An Open Letter to Gary Johnston of Jaycar ElectronicsPosted: October 3, 2012
Dear Mr Johnston,
As a Bulldogs supporter, consumer, and…y’know, a human being I am offended by your suggestion that the sexist verbal abuse lobbed at Jayne Azzopardi by Bulldogs players/others associated with the club was somehow her fault for being near these players and their Mad Monday party:
“If a woman walks into some bars in Sydney, she will be ogled, she will be treated as an object, and that’s the way it is…She doesn’t have to walk into those bars”
Your logic is inherently flawed.
Firstly, public spaces are not male owned. They are not the sole domain of men. Nor should they be.
Secondly, women shouldn’t have to fear to go into public or private spaces because of sexism and sexual violence. If women were to stop themselves from doing a certain activity for fear of sexism and misogyny then we’d never do anything.
Women experience sexism and sexual violence at work, at university, on the internet, out at bars, walking down the street, hanging out with friends, and in their own homes.
What then is the solution? According to your logic the solution is for women to avoid these places. Unfortunately for women that would mean we’d have to either live in a female only society or cease to exist.
Personally, I’m not much in favour of either option.
Universities and any kind of business environment used to be an even higher risk situation for women to be in than they are now (in terms of sexism, sexual assault or harassment) but that problem wasn’t solved by women avoiding those places for fear of them. They were solved by changing the nature of the institutions (and society) through increased enrolment and employment of women.
Avoiding sexism doesn’t solve it.
You are suggesting that women should 1) not do their jobs if that job involves a ‘male’ environment and alcohol (so, no female bartenders then?) and 2) that if women suffer from sexism in that environment then it’s partly their fault for…existing?
Your logic is flawed and repercussions of that logic are very damaging. It echoes beyond this singular incident into the way people talk about women in general and particularly about sexual violence. In fact, I read the other week that a woman who was sexually assaulted at a bar was told by the judge that it was her fault for being at that bar because ‘those things happen in bars’. Sounds rather similar to your comments, don’t you think?
Your suggestion that Jayne Azzopardi is at fault for standing outside of a building containing a group of men having a party is ludicrous to me.
The solution isn’t to prevent a woman from doing her job, it’s to instil better values and a healthy respect for women in the people being vile in the first place.
Thirdly, the Bulldogs are not being persecuted for being celebrities as you suggested – “It’s only an outrage because these people have some sort of celebrity status.”
In actual fact it is an outrage because sexism and sexist behaviour are not acceptable in our society and when it is so plainly visible, as it is in this case, it requires immediate and strong condemnation.
If the Bulldogs (or whomever) can’t consume alcohol and “let their hair down” without acting like this then that is their fault, it is not the fault of women. They’re not going to learn that such behaviour is unacceptable if women simply avoid them in a professional setting. If we stop sending female journalists in to report on football, then do you think that would stop players being sexist towards other women they meet?
I’m sorry but ‘boys will be boys’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Fourthly, I find it farcical that you suggest that women should not be around football players. Perhaps you didn’t notice how many female fans were in those stands barracking for the Bulldogs and the Storm. Women should feel completely comfortable going to games, meeting players, reporting on teams and so on.
Perhaps you also fail to realise that over half of the world’s population is female. Yet we should be punished for sexist ignorance by not being able to do our jobs or enter certain public spaces?
It’s unfair to punish women because footballers can be sexist idiots. It’s setting the bar low for men and forcing women to suffer the consequences. That is not acceptable. Change doesn’t happen that way.
Finally, I will say this. There is no one more aware of the threat of sexism, sexual abuse, and sexual violence than women. We deal with it every day. It is an ingrained part of our consciousness. It is constantly factored into our thinking and we continually have to negotiate around it in our day to day lives.
I wonder when the last time was that the threat of rape made you fear going jogging at night, going into a bar, attending a house party, going on a date, walking down a dark street, getting a taxi, or being alone with someone of the opposite sex.
I wonder when the last time was that the threat of sexist remarks made you reluctant to look at the comments section on a website, go into work, attend a class, go to a party, or even come out publically as you have about a highly controversial incident involving sexism?
I wonder when you last strategised against the threat of rape or sexual harassment – like avoiding eye contact with the opposite sex when you walk down the street, altering what you wear, having your car keys out ready to use as a weapon, not putting your drink down at parties, not accepting a drink from someone of the opposite sex, crossing the street when you see a group of the opposite sex, not accepting a ride home from someone of the opposite sex, or pretending to call a friend you’re ‘just about to meet up with’ when you feel threatened to let them know where you are.
The list goes on and on. These are common experiences for women.
I can say to you with certainty that I do not know one woman who was not been subject to sexism in one form or another.
It is an inherent part of our lives, we just don’t let it control our lives. We keep going to work, we keep going to university, we keep going to bars, we keep walking down the street by ourselves.
And let me tell you, sometimes it’s bloody hard to do. But we do it, not only for our own sake, but in the hope that ‘the way it is’ won’t be ‘the way it is’ anymore. That things will continue to improve for women and that sexist attitudes, abuse, and violence will in some way diminish. It would be idealistic for me to say it will disappear.
I sincerely hope you reconsider your remarks and your attitude not just about this isolated incident, but about how sexism operates in our society, how women deal with that sexism, and how you can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
(Anyone else wishing to email Gary Johnston about his remarks can do so via this address: firstname.lastname@example.org)