Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who's the real sexist?

How is it I find myself defending Liberal MP for his alleged 'sexist' remark to a Conservative MP when her phone rang during an in-camera meeting last month.

Dianne Watts quotes exactly what was said to her in this audio interview. Her phone, with a generic ringtone, prompted a fellow MP to say "Where's your pole to slide down?" He was asked to repeat the comment, and asked again "Where's your pole?"

Although this wasn't part of any commentary, one might supposed Ms Watts, recognizing the ring tone as specific to one person, might have smiled and said "my daughter" before any comment was made. A clip of the ringtone does not sound like any bump and grind stripper song, or anything that might be taken as such.

Could it be that we're just so conditioned to assuming that every remark has some nefarious meaning if it's directed to a woman? All the headlines make reference to a 'stripper pole' yet even in her retelling of the incident, Watts doesn't use the word 'stripper'. She, and the other MPs who heard the remark, either inferred it at the time, or afterward when they were discussing what had been said.

Could it be that MP Nicola di Iorio was thinking of a fire fighter? Or Batman even? Watts was answering a call from her daughter... how many times are we called upon to rescue our kids when we are otherwise occupied. Did her hear her say it was her daughter and make the remark thinking how many times we rush to accommodate our kids? There is nothing remotely sexual about the ringtone, or about the ringing of a phone -- but there is definitely something parental in it.

I would never have thought he meant stripper pole, unless he used those words exactly.... why was the immediate reaction to assume THAT kind of pole? Who is the sexist here?  If a person makes a comment that is not overtly sexist, are they sexist because someone decides to take it that way? Or is it sexist to impute sexist meaning to it because it was made by a man to a woman?

di Iorio has not come to his own defense on this matter from anything I've read, although it is under investigation so perhaps that's why. Maybe though, it never occurred to him that it could be taken badly and the shock of having been called out on it has silenced him, the way being accused of something often does to innocent people.