Was it overdosing on the lead up to ANZAC that accounted for ponytail excess? Pathos to bathos? Every empowered woman appears to have been approached for comment. Or rushed foward? Labour’s Annette King was, I thought, rabid and Marilyn Waring not far behind.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed telling people I’m a raving feminist. I’m seriously averse to dying of boredom at social do’s, hopeless at gossip, small talk. Unhelpful son (one and the same as helpful one) told me my ponytail views were so wrong I needed re-educating. I’ve tried this, failed.
I think touching hair usually means approval. We pat animals, may pay a price for the presumption. Hair has featured in social and cultural mores/values since we came down from the trees. Hair styling (often a form of mutual grooming) has produced fantastical arrangements. I cannot find anything in gently pulling ponytails without permission that makes it sexually creepy. By contrast eliminating pubic hair sets off alarm bells. In an age of rampant child prostitution, Victorian painters omitted it. A fairly eminent Victorian freaked out completely when he discovered his newlywed wife had some.
In my time ponytails and the long hair of schoolboys have invited institutional displeasure since Elvis. Obviously persistent and unwelcome touching of another’s hair, body is not acceptable. The politics of the waitress are irrelevant but offsider made the excellent point that Key’s presumption may have been even more unbearable if she wasn’t a political fan of his.
It should be no surprise that Key didn’t know when to stop. His ordinary bloke persona, overly indulged by media, invited a pratfall. I don’t think it was an issue of entitlement or prerogative. He wants to be liked. He clowns. Clowns can irritate, frighten, go too far. He did. (Coulrophobia is the word coined in the 1980s to describe fear of clowns).
The cafe manager knew of the waitress’s annoyance, and would have done well to ask if she wanted him to intervene. She could have asked him to do so. It was a tricky situation. The bodyguards were egregiously useless. The PM apologised with two bottles of wine. Overanalysing the apology and wine provenance was farcical. Nothing can compare with humiliation on the world’s stage.
Bosses and politicians might consider it worthwhile encouraging union membership. They try to handle such incidents to avoid embarrassment. The waitress can still make a formal complaint but for her own sake I hope she doesn’t. Courts are bullyboy arenas even for plaintiffs with good cause. She could be called as a witness in the case serial litigant Graham McCready is taking to the Human Rights’ Commission. She has asked him to desist. He said he will not. That is his prerogative. I think his action is incredibly insensitive. And there is the Dirty Politics Brigade waiting to pounce. Wrong, it got its foot in the door in the shape of the Herald’s reporter Rachel Glucina. Apparently her bosses had four tries at explaining their role.
With any luck the furore has died so why am I writing this? I don’t think I have betrayed my own principles. But unhelpful son has delivered the deadliest insult of all: I am in the Bob Jones camp. Alongside that silly old sexist, still rated a wit worthy of column space?? I wonder if old Bob has the faintest comprehension of how his political and literary legacy is exquisitely reflected by internet trolls and middleaged blokes throwing ugly tanties on talkback.
The only flaw in my arguments is that some men just don’t want to evolve. But I doubt Key will make the same mistake again.
P.S What a relief to read Verity Johnson’s column in The Herald last weekend: Come on, Pull the Other One, we need a little fun in our lives. Not every woman’s cup of tea but she is entitled to her opinion and choice of conduct. Me too.