“I think that Tracy Grimshaw needs to be given a firm uppercut or a slap across the face, and I mean that virtually, of course, I wouldn’t want to invoke (sic) any violence on anyone.”
It’s reported by The Sydney Morning Herald & The Age that these were comments made by a chief executive in the tourism industry last Friday during an online seminar. A recording of the seminar was published online but has subsequently been removed.
That these remarks were reported on the same day that Alan Jones announced his retirement seemed horribly apt and desperately problematic. Proof that Jones’ predilection for wishing violence upon women with whom he disagrees is not an isolated concern.
Jones has famously resorted to threats of violence against women he wishes to silence as a matter of routine. Whether it was saying a sock ought to be ‘shoved’ down Jacinda Ardern’s throat, suggesting Julia Gillard being taken out to sea in a chaff bag or alluding to lynching Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Regardless of the furore that followed these incidents Jones continued seemingly unrepentant. Not even advertisers fleeing from his program seemed enough to displace him from his throne.
While Jones cited health reasons for his decision to retire there are reports that his position was less tenable on account of the mass exodus of ad dollars. Even if true it’s worth noting that Jones explicitly making threats against women was not sufficient for him to lose his job. He was cautioned and his power has slowly but surely been eroded, but there has been no clear demarcation. No unequivocal statement that threats against women, even empty ones, are wrong. And that is dangerous for what it permits.
Whether it’s subconscious or intentional is irrelevant because every time a person resorts to suggesting violence as a response to a person or event they disagree with, it reinforces, on some level, that is an appropriate response.
There is, obviously, a chasm between a powerful media figure using his own platform to repeatedly issue threats against women with whom he disagrees and a business leader resorting to threats of violence against a woman in a seminar. Neither is acceptable. There are no circumstances which mitigate threatening violence.
But, there is a difference, in my view, about the response a private citizen who is not a public figure paid, in essence, to be inflammatory, ought to face. The sentiment shared by the tourism boss is utterly repugnant but perhaps there is more to gain from tearing his words apart than him?
To the business leader who suggested Tracy Grimshaw needs an uppercut or slap across the face, let me be unequivocal. Your language and sentiment is deeply troubling.
The fact you immediately followed it up by saying ‘virtually’ indicates you know as much. But it’s not a zero-sum game; you can’t erase the damage by saying you didn’t mean it. The damage is done by saying the words in the first place. That it was a public and professional forum makes it worse. You are a leader.
You are absolutely entitled to be angry, if that’s how you feel, about what Tracy Grimshaw’s show has or hasn’t said about your industry. You can despise her and the show. You can ask every person in your organisation to stop watching. You can do all of that without even suggesting ‘invoking’ violence.
What you permit you promote. When you make light of violence, you permit the trivialisation of violence. And the thing is that violence against women isn’t funny. Ever. It’s lethal.
You haven’t asked for my advice but I’ll give it anyway. Apologise unequivocally. Commit to not resorting to violent language in any setting. Buy a copy of Jess Hill’s See What You Made Me Do and read it cover to cover. Then buy a box and send a copy to every person who sat in on the seminar.