Note: this article discusses sexual assault.
As a father of daughters, I’m more angry than I can express.
I’m not angry with Scott Morrison for — again, nauseatingly, for the billionth time — politically weaponising his wife and daughters in a pathetic, transparent attempt to get ahead of a ballooning scandal
That scandal? The alleged rape of a young female employee of his minister in his minister’s office, to which Morrison’s government responded by sending in the steam cleaners and gently dissuading her from pursuing a police complaint.
If you observe Morrison’s actions this morning carefully enough, you can see that political calculation was not driving him.
Immediately after he pulled out the “I chatted to Jen and she said ‘what if it was one of your daughters’?” line at his train wreck press conference, Channel Ten reporter Tegan George stood him up with this question:
“What would happen if men don’t have a wife and children? Would they reach the same compassionate conclusion?”
There is the blinding stupidity of the whole thing laid bare; the bullshit of Morrison’s faux empathy exposed by its inherent inanity.
Morrison was literally flummoxed. He genuinely did not see the question coming, and his response was all over the shop. He fumbled around to find what he thought might be solid ground in his claimed public identity as, first and foremost, a husband and a father, ultimately resting on it as the logical foundation for his approach to matters of empathy and ethics.
It had not occurred to Morrison (who has after all been reaching for the “Jen and the girls” handle as his default escape hatch since he became prime minister) that anyone might ever have a problem with this.
No, in his mind, it was all good. He fronted the press this morning completely confident that he had the “Brittany” problem in hand, because his expression of empathy, grounded in the home-spun morality of which Jen had reminded him last night, would resonate generally. Who could have a problem with a national leader who reaches to home for his values? Aren’t they universal?
So I am not angry with Morrison for his utter, absolute failure to understand that sexual violence without consent is a wrong, in all circumstances and all times, regardless of the character, reputation, actions or choices of its victims. It is an unequivocal wrong, allowing no shades of qualification.
Morrison clearly does not understand the first thing about the subject, nor does he understand that neither empathy nor justice is permissibly tempered by one’s ability to imagine standing in the victim’s shoes. He is, on this subject, pathetically lost.
I am angry because this is the sort of moral leadership which we as a society tolerate. The sort that allows sexual violence to continue, endemic and unabated. And we put up with men in power who preside over this degradation without the first, faintest clue of what it means or what to do about it.
So we get Scott, hurt that we aren’t applauding his willingness to check in with Jen on how he should feel about rape in the building he runs.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.