Yesterday, on the set of breakfast television show Sunrise, host David Koch overheard his colleague Sam Armytage telling members of the crew about her new shoes. A little uncomfortable about sporting a pair of heels not in keeping with her usual style, Sam, 36, reportedly made an offhand remark along the lines of “have you seen my new stripper heels?”
And the obvious next step was for Kochie, 57, to have a stripper pole brought on set so that he could present it to his colleague, while Joe Cocker’s famous stripping song You can leave your hat on played in the background.
He did this in front of rolling cameras. For a show that has four hundred thousand odd viewers a day.
Take a look:
Are you cool with that? Was Sam?
Sam proceeded to play along with it; wrapping her leg around the pole, giggling and looking embarrassed. Uncomfortable. But her reaction appeared to be one of genuine surprise – this little skit wasn’t cleared with her in advance, she hadn’t given the OK for it to go ahead.
“These shoes are the choice for pole dancers all over the country,” Sam said. To which Koch replied “Be careful because they’re quite reflective” as he peered down at his co-host’s bare legs.
The whole thing made my stomach turn just a little. Partly because the segment was incredibly low brow, totally unfunny humour. Partly because I wished Sam had stood up for herself and told her co-host where to go.
But mostly? Mostly, I was feeling uncomfortable because I know deep down, that if I’d been in Sam’s place, I probably would have played along too.
Because like so many women in workplaces all over the country, I have a constant fear of being labelled as ‘that girl’. The one who can’t take a joke. The one who goes all Angry Feminist when everyone else is having fun. The humourless killjoy.
Sunrise Executive Producer, Michael Pell has defended the stunt this morning, saying “It’s just a bit of fun. It certainly gave us all a good laugh.” Because that’s what really matters, right? Having a bit of fun.
And having a bit of fun trumps everything. It trumps Sam’s dignity. It trumps her right to get through the working day without being publicly demeaned. It trumps the fact that her stripper reference was about her shoes and Kochie made it about HER. About her being a stripper.
It was sexist and demeaning.
Samantha Armytage is a journalist. Not eye candy there for the titillation of Kochie, the crew or the viewers.
The offhand way the executive producer has waved away complaints, confirms that Sam Armytage absolutely did not have the power to say “Hang on Kochie, it’s not OK for you to use my sexuality to humiliate me in front of half a million people”.
What happened was ‘just a bit of fun’. So if Sam had complained, she would have been written off immediately as an uptight princess who can’t have a laugh.
Because, you see, the fun girl goes along with the joke. Even when the joke is at her own expense.
Update: Sam Armytage has subsequently tweeted that she did not take offence to the stunt. This post has also been amended so as to make clear that this segment was not filmed live.