Talk about a dippy dame. A young female law student has joined the flood of women claiming they have been sexually harassed by men in power, inspired by the feeding frenzy that has followed the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. Tina Huang, 21, wrote recently in New Matilda about going for a job interview with barrister Charles Waterstreet, the inspiration for the hit television series, Rake.
Think about that. She chose to seek a job with the man who was the inspiration for Cleaver Green, Rake’s notorious womanizer who’s constantly trying to get in young women’s knickers, a man who loves sleazy talk, groping, harassing and teasing women.
Waterstreet revels in a similar sexual persona. He writes newspaper columns which include endless references to sex, dropping hints about his prowess, his carousing and womanising. He was painted for the Archibald Prize in his barrister’s wig and court robes, with two naked young women crawling up his legs. Waterstreet just loves being sexually provocative – as everyone knows.
So Huang trots along to a job interview with the real Rake and surprise, surprise, in between discussing law he talked about sex. “He showed me photos of naked women and a video of someone receiving a hand job. He talked about attending sex parties, having many girlfriends and enjoying threesomes,” claimed Huang.
“This is the part of the story where you think I would have realised that something was wrong, but I didn’t,” writes the incredibly naïve Ms Huang who still decided to work for Waterstreet. She explained why she went back:
“He is famous and powerful and a cheeky, but genius man.” He was famous so she was prepared to dance with the devil.
But on her first shift, she took issue with his assessment of a presumption of consent in a case they were reviewing and objected to answering emails about sex toys and organising dates for him and so she resigned.
And now she’s revelling in her own 15 minutes of fame. “It is just so hard… to break across our own solitude to speak out… in speaking out I’m hoping to reassert some control over this narrative and turn a disempowering experience into an empowering one,” says the young woman who studies both Law and Gender Studies.
Waterstreet does some pretty stupid things and no doubt his behaviour was totally inappropriate. But Huang can hardly claim she wasn’t forewarned. She's a law student, for heaven’s sake. Surely they are supposed to know all about due diligence.
There are similar problems with the Harvey Weinstein business. It’s now abundantly obvious that the whole of Hollywood knew about this man’s appalling behaviour. And it wasn’t just men who were covering it up. Although there were brave women willing to call him out – like Courtney Love, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd – there were plenty of others who chose to keep mum for the sake of their careers and some even took hush money from Weinstein who paid out to buy their silence. Pretty wussy behaviour for these women to choose to only speak out now that Weinstein is on his knees.
And even though actresses must have known the risk they were taking, plenty still chose to meet with Weinstein hoping for parts in his movies. Maybe they figured a hand job, or more, was a pretty fair trade for a step up in their movie careers. But the bottom line is Weinstein’s casting couch had an endless stream of takers.
Women’s role in this whole unfolding saga needs greater scrutiny. It’s certainly true that the #Metoo campaign which inspired Tina Huang to reveal her story may well expose other Weinsteins, dangerous men who are exploiting their power to sexually prey on women. That’s obviously a very good thing.
But it is also bringing out the worst in women who are now telling their own stories, often revelling in their victim status and the opportunity to take vengeance on a powerful man. One of the few women brave enough to speak out about this is British radio journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer.
Hartley-Brewer is caught up in the wave of accusations now rocking Westminster where a growing list of MPs is accused of sexual harassment. She’d foolishly tweeted about an incident 15 years ago when the now UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon put his hand on her knee during a party conference dinner. She told him that if he did it again she’d punch him in the face. He ended up apologising and they remain good friends.
At the time she found the whole thing amusing. She explained that “no one was remotely upset or distressed” by the incident. Even though she didn’t name Fallon in the tweet his name was revealed and he’s now had to resign with possible other allegations in the pipeline.
Hartley-Brewer is rightly upset about what has happened to Fallon and is very publicly critical of the world-wide witch hunt now going on where a hand on the knee is being lumped in with very serious behaviour like Weinstein’s rapes.
“I believe it is absurd and wrong to treat workplace banter and flirting – and even misjudged sexual overtures – between consenting adults as being morally equivalent to serious sexual harassment or assault. It demeans genuine victims of real offences,” wrote Hartley-Brewer in a statement she released.
Later that week Hartley-Brewer appeared on a morning TV show where she pointed out that some women welcome behaviour others may find offensive. “Especially when it comes to Westminster, a lot of young, attractive women do find these pot-bellied, balding, middle-aged MPs sexy. I’ve watched it with my own eyes. Some of the men make overtures to those women, because you know what? Sometimes they say yes.’
And sometimes it is the women who throw themselves into the laps of these portly but powerful gentlemen. Contrary to the feminist narrative promoting all women as potential victims of men’s predatory sexual behaviour the reality is far more complex. Heaven help men trying to navigate these treacherous waters.