Not climate conversation, but assuredly the climate of conversation
According to the Herald:
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority boss Roger Sutton said: “Hugs, jokes … I do do those things, and I’ve hurt somebody with that behaviour and I’m very, very sorry about that.”
Another man bullied into apologising for being a man.
No women were harmed in the fabrication of this crime
There is precisely no evidence of hurt except the woman’s complaint (and did anyone investigate why she complained)? Probably not, since there’s as much evidence to doubt her version of events as there is of her hurt. That is, none whatsoever. For example the perpetrator did not use his fists, there was no knife, no sign of harmful substances and of course no injuries.
The culprit could not predict he would offend because the existence of this offence depends upon the making of a complaint, which happens later. It was guesswork as there is no way of knowing how a woman thinks before an ‘offence’ occurs. Because the complaint used the word “sexual” the crime was created upon the instant (smoke revealing a fire) and the “defendant” was required to prove his innocence, rather than the complainant prove his guilt.
His wife, Jo, is struggling to comprehend how her husband’s “hugs and jokes” have led to him quitting over a sexual harassment claim.
She wants to understand how this woman, entirely unharmed, gained sudden power of veto over her family’s mortgage payments.
He said: “I have called women ‘honey’ and ‘sweetie’, and that is wrong.”
Why is it wrong? That’s not wrong. He’s been bullied into saying it. That’s a confession obtained under duress. We don’t have to believe it.
An apology and the “hurt” goes away
The woman who complained still works for Cera. State Services Commissioner Mr Iain Rennie met her today to apologise for the “hurt and distress” she experienced.
Isn’t that lovely? It’s all fixed. Just a simple apology to make her feel better. So why does Mr Sutton resign? Why has his resignation been accepted?
Anyway. Let us hope this is a satisfactory outcome for her and she is once again as happy as she was before. Because that’s the important thing.
Educated men and women took a complaint of hurt feelings so seriously they stood aside to watch a man resign his job. It’s repugnant. The managers’ ideas of reality are seriously screwed, they’re gutless and most of them must hold strange views indeed about the place of women next to men.
Because women are not so weak and helpless as this scandal might imply. For years women (I should say a few women) have said, “I don’t need protecting. I’ll open the door myself. I don’t need men.” Well, ok. They’re that tough, they’re obviously not worried about some hurt feelings—because, for certain, if they refuse protection they’re going to find themselves exposed to hurt feelings now and again, it’s a hard world. But it’s unreasonable suddenly to demand the reinstatement of protection just because they’re upset. Yet that’s apparently what the law allows.
Is it the law? What law am I talking about? Thou shalt not commit “sexual harassment”? Is it a law and does it include the words “sweetie” and “hug”?
You can upset your staff just by insisting they properly do their job, but that’s acceptable. Upset is all right, but sexual upset is unacceptable, so we need to be precise about the boundaries. What precisely is the difference? Not sure on that one—hey, check with the women, they’ll soon let you know. Boom!
I question the reason in this disturbing episode. The charge is serious but no harm has been done. Sutton allegedly caused some undefined “hurt” which is clearly not physical but emotional hurt. You cannot see it or treat it. No independent proof of its existence is possible, never mind its severity. You have only the complainant’s word that it exists, and she has reason to confirm it, if only to avoid a charge of making a false complaint. Finally, the “hurt” went away (we may presume) after a mere apology from a third party, though again there is no evidence that it has gone or where it went.
We’re talking the emperor’s clothes here, people—a wraith, a dream, a figment of our over-fearful imagination.
The decision to take offence
The woman had only to allege sexual harassment to create an instant crime and then cite the words used (sweetie, your honour) and the acts committed (a warm hug, your honour) to get an instant ‘conviction.’ Nobody examines, nay, nor even acknowledges, the woman’s decision to take offence. Nobody says to her: “You’re being weak, grow up. You’re stronger than this.” She might have been annoyed by Sutton’s condescending or patronising manner, even offended by the innocent touching, but getting revenge for it like this is too easy and the punishment most certainly doesn’t fit the crime.
It’s comedic that this crime consisted of using affectionate words like “sweetie” and “honey” and giving hugs. But were they salaciously done? What was the tone or manner of speech? We all know you can say sinister words in a playful tone and playful words in a sinister tone; or truly playful can be taken as salacious; tone makes a difference in our communication, but it can still be taken the wrong way. They are dangerous times for men when tone is ignored and conviction depends upon the woman’s judgement alone that she is “offended.” In other words, her decision to be offended.
So here’s a family newly admitted to the ranks of the financially nervous because of shallow, self-serving allegations from a woman who the record reflects was entirely unharmed, whose hurt went away at a mere apology, who retains her position and remains anonymous.
On the face of it, this is dangerously stupid.
Perhaps we’ll see a full review of the facts of the case, which might justify the story we’ve heard, could help us understand it and might predict, dare I suggest, our own futures as men, though I warrant this never sees the inside of a courtroom.