An Invercargill city councillor wants to start a conversation in council about sexism following the controversial comments of a fellow elected member.
Peter Kett apologised yesterday for comments made to the Otago Daily Times saying that sexist remarks aimed at female councillors were “just part of life” and if he were female and received a similar comment, he would probably take it as a compliment.
He said such comments had been around since his primary school days, and recalled other pupils referring to a teacher as “Molly Milkshakes”.
In a statement issued yesterday, Kett apologised for the “inappropriate, misguided and offensive” comments.
“I am not a woman and I cannot speak for how women feel.
“I would also like to apologise to the family of the teacher I spoke about in my comments. It was wrong of me to speak of her like that.”
He had “deep respect for the women in my life” and was grateful to his colleagues and the council who were helping him to learn how to reflect on this.
“You are never too old to learn something new and I urge all of the men reading this to have a think about the way they treat women.
“Sometimes you have to make a mistake in order to learn something important and that is what has happened to me.”
Councillor Ria Bond said yesterday she was stunned and in shock with her colleague’s comments.
“It is so disappointing. He needs to be accountable for what he says.
“But after reading what he has [since] said, I believe his apologies were made with integrity.”
She wanted her council to engage in a conversation about sexism, as the subject had been a hot topic this week, as many reports of inappropriate comments came to light.
“I would like us to take this further and I would like to initiate a conversation with all councillors and go through what sexism looks and feels like.
People had to understand that what they thought was an innocent comment was actually completely inappropriate.
She believed there were already internal proceedings in place in this respect which gave her confidence that people would not continue these behaviours.
“Some males don’t have any idea that what they are doing is completely inappropriate.
“We have to educate them.”
The previous comments from Kett were made following councillor Alex Crackett saying she had previously been given the nickname of “Twin Peaks” as an euphemism referring to her breasts.
Crackett said yesterday she felt uncomfortable reading Kett’s comments in the paper.
“That kind of thinking is exactly part of the problem and it’s good that he has recognised that those comments were inappropriate.”
Councillor Trish Boyle said any comment, whether it be male or female, that was not relevant to the work the council was carrying out was completely unacceptable.
“We’re in a business environment. We’re working for the community, with the community and anything else which is derogatory or is detrimental to the people you’re working with is not appropriate.
Mayor Nobby Clark said he understood Kett’s apologies were sincere.
“Well this is not a comment that I would have made obviously, certainly on my time in council.
“I have no knowledge of anybody targeting female councillors around this table.
“I don’t see female councillors and male councillors — I just see all as colleagues that I work with.”