GUEST BLOG: Shanna Reeder – The repercussions of having a PM who is a sexual harasser

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Sexual-Harassment

Today our Prime Minister John Key admitted to repeatedly sexually harassing a waitress in a cafe he frequents.

She told her story anonymously via The Daily Blog

Clearly this presents many questions which may or may not be answered in the coming days. In my view this behaviour is abhorrent and he should resign immediately.

We also know that men with wealth and power usually consider themselves teflon-coated and he will probably spend the next two weeks taking the advice of those who were in charge of Roger Sutton’s damage control.

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Although Key has admitted his behaviour, he is now trying to minimise, minimise, minimise his conduct just as all abusers do. It was just a harmless bit of fun he will say. He’ll add that he didn’t realise she didn’t like it but he is very sorry.

However he did know his behaviour offended her because she made that clear to him in a number of different ways. As she wrote: “I posted on the National Party and the John Key Facebook pages a message along the lines of “Stop pulling my hair – I don’t like it!” “I told his security that I was sick of having my hair pulled and one day I’ll snap and I’ll punch him in the face.”

When he continued his behaviour he simply followed the pattern of all abusive bullies in ignoring the protests, continuing the behaviour and pretending it was OK. Disturbingly he even tried to bring his wife into his “game”.

It is my hope the people of New Zealand will not stand for this. But I also know that Rape Culture and misogyny is denied and protected in our society from the average kiwi, all the way to the top. If only there was no name suppression.

What no one has realised or commented on yet is that this young lady was an employee, being harassed at work. She had a right to be safe at work. Her employer had a responsibility to protect her.

They failed in that responsibility. “I exclaimed “Really?!!” to my manager beside me, and shot him a look of utter disbelief and frustration.”

This young lady could quite rightly take a case against her employer now and potentially win thousands of dollars.

Sexual Harassment in the workplace happens daily in this country. Employers ignore it; they brush it off as a bit of fun, a misunderstanding. Only in very rare cases, usually involving a lawyer or union advocate are they complained about, followed up on, and resolved.

Unfortunately resolution usually involved a confidential settlement which cannot be talked about so these harassers stay on in the workplace, or go elsewhere and are free to repeat their behaviour to un-suspecting new colleagues, extended family, or even the waitress at the local cafe.

Everyday our union works tirelessly to battle against bad employers who break the law, abuse, exploit and harass our workers, yet John Key and his National Government go out of their way to make it easier for employers to behave badly and harder for us to protect their workers.

I have hope that we can beat rape culture; I have hope that sexual harassment and assault will no longer be a common experience for workers.

But it’s not going to happen whilst the New Zealand public allow a known sexual harasser to continue as our Prime Minister.

 

 

Shanna Reeder is a Unite Hotels organiser

32 COMMENTS

  1. I must say one thing straight out: I don’t think our present PM is a deliberate sexual harasser. I think he is a old serial class clown, a power-egotist, charlatan and spin doctor. However people who are like this often get so wrapped up in their own ego trips that they get more and more brazen and fail to recognize when they go too far. Not just JK, I worked in many places where I have seen managers and co-workers do similar things because of similar attitudes. However, I think it is only just dawning on Mr Key that he is not like everyone else, he is not just one of the boys on the chain – he is the Prime Minister and like it or not that demands better behaviour and higher standards than your average Joe Bloggs. It is also just dawning on him that his behaviour has made his government and his country a laughing stock. New Zealanders want to think their country is a peaceful, tolerant, fair society free of the kind of violence, sexism and religious bigotry that we often see overseas.
    Mr Key’s behaviour, well reported in the international media, has done some damage to this ideal. It is up to him to fix it, rather than spinning it off as he so often does.

    • Agree totally. Were this sort of behaviour to occur in parliament, the speaker and others would have to take action. Not so in a small cafe where Key honestly believed he had the right to do what he wanted. Those serving him are just that. Lowly servants and playthings, not another human being deserving any degree of respect.

      The saddest part is that we have become a laughing stock overseas and some will think this is the way many NZ males and leaders act. It is embarrassing.

      Let’s hope we don’t have another ‘leader’ like him again, instead only admiring (and voting for) those with some integrity and high moral standards.

  2. Blue, red, green, black or white, left, right, centre, whatever way you look at it, still doesn’t make this behavior appropriate.

  3. Memo to John Key: We want a man, not a mouse to be our PM. Real men don’t just weakly apologise when they do something wrong, – they get out and fix them. Be a man! take responsibility for your stuff ups and fix them!

    • …by resigning do you mean?
      Or offering a dozen bottles of wine not 2?
      By calling off his attack dogs Rachel Glaucoma and Paul Henry and the other right-wing media?

      Your comment is a bit open-ended Marcus and a little open to left-wing interference.

      • Well, for a start his government could reinstate the funding they have stripped from Rape Crisis Centres.

          • Oh, I think he tried to, before being slammed by his political rivals looking to score cheap political points, and media hungering for sensational (if dishonest) headlines…

            The only time a politician sez something approaching reality (that men account for the vast majority of sexual crimes and domestic violence) and the media and right wing spaz out.

            Your dishonest spin on what Cunliffe said, and the context it was given, ignore the epidemic of violence in this country.

            But hey, it sold advertising, and your political party, Dan, scored a free shot.

            It only cost a few hundred bashed women and kids.

            • I have to ignore the below comment from Mike, which if I said it, it would not have been published on here. But a serious question. Why do you think the media lean right? Do they in fact? Are all media just right wing by default? Is it just commercially sensible (or even necessary) to back the winning side of the time? Or if in opposition, does it become a self fulfilling prophecy to see more of what is published against you. A genuine question because in my business (not media) I am very aware of any adverse publicity, cringe even, but the public are much less interested and pretty much could not care less usually.

              • I didn’t say the media “lean right” (though a substantial portion of it certain does, or, at least leans toward Establishment values).

                What I wrote was “The only time a politician sez something approaching reality (that men account for the vast majority of sexual crimes and domestic violence) and the media AND right wing spaz out”.

                As for the media, stories which are simple and have a sensationalist angle will generally take precedence over in-depth coverage and analysis.

                The Cunliffe quote – which was mis-represented widely – is a perfect case in point. Very few in the media actually addressed what Cunliffe was trying to say.

                Instead, the “angle” was; Check out Cunliffe’s gaffe! He’s apologised for being a man! Hur hur hur! Gotcha!”

                Indeed; it was Gotcha Journalism.

                Upshot; very few politicians will put themselves on the line to speak from the heart on issues and problems confronting us. Why? Because it makes them utterly vulnerable to lazy journalism which sees a cheap shot story with sensational headlines that will sell copy or lead the 6PM News.

                Meanwhile, how many actually looked behind Cunliffe’s statement to look at the real problem? Bugger all.

                Which means the real story – domestic violence and sexual violence – went unaddressed.

                • Thanks Frank. Must admit I am not sure this is the right place for me though, just a swinging voter with an interest in both sides of the argument. Sincere regards. Dan

      • Depends on what you think constitutes being a man. Based on your written track record, fella, it seems to consist of being an obnoxious serial groper with a complete denial of responsibility for his own actions and proud of himself for it.

        • Just silly Mike. I think your opposition have given you the thumbs up so as to appear others on this site are as silly as you. Counterproductive really. There are good people here, whose cause is somewhat spoiled because of silliness such as this.

          • Not as silly as buying into the pointless “apologizing for being a man” argument, which is totally meaningless anyway because it is so subjective. Try thinking for yourself instead of parroting the spin that comes from your political cronies.

  4. Tolerance given to John Key is entirely misplaced.

    He though he could get away with practicing his trichophilia for the buzz it must give him.

    The charlatan indeed now feigns some distant respect for the victim.

    She will continue to be damaged by Key’s grubby actions and NOT by her reporting them publicly.

    Key’s resignation over this matter is long overdue.

    Our country is being compromised by the actions of this misguided idiot and his continuing attempts to minimise or even justify aspects of his transgressions, just compounds the growing revulsion here and globally.

  5. “Although Key has admitted his behaviour, he is now trying to minimise, minimise, minimise his conduct just as all abusers do. It was just a harmless bit of fun he will say. He’ll add that he didn’t realise she didn’t like it but he is very sorry.”

    This is so true and really bugging me, report after report has Key claiming that “We have lots of fun and games there, there’s always lots of practical jokes and things. It’s a very warm and friendly relationship.” 

    I have not seen or heard any reports of interviews with other staff, or customers at the cafe, to back up this, and similar claims by Key. Does anyone else go to cafes where there are ‘lots of practical jokes’ and ‘fun and games’? When is someone going to ask Key, or the cafe owners for other examples of these activities? Because this seems to be Key trying to excuse his unacceptable behaviour and his excuses being accepted at face value by a very lame MSM.

    • Good point.

      If Key didn’t go to the cafe, just how much ‘fun and games’ would be occurring?

      I suspect that he is the only one initiating the ‘fun and games’ and that the cafe, without him, would be much like any other cafe – a few pleasantries and the occasional witticism between staff and customers.

      The way Key describes it the cafe comes across as a slapstick version of an episode of ‘Cheers’ – banana skins tossed about, chairs pulled out from customers about to sit down, joke plastic turds randomly garnishing plates of food, etc..

      I very much doubt it’s like that.

  6. Those who support the PM and diminish the impact of any kind of bullying are condoning bullying. Some will completely understand why you wrote this Shanna, but most will not grasp the importance of it.

    Many will blindly continue the brain dead train of support for the most embarrassing and unethical PM we have ever had.

    Bullies support bullies and we have lots of them in Parliament. Look at how little we NZ public can vote on or have any say on most that the National govt pushes through Parliament. I agree with Sam Neill when he says that he does not like militarism nor nationalism much. They both are mostly about bullying our righteous way through life ; supporting greed and perpetual war rather that loving and taking care of all people and the environment. Our PM thinks all he has to is throw out a few sound bites and we all will buy it. He may never understand why we feel the way we do nor take any responsibility for his rude and insane acts and words. So sad that there are so many who can not see through the BS.

    • Bullies in the workplace are common and the antics of Key typical of this. When my son was assaulted at work he was immediately sacked. Yes, the victim got sacked and being a lowly temp there (for 2 years) couldn’t complain to anyone since he wasn’t a real ’employee’. Just another non-person with zero rights.

      I strongly suspect similar will occur here with the young girl eventually being forced to resign her job. They won’t sack her due to her high profile, just quietly make her life hell. Resignations are always cheaper too than courtroom battles.

      And multi-millionaire PM John Key saying sorry just isn’t enough. We know it’s not really genuine and he will do it again one day without thinking. It’s in the nature of bullies to do so.

  7. Men who enjoy these sorts of “fun and games” think they are unique. They lack the capacity to comprehend that if every man behaved in this manner, women like the waitress would be molested every minute of the day. It shows the PM to be suffering arrested development in some parts of his personality.

  8. This incident has two parts :

    THE HAIR PULLING .

    While a charge of sexual harassment is difficult to prove and can be argued as being subjective – common assault – leading to the pulling of an individuals hair is actually what has transpired.

    It happened multiple times over a period of 7 months , and was indulged in after the offended party had requested the perpetrator desist.

    An Auckland law Professor has backed this view up stating ‘ It was a battery ‘ .

    The victim impact was humiliation and a sense of dis empowerment – so much so that she ‘ cried tears of frustration ‘.

    The ramifications in another setting can be a lone female jogger having her ponytail pulled from behind in a deserted park. Another example is grabbing of the hair can be a prelude to a more serious assault ie : a blow to the head as frequently occurs .

    It is then that we can see why this sort of law must be covered – not trivialized with. Thus it comes under common assault.

    And though this may have been done in a ‘ jocular manner ‘ , it is apparent that the victim did not see it at all in this way , had protested to her employer , the police detail attached to the PM , and finally had issued a verbal warning. This having taken place over a period of 7 months.

    THE INTERVIEW.

    It would appear that the circumstances surrounding the interview were flawed , in as much as there was misrepresentation of who was in fact representing this incident as a PR officer.

    When in fact it was a contractor to a major NZ newspaper.

    It could be viewed as entrapment.

    However it seems more probable it contravenes the NZ journalists standards of practice as being unethical behavior.

    Also the fact that the victim had requested that content not be released after recognition of the person who stated they were a PR agent – brought in by her employers to help ‘ deal ‘ with the situation.

    It would be hard to prove that the intentions of this ‘ PR ‘ individual were really in the best interests of all party’s concerned – least of all the victims in all of this.

  9. Many people are hoping that Hillary Clinton will become the next US President, but I lost respect for her when she didn’t kick Bill to the curb after finding out about his Affair with Monica Lewinsky. The person who has been very silent about this scandal is Bronagh Key. Thoughts?

    • Thoughts? I’d guess she’s been told to STFU and not speak a word of this to anyone. I actually feel sorry for the woman, hers must be an incredibly lonely life.

      • Bronagh Key filled out her tax form, calling herself, a stud screwer. What a classy lady. I have no sympathy for her, she is a parasite like her husband.

  10. He is now using the words, “I was playing along” as though it wasn’t him who initiated all the hair pulling.” Maybe there was a Labour minister, hiding in a cupboard who could be blamed for the sordid affair. On FJK’s facebook page today there are comments calling some Labour Ministers, rapists!! They haven’t named names. Except for one comment that questions why a young man was running terrified from Annette Kings residence. Looks like the filth is going to be flying for some time.

  11. In a legal and ethical sense the issues will finally be decided by courts and commissions I expect. Acknowledging the validity in the other opinions here, I think the moral implications are taken too much at face value, based on opinions and statements made by others. Trichophilia is a very real sexual fetish experienced by around 7% of the population. Search it and see for yourselves. This in itself is not really a problem as a whole range of sexual fetishes are experienced by a significant portion of the population which remain their business. The problem emerges when a power imbalance exists and the fetish is indulged extemporaneously. I’ve seen several videos, even more still pictures, as well as personal testimonies, whereby this touching has occurred on a very regular basis. And that’s what is occurring here … the hubris generated by this power imbalance has resulted in our PM indulging a sexual fetish, plain and simple. “Fun and games” or “being very friendly” or being a “little bit weird” be damned.

    Extending any sympathy to his wife is misplaced. She will be well aware of this, and the fact that he has come this far with it, means a “blind eye” is being turned, which is a euphemism for complicity.

    I can’t form any other take on it.

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