“I heard that a man put his hand inside a woman’s underpants when she didn’t want him to,” she said, spinning around a lamp-post, hair flying. “What’s that about, Mum?”
It’s a well-worn cliche that the questions of children pull sharp focus on the world’s tricky truths. But when my eight-year-old daughter brought up the details of a news story she overheard on the kitchen radio on Sunday morning, it made me pause. And then I felt the world rush towards me at an alarming pace.
You know what she was talking about. Last week, a senior New South Wales politician – then-Labor Leader Luke Foley – was forced to vehemently deny that he did just as my daughter described – put his hands inside a woman’s underpants when she didn’t want him to. That woman was an ABC political journalist, Ashleigh Raper.
My little girl – blooming on a diet of Rebel Girls and kick-arse heroines – wanted to know if it was true that there was a woman who worked with a whole bunch of powerful men, went to a party with them and got groped in front of everyone.
My little girl doesn’t know how a man could be “so rude” to a woman who didn’t do anything to him.
Listen to Holly, Mia Freedman and Rachel Corbett talk about why women should be deciding if and when their #metoo stories go public, here:
Listen to the full episode here.
You see, my little girl has been taught “My body, my rules” at school since kindergarten. It’s so engrained in her that it’s what she says to me when I want to pull a brush through her tangled hair, or grab her hand to guide her across a busy road. It’s bloody annoying, to be honest.
My little girl has no idea why a man would want to put his hands into someone’s underpants anyway. Not really. Not yet.
“Why would he do that, Mum? Why would that happen?”
Foley, of course, insists that isn't what happened at all. He insists that he didn't abuse his position with a woman from his workplace. But it has happened. It happens all the time. A report released today (November 14) by the ACTU says it's happened to more than 60 per cent of Australian women.
And of course, it's happened to me.