But it was a joke of course.
What kind of woman do you have to be, to be the woman we allow to complain?
That’s the question I’ve been sitting on for a day or two now, in the wake of two things happening: The first was ABC presenter Leigh Sales being forcibly kissed against her will at a charity ball she was hosting on Saturday night. When introduced to the stage, director of the multiple sclerosis charity, Phil Newman, turned and planted an unwanted kiss on her lips in front of 200 people.
The second was a situation that occured on model, influencer and resident dickhead (yes, I commit to stooping this low) Jay Alvarrez’s Instagram story on Wednesday. There, Alvarrez filmed his friend approach a model at a party, wrap his arms around her without her consent and then - as she pushed him away - proceeded to lick his fingers and run his hand down her chest. The video went out to Alverezz’s 6.4 million followers. Alvarrez audibly giggled in the background.
Two situations, two reactions.
When Sales was kissed, she approached the microphone, reportedly muttered “hashtag me too”, and then continued to host the evening’s formalities. Come Monday, she gave a statement to The Guardian.
“The only reason I am commenting publicly is that given how many people witnessed the incident, I feel it would be gutless not to stand up and say that kind of behaviour is intolerable and the time for women being subject to it or having to tolerate it is long gone,” she said.
The woman in Alvarrez’s story didn’t have the kind of stage Sales did, nor did she - in the days after the event - have the kind of media attention that allowed her to thoughtfully reflect on the time she was assaulted in the name of a joke. She may have been angry, she may have been fine or her reaction may have sat squarely between those two feelings. Wherever she sat and whatever she felt, it’s not for us to project our feelings on her or speak on her behalf.
We can, however, acknowledge that even the assaulted sit on a sliding scale of power and that even if she wanted to, the woman in Alvarrez’s story probably couldn’t play any other role than the one who laughed it off. Status quo dictates the offended take themselves too seriously and the angry simply never understood the punchline.
Add 6.4 million prying eyes - all Alvarrez’s fans at that - to the recipe, and you have a woman who could never have reacted as the angry one, the pissed off one, or the woman who had simply had enough.
Yes, it’s affirming that someone with a platform like Sales was rightfully given the space to pushback, to reclaim the dignity and respect that was snatched from her in her public place of work.
But I guess it’s this, that I can’t stop thinking about:
”If a woman as high profile and accomplished as Leigh Sales - in the year 2019 no less - is still subject to this kind of brazen conduct ON STAGE in front of 200 people, it's sobering to consider what other women are facing at work,” Georgie Dent tweeted this week.
If Sales had no hope, what hope did the woman in Alvarrez’s story have?
And if the woman in Alvarrez’s story had no hope, no option, or no real opportunity to react in a way that hinted at fury, what about the woman in the male-dominated workplace, whose job is on the line?