apparent why he was so reluctant in this case;

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Tania Billingsley - I won't apologise - PM on diplomat case - John Key

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Key’s reluctance to apologise to Ms Billingsley over the atrocious way in which MFAT mishandled the Malaysian Diplomat, at the center of attempted rape and burglary allegations, appears to be a pattern of misogynistic behaviour from the man.

Note Key’s statement why he would not apologise;

“I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason to.”

Many New Zealanders now have a greater insight into Key’s psyche; he did not believe there was a “serious” reason to apologise to Ms Billingsley.

Just as  Key dismissed his behaviour with the waitress by minimising it as some sort of harmless play;

“There’s always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that’s all there really was to it.”

The problem for Key is that his (not hers) “lots of horsing” was non-consensual (as well as utterly inappropriate on many other levels). Very rarely is it acceptable in New Zealand – or wider Western Society – to touch complete strangers, unless invited; eg; a handshake.

The waitress made it clear that Key’s attention and touching were unwelcome;

On Saturday, 28th February (which I specifically recall as there was to be a protest outside his home the following day) he approached me from behind, security personnel by his side, as I stood with my back to him filling water glasses, and he pulled my hair before once again pointing the blame at Bronagh. I couldn’t believe it, he was still persisting and by now he had definitely got the message that I was not enjoying it – that seemed to be why he was enjoying it so damn much. It had really crossed the line by this point and I didn’t need to tell him to stop because now Bronagh herself was already telling him to stop what he was doing, and not for the first time I might add. I exclaimed “Really?!!”, to my manager beside me, and shot him a look of utter disbelief and frustration.

The waitress has nailed it;

I couldn’t believe it, he was still persisting and by now he had definitely got the message that I was not enjoying it – that seemed to be why he was enjoying it so damn much.

Let me explain why her observation that Key “ was enjoying it so damn much” is so apt.

My first job out of High School was at the age of 16, around 1974/75. I was employed in the mail room, sorting mail – this was waaaay before email. Or faxes. Everything was done by post, and the company – Blue Star Port Lines, situated at the time in the IBM House on The Terrace – received and sent hundreds of letters and shipping notifications every day.

A few months later, I was promoted to the role of a junior shipping clerk. I had my own desk, surrounded by (mainly) men doing similar work to me. Women were primarily in secretarial roles.

I was excited – my own desk! That excitement did not last long and after few weeks had passed, I began to receive unwanted attention from one of the male staff, who would lean close into me when talking; hold my shoulder as he looked over it at whatever work I was doing; and talking to me suggestively.

I’ve no idea if he was gay, hitting on me as a young man, or straight and just teasing the hell out of me.

It was a situation I had never faced before. High School had prepared me  for muddy games of rugby and the odd scrap with whichever bully was rostered on that day to give us smaller kids a hiding. (Stupidly, I almost always stood my ground and never ran. Subsequently received more than my fair share of bruises. I should have watched more “Dr Who” and realised there is nothing ignoble about running from a bigger foe…)

But sexual harassment? The term barely existed in the mid-1970s. It was simply an unknown concept. You might as well have come from the 21st Century and asked me where the nearest wi-fi hot-spot was…

It got worse. The touching. His face close to mine. Then, one day, he pressed his body close to mine in an otherwise empty elevator. I was terrified. I  felt repulsed. I felt totally powerless.

For fuck’s sakes, I was 16 (nearly 17) – hadn’t even lost my virginity. And here was a guy in his late 30s (early 40s?) coming on to me.

The next day, I called in sick. The following day, I went to work, hoping like hell he wasn’t there.

He was. It continued.

After a while, I simply quit. I couldn’t cope. I had no idea what to do; who to go to. I just felt totally powerless. To someone who has not experienced anything remotely like harassment, when you are utterly powerless and the abuser plays on that power-imbalance, then it is hard to comprehend. You cannot hope to feel what a victim has felt, unless it is in your head as well.

Luckily, it was the mid-1970s, and you could walk out of one job and straight into another. I collected my final pay; an additional reimbursement from Labour’s superannuation fund (about $25, if I recall), after Muldoon scrapped it; and never went back.

Everyone else in that office had seen what was happening (it was open-plan for ordinary workers – only managers got enclosed offices).

Not one person said or did anything. Not one.

And all the while – and this is a memory I retain decades later – I can remember the smiling and grinning on his face. He was enjoying my discomfort. That’s how he was getting his ‘jollies’.

People like that; they get pleasure from the discomfort of others. For them, it’s “horse play”.

It was my entrance into the world of being an adult.

So,  to hell with those who try to excuse Key’s behaviour. They are the enablers who allow bullies – whether it be a senior shipping clerk, or a Prime Minister – to keep raping a person’s mind.

 

 


 

References

The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE – The Prime Minister and the Waitress

TVNZ News:  I won’t apologise – PM on diplomat case

NZ Herald: John Key – Pony-tail pulling ‘just horsing around’

Additional

Amy Adams, MP for Selwyn: Prime Minister John Key jokes with Brooke Coburn about cutting her hair (Hat-tip:  Greg Presland)

NZ Herald: Audrey Young – Today I’m embarrassed John Key is Prime Minister

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 April 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #6: When apologising to a victim of violence is not considered “serious”

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lying politician

 

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The next time John Key stands up at a public meeting and states that he always carries out his promises, just remind him of this event;

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PM accused of breaking word

 

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So on 3 July, our esteemed Dear Leader was of the mind that Ms Billingsley deserved an apology,

“… in so much that I believe that she shouldn’t have had to go through what she went through.”

It was a good sound-bite for the media and made a good headline. Politician. Attempted rape victim. Bungling by bureaucrats and probably a senior minister. The focus groups that poll-driven governments use would have backed up an apology.

Nineteen days later, it all changed.  Key’s new response was,

“Because I think the Government has apologised. Both the minister and the officials have made it quite clear they’re sorry for the incident that’s taken place in the way that person left the country. I think that’s wholly appropriate.

But in the end, I think what’s far more important is that there is a proper inquiry – that’s what the victim in this circumstance deserves and that’s what she’s going to get.

What’s far more important now, actually, is that the independent inquiry that’s been established and will be run by (former Treasury Secretary) John Whitehead actually gets to the bottom of all of the unanswered questions there.”

Worse still, and this is something every woman in this country should reflect on, was Key’s astounding quip,

“I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason for me to do that. As I said at the time I relied on the advice that was given to me by MFAT.”

So Key believes sexual assault (or attempted sexual assault) is not serious? Is that the message from the Prime Minister?

So if one of his family, gods forbid, went through what Ms Billingsley did – that’s not “serious”?

We’ve had an insight into John Key’s soul – backed up by his now-other-infamous quip about Internet Party Leader, Laila Harré , when he uttered this sexist and derogatory comment about her,

“… Laila Harré grandstanding about whether her sugar daddy should be extradited or not to the United States.”

So, if Kim Dotcom is Ms  Harré’s “sugar daddy” because he is funding the Internet-Mana alliance – does that make John Key Shanghai Pengxin’s “rent boy” for receiving funding from that corporation in return for favourable ministerial decisions on land purchases ?

Perhaps worse still is an insight into Key’s “moral compass” (or lack thereof), when he let slip,

“… As I said at the time I relied on the advice that was given to me by MFAT.”

Does that mean he cannot make a fairly simple decision to offer an apology to a victim/survivor of attempted rape without “advice” from a third party?

Does he really have to be told what is the right thing to do?

Why would any woman vote for a person like this?

Charge: broken promise/deflection/half-truth/hypocrisy/outright lie/misinformation?

Verdict: broken promise

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References

Radio NZ:  PM accused of breaking word

NZ Herald: Diplomat case: No apology from PM

Radiolive: AUDIO: Prime Minister John Key refers to Kim Dotcom as Laila Harre’s “sugar daddy”

NZ Herald: Chinese cash flows to Nats

Other blogs

Seemorerocks:An honest man?

The Standard: Just say sorry John

Previous related blogposts

Time to bend over again, fellow Kiwis (part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

 


 

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david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 August 2014

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Message to TV3 execs – Is this really acceptable?

25 July 2014 5 comments

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everyday-sexism-book

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If there is one thing that Tania Billingsley has raised in this country, it is focusing the glare of public scrutiny  on New Zealand’s casually sexist and demeaning attitude toward women. Some refer to it as a “rape culture”, where men (and generally speaking, they are men) hold the most repulsive attitudes imaginable toward  women.

I’m not even referring to rapists, molesters, and men who beat (and often kill) their partners senseless.

I’m referring to the casual acceptance of views toward women that are more suited to less enlightened societies, than a supposedly advanced, well-educated nation like ours. It is views of some men who – whilst not abusers and rapists themselves – are enablers of attitudes that empower the abusers and rapists by creating an ingrained belief that they are entitled to abuse and rape. Somewhere in the back of what passes for the minds of abusers and rapists are the comments they’ve read and heard elsewhere in society; that it is ok to mistreat and violate women. (Though they have to be over 16 to be abused and violated. Anyone under that, and the abuser/rapist is labelled a paedophile – which is evidently still ‘not ok” for misogynists. Yet. But working on it.)

The vileness of such attitudes is not just found on rabid social media pages where  poorly-educated,  and often insecure males (predominantly),  click “Like” to show their solidarity  with several hundred (a minority) other poorly-educated and often insecure males.

The mainstream media also has a culture of sexism, ranging from crass innuendo and exploitation of women,  to outright violence.

Case in point is the media personality-cum-village-idiot, Paul Henry.

Henry has a track record in boorish behaviour, more befitting an immature, adolescent male, rather than a mature man who should know better.

As Mike Kilpatrick wrote for Fairfax media on 16 July, Henry’s obnoxiousness reached a nadir when he interviewed Dr Michelle Dickinson, a scientist working at Auckland University;

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Auckland University - Michelle Dickinson - Paul Henry - TV3

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To quote the Auckland university directory, Dr Dickinson’s  areas of expertise are;

Nanotechnology, Nanomechanical testing, Fracture Mechanics, Materials Engineering, Biomimetics, Calcified Biological Structures.

And,

Dr Michelle Dickinson obtained her PhD from Rutgers University (USA) and her MEng from Manchester University (UK) in Biomedical Materials Engineering. She has previously held positions in industry which brings an applied focus to her academic research.

Her research is involved in measuring the mechanical properties of materials from the nanoscale through to the macro scale, specifically using indentation techniques.

She has a special interest in biological material behaviour and adapting traditional engineering measurement techniques and models to suit realistic biological testing conditions.

Dr Dickinson is a scientist with serious credentials*.

Which makes what followed next all the more jaw-droppingly unbelievable.

After a cursory interview with Dr Dickinson, Henry then asked a  question of mind-blowing, crass sexism, as Kilpatrick  explained in his Fairfax piece,

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Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn't sink lower

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Henry then shows a photograph of Branson hugging Dickinson and then asks the question “Did you have sex with Richard Branson?”.

Note the question; “Did you have sex with Richard Branson?”.

For those with kevlar-lined stomachs, they can see the interview here. The offensive remarks are 5:21 into the interview.

To illustrate the sadly-all-too-predictable consequences of Henry’s  comment, read the public comments – 425 as at this blogpost – which followed Kilpatrick’s story. Note the attitude of  those who think that Henry’s comments are acceptable. Note the casualness of acceptance of a remark that, in other circumstance, would be utterly unacceptable in normal social circles, and result in oppobrium.

Is this to  be the new benchmark standard for female guests for TV3?

What do female staff and management think of Henry’s remarks? Would they be comfortable if comments like that were directed at them? Or their daughters?

What does Sussan Turner, Group CEO of MediaWorks think of being asked – in public – who she’s recently had sex with?

Perhaps Clare Bradley, Legal Counsel/Company Secretary; Siobhan McKenna, Chief Executive Officer (Interactive); Wendy Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (Radio); Liz Fraser, Director of Sales & Marketing; Katie Mills,  Group Marketing Director (Radio); and Jana Rangooni, General Manager  (Talk Brands), et al, might like to offer answers  to Paul Henry’s questioning of their own sex lives?

If not, why do TV3 executives think that such comments directed at Dr Dickinson were remotely acceptable?

Allow me to remind TV3 executives, producers, staff, and presenters;

  • It is not ok to treat women like that.
  • It is not ok to have it beamed into our homes.
  • It is not ok to give voice to a culture of sexist denigration.
  • And it is not ok to dismiss it as just “humour”. There is nothing remotely funny about sexist denigration.

After all, this is precisely why 99% of New Zealanders were so horrified at the degrading  behaviour of a group of young men calling themselves “Roastbusters”.

At least the “Roastbusters” had the excuse of youthful stupidity (a crime I was guilty of, in my own youth).

Paul Henry has no such excuse.  He is a supposedly mature, responsible, 54 year old man.

I agree with Mike Kilpatrick. Henry’s comment was beyond the pale. He must resign, or be sacked. Unless New Zealanders are comfortable with more and more abhorrent, gutter-level attitudes being expressed by “media personalities” and broadcast into our homes, this kind of behaviour cannot be allowed to become a new norm.

Changing channels is not a practical option. Not if this kind of behaviour is to be normalised throughout the electronic media.

No wonder Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were able to inflict their decades-long reign of predatory-terror on hundreds of children and women. It had become acceptable and normalised. No one thought to speak out. And if they did, the new normality meant their cries for help fell on deaf ears.

Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were also funny men.

Their behaviour was anything but.

Well, Mike Kilpatrick has spoken out. And I add my voice to his. I refuse to give assent by silence. I refuse to turn my back on behaviour that, to fair-minded people, is just plain unacceptable.

TV3 – Paul Henry has no place in broadcasting.

He must go.

 

* Though all women, regardless of education achievements, professional status,  etc, should be treated with respect and not with degrading sexist attitudes that are demeaning and promote a culture of casual misogyny.

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Addendum 1

Email sent to TV3;

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Producers <paulhenryshow@mediaworks.co.nz>
cc: Mark Jennings <mjennings@mediaworks.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 12:10 AM
subject: Paul Henry Show – Asking a female guest if she’s had sex with a businessman – is this OK?

Kia ora,

Please refer below to a draft of a story which I intend to publish regarding remarks made by Paul Henry on his show, on 15 July and directed at his guest, Dr Michelle Dickinson.

I would appreciate your response to the issues I have raised and what remedies, if any, Mediaworks intends to make before I proceed further.

Your comment s would be appreciated.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

[Draft copy of this blogpost included as in-text]

I received a response the same day;

from: Paul Henry Show <PaulHenryShow@mediaworks.co.nz>
to: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
date: Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM
subject: RE: Paul Henry Show – Asking a female guest if she’s had sex with a businessman – is this OK?

Dear Mr Macskasy

TV3’s company culture is one that highly values equality and equal opportunity. Our news and current affairs division has often led the debate on how women are treated in New Zealand culture, including two of the instances you mention – a 3 News investigation uncovered the Roast Busters group and led the subsequent coverage, and Tania Billingsley recently told her story on 3rd Degree.

The question line taken by Paul in Tuesday night’s interview with Dr Michelle Dickinson was checked with her before the interview, and Dr Dickinson has confirmed she was not offended at the time, and is not offended now. The question was not asked without Dr Dickinson’s okay. She is an intelligent and articulate person who has appeared on the show many times and can hold her own with Paul (and anyone else). Dr Dickinson has since made her views on the interview clear and it is worth paying her the respect of reading her blog at http://sciblogs.co.nz/nanogirl/2014/07/17/science-sexism-and-the-media/

For the record we completely reject the comparisons your email makes between Paul Henry, and the actions of the Roast Busters group and of renowned paedophiles Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris. Such comparisons are irresponsible, lacking in fairness and balance, and verging on defamatory.

I’m afraid it’s just not possible to take your blog or questions about TV3 seriously when they are written from a position of such ignorance.

Regards

Rachel Lorimer
Group Head of Corporate Communications

Fiona MacMillan
Executive Producer, Paul Henry Show

For the record, I did read Ms Dickinson’s sciblog post, and have several points to make;

  1. My criticism of TV3 and Paul Henry in no way reflects on Ms Dickinson or her professional career. Dr Dickinson can in no way be held responsible or associated with things that Paul Henry said.
  2. This issue is wider than Dr Dickinson herself, and if muppets like Henry can get away with asking obnoxious questions from a highly respected; well-educated; professional woman – then no one else is safe from his prurient “humour”. It was not too long ago that Willie Jackson and John Tamihere were suspended as radio-hosts from RadioLive, after  comments were directed to a woman about her sex life, after she disclosed on-air that  she had been raped as a 14-year-old.
  3. I sympathise with Ms Dickinson’s remark in her blogpost; “I feel passionately about providing our daughters with a positive role model for an educated female who is successful in a very male dominated field“. The question is – how does being questioned about one’s sex-life help our daughters to be successful in male dominated fields?
  4. Dr Dickinson further writes; “Yes, I’m not naive to the reputation that Paul has and I go on to his show prepared for a question that may be slightly off topic or controversial, but I’m an intelligent female who works in a very male dominated field, and I’m used to inappropriate and sexist comments and questions, it goes with the territory of being a female engineer!  Perhaps my past experience of being the only woman in a meeting (and asked to make the tea), or being told that if I want to be taken seriously I need to wear shoes with less of a heel as they could distract the men in the room has made me a little immune to sexism and a little more tolerant of comments that I should be offended by.” Should we not be offended by such remarks? And should we not do more than just being offended?
  5. Should boofheads like Paul Henry not be challenged when they make disparaging sexist comments to women they would never dream of making to male guests? Just as scientists once challenged authority on much-cherished beliefs that the world was flat and the sun orbited the Earth or that disease was caused by  ‘humors’ of the body?
  6. Ms Lorimer and Ms MacMillan seem more keen to label me as “ignorant” rather than addressing the issues I raised in my blogpost. Does this mean they have no answers to the criticisms I have levelled? They certainly have studiously avoided the questions I put to them;
  • Is this to  be the new benchmark standard for female guests for TV3?
  • What do female staff and management think of Henry’s remarks? Would they be comfortable if comments like that were directed at them? Or their daughters?
  • What does Sussan Turner, Group CEO of MediaWorks think of being asked – in public – who she’s recently had sex with?
  • Perhaps Clare Bradley, Legal Counsel/Company Secretary; Siobhan McKenna, Chief Executive Officer (Interactive); Wendy Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (Radio); Liz Fraser, Director of Sales & Marketing; Katie Mills,  Group Marketing Director (Radio); and Jana Rangooni, General Manager  (Talk Brands), et al, might like to offer answers  to Paul Henry’s questioning of their own sex lives?
  • If not, why do TV3 executives think that such comments directed at Dr Dickinson were remotely acceptable?

Fairly simple, straight-forward questions I would have thought?

Or perhaps they would prefer to discuss their sex-lives, if it’s easier?

Addendum 2

A list of  companies advertising during the Paul Henry Show on 16 July;

Ford (Kia)

Subway

ANZ

Heineken

Placemakers

NIB Health Cover

Harvey Norman

Caredirect (caredirect.co.nz)

Whiskas (catfood)

Southern Cross Health

Masterfoods

Early Settlers (furniture)

Centrum (vitamins)

Future Finance (futurefinance.co.nz)

Skysport

KFC

Bridgestone Tyres

 

Dependent on TV3’s actions to follow, this blogger will be contacting the above advertisers next and posing three very simple questions; do they want to be associated with a TV show that promotes sexist denigration of women? Do they want to risk having their reputations tarnished when this story goes ‘viral’ in the blogosphere and social media? And is this what they are paying their expensive ad-slot times for?

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References

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Does New Zealand have a ‘rape culture’?

Fairfax media: Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn’t sink lower…

Auckland University:  Dr Michelle Emma Dickinson

TV3:  Organic foods study finds significant benefits

Fairfax media:  Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn’t sink lower

NZ Herald: Roast Busters: RadioLive hosts taken off air

Additional

Sciblogs: Science, sexism and the media

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david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 July 2014.

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