Are we supposed to be grateful that Scott Morrison doesn’t have sons?
The Prime Minister fronted media this morning to respond to disturbing allegations that a young Liberal Party staffer, Brittany Higgins, was raped by a colleague in her own workplace.
His response was to remind everyone of his proximity to women – namely, his wife Jenny and their two young daughters.
“Jenny and I spoke last night, and she said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?’” he told media.
“Jenny has a way of clarifying things, always has.”
There’s two big issues here, which are worth elaborating on so we don’t have to keep having the same tired conversation every time a woman is forced to subject herself to intense public scrutiny to try and get anything done.
Brittany Higgins speaking to Lisa Wilkinson on The Project on Monday night.
First: how are we still letting men get away with entering the rape conversation by mentioning their daughters? Or sisters, wives, mothers, or any other member of their immediate family?
You can (and should!) have empathy for other people without needing to imagine they are your relative. In fact, I’d argue it should be part of a basic emotional intelligence test you need to pass before running for an elected position.
It also sets up a dangerous line of thinking: if a victim had no loved ones, no family members, no one to whom they ‘belonged’ (in the family sense of the word) – does their trauma matter less? No. It does the fuck not.
And don’t even get me started on the gross, patriarchal overtones of men who view the assault of women around them as a personal affront.
The TL;DR version is: people who allege rape deserve your sympathy and respect whether or not you personally care for them. Stop finding that sympathy by looking at your loved ones.
Second: the Prime Minister, by his own words, responded “as a father first”. The PRIME MINISTER. We don’t need a fucking dad, Scott, we need a leader who’s going to make changes so that a 24-year-old woman isn’t allegedly raped in her workplace, your workplace, and then allegedly pressured to not report it to protect your government at the election.
Don’t forget that Morrison is not just the PM in this situation, but Brittany Higgins’ boss’ boss. To use his own method of injecting some basic fucking empathy into your veins, imagine if your boss said he’d do something about you allegedly being assaulted in your own workplace by bringing up his kids, instead of focusing on you, the person who says they were assaulted?
Next thing Jen Morrison will buy a pot plant so she can explain climate change to her husband.
— Neil McMahon (@NeilMcMahon) February 15, 2021
Like I said – are we supposed to be grateful Scott and Jenny didn’t have two young sons instead? Because I’m not. I’m just fucking angry this melon will probably pull a John Howard and stay PM for the next decade.
In response to Brittany Higgins going public, Morrison offered a personal apology and announced intentions to establish an internal investigation into workplace culture at Parliament House.
But it shouldn’t have taken this long, nor should it have taken a national story to make it happen. Brittany is the third Liberal Party staffer to come forward with sexual assault allegations in less than two years. And it’s gobsmacking that no one brought these allegations to Morrison’s attention until four days ago, on Feb 12.
Are we really going to let an internal review cut it here? Or is putting the same people who allegedly let Brittany down in charge of figuring out what went wrong like, to borrow a line from Greens senator Larissa Waters, putting “the fox in charge of the henhouse”?
Want to *actually* address the Australian Parliamentary House culture and any Liberal Party failures, Prime Minister?
Get Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins on the blower.
Until then, keep your opinions on making a safer workplace to just you and Jenny and the dinner table. Thanks.
Help is available. If you require immediate assistance, please call 000. If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.