Over at The Standard, the “how should Worth’s alleged victim(s) have reacted?” debate continues with everyone’s favourite psychic, Cactus Kate.
The case as given by CK and others is that if a woman doesn’t* instantly and firmly react to all and any inappropriate behaviour with a strident “YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME, SWEETHEART, BACK OFF”** well then she has no one to blame but herself.
They then go on to say that, therefore, that all people like me who defend Witness A and attack Worth’s alleged behaviour are the real misogynists, because we think women are passive victims who can’t stand up for themselves.
Which is fantastically logical for people living in a world where sexual harassment goes along the following lines:
- Strange man approaches woman
- Strange man says “Hey, I’d like to hire you, maybe in return you could suck my cock?”
- Woman “stands up for herself”.
- Strange man immediately ceases all inappropriate behaviour.
Unfortunately, human interaction only ever goes like that in the movies and the inside of Cactus Kate’s head. But then, she also thinks people having coffee with a Minister of the Crown to discuss potential job opportunities should take a friend in case things turn nasty, and that victims of sexual harassment are suspect if they keep records – just like the Human Rights Commission advises them to.
I’d like everyone to please consider this: you’re at a cafe in Sylvia Park.*** Over at another table you see a well-dressed older man having coffee with a woman. You may even recognise this man as a former partner at Simpson Grierson Law, or as the Member of Parliament for Epsom, or as the Associate Minister for Justice.
Suddenly, the woman bolts to her feet and declaims, “HOW DARE YOU OFFER ME EMPLOYMENT IN THIS CRUMMY CAFE, SIR! DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN!” and storms out.
Now, how many of you are going to think, “What a fracking weirdo!” and how many of you are seriously going to think “You go girl, stand up for yourself to that pillar of the community offering you employment in a public space!”
Because that’s how it starts. A working lunch. A celebratory drink after work on a Friday. An email asking how your weekend went. And here’s the deal, folks. If you’re going to argue, “Oh no, she didn’t need to rebuff him then, I meant later on when things got inappropriate” you fail. There is no clear line between “professional meeting with utterly no sexual intentions whatsoever no sirree” and “oh, now I’m sexually harassing you.” If we’re going to accept Cactus Kate’s theorem that women should Stand Up For Themselves, it’s got to be right from the get-go.
It’s got to mean shooting down every man who wants to get you a coffee after you’ve done him a favour. It’s got to mean even bluntly refusing to do a coworker or superior a favour in the first place. It means never letting a guy be nice to you, never letting a guy buy you flowers on your birthday or after a big project winds up or when a close relative dies, because if you won’t say fuck no get away from me I have no sexual interest in you whatsoever at the slightest provocation, well, how is he meant to get the message?
Because after that first step – which to you is just coffee or flowers or a pat on the back – your lack of strident strong-independent-woman smackdown is giving him the wrong impression.
But hey, when you can’t get hired because you’ve developed a reputation as an insane overreacting bitch who can’t take a compliment without thinking it’s a come-on**** and you’re still getting dirty texts from your ex-boss because entitled harassing fucks will keep stalking you no matter how often you say no, be comforted with the fact that you stood up for yourself and you’ve made Cactus Kate proud.