It’s okay to call out inappropriate behaviour

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Despite the long-term gender equality debate, sexism still remains prevalent in today’s society.

It goes both ways – both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment – however unfortunately, women do still appear to bear the brunt of it.

But these behaviours will never be quashed completely while women, and girls, feel unsafe to come forward and speak out against their perpetrators.

It sets a poor example for younger women and girls who may fear the backlash they could potentially face.

The recent claims made against former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce by high profile West Australian rural woman Catherine Marriott are a prime example.

Ms Marriott did what any reasonable, level-headed woman would do by raising her concerns with the National Party.

When you have experienced inappropriate behaviour towards you, it makes sense to raise this with the organisation or business the person represents – in this case, a political party.

But Ms Marriott has been dragged into the spotlight via media leaks – despite her request for confidentiality – and questioned about its timeliness, the reasons for lodging her complaint and why it wasn’t referred to police.

Through her lawyer, Ms Marriott said she was upset her complaint had been made public; she wanted to raise her concerns directly with the National Party.

Other women aware of the case – and there are quite a few, – are also furious the matter is now in the public arena.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson publicly backed Ms Marriott on Twitter and told ABC she feared some women would avoid taking action in future because it might "come back to the bite them".

"I think some of it is not understanding what is acceptable and feeling maybe a little bit guilty about calling some of it out," she said.

"But I also think there is a bit of fear around what the repercussions are going to be.”

Ms Simson said the way the complaint had been treated would make it harder for women to confront sexual harassment.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make sure the young women and girls in our community feel safe raising their concerns.

Don’t judge or question – just listen.