John Key, hair pulling, name calling and the demeaning of rape victims.

The past few days reports have flowed about the interview undertaken by the Prime Minister, John Key, on the Rock radio show, where Key participated in what must really be considered a sick prank on the part of the DJ’s involved.

Where the PM played down the supposed ‘joke’ International media were not forgiving with the UK Daily Mail stating:

“During the awkward interview on The Rock FM, Mr Key was asked to get into a cage and pick up a bar of soap.
He obediently picked up the soap to the delight of the radio hosts with one presenter saying that the prime minister had a ‘pretty little mouth’. After the stunt complaints were made about Mr Key making little of sexual abuse in prison.
‘He (John Key) has a terrible history of not standing up against sexual violence in this country,’ Deborah Russell, a feminist commentator and Massey University lecturer, told The Guardian.
‘He has cut funding to rape crisis, he silenced women parliamentarians who spoke out about their own sexual assault experiences and now we have him making jokes about prison rape on a national radio station. When will it end?’
The interview seemed innocent enough until the prime minister was asked to get in the cage.
‘Jump in the cage real quick John,’ the radio host said. ‘I’m sure you’ve been locked in a cage before.’
After sheepishly getting into the cage, Mr Key, 54, was then told: ‘Show some support for the low and impoverished people of this country and please pick up this soap.’
The confused prime minister did as he was told to the joy of everyone in the studio.
‘You sure got a pretty little mouth,’ one of the hosts said as the others roared with laughter.
‘This is really, really lovely,’ replied Mr Key.
The radio host later told him the soap was taken from the men’s urinal. “(Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3364952/You-sure-got-pretty-little-mouth-New-Zealand-prime-minister-John-Key-slammed-taking-prison-rape-joke-stunt.html#ixzz3utDXXyHL)

The PM’s ridiculous antics were also noted by The Sun:

“This is the latest in a series of radio appearances the 54-year-old has made this year, with many of them going beyond the realms of a normal political interview.
In October he appeared on Radio Hauraki’s regular “Thank you for your honesty” segment and admitted he didn’t trim his public hair, urinates in the shower and has stolen in the past.
But he did save some face when he claimed to have never sent a naked selfie.”
(http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6812013/Kiwi-PM-under-fire-for-prison-rape-stunt-using-a-bar-of-soap-on-live-radio.html)

In both international papers the PM’s Spokesperson provides justification for the behaviour by stating:
“The prime minister does these interviews in the spirit of Christmas and the content is decided by the hosts.
“The interviews are meant to be light hearted, and the prime minister hopes the media and the public take them that way.”

Referring to a Morning Report interview with media commentator Dr Brian Edwards, The Herald noted the following:

“Dr Edwards said there might be little short-term effect, but the kinds of appearances he has made this week could hurt his long-term reputation.
“He won’t go down in history as much of a stately person as he might want to be. I don’t think it’s going to hurt him amongst that core middle-class New Zealand swing voter, but his reputation is just a wee bit more tarnished as a result.”
He said the success of Mr Key’s strategy showed he still often had a good political radar, but not always when it came to sensitive social issues and the way he handled himself personally. “He just hasn’t really realised that things have changed, the whole public atmosphere about sexual issues has really changed in the past 10 years. And I think he might have got away with it 10 years ago, but it’s not really acceptable for a lot of New Zealanders now.”A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement that Mr Key did such interviews in the spirit of Christmas, and the content was decided by the radio hosts” (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/292361/will-‘jokey-blokey’-persona-hurt-pm)

It is important that this behaviour be contextualised in line with other events and actions on the part of the PM that show other similar lack in judgement. What we are not reminded of in the reports related to the Rock show is that it is just a month ago that John Key also used rape as a means by which to belittle opposition to the lack of action in regards to Christmas Island. So it is just 5 weeks ago that the PM made the following statement”
“In an angry attack, he said: “Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers.
“These are the people that the Labour Party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here.
“Mr Davis, if you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we’ll defend New Zealanders.” (NZH November 10,http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11543038) (refer our earlier blog https://tewhareporahou.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/pm-insults-are-an-act-of-state-abuse/)

The Prime Minister then made a range of statements that indicated he was ‘unapologetic’ about his use of rape as a means by which to make a point against the opposition parties and the subsequent walk out by a range of women within Parliament in protest at John Keys actions also received little meaningful engagement by John Key.Rather his response was to defend his position.
(http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/73964931/john-key-unapologetic-over-rapist-remarks-says-abuse-hurled-at-him}

We need to see these two events alongside another reported event in 2015 where we also saw John Key in action with what became known as ‘Ponygate’.  In this instance the Prime Minister believed it was just joking around. On the Daily Blog a waitress, at a café frequented by John Key, wrote:

“His actions commenced during election time last year, I can recall discussing it with regular customers at this time, as he was often a topic of their conversation. He was frequenting the cafe far more than ever before. It was election time and he was out showing his face, being seen.
In the beginning, the first time he pulled on my hair, I remember thinking to myself he’s probably just trying to be playful and jolly, seeing as the general consensus of most who meet him is “he’s such a nice guy”. He’s trying to play into that to earn votes, I thought to myself. I didn’t respond positively to his ‘gesture’, in fact I didn’t address his behaviour at all, besides an unimpressed expression. Pulling someones hair is hardly an acceptable form of greeting.
The next time he came up behind me and pulled my hair I was annoyed. Great, I thought, this wasn’t just a one off. Despite my obvious annoyance I didn’t comment on his behaviour. It then happened yet again when he next visited the cafe and again I didn’t respond verbally, but everything about my body language screamed I DON’T LIKE THAT.
No one else had ever thought it was ok to walk into the cafe and pull the waitresses hair, so why did the Prime Minister think it was ok? My reasoning was simple, I could tell him that I didn’t like it – but I shouldn’t HAVE to. He was like the school yard bully tugging on the little girls’ hair trying to get a reaction, experiencing that feeling of power over her. I would think to myself, even a five year old could tell you that if you pull on a girls’ hair she will not like it, I shouldn’t have to tell THE PRIME MINISTER that I don’t like it when he pulls my hair – talk about stating the obvious!
I began to avoid interacting with him where possible, if he entered when another staff member was also present I would promptly make myself busy somewhere else, I would ask someone to take the beverages or food to his table so I didn’t have to. I kept my distance when I could. It seemed as though the more I disliked it and made myself absent the more fun it became for him, the more he enjoyed the challenge of approaching from behind me, unsuspected.” (To read the full blog go to:
http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/04/22/exclusive-the-prime-minister-and-the-waitress/)

Here we see the Prime Minister of this country acting like an uninformed, adolescent child – or as the woman involved here states “a schoolyard bully” –  who makes fun of women by pulling their hair. Key did not know this woman, nor did he give any consideration to the fact that he was using the status of his position to act in a way that was demeaning, sexist and bullying.  Even upon reflection Key seems to think that such behaviour should somehow be seen as acceptable which is evidenced in his query to the manager of the cafe about the waitress not liking him pulling her hair.  There is something very lacking in any adult that believes they can walk up behind a woman, pull her hair and then pretend it was someone else.  There is something even more lacking when that man is the Prime Minister of this country.

These are but three events on the past months that indicate that the PM seriously lacks fundamental awareness of the issues surrounding sexism, rape and the way in which politicians are expected to behave when discussing such a critical issues. It also highlights an inherent deficiency in regards to the PM’s understanding of sexism, rape and its impact upon victims and survivors. The media coverage of the Rock show within Aotearoa also lacks any real intention to deal with the issue of using rape as a tool within political fora, including radio shows, as a means by which to gain popularity.

If we reflect on the media foray in regards to the Roast busters issue it is clear that the media have failed to give any meaningful analysis to the PM’s involvement on the Rock show, or to the fact that the DJ’s were able to not only minimise rape as a means to show the ignorance of our Prime Minister, but that they contributed significantly to reducing what is a painful and oppressive act to a ‘joke’ and a ‘prank’. The DJ’s are as culpable in the demeaning of rape victims as the Prime Minister is. They constructed the show and deliberately used a cage to create a context of imprisonment and manipulated the context whereby John Key enacted what many know is a reference to prison rape.

This is appalling, repulsive behaviour for which neither The Rock show, it’s DJ’s or the Prime Minister have been truly called to task for. For the PM it is also another example of a long line of actions that highlight not only bad judgement but also a lack of intelligence when dealing with such deeply painful and traumatic issues.

About Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.
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