You know, don’t you, you mostly taciturn hordes of Boomtown Rap faithfuls, that my default position is to support the little guy in any stoush with management? Oh believe it. My experience of managers is almost entirely negative. They seem to me a loathsome breed in general: small on EQ, big on arrogance and self-regard, prone to blame-shifting, defensiveness and rationalisation while projecting these same flaws on to subordinate adversaries (and, by contrast, licking the arses of their superiors regardless of the shit that comes out of them)… I could go on, but you get the idea.
I gotta say, though, that I hope David Jones’ legal team pings Ms Kristy Whatser-hyphenated-name – and that she doesn’t get a cent out of her ‘sexual harassment’ claim. Sure, CEO Mark McInnes was, by all accounts, a serial sleaze – but there is no suggestion that he resorted to career-threatening intra-workplace blackmail, and the alleged gropings and lewd comments were hardly life-changing traumas. At 27, surely a moderately attractive type like Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name has been hit on enough times to know how to handle it without calling in the legal cavalry? Begs the question, who’s more on the make here – McInnes or Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name?
Like many, I suspect, I gagged as I watched Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name’s self-aggrandising performance at her press conference, flanked by mummy and daddy with clean-cut boyfriend trailing dutifully behind like a neutered pet dog. In between congratulating herself on her courage in taking a stand on behalf of other victims of workplace sexual harassment, she declared herself “devastated” and bemoaned the suffering her family is going through. And just to cut off accusations that it’s all about the money, she publicly resolved to donate “every cent” of any punitive damages payment she might receive to a charity set up to assist future workplace harassment victims (The Kristy Whatser-hyphenated-name Foundation?). Why, she almost moved herself to tears as she launched her martyrdom upon a grateful world. Her lawyers must have been thrilled.
Thing is, as SMH’s Elizabeth Knight points out, Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name is most unlikely to be awarded punitive damages….and she made no mention of what she intends to do with any negotiated settlement payment she receives from David Jones – a payment likely to escalate now that this ridiculous $37 million damages claim has thrust the case back into the full glare of the media spotlight. Goodness, the cynical might venture that the real agenda here has little to do with compensating a “devastated” victim of sexual harassment and much to do with opportunistic gold digging.
But far be it from me to add to the badmindedness that’s just everywhere today. Better that I draw on the inspiration of Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name to explore this vexing issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. You see, I, too, have been a victim.
Yes, hard to believe as I survey the tragedy of the years that regards me dolefully from the mirror, but it’s true – I was once a desirable object, at least in the eyes of a particular predatory boss. In the absence of a $37 million claim for punitive damages, I thought it might bring me ‘closure’ to spill the sorry tale here…
I was a mere child when it happened: just 35 years of age. It was my first job in ESL (teaching English as a second language). The institution where the incident took place shall, of course, remain nameless, as shall the business owner who foisted her unwanted attention on my innocent person. Let’s call her Miss Piggy. I assure you, this choice of title is no coincidence, for as you are to learn, this amply built beast of a woman veritably wallowed in the sludge of her own crassness and indecency. And dragged me, her newly employed subordinate, into her mire.
There I was, up a ladder, pinning grammar rules colourfully inscribed on butcher’s paper on the wall above the door of my classroom. Did I realise I was vulnerable? No. Could I have anticipated what was to happen next? Not in my most ribald nightmare.
I’d just pushed in one of four thumbtacks. The other three were between my compressed lips, ready to be plucked for placement. And then along came Miss Piggy thumping down the corridor. Pausing on her way past my doorway, she gawped up the ladder at me. Then her eyes travelled down to my crutch, which was right in front of her massive bosom.
“Phooooaaaaarrr!” she exclaimed, fixing her lascivious gaze upon my private area, then – I can hardly bring myself to continue – cupped her podgy hands directly beneath my crotch, and made the lewdest up-and-down weighing motion, her nostrils flaring as she glowed with undisguised lust and a piquant sense of her position of power over me.
Yes, reader, stranded up that ladder, rendered mute by those cursed thumb tacks in my mouth, I was forced to watch helpless as she emitted that guttural utterance again – “phooooaaaaarrr!” – and continued to simulate bouncing my goolies up and down in her cushioned palms, mere centimetres from my cowering member. She concluded her appalling performance with a wink and clumped merrily on her way atop those meaty calves, oblivious to the psychic damage she had wreaked. As I stared after her in horror from my teetering pedestal of shame, the Present Perfect swung pendulously afore me from its single thumbtack in a vaguely Freudian manner that somehow hammered home my humiliation.
Oh, she was guilty of other transgressions, too, dear shocked reader – such as, for example, inquiring of me through salaciously narrowed eyes on my return from picking up the school bus after it had been serviced: “Did you make sure they greased the nipples…[breathy pause, wink]… eh, Rolan?”
Any wonder that I am as I am!
Her institution continues to flourish, while I am left with a phobia about heights, ladders and ESL teaching, and a permanently altered relationship with roast pork. Not to mention an unsightly and outsized hydrocele that I believe developed in direct psycho-physical response to the fear and loathing Miss Piggy perpetuated that day – as if to protect my agates in the event of a repeat assault on their sanctity.
Further, I can now report as I conclude this public outpouring all these years later, that the best I have achieved is a mild catharsis. So much for ‘closure’.
If Ms Whatser-hyphenated-name can sue for $37 mill for being hit on a coupla times by a womanising boss, what price my grotesque encounter with Miss Piggy? Or do we have a case of gender bias here?
I’ll leave that question to toll in the bitter silence.