Verity Johnson: Debating the pregnancy question shows we're still ignorant to sexism

OPINION: Is anyone else staring listlessly at their news feed thinking, "This is 2017, why are we still discussing whether it's ok to ask women in job interviews if they're going to get pregnant?"

I know I am. And I moved from being extremely enraged to totally despondent with a couple of hours. Here we are. Yet again. Dear God.

However, the more I've been stewing on it, the more I've come to realise why we're back here again. It's because we are still ignorant about workplace sexism. And there are still a lot of nice guys out there who just really have no idea what they're talking about.

This morning Mark Richardson argued it's okay for prospective employers to ask women if they're going to get pregnant. Now, I don't think he was trying to be a dick. I think he hadn't thought about it from the perspective of being a woman, one who has probably had a lifetime of sexual harassment in the workplace.

He would not have thought about how such a question is used as a weapon against women. He would not have thought about how it prejudices employers. And he would not have thought about how deeply offensive it is to have your uterus discussed as though it is a company asset.

Ignorance is not an excuse - it's part of the problem. And it's the reason we're back here again. We're still having these debates because people still don't understand the extent to which workplace sexual harassment is STILL happening.

There are a lot of decent guys who think occupational sexism is like blue eye shadow and moustaches - that it died in the 80s. These dudes wouldn't discriminate against women themselves. They'd never grab their arses, or troll them, or make sexual comments. And because they don't do it, they think other men don't do it, ergo it must not exist.

That's some very, very faulty logic.

I get online threats after writing columns. I get people telling me I'm too pretty to write clever things. I've had colleagues slap me on the arse, massage my shoulders, tell me to do a twirl, asked whether I swallow or spit, etc.

I also have great male colleagues and friends who are bewildered and disgusted when I tell them about these experiences. They have no idea about the general backlash women get for working, let alone women in public roles.

But decent humans have a duty to educate themselves about the dickheads out there. Because there are a lot more dickheads than decent people. And they're the ones who attack your wives, sisters, girlfriends, friends and daughters.

And hopefully when you start learning about the dickheads, you'll become more empathetic. You'll stop making ignorant statements like this one. And you'll think about questions like the baby one from different perspectives. Hopefully.

Verity Johnson is a Newshub columnist and feature writer.

 

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