The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
The first thing a bully usually tells you in their office when you ask them why they were being a nasty prick to someone is that they were “just joking”. You often hear it in the media when someone is racist, sexist or homophobic. We heard it in Australia this week about a mock menu created by a restaurant owner:
“I created a mock menu myself as a light-hearted joke, however as I said I never produced them for public distribution.
Mr Richards wrote to Mr Brough in which he apologised for the menu, which had a dish called “[Prime Minister] Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box”.
This was in the same week that Gillard had an interview in which the sexuality of her partner was questioned:
On air Sattler offered the [Australian] Prime Minister a chance to dispel “myths, rumours, snide jokes and innuendo” at the tail-end of their digressive interview.
“Tim’s gay,” was the first rumour Sattler raised.
“Well, that’s absurd,” the Prime Minister replied flatly.
“But you hear it – he must be gay, he’s a hairdresser,” Sattler said. “It’s not me saying it.”
“It’s not me saying it.” That would be the second thing bullies say: “it wasn’t just me; everyone was doing it.” Helen Clark had to put up with this kind of stuff a lot. It’s tedious.
So if “everyone” is doing it then who should stop it?
Auckland lesbian, Rainbow Youth Board member, journalist and All Blacks fan Hannah Spyksma has shared her experience with loutish crowd members at Eden Park. She urged them to stop calling players “homos and faggots” during the test between France and the All Blacks on Saturday, she was told ‘it’s just part of the game.’
“We are disappointed in Eden Park management’s response, saying that they are not the ‘PC police.’ They say, ‘it’s not our job … to try to move the cultural morals of society.’
No one, seems to be the answer the Eden Park gave to Hannah Spyksma.
This is also the NZRU’s answer. Time for someone to take a break from selling Air New Zealand, deodorant, and Visa, and take a stand.
Which brings me to the remarkable speech by the head of the Australian army, David Morrison, after yet another group of male soldiers posted sexist rubbish on-line.
The line that rang in my ears was this: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
I walk past this sign every day, and every day it irritates the hell out of me.
I know what will happen if I complain. People will tell me it’s just a joke. Well, David Morrison tells me that the standard I walk past (literally, in this case), is the standard I accept so I better do something about it I suppose. Here is the email I sent Meg at Stacks this morning.
I walk past your shop every day on the way from my house in Berhampore to the school where I teach at the Basin Reserve, which is a girls school. I am writing to you because I find the statement you have in your window offensive.
It is of course your window, and you are free to put this kind of thing in it. I’m not writing to you to tell you what to do, I’m writing to tell you that I don’t like it. I think it’s useful to know that some times. It puts things into perspective. I know that your window sign is a joke of course. Looking in the window as I walk past I always see women working in the shop. So it must be a joke. I get the joke, but I don’t like the message.
It seems to me that this is the exact kind of sexism that women have been fighting against for a long time now. Financial independence is a very real kind of power. I don’t think that I need to tell you that, because I suspect that as a female business owner you know it very well. I also think that a hundred little harmless jokes can easily harden into genuine sexism in a society. Like a hundred harmless little airbrushed images in women’s magazines can do the same.
While I’m at it I may as well ask the NZRU a question.
In the mean time I’m going to keep that sentence in mind: the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.