The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept Watch the video here
The Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, reported that he has stood down three Defence Force members, and investigations were continuing regarding up to 100 more personnel. The issue is a series of emails disseminated amongst the men (who revoltingly even gave themselves a ‘name’, The Jedi Council) containing images of sexual encounters between the men and unsuspecting females. Morrison has refused to elaborate on the contents other than to say they were “explicit and repugnant” and denigrate women. Amongst the officers including in this ‘ring’ is a Lieutenant-Colonel, the highest of non-senior ranks.
What takes this story to another level, if it needed to be any more abhorrent, is that the filming and sharing of these images, without the women’s knowledge or consent, allegedly occurred while the ADF was already under investigation for its sexism and harassment culture. This brazen defiance of any decency at all was all sent around using Army computer servers. AKA ‘work emails’. You have to ask just how rancid the culture is in this organisation that they continued to flaunt their derogatory and probably illegal behaviour in the midst of ongoing investigation? This suggests that these men felt pretty secure in their ability to do these things and get away with it. Staggering.
The inquiries leading to these revelations were triggered by the April 2011 Skype scandal in which (consensual) sex between two Army cadets was filmed and broadcast over the internet without the 19 year old woman’s knowledge. I recall The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, publicly condemning the Force’s handling of this event and attacking it’s complete lack of support for the young cadet who had to seek help outside the Army when it failed her. An incredibly risky move for the brave young woman and even for Mr Smith to condemn ADFA, the Army being a protected species. He was angry, outraged. You rarely see a politician speak with such genuine feeling and compassion and it is rarely on the topic of victims of sexual assault and harassment. Minister Smith must be livid now as this latest dirty saga unfolds. But he is one of a few to speak up. Alongside Lieut-Gen Morrison in this video that he posted on the ADF youtube channel.
I was about to write that I have heard these words of public condemnation before, but that we should not trust it until we see real consequences for the perpetrators. Actions, not words. But you know, I never heard anything like this at all from anyone in the Education Department, the school where I was sexually assaulted and harassed, the next school, the Institute…no one ever uttered anything like this. No one condemned. No one bothered to even bullshit me and show an attempt at credibility. Even after I took it to criminal trial. I still cannot believe what I’m saying!
Let’s just pretend I had been told this kind of thing before. I’m sure others have. Immediately I have seen calls that Morrison is “a feminist hero” and the saviour of the Force. The pragmatists among us know that any change at all requires a Zero Tolerance effort of blistering pressure, sparing no one. Given the events in this country this week regarding sexist language, harassment and sexual violence…we have a HELL of a long way to go. And the first step has to be calling this shit out. Every time.
“If you become aware of any individual degrading another then show moral courage and take a stand against it”
Does the reality of the task ahead mean that I can’t delight in the deliciously No Bullshit approach in this speech? No way. Because sadly, this kind of stance IS a big deal. It’s groundbreaking. In 2013, it is a novelty that a powerful man is saying that a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment of women is Not Acceptable. To a lot of us, this is just common decency. But we have to admit we live amongst some seriously deluded, hateful and entitled bastards. It’s time for them to hear the message. That is something to be hopeful and positive about.
“If that does not suit you…get out”