How sad that it's refreshing to have something other to discuss than Covid-19, when that something is the latest political tempest involving inappropriate behaviour.
National Party leader Judith Collins lost leadership of her caucus on Thursday after demoting Simon Bridges for historical comments heard by MP Jacqui Dean. NZME reported that Bridges apologised at the time for the comments - apparently related to a sex technique to conceive a girl.
Collins says she only heard about the incident for the first time and had received unanimous support from the National board to demote Bridges. The board later said it only backed a first step seeking more information.
But her colleagues issued a vote of no confidence about 12 hours after she publicly announced she had stripped Bridges of his portfolios to discipline him for his comments.
The Beehive shenanigans, the posturing, the positioning of one politician over the next misses the point.
The point is that this sort of behaviour - at best inappropriate, at worst, in my opinion, sexual harassment - was happening five years ago and it's happening today.
Instead of focusing on who gains political points or power over this latest flap, let's focus on who continues to suffer a loss of mana, confidence and sometimes dignity when they're sexually harassed. Survivors. Overwhelmingly, women.
If you don't believe sexual harassment is still happening, even in light of the #MeToo movement, just ask any female - she'll tell you.
The same day National met to discuss Bridges' demotion, my colleague, lecturer Maree Hawkins of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, presented her findings about sexual harassment during an online conference.
She studied how senior human resources professionals from across the public tertiary education sector have responded to #MeToo and what they are doing to prevent sexual harassment at their organisations.
Her research will be published soon, but the gist is across 14 polytechnics and universities in New Zealand, half of the participants said they were mostly not preventing sexual harassment; instead, they were reacting when instances arose.
Only one organisation interviewed had a sexual harassment response policy. The others had prevention policies.
"But you can't prevent harassment with a policy," Hawkins said. "You have to change the organisation's culture, and that can take 10 or 20 years."
She said you prevent harassment by never doing nothing and by having severe consequences for perpetrators.
What is harassment, anyway? Hawkins found it ranges from sexist hostility and unwanted sexual attention to sexual coercion, which is forcing sexual compliance via job-related threats or promises.
She said the most common form of intimidation is gender harassment, including when someone repeatedly asks a co-worker or subordinate out on dates. There's also physical touching and innuendo.
One example Hawkins gave happened when a woman entered a meeting room filled with senior executive men. One man motioned to his lap, saying, "Come and sit here Honey."
How does that kind of remark help a woman's confidence, her notion of competence? How might it affect her colleagues' perceptions? How does it feel to be judged by your gender, rather than by your abilities?
A survey of working life conducted in 2018 released by Statistics New Zealand showed 14 per cent of women and 9 per cent of men said they had experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying at work.
Reports about harassment are rife throughout many sectors of the economy, including the police and defence forces, other government agencies, education, Parliament, sporting organisations and private businesses.
Harassment happens everywhere.
It happens online, too. Earlier this week, a World Athletics study revealed women were the target of 87 per cent of the social media abuse that a sample of athletes faced during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
If there is a silver lining, it's that collectively, we have the power to change our culture to prevent harassment. Hawkins' findings suggest organisations must create a culture that has zero tolerance for sexual harassment. They can do this by having effective leadership, language that removes the term "complainant", training that supports bystander intervention and disclosure systems that capture all instances of harassment.
She said, "It starts with victims; always believe them and always support them. Shift the narrative from the perpetrator to the victim and take collective ownership for what is happening in your own organisation."
It's not really about Simon Bridges or Judith Collins. It's not about a single institution or the latest scandal.
While individuals must be held accountable for their behaviour, the systems allowing harassment to continue must change. Our daughters - and sons - deserve better.
Where to get help:
Victim Support 0800 842 846
Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00
HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0
Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.
Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.