A tale of two sinners

matt-taylor-shirtRecently in the news we’ve had a couple of examples of inappropriate behaviours from white men in positions of power.One of these is an international story, the other occurred right here in lil ol’ New Zealand. Both of them were reported in fascinating ways.

First off, there was the case of Dr Matt Taylor and his shirt. Dr Taylor was the spokesperson for the European mission that landed a spacecraft on a moving comet (I just want to pause and go, that’s fucking awesome that we did that). When it was announced that the mission had been successful, Dr Taylor fronted a bunch of media wearing a shirt. A sexist shirt. All over the shirt were images of women in states of undress. It’s a sexist trope, the sort of thing you find in Duke Nukem, or millions of other video games, or most movies.

It overshadowed a huge scientific breakthrough. And it should have. Because, as local science and bird fanatic Kimberley Collins said:

“HE IS WEARING A SHIRT THAT REPRESENTS EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH WOMEN IN SCIENCE.”

The Guardian in the UK climbed into him for his choice of shirt. They did not hold back. They immediately called the shirt “sexist”. There was no “alleged” they didn’t hide behind words like “controversial” they just straight up called it sexist. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, we in New Zealand were not treated to the same level of journalistic thoroughness. Now admittedly stories of this ilk tend to be taken from overseas newswires but maybe a better article could have been used. When Dr Taylor went on TV and emotionally apologised for the shirt the Herald, in its infinite awesomeness, printed the following article:

British physicist Matt Taylor brimmed with excitement as the European Space Agency’s Philae lander successfully separated from the Rosetta spacecraft, showing off a colorful tattoo on his thigh of both, while proclaiming “we’re making history.”

But it was his garish bowling shirt that drew more attention than the unconventional Rosetta project scientist’s words or ink  a collage of pinup girls in various states of undress.

Summarizing the firestorm, the Guardian proclaimed in a blog post: “ESA can land their robot on a comet. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses.”

On Friday, Taylor ” wearing a non-descript navy-blue ESA hoodie ” offered an unsolicited apology.

“I made a big mistake and I offended many people,” he said, breaking down in tears. “And I’m very sorry about this.

“Garish bowling shirt” “the Guardian proclaimed in a blog post…”.

Notice how this particular piece a) doesn’t mention that the shirt is sexist, and b) makes it clear that it was the GUARDIAN who said it was misogynistic. Those bloody namby pamby woolly woofters at the pinko politically correct paper. They’re the ones who are up in arms about this. Not us at the Herald. To us it was just a garish bowling shirt.

Then, today Billie took a photo of  a column/photo in the Dominion Post. The column was written by London Mayor Boris Johnson and he was enraged by the outpouring of opprobrium towards Dr Taylor. And in their infinite wisdom, the Dom Post saw fit to have the following photo and caption:

Shirt

“Garish but so what”. “Dr Matt Taylor has copped a dust cloud of hate”. “Led to him crying”. Oh the poor dear. No mention of the shirt being sexist and demeaning. Oh no the victim here is Dr Taylor for being attacked for wearing his “Hawaiian shirt.” Fuck that.
And then the local version, CERA Chief Executive Roger Sutton resigned yesterday for sexually harassing a colleague at CERA. He said so himself. He said he had been sexist. It’s right there in the quotes. Also, he’d been under investigation for the last seven weeks. The SSC Report concluded that he had done bad, but not bad enough to be sacked. Which is fine, but the report still says he did wrong. If you read yesterday’s Stuff article, you’d never have known. Instead you would have walked away with the impression that poor Mr Sutton was another victim of this overly politically correct world.
Here’s the part where it talks about the report:

A report provided to the State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie did not establish conduct which would have led to Sutton being dismissed and Rennie said he would not have asked him to stand down.

There’s a quote from the Prime Minister saying what a good bloke Sutton is. Oh then there’s the bit where we learn that Sutton has worked SO hard at CERA that he’s had to miss school trips and camps. The poor dear. Sutton “spoke from the heart” apparently. Sutton’s wife was on hand to offer her support, she wished that this hadn’t happened in such a “public, hideous way”. I guess she means she wished he hadn’t been caught? She also said he was “too relaxed, too informal”.

I think the words you’re looking for there are “too sexist.”

Then the Mayor of Christchurch also said she’d miss Sutton because of what a good guy he is. Also the head of the SSC said he was a top bloke. Even Labour and Green MPs come in and say how hard this must have been for Sutton.

Fuck that. How hard must it have been for his victim? The person who had had enough and came forward to complain. How do you think anyone who is being harassed at work feels now, reading this article where we hear that the harasser is such a good guy and how much he’ll be missed? He was sexist. He admitted it. He was inappropriate. He’s quit his job.

So here’s two examples of ‘casual misogyny’. And in both cases the perpetrators admit their own wrong-doing and yet the media paints them as sympathetic figures.

Honestly, where is the ethics in video game journalism these days?

 

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks Sutch – you’re so right. Glad I’m not the only one who gets so angry over this retro shite.

  2. Good on Jackie Blue for standing up for the complainant in the Sutton case:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11361275

  3. Yes thanks for pointing out what any one with a smidgen of savvy saw from the getgo . Perpetrator enabled to become the victim by his peers and burn her. Salem style

  4. I think your being a little unfair on the NZ Herald story (actually an AP wire story but never mind).

    The Guardian article you reference was a blog while the NZH had a straight news story. Personally I agree that shirt was sexist and he shouldn’t have worn it but reporters aren’t supposed to put personal judgements like that in news articles.

    I actually thought the article was written reasonably well. The only thing I would have done differently is dropped the reference to the Guardian and got a comment from the president of the NZ Association of Scientists, Nicola Gaston, who has very strong views on sexism in science.

    (Disclaimer: I used to work as a science reporter until very recently but not for any of the outfits mentioned here)

  5. ^Dammit: *you’re

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