But Alannah Hill acts like it is
When a woman makes a joke about sexual harassment and claims she wishes she had been ‘touched up’ by the man at the centre of harassment claims, you see just how entrenched is the idea that harassment is just a bit of fun and that women really want it.
When that woman is leading fashion designer Alannah Hill and she’s making the comments at a fashion show to parade the works of a major department store facing a massive sexual harassment claim, then you see just how far we have to go.
Two days ago, former DJs publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk launched a record claim against former chief executive Mark McInnes and the company. She alleged McInnes made repeated and unwelcome sexual advances towards her. McInnes resigned mid June and admitted behaving as a manner “unbecoming of a chief executive”.
According to The Australian, three victims of alleged sexual misconduct referred to in Kristy Fraser-Kirks legal action have resolved their claims and still work for the department store.
‘I wish he’d touched me up’
Only a day after lodgement of Fraser-Kirk’s claim, Alannah Hill leapt to McInnes’ defence at the launch of DJs spring/summer 2010/11 collection. She said she had always had a crush on him, that she wished he had touched her up, wished he had invited her to his Bondi apartment, and that she threw herself at him, but he resisted. She claimed to be the brunette McInnes told Fraser-Kirk he could have had, but rejected because he wanted her instead. She described the case as a “glitch”.
But it’s not the first time Hill has gone to McInnes’ defense. In June she told the Daily Telegraph she was “devastated” Mr McInnes had been forced to resign.
“It’s a total overreaction. It seems such a shame that this incident has brought him down,” she said.
“I had utter respect for him and I liked that he liked women.”
I commented on the issue today on Sunrise and The Morning Show (included both because I was more awake in the second one. Some readers might also like to see Alex Perry appear with me on Sunrise, given I’ve had a little bit to say about him recently).
I argued that the comments trivialised sexual harassment and provided permission to those in the community to view women as up for grabs in the workplace. And while Perry tried to argue that David Jones was made up of many people, the fact that Mark McInnes was the Chief Executive Officer (and not the teaboy), is significant. The rot starts at the top.
Now She’s Sorry
Hill has now apologised on Melbourne radio, though I don’t think she’s got the tone quite right.
“I’m here with a priest, I’m on my knees and I’m doing my confession,” she told Melbourne’s Fox FM.
“I’m so gutted … I feel like such an idiot.
“Look, I know they are really serious allegations and I’ve never really worked in the corporate sector, and I understand sexual harassment would be unbearable.
“I know people get so stressed they can’t even go to work. I feel terrible for that girl and I feel stupid for myself and I really, really humbly apologise.”
Hill said her business partner was “so furious” about her comments that she would hold a “sorry sale” on Saturday, and donate half the proceeds “to some sort of a women’s shelter or sexual abuse (charity)”.
Asked what she would do with the other half of the funds, she said: “I might pass them on to the nice girl with the hyphen in her name. I’ve forgotten her name.”
The girl with the hyphen in her name (and I acknowledge the claims have to be proven) reminds us that sexual harassment is unlawful. Sexual harassment contributes to a hostile working environment. I’ve written about this before.
See also: Why didn’t the DJs board act against McInnes Sooner? Amanda Gome in Crikey today.
Clive Hamilton’s opinion piece on the DJ’s case.
This piece by Clive Hamilton in The Drum Unleashed today on the DJs sexual harassment case and his own experiences of being sued by the company, not all that long ago, over the issue of sexualisation of children in advertising.