International Women's Day was in March. (Yes, there's an International Men's Day, too; it's in November). Also this month it was announced our new Governor-General is a woman.
But these two positive news stories were swamped by a plethora of headlines proving that misogynistic attitudes still remain. This is the third instalment of my ongoing series that catalogues examples of anti-women sentiment.
1. Sexist job advertisement
On March 16 an advertisement on Seek was looking for a Senior Project Manager based in Wellington Central. It read: "The role will provide the challenges and workload for the right candidate to make his mark ..." Yes, although job advertisements are supposed to be gender neutral, it initially said "his mark". It was changed to "their mark" a few days later - which may be grammatically incorrect but at least it now complies with the principles of Equal Employment Opportunities.
2. Local MP trolled about sexual violence
In response to Paula Bennett taking a stand against the sexist messages on Wicked Campers' vehicles, a man posted the following message on her Facebook page: a "bit of sexual violence never hurt anyone". It was supposed to be a joke but anti-violence campaigners were understandably not impressed.
The man who made the tasteless comment then received angry messages from strangers - one of whom "sent me a photo of my daughter and said 'let's try some abuse on her'."
So flippancy about sexual violence towards women was countered with a threat to abuse a woman or girl. It's disgusting that in one brief episode the idea of sexual violence against females has been used as a marketing campaign (by Wicked Campers), an attempt at humour (by the person who trolled) and as retaliation (by the subsequent commenter).
3. Women MPs objectified
According to a British article headlined "MPs who flaunt their, er, agendas", many women MPs on both benches know that "moving a hemline up or a neckline down can be a powerful political tool".
There followed photographs of women MPs accompanied by references to their "voluptuous bosom", "low-cut top", "plunging black top" and "daring split skirt that showed acres of thigh". The narrative suggested that such garb helped further the political career of these women.
Hello: the 1950s called. It wants its sexist and demeaning attitudes back.
4. Female sports reporters abused
Overseas female sports reporters have "had daggers covered in blood sent to them in the mail, been threatened with rape on social media and endured public accusations of sleeping their way to the top."
They have been on the receiving end of "constant criticism about their looks", "crass and lewd chauvinistic comments" and "disparaging remarks".
Locally, TVNZ's Jenny-May Clarkson, pregnant and expecting twins, was called "embarrassing and an eyesore" in a letter from a viewer. "Who is responsible for allowing a sports reporter in a very pregnant state to remain on screen?" he asked.
The man has since apologised and admitted to being "out of touch". Regardless, women in the sports media should not have to put up with chauvinism and misogyny.
5. Anti-female culture in Air Force
A review into the Air Force discovered a "culture of sexism" in which "women ... agreed to sex with higher ranked officers because of fears for their safety".
The release of this report coincided with the "court martial of a Navy commander who is alleged to have repeatedly groped a female naval officer ... in 2012."
The Air Force was described as having a "masculine culture"; furthermore, some of its men were unable to "distinguish between consensual and harmful sexual behaviour". It sounds like a really toxic environment and, once again, women are the victims.
6. Female gamers abused
Women participating in the "male-dominated world of multiplayer online games" are routinely abused by men.
Evidently, "trash talk can easily shade over into harassment". In this US-based story, it was reported that female video gamers had been stalked, harassed, impersonated and threatened with rape and murder. Just like with the Air Force, it seems that women who dare enter what have traditionally been male domains are punished for their audacity.
7. Journalist harassed during interview
In an article entitled "Brit rocker asks female journalist if she'd 'like to go upstairs'", the woman concerned was quoted as saying: "I laugh along despite feeling unnerved ... But because I am working, my brain races for another superficial conversation topic without letting on that I'm upset."
Well, female MPs and members of the Air Force were considered fair game; why should female journalists be treated any differently? Clearly, it's not guaranteed that women are able to go about their lawful employment without being sexually harassed.
8. Demeaning labels
The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce apologised after naming its new women's business club The Bikini Club.
The (male) chief executive reported they had been looking for a "fun and vibrant" name and hadn't intended to be demeaning. The name earned the disapproval of the (female) former president of the Chamber; she wasn't impressed that the first scheduled event is an "interactive presentation on aromatherapy" either.
Most comments on the article acknowledged the inappropriateness of the name. "[J]ust shows how women are still viewed unfortunately," said one reader.
Debate on this article is now closed.