The inspiring Time's Up and #MeToo movments have shifted the sexual landscape for women, but they've failed to have their desired effect on one man — Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm. Leyonhjelm staunchly defended his constitutional right to be old, gross and weird in parliament yesterday by literally telling a female senator to "stop shagging men", twice! What a guy!
For context, Leyonhjelm was sitting in on a parliamentary debate on whether or not the government should legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers to help women protect themselves.
Whether or not we should be arming women with actual tasers to fend off men is a discussion for another time. But what Leyonhjelm did do, was yell over Senator Sarah Hanson-Young while she was speaking saying she should "stop shagging men". What a guy!
Senator Hanson-Young then confronted the 66-year-old Senator for New South Wales, who repeated his comments, then told her to "fuck off" when she she called him a creep. What a guy!
Leyonhjelm confirmed the exchange to the ABC, stating his comments were in response to his interpreting Hanson-Young's comments as being akin to saying 'all men are rapists'. He was also chivalrous enough to backtrack on his 'shagging' remarks, instead saying: "I am prepared to rephrase my comments. I strongly urge Senator Hanson-Young to continue shagging men as she pleases."
Wow! I'm so surprised that the dude who literally brought Milo Yiannapolous into parliament did this.
I'm assuming you already understand why this is gross and weird and highly unprofessional, but it probably bears repeating on the off-chance that David Leyonhjelm and his presumably small pool of supporters don't get what all the fuss is about.
Loudly talking about a colleague's sex life in any terms while you're in your workplace is sexual harassment 101. Saying "fuck off" after she confronts you about it is just normal harassment.
But there's a more sinister insinuation in Leyonhjelm's comments. It's not a coincidence that he told Sarah Hanson-Young to "stopping shagging men" while she was talking about the ways in which women can protect themselves from sexual assault. It's an insinuation that if women don't want to be sexually assaulted by men they should stop having sex with men in the first place.
Considering the Senate's discussion is contextaulised by the recent rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, the comments are in particularly poor taste.
Senator Leyonhjelm's comments have been widely panned, but they do serve as a reminder that solving sexist behaviour in the workplace isn't as easy as wearing a Time's Up T-shirt or attending a rally. It's going to be a long process that may take generations to remedy. If men feel confident enough to tell a co-worker to "stop shagging men" in public, what's going on behind closed doors?
It's important that we don't treat the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby as being proof that sexual harassment is over. It's those smaller, simpler, everyday incidents of sexism that need to be stamped out before we start seeing progress.
My first reaction when I heard David Leyonhjelm's comments was an eyeroll. He's old, he's weird, he famously has a hard-on for an alt-right troll with a sub-par taste in blazers. Is it really worth calling a spade 'inappropriate' when it's this obvious?
It is, I think. This is the exact time to not let things slide, to not give old white dudes a hall pass because they're old, to not think that people don't need to change their inappropriate behaviour because they're so bold in being inappropriate.
Sarah Hanson Young is the youngest person ever elected to Senate, a single mother and the Greens portfolio holder for education and finance. In short, she doesn't have time for this shit. And neither do we.