PODCAST: #MeToo and the wallpaper of misogyny

A recent report from the Australian Human Rights Commission found one in three people have experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years including 39 per cent of Australian women

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If you contextualise this to your own workforce, the pervasiveness is staggering. 

"[Sexual harassment] was almost like a wallpaper of misogyny was surrounding us. We didn't notice it anymore because it was normalised.” - Spicer

In the latest podcast from Diversity Council Australia’s The Art of Inclusion series (co-published on bluenotes) Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins says going to work every day and dealing with the risk of sexual harassment has a real impact on productivity and impacts careers as well as mental health.  

Jenkins says the #MeToo movement has really exposed the prevalence of sexual harassment: “I think [#MeToo] should get us focused on how can we stop this happening in the first place.”

“We expect every employer across the country should have a mechanism to deal with sexual harassment complaints in a fast [and] confidential manner,” she says.

Jenkins says men can get involved in stamping out sexual harassment by talking to women close to them about their experiences: “Suddenly, [these] men [start to] see the small indicators of inequality and can start speaking up and changing.”

“[Men have] got a role to play even if it's just saying something when there's a joking comment belittling of a woman,” she says. “Instead of just laughing along, [say] ‘Actually, I don't think that's really okay’.”

Fair go

As Australians, our instinct often is to play down inappropriate behaviour. But it's only a joke if both people think it's funny. Seeing women as fair game creates a culture that means they don't get a fair go.

And while those who've worked in this area have been talking about it for decades it's only now that it's entered the public conversation.

“It was really shocking when I first started out in the industry more than 30 years ago. I saw a lot of groping and grabbing,” says Australian journalist and newsreader, Tracey Spicer.

“It was pretty much a daily occurrence. It was accepted [and] supported - it was almost like a wallpaper of misogyny was surrounding us. We didn't notice it anymore because it was normalised.”

However, Spicer says this isn’t an issue contained to Hollywood.

“Generations of people [in] male-dominated industries have been forced out because of a combination of repeated sexual harassment, not being valued for being a proper worker and of course the gender pay gap,” she says.

When Spicer returned to work after having her second child, she says she was quickly fired and told the newsroom was “getting some younger presenters on the roster”.

“What [they were] effectively saying to me was that I'd lost my currency - my beauty - because I'd reached my late 30s… I realised this whole time I was been valued for my appearance… rather than what was in my heart and my head,” she says.


Spicer sued her former employer but says she risked her career and many friends in doing so: “Back in that time, it's terrifying. [They said] ‘You speak out and we will take you to court and you will lose your house and never work in the industry again’.”

Spicer says there is more support for women speaking out now and encourages young women to join networks and unions to ensure they can continue to speak out.

“The more of us who do this the more things will change,” she says.

“Gender equality is good for everybody. It's not a women's issue - it's about women, men, families and society. If we get gender equality [it will be] good for everybody.”

You can listen to the whole conversation in the podcast above.

Lisa Annese is Chief Executive Officer at Diversity Council Australia.

This podcast was originally published by the Diversity Council Australia and was co-published by bluenotes. Subscribe on your preferred player: iTunesGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Whooshkaa

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The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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