A Thank You Note or: Happy Mother’s Day

It’s raining here but not there where you are – at home. I checked. I always check. It will be sunny with an expected maximum of 25 degrees and clear blue skies. OK. I don’t know about the clear blue skies. I’m assuming that. It’s probably a fair assumption, right?

It’s raining here and it’s sunny there. The rain made me remember a day, many, many years ago. I’m not sure you remember it. I’m not sure it’s even true. But it’s a memory, a moment, that often comes to me on rainy, miserable days like today. We were in primary school, us four girls, and getting ready for it when you said, “let’s not go to school today”. Just like that. Unexpected. Unprecedented. Magical. The rain was heavy, at least in my memory, and the lights were on even though it was morning. You thought it would be a perfect day to sit in front of the heater and drink hot Milo. And so we did. On that rainy, miserable day, much like the day I’m having here, now, without you.

My memory has added a soft filter to the image of us sitting by the heater with our mugs of Milo. In my memory, we echo the illustrated cover of our battered copy of Little Women. That’s all I remember about that day. I push my memory to squeeze out a little more and all I can conjure up is that old heater. Maybe. Or maybe I am just able to remember the heater because we had it for such a long time. A dark brown, heavy thing; you had to hold down one button and click the other to get it going and it took longer and longer to start as it got older and older. Like we all do, I suppose.

I am sure there is more to that day than Milo and a heater and no school.

I can’t remember the details.

But I can remember the feeling. The feeling of possibility and safety and warmth and love. And that is worth so much. What a gift! How lucky am I, to have a mother who gave us that? And you have continued, always, to give us those gifts; possibility, safety, warmth and love.

I hope you know how much that means to me. I hope you know how much that day meant: No school, hot Milo and a heater.

Thank you, Mum.

 

Mum, Me and the very early 80s.

Mum, Me and the very early 80s.

 

A boring story we have all heard before.

walking home by katy warner

A male passenger in a white van stuck his head out of the window and yelled. At me. I was walking down the street, nearly home after a long day at work when they drove by. A quiet street. My quiet street.

I couldn’t hear the words exactly but I could hear the sound. Like when someone speaks in a foreign language and even though you don’t know what they’re saying, you know what they’re saying. Know what I’m saying? Something in that tone, that leering face, jolted me. He made that certain kind of sound you will sometimes hear certain groups of certain kinds of men make at certain establishments when they have reached a certain level of a certain thing I shall call “jerk-ness”.

I stopped. I turned around, flung my arms in the air, in that Tom Hanks I’m-acting-like-I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that fashion (which I always thought was kind of unrealistic until I found myself doing it) and watched the van continue on its way. Come back, I thought, come back and have a conversation with me. Get out of the car, look me in the eye, and repeat what you said.

He didn’t. Of course. Even though I knew they could see me, standing there all Tom-Hanks-esque and angry. No, of course they didn’t come back…

This happens from time to time. Most of the time. Because, to some men, when women walk down the street they are not people. Not fellow human beings. We are objects to be objectified. Of course. Yell, whistle, beep the horn.

It is not flattering. It is not funny. It is not harmless.

It is intimidating and pathetic. It is vile.

These are not sincere, heartfelt compliments given from one human to another. These men don’t look you in the eye. They couldn’t.

You never see these cowards again. You never know who they are.

However …

This van was marked with a company name.

I tweeted them.

They got back to me. Quickly. That sort of thing doesn’t look so great on social media.

They were sorry. They wanted more details. They would follow-up. They took this seriously.

Good, I thought.

Then –

The managing director, who was shocked and wanted to call me right away, called me right away.

She had been given a different story.

She thought I should be told the Different Story.

Here it is: A couple of young guys driving to football training with the radio up, singing loudly, having a good time. The passenger is not an employee. The driver is. And he is a great guy. Polite. Hardworking. Finishing his masters degree at a top university. From a good family. He doesn’t remember any incident … But he remembers singing, having a laugh with his friend.

The story ends.

Silence.

And I wait.

Silence.

The managing director takes my complaint seriously. She told me so. Many times. 

And because she Takes This Sort Of Thing Seriously she would have to fire him. He would have to go. Her hands were tied on this one. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing.

Unless ….

Is there any doubt in your mind? she asked.

Doubt?

Could it have been a couple of guys singing and having harmless fun? she wanted to make sure. 

I heard no music. I heard no singing. I heard a man yell. At me. I saw his face. Hanging out the window. At me. It made me stop. It made me fling my arms in the air. It made me red, it made me shake … 

It made me change the route I walk home. 

If that is this case, she told me, then he would be fired. Will be fired. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing. Her hands were tied on this one.

But … If there is any chance I was mistaken … well … then she wouldn’t have to fire him. He would get a warning but he wouldn’t be fired. 

I told her again – I didn’t hear what was said even though I knew what was said, you know? (I don’t think she did.) But, yes, I suppose … Doubt.

And that was that.

She thanked me for my considerate handling of the situation.

Considerate.

He would get a warning: A Serious Warning. 

He would write me an apology letter.

I got the letter. I don’t know if he got the warning. 

In the apology letter he wanted me to know he was polite and responsible and goes to a top university and comes from a good family. He wanted me to know he had learnt from the actions he said he had no recollection of.

I didn’t get to tell him I am polite and responsible and went to a top university and come from a good family.

I read his email, keep my head down and my iPod on. Loud.

And that was that.  

Except it isn’t.

It’s not.

Is it?

(PS: I have had this post written for some time but never wanted to publish it until I read Girl in the Hat’s excellent post If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist). My story ain’t all that important. It doesn’t even matter in the scheme of things. It doesn’t even register when we consider what other women (and men) deal with on a daily basis. I have dealt with a lot worse but I know I have it a lot better than many, many women (and men) on this planet. This didn’t hurt me. This just made me think; what the hell? But I think what is interesting is my reluctance to post it … Are there any posts you have been reluctant to publish?)

 

Being a wimp

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr

I stepped into a teaching position at school that was recovering from a horrific bullying incident. Incident doesn’t quite do justice to this life-changing event; life-changing for the instigators and their families who faced court, certainly life-changing for the victim of the attack. A group of boys thought it would be … I don’t know … fun? … to abduct and torture a classmate, a peer, a fellow human being in bush-land near the school. For hours they tortured him, pissed on him, tied him up, made him dig his own grave, psychically assaulted him … He was a vulnerable kid – skinny and small for his age. They were taller, bigger, stronger and had a lot more friends.

I have found myself thinking about this event a lot over the last week or so – particularly in relation to the ridiculous language and downright disgusting behaviour of the so-called leaders of this country.

“You don’t want a wimp running border protection, you want someone who is strong, who is decent and Scott Morrison is both strong and decent.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott (Feb 21, 2014)

It is bad enough that our Prime Minister is using such juvenile, throwaway language better suited to a “jock” in a John Hughes film than serious humanitarian issues; it is incredibly disturbing when we consider the actions of Scott Morrison and the government.

So, what does it mean when Abbott makes such childish comments? If Morrison isn’t a wimp then what exactly is a wimp? Is a wimp someone who shows compassion? Someone who is not prejudiced? Someone who helps the vulnerable? Someone who tells the truth, is honest, is kind, is empathetic …

By Abbott’s standards I would much rather be a wimp.

In Abbott and Morrison’s world, a strong and decent person is one whom persecutes those who most need protection and support and assistance. By these standards, a strong and decent person is someone who is cruel.

What does this mean in the playground? I’m not even sure the word ‘wimp’ is still part of the colourful vocabulary of school-yard bullies but let’s imagine, if you will, that it is. “Don’t be a wimp” translates to don’t defend that kid who needs your help, stick with bullies, hurt him, he deserves it, he is the minority, he is different, he doesn’t deserve friendship / kindness / help …  No one wants to be a wimp because, clearly, it takes integrity, strength of character, compassion to be a wimp. It is difficult to be a wimp.

I wish there were more wimps in the school-yard. If there had been some wimps around on that life-changing day at that school by the bush then maybe a child would not have suffered. Maybe one of those bullies would have had enough wimp in him to stop his friends hurting an innocent, vulnerable kid.

If there were more wimps running this country then maybe Reza Barati would still be alive. Maybe we wouldn’t lock up the vulnerable who have turned to us for help not persecution. Maybe we wouldn’t be creating a country that is intolerant, cruel and selfish but a place that values equality, peace and compassion.

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

You turned 12 earlier this month and you still haven’t received a card or a gift from me. I have sent it. I sent it late. But I did send it, and a gift, so it should be in your letterbox any day now. Honestly. I am so terrible at this Long-Distance-Aunty stuff. It’s not like I forget birthdays and important events – I usually buy the card and gift weeks in advance and pop it on my desk and then the big day comes and goes and the gift and the card are still on my desk. It can’t post itself. I know that. So why don’t I just post it on time? Why don’t I? What is that about?

I have a One Direction collector card and lollipop pack thing sitting in the top kitchen drawer. I don’t know why it is in the kitchen drawer but it is. Every time I need a tea-spoon I see it; Zayn, Louis, Harry, Liam and Niall mocking me and my inability to post things on time. I bought you the collector card and lollipop pack thing on a whim from the local 7-11 months and months ago. I thought, I should send Abby a little something, let her know I’m thinking of her … But it just ended up in the drawer. You probably don’t even like One Direction any more, do you? Have they suffered the same fate as Justin Bieber who you didn’t like, then you did like and now you don’t like again? Bieber spat on one of his fans so I think you made a good decision to move on from him (1D haven’t spat on anyone have they? Oh, and did you notice I wrote 1D – that’s cool right?). What is with that behaviour? I suppose there is a lesson in it for all of us. If you ever get so famous that you think it okay to spit on someone who adores you without even knowing you, the same person who has, in some way, however small, elevated you to this level of fame where, for some reason, you can get away with the aforementioned behaviour then maybe it is time to just take a step back and rethink your life choices.

Now, I have never spat on anyone and I don’t think I ever would. Someone spat on me once. I was on the tram and this woman thought I was spy and said some disgustingly racist things to me (even though I’m not the race she seemed to think I was) and then she spat on me. Yep. That’s when I moved. In hindsight I probably should have moved when she thought I was spy but I didn’t want to be rude or judgemental or anything. So, instead, I got spat on. It was really gross. At least you could bottle up Justin Bieber spit and sell it on eBay to some Bielber for a lot of money.

Even though we can roll our eyes at Justin’s spitting there will come a time when we all, metaphorically, spit on a fan. We will do something that we know isn’t right or makes us feel horrible inside because we want to fit in or feel better about ourselves. Especially when you are 12.

I did it.

I said some really mean things about people when I was hanging out with this so-called popular group (our relationship didn’t last long but it has had a lasting effect). I remember them all laughing at one girl and her bra; a whole group of us laughing over something to do with her bra-strap. It was something so minor and idiotic, absolutely nothing worth laughing or picking on someone about, but I was going along with them because they were the ‘popular girls’.

I felt horrible inside. But I didn’t stop them. I was part of the group.

This group would relentlessly pick on someone because they were fat or thin or short or wore coke-bottle glasses or stumbled over an answer in class or wore the wrong sneakers or couldn’t run fast enough or didn’t play netball well enough or fell over or cried or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time …

It was at this time I also decided to stop eating. The ‘popular girls’ liked me, I was in their group, and I knew the only reason for this sudden acceptance was because I had lost all that baby-fat people love to talk about. Why do people do that? Talk about baby-fat like it is something they can have a comment on like the weather. Is it anyone’s business? Really? Well, I noticed as I turned 12 that is became everyone’s business. People loved to talk about how I was losing it, the baby-fat, with a mixture of sadness and relief in their voices. They all noticed, even my well-meaning year 7 teacher.

What they didn’t notice was that I was losing more than the baby-fat. I hadn’t realised that losing baby-fat is just something that is meant to happen, that is just a part of growing up; nope, I thought it had all started because one day at school I skipped lunch. Now, I’m not dumb Abby (I was reading George Orwell right alongside Sweet Valley High) but that is how anorexia made its way into my brain and took up residence for awhile. So, I kept skipping lunch and eating as little as I could when I was being watched. It was stupid and it made me feel horrible inside. I wasn’t spitting on a metaphoric fan; I was spitting on myself. That is just as bad and even weirder, right?

But, I was 12 and I thought that being really, really skinny would mean the popular girls would accept me and I would be happy. But it felt funny inside. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy or healthy. But I didn’t stop it. I was part of the group.

So much of what I was doing when I was 12 was about impressing other people and not about impressing myself. If I could go back and be 12 again I hope that I would be able to be more myself and stand up for the people getting metaphorically spat upon on by the metaphoric Justin Biebers of the school.

When the leader of the popular girls decided we should write a very awful letter to our delightful music teacher I said ‘no’ and I finally left the little in-crowd. They were pretty spiteful but I managed. I discovered that the term ‘popular’ is very misleading in this context Abby. The ‘popular’ crowd tend to be the least popular, they are cliquey and cruel and not many people really like them all that much. Why should they like them? They were bullies. And I was a bully if I stayed with them.

I would like to say that that was that – from that moment I was on my own path and didn’t care what people thought … Of course I cared. I cared when they all started laughing at me and my shoe-laces (which were once considered very cool) and my skinny arms and my inability to play netball. But it gets better. It really, honestly, truly gets better.

I feel like it all begins when you are 12; that idea of going along with the majority, not wanting to cause a fuss, not listening to that little voice inside you that knows that you shouldn’t be laughing at / picking on / gossiping about someone, wanting desperately to ‘fit in’ (whatever the hell that means) …

Abby, please don’t fit in.

Don’t be one of the crowd. The crowd, particularly the ‘popular crowd’ are boring. They really are. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are, what you stand for or what you look like for anyone. You are not boring. Listen to that wonderful Abigail who is inside you and trust her no matter what. If something isn’t right call it, speak up, make it right. Don’t be scared to be different; be proud to be different.

Start your own popular group and actually be popular – inclusive and interesting and different.

And don’t, ever, spit on your fans.

You are a wonderful human being Abby. You are. Enjoy being 12 and enjoy being you.

Happy (belated) birthday. Now, let me know when that card finally arrives.

Missing you and sending lots of love,

Katy

xxx

***

An open letter to my 12-year old niece, and all 12-year old nieces, for the Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dear Abby

Choosing the Greens and losing a Facebook “friend”

If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.

Tony Abbott

This election was just awful. In the strange barren wasteland of meaningless slogans and bigotry, with tumble-weeds of sexism to break the monotony, the only glimmer of hope was the Australian Greens. The Greens were the only party with a positive message, a vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a human being surely it is not too much to ask for them in a political party? Instead, we watched the two major parties battle it out to see who could treat some of the most vulnerable people in the world with the most cruelty … and win votes for it. So it was with pride and relief that I celebrated Adam Bandt’s retention of his seat in the House of Representatives. The fact that Adam Bandt is my member of parliament, the person who represents the place I live, made me so grateful I took to Facebook with my joy (as you do).

“Very thankful for Adam Bandt right now” I wrote. (24 likes – thank you friends)

Short, to the point and positive. I didn’t want to get bogged down with name-calling. But I could have. I didn’t want to be negative. But I could have. What I didn’t expect was someone whom I hardly know to respond to my harmless status update with name-calling and negativity.

I was surprised. The last time I had seen this “Facebook friend” was in an embarrassing moment in a supermarket when he thought I was someone else. Really. He knew my name and felt he could shout it out to get my attention, which he did, and then proceed to tell me all the amazing things I had been doing. Problem was they were not my amazing things; they were a mutual friend’s amazing things. “I’m not her” I had to tell him, almost apologetically. I had felt bad for him but I barely knew him and that incident simply cemented the fact. He was a friend of a friend whom I’d met once. Based on this fleeting moment he had decided to request me as a friend on Facebook and, based on my naivety, I accepted.

I won’t be doing that again.

I think there has to be some sort of criteria for Facebook friendship. Maybe it could look like this … You can be my Facebook friend if;

1. We have met more than once, or

2. We have spent more than 2 minutes chatting and conversation included more than just ‘hello’ and ‘how do you know **insert mutual friend’s name here**?’ or

3. You know who I am if I happen to bump into you in the real world (e.g. the supermarket) or

4. We would actually be friends in real life (I like to think that even though Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t meet criteria 1 through to 3 he would definitely meet number 4)

This Facebook friend did not meet any of the above criteria, so you can imagine my surprise when he felt he had the right to write the following –

Fuck the Greens. Should be renamed Weeds!

Hmmmm …OK …  I wondered why on earth he would say such I thing. Again, my naivety got the better of me. Here was his reason:

Because they sided with Labor last time to have influence and fucked the country. They are anything but the organic organisation they claim to be.

There were many, many holes in this argument … The truth is this man was simply spouting the slogans of the campaign and right-wing shock-jocks. There was neither evidence nor truth to what he was saying. There was also no need for him to say it. The election had been called and Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party had won … Why did I need to hear this rubbish (all of which had been all over the Murdoch press) again? Why did it need to be written on my wall? Why couldn’t I just have my moment of happiness for Adam Bandt?

So, I explained why I voted for the Greens …

I really don’t appreciate the hijacking of my positive status for this Andrew-Bolt-esque rhetoric … I am proud to support a party which has vision, compassion and a strong sense of social justice. I am proud to support a party which holds big polluters and mining companies accountable. I am proud to support a party which believes in climate change and the importance of renewable energy. I am proud to support a party which believes in marriage equality and quality education for all and the rights asylum seekers. I am very proud to be represented by Adam Bandt … Thankfully we live in a country which really isn’t all that ‘fucked’ (despite what you think the Greens have done to it) so you are more than entitled to voice your opinion – I simply ask that you are respectful of mine and refrain from posting this rubbish on my wall.

(4 likes – thank you very much)

In return I got this:

What you call hijacking I call the right to post an opinion in an open forum Katy. If you want an open meadow where everyone eats grass contentedly with your opinion then do one of two things … a/ don’t post or b/ expect opposition. You have undoubtedly been drawn along on a quasi organic wave that posits so-called “equality” regarding climate change and education and human rights but in the real wash-up is a just a soapy Labor puppet. Don’t rubbish my ‘opinion’ unless you have more than rhetoric from a campaign brochure.

(for the record, the above got ZERO likes)

That was then I decided this Facebook relationship was OVER.

Done.

I didn’t feel the need to explain to this man that:

  • I read about every political party which was running for a seat in the upper and lower houses (this includes the minor, minor parties like ‘Bullet Train for Australia’ and ‘Stable Population’ to name but two)
  • I made a very informed decision about supporting the Greens based on my reading of their policies and comparison with the policies of the Liberal and Labor Parties
  • I actually have a real interest in politics which goes far beyond ‘campaign brochures’
  • I enrolled to vote before I turned 18 because I was actually that excited
  • there is no “so-called equality” in the Greens’ policies … It simply is Equality
  • the Greens do not pretend to be an organic party – they are a political party so of course there is hierarchy and procedure … That is part of being a political organisation
  • nothing in my post was actually taken from the Greens’ ‘campaign brochure’ (but your rantings were clearly lifted from the Murdoch press)
  • I don’t think everyone should eat grass but if people want to eat grass and stand in meadows then power to them
  • I don’t know what an organic wave is, quasi or otherwise, but I am very confident I have never been ‘drawn along’ one
  • Facebook is not an open forum … I choose who I am friends with and who can see my posts and who can post to my wall and so on
  • I don’t need to prove myself nor my understanding of Australian politics to you … but I do need to write about it on my blog …

As I thought about my reply I suddenly realised; I don’t have to enter into this. I don’t have to waste time and energy on this man I hardly know … Why would I? So I didn’t. I de-friended and, moments later, got this private message:

You’re better than that. Counter my argument or reliant but don’t be pathetic and stop the dialogue.

Charming … Why, yes, of course I will reignite the ‘dialogue’ when you ask me so nicely you charmer you. No thank you – I would prefer to be pathetic and stop the dialogue. (Besides, when he wrote ‘you are better than that’ I couldn’t help but wonder if he actually meant me or our mutual friend … She may be better than that – I have just proven I am not. Whatever that means.)

I am friends with enough Liberal Party voters (at last count I know about 4 of them … I am sure there are more, they just don’t want to admit it and I don’t blame them) to know that you cannot change someone’s political views. It is something you need to discover for yourself. You can be coaxed, sure, and encouraged, definitely, but in the end there is nothing I could write on my Facebook page to make this man turn around and apologise and understand why I voted the way I voted.

But you know what? None of my real friends who also happen to be Facebook friends who also happen to be conservatives felt the need to abuse me for my status. Maybe it was because they won. Maybe it was because they believe that there should be a range of voices in government representing a range of concerns and interests. Maybe it was because they are respectful. Maybe it was because I didn’t say anything to ‘rubbish’ their political views. Maybe it because they can see why I voted Greens because, well, they actually know me … Maybe they know they cannot change my mind just like I cannot change theirs.

I could explain how Australia is in very good economic shape, that a price on carbon is needed, that a mining tax is brilliant, that seeking asylum is a human right, that Denticare is an excellent incentive … I could go on explaining so many policies and positive changes but I know it would be for nothing. I know it would be countered with an empty slogan, a catch-phrase, a sound-bite heard on the radio …  or what they believe is best for them, or the country, or both … So I will continue to post what I believe and hope they click on the link and start to read more widely and more wisely and make up their own minds. But I will not shout and argue and name-call because that is one way not to get votes.

I will have to live with a Liberal Government for the next three years (at least) but I do not have to live with rude Facebook friends. I value positivity, vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a friend surely it is not too much to ask for them in a Facebook friend? And, for the record, even Tony Abbott on the day of the election suggested that someone, who had just laid out her concerns for the country, would be better off voting for the Greens … Just sayin’

 

Wasted day or; 10 things that matter more than Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Music Video Awards

I wanted to write something about this whole Miley Cyrus thing, you know? I feel the outrage and the criticism is so unwarranted and unfair … I mean, come on, how on earth is Robin Thicke getting out of this unscathed? Anyway, I was writing and writing and reading these horribly misogynist interviews (“We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women”, Thicke in an interview with GQ) and I was getting really angry and then, then I realised … I have been wasting all this time on something that, in the scheme of the things, does not really matter. Not at all.

I don’t know why I wasted a whole day reading articles and watching crappy music video-clips when I could have been looking into THINGS THAT MATTER MORE THAN MILEY CYRUS’ PERFORMANCE AT MTV’S VMA (I am shouting on the inside here).

So here it is – THINGS THAT MATTER MORE THAN MILEY CYRUS’ PERFORMANCE AT MTV’S ViDEO MUSIC AWARDS THAT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING AND/OR READING AND/OR LEARNING ABOUT TODAY (in no particular order):

  1. The crisis in Syria
  2. Iran’s new president – Hassan Rouhani
  3. Asylum seekers
  4. Palestine and Israel
  5. 3D Printing
  6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  7. Writing something half decent
  8. Cleaning the house
  9. Cutting my toe-nails
  10. Ummmm … just about EVERYTHING! (even the upcoming election and that is saying something)

We are so bombarded by this 24-hour news cycle that we seem to forget what is important, what is actually newsworthy, what should be taking our attention. Instead, we (and by we I also mean I) are sidetracked by unimportant things. Instead of focusing on Miley’s performance, why was the focus not on the misogynistic nature of the music industry? Or the terrible human rights violations suffered by women in many middle eastern countries?

Articles about twerking and the performance itself are in the top-5 list of ‘Most Viewed” articles in The Guardian. The. Guardian. What the hell is wrong with us? (I contributed to that I know – what the hell is wrong with me?)

I am going to work very hard at not getting too sidetracked again … And try to not feel so bad about wasting a whole day on this rubbish.

 

Punch them in the face (not literally); or, why I wish Fiona Scott had said something …

I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons

Tony Abbott

I watched Fiona Scott laugh, the broad smile firmly plastered to her face, as Tony Abbott, the man who wants to be the next Prime Minister of Australia, spoke of her “sex appeal”. I watched as her office fended off questions about the sex appeal comment with “No Comment.” I watched as others loudly provided their own opinion on her level of sex appeal. I watched as Abbott didn’t apologise for his comment (it was a “dad moment”) but provided instead this supposed compliment wrapped in a cliché – “…she ain’t just a pretty face.”

I wondered why she didn’t speak up. I wondered why she didn’t punch Abbott in the face. I wondered why she didn’t come back with some witty remark to render Mark Latham speechless (now that would be something). I wondered why she didn’t stand up and make an eloquent speech about the misogyny that is so embedded in Australian politics. I wondered and wondered until I remembered …

I have been Fiona Scott; minus the conservative political beliefs and MBA and opposition to marriage equality. I am sure many of us have been her – laughing half-heartedly at the sexist, inappropriate comments of our male colleagues and bosses because … Why? So as not to make a scene? So as not to look like you can’t take a joke? So as to keep the job? So, so, so ….

I had done it.

I smiled and laughed politely at the grossly inappropriate comments from male customers when I worked on checkouts at Kmart (my first job whilst studying at university). After-all, they were the customer, right? And they were always right, right? And “you do smile a lot so you’re kinda asking for that sort of thing,” said the supervisor. “Plus, you wear make-up.” Right?

I didn’t tell anyone about the so-called compliments my manager at the local video store (another job through university) would give me even though they made me feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. He went on to create a fake entry for the in-store video search computer; he made up this pornographic film with my name in the title, starring me including an explicit blurb as to what I would do and with whom in this “film”. It was just a joke. It was just hilarious. He brought his friends in to read his literary genius when I was working. When I didn’t laugh I was a stuck up bitch. When I complained I was too sensitive – “he just likes you, that’s all” the owner said.

I smiled politely when my head of department told me he had given me the job because I was blonde. I smiled politely when I was told I only got a job because I was attractive. I laughed off the groping hands and sloppy kisses and lurid stares of older men who should have known better.

I wish I hadn’t.

I wish I had said something.

But back then I didn’t feel I had the words. I didn’t punch anyone in the face or snap back with biting repartee or make an eloquent speech. Then, as I saw Fiona Scott’s reaction to Tony Abbott’s completely unacceptable comment, I was taken back to those moments when I too I just smiled and laughed and made “no comment”; when I should have said something but, instead, felt utterly foolish and silly and uncomfortable and overly sensitive.

As in my situation, it is not her fault. Here she is trying to deal with a sexist boss – in many ways just like that awful manager at the local video store. Describing your candidate as having “sex appeal” or telling your employee she looks like she would “give good head” – these are not compliments, not in these scenarios (I don’t know where the would be … but maybe for some). No. A compliment would be, in Scott’s case, something to do with her ability in politics and, in my case circa 1999, something to do with my excellent shelving of the videos both alphabetically AND by genre. Instead these are belittling statements that reduce women to nothing. I should have said something. Scott should have said something.

And then she did. She finally spoke up. Scott called Abbott’s “sex appeal” comment “a charming complaint” and I realised, in that moment, no, I have actually never, ever been Fiona Scott.

But I cannot blame her.

We had a political leader who stood up and said something and look where that got her. Australian politics prefer the women who laugh and smile and make “no comment”. Sadly it looks like the voters do too.