Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: A sad commentary on life

In recent times, I feel like society has regressed 100 years. Photo / Getty Images
In recent times, I feel like society has regressed 100 years. Photo / Getty Images

In recent times, I feel like society has regressed 100 years.

I thought the old attitudes that suggested women were asking for rape by dressing in a certain way and men were little more than life support systems for penises had been expunged from our collective thinking. But no.

Depressingly, antiquated attitudes are alive and well and have survived into the 21st century.

Even more depressingly, some women are as guilty as some men of perpetuating them.

A case in point is the Henderson High School uniform brouhaha.

A group of year 11 students at the school was called into a meeting last week and informed by deputy principal Cherith Telford that their skirts needed to be lowered to the knees.

Fair enough. Henderson High has a uniform code that says girls' skirts must be no higher than 3cm above the knee. And if Telford had stuck to using that as her justification, all would have been well.

But she didn't.

According to reports, she told the group longer skirts were needed to keep the girls safe, to stop boys from getting ideas and to create a good work environment for male staff.

Bloody hell.

Way to degrade girls, boys and male members of staff at the school. A couple of the girls - and their parents - took exception to the school turning uniform compliance into an issue of girls being sexualised and thus an in-house matter drew national and international attention.

Normally I have little sympathy for students and families using the media to try to get around school rules. The St Bede's rowers whose dads went to court to get the boys back into the Maadi Cup after they were suspended from the rowing team for bad behaviour. The mothers who fight for their sons' hairstyles that are against school codes. The students who demand the right to wear what they want rather than the school uniform. No sympathy.

But these girls weren't annoyed at being told to obey the rules - they were angered at being told they were responsible for the behaviour of boys and male teachers.

The girls have every right to feel safe at school. If they are told a flash of leg will distract male classmates and teachers alike, that a glimpse of thigh will transform a mild-mannered, rational male into a frothing predator with a lust that must be sated, how safe are they going to feel?

Then there was the story from the US this week. One of the country's most prestigious universities, Harvard, is trying to make the institution safer for women. It has set up a sexual assault prevention task force and it has roundly criticised male clubs for a high prevalence of "non-consensual sexual contact".

According to an article in the campus magazine, 47 per cent of undergraduate female seniors reported "non-consensual sexual contact".

But the board president of one of the most exclusive and secretive of the clubs wasn't having any truck with women as worthy members of his 225-year-old Porcellian Club.

Charles M Storey wrote to the newspaper "we are mystified as to why the current administration feels that forcing our club to accept female members would reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus.

"Forcing single gender organisations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct."


Because of course Harvard-educated men with their high IQs and years of education will turn into rapists the moment a fragrant young woman enters their enclave.

Her high IQ and critical faculties won't count for a tin of beans.

Because she has chosen to wear a flattering dress, she's clearly a siren and if she gets raped she was jolly well asking for it and it wasn't the poor man's fault.

Taken another step further, how is that attitude different from that of the Muslim cleric in Australia who infamously defended young Muslim men sentenced for lengthy jail terms after being found guilty of pack-raping white Australian women.

Addressing 500 worshippers on the topic of adultery in 2006, Sheik al-Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem."

He went on: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab [veil], no problem would have occurred."

Outrageous, sure. Over the top, I grant you.

But reduce those arguments to their essence, and Henderson High and Harvard and the nutty sheikh are all preaching from the same book.

Women, by their dress, are enticing men to commit rape. And men are powerless to control their urges. What an unbearably sad commentary of the state of the union between the sexes.

Women young and old choose what they wear to be fun and fashionable and to feel good.

They don't put on clothing because they hope they will be taken roughly by a man against their will.

The men I love, my family, my friends, my colleagues, know this. And I have faith that the vast majority of men feel the same way.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB, weekdays, noon-4pm

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