girlie jones (girliejones) wrote,
girlie jones

On watching the Hey Dad Scandal evolve

For those not in Australia, during the 80s and into the early 90s we had a sitcom called Hey Dad. It was um ... funny in the 80s? Pre-Friends and Seinfeld and whatever. Last week, Sarah Monahan, who played the youngest daughter on this show, and was 6 when she began on the show, told local women's mag A Woman's Day that a man who worked on that show was inappropriate with her - touching her and exposing himself to her. And that everyone knew, that the executives on the show knew, that it continued occurring till she left (when I think she was 12) and that they brought in a chaperone for the young girl who replaced her on that show.

Since she made this claim in the magazine, she has appeared on the current affairs show A Current Affair where they interviewed her in her home, now in Texas, and she spoke more on the matter. Still not naming the man. However, other women had come forward since the feature in the magazine and had named the man as actor Robert Hughes. This has snowballed this week. Another Actor, Ben Oxenbould appeared on the show and spoke of how he had witnessed Hughes' behaviour, specifically in touching another young female actor guest starring on the show. And how he had gone into "panic mode" and taken the child out of the situation and then spoken both to Hughes and to an executive on the show, who told him "let this be a lesson to you in professionalism." Last night actor Simone Buchanan appeared on the show with Monahan to speak both of her own experience of being touched by Hughes without giving him permission and also of how she was Monahan's confidante and protector on the show. A Current Affair has stated that more women and more evidence than they have presented has come to light and are urging everyone to report to the police. The NSW police are waiting for an official complain before they can begin investigating. Robert Hughes has stated that this is now in the hands of his defamation lawyers. Watching the actors from Hey Dad speak out, it is very very clear that they are survivors of something horrible. And that keeping their secret has taken a significant toll on them.

I've been watching this evolve and personally reacting to it in a strong way. I've blogged here before about this sort of subject matter. I flocked a post after my last counselling session in which I spent the hour talking about my reactions to the issues that have arisen in our own community and I mentioned how it had been a long time since I'd left a session feeling worse than when I went in.

I think there are specific and key triggers for me. One of them came from Monahan's own words "It's not like he raped me. But what he did was wrong." And again last night when Buchanan said, after telling how Hughes had driven her home one time after work and tried to feel her up, that she was a woman and so was better equipped (than a child) to fend him off. And that after that she steered clear of him because she knew something of him and that he was "dodgy".

This whole matter is very upsetting. And there are a lot of threads of it that are disturbing and distressing. One issue for me is the one that I think I have elsewhere - the one where everyone knows something about someone and noone does anything about it. I've been trying to write this post for days and have been hesitant because when I was trying to think of an example in my own life, I came up with too many. My personal experience is that there are people out there who think they have the right to touch you in any way they want. And maybe it's not even that they think they have the right, to quote someone else, "I wanted to touch her, so I did." It angers me that there are people out there who wander around so self engrossed and driven by their own sexual gratification that they behave any way they want. Anything is ok as long as they get their kicks. I mean, what working situation is ok with bringing sexual acts into the daily grind? Where is it ok to just lean over and fondle someone, anyone, whilst you're being paid to work (except, obviously in the sex industry). Firstly, it's revolting that whilst he was working and being paid to work, he was thinking about, and acting on, his own sexual urges.

But the other part of this for me that is very distressing is that everyone knew and noone did anything about it - hiring a chaperone instead of firing someone else is not really the appropriate solution. And I hope there is hell to pay for the executive who not only turned a blind eye but threatened people into not speaking out. But beyond that, I think the bit that is hardest for me is the bit where the only thing you can do in situations like these is to avoid the person in question. The only thing you can do is to not put yourself in that situation again.

And it's distressing to me because that is how I have to live - that is part of what it means for me to be a woman and a member of society, at the same time. It happened to me at work several years ago - I was being subtly sexually harassed by an older man who was not in my section. He made lewd comments, told me he looked at me when I was dressed in my workout clothes at lunchtime, made me feel uncomfortable and would come in and talk to me for long periods of time and ask me very personal questions. None of this is actually anything you can do something about. I spoke to my boss who spoke to someone in his section. And I was told others had made complaints about him and there had been other incidents involving this person. I was asked if I wanted to proceed further with my complaint but they were moving campuses so the problem went away. And so we dropped it. An example in my life of where the person did not have to face up to the fact that what he was doing was inappropriate. He walks off feeling [whatever it is they feel] and I get left feeling gross, defiled in some way.

I have more than a handful of examples like this - where someone has been verbally or physically inappropriate with me. And it goes back a long way in my lifetime. Incidents where I've thought - that was wrong to have said or done that. And sometimes at the time, I brushed them off as unintentional or that I was looking for something more in that action/words. A male teacher once grabbed me from behind when I was standing with a group of girls on school camp. He had told us to move and we hadn't. So he came up behind me and grabbed me - I'm not really sure why. I guess he wanted to pick me up and physically move me? But he grabbed me from behind and ended up grabbing my breasts. This was deeply deeply distressing to me - at the time I cried for about an hour or two, on the bus all the way home. And at the time I wasn't sure if I was crying because of where he had touched me or because he had invaded my space and overridden my choice to stand still and not move. But it's taken me about 20 years to realise that both are equally upsetting. Either I am an object that can be felt up and has no boundaries or ability to enforce where you get to touch me or not. Or ... I am an object that you can pick up and move whereever you want. Either way, I don't get the right to choose about any of that. I told my mother what had happened - I was still upset when I got home. She spoke to another mother who thought that it was not meant the way I had experienced it. And so we did nothing about it. And yet, 20 years later, I still remember how that felt. And actually? He should have been reprimanded and reminded that he should not touch female high school students, in any way, no matter what (especially since I went to an Orthodox Jewish school).

And more recently, I've spoken a bit about how I don't feel safe at Swancons. And maybe those words are a bit of a euphemism - what they mean is, someone or more than one person has/haved behaved inappropriately towards me and now I have to steer clear of them because they are dodgy. It's a self protective act - once a person does something that makes you feel unsafe, or uncomfortable, there's no coming back from that. Warning signals go up - and that's what Buchanan meant about being "better equipped" - you head it off at the pass. And I'm not necessarily talking about all the people we all can mention who we all know are dodgy. Yes there is a list of people. I mean other people - people closer in my sphere, people I would be at the same room parties as (I avoid the room parties that I definitely don't feel safe in).

And my friends know of things that have happened to me or to others, and I of them. And you know what we all do? We avoid those people because they are dodgy.

And surely that can't really be the way we deal with this kind of stuff? And yet, it is. And that, right there, is why I get distressed over all this stuff. I think.

Tags: feminism, harassment, safe spaces

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