On Friday morning, former INXS frontman Kirk Pengilly’s name and face were awash the news cycle.
A single quote – a ten-second line – was the focus.
“I really loved the ’60s and ’70s when life was so simple and you could slap a woman on the butt and it was taken as a compliment, not as sexual harassment,” he told AAP at a Movember charity event in Melbourne on Thursday.
Pengilly may be surprised, this morning, at just how quickly a story becomes, well, a story. Like a contagious sneeze that spreads between news sites – when one catches on, the rest quickly follow.
In a climate where allegations of sexual harassment are now national conversation, we’ve suddenly no room, time or patience for those who want to veer off the seriousness of narrative.
Men are starting to feel they can’t even pay a woman a compliment because it could be seen as sexual harassment, he said. It’s tough terrain, he feels.
You can almost imagine the quiet cackle that came as he spoke, pining for the good old days where jokes were always funny.
When people stopped getting so damn offended.
When the world was free and the traps that catch you out less frequent.
The public mood was predictable. There were half-serious, half-joking calls for the former musician to “get in the bin”, there were more aggressive demands for him to **** off and then a few more who mocked his comments with a lighter sentiment of, ‘Oh Kirk.’
All the criticism had its place.
But before we shout him down, laugh him off stage and run away together in our tight bubble of progressive ideas and a steadfast desire to stand on the side of women, we need to slow down.
Because while Kirk Pengilly’s comments are worthy of your eye roll, they represent a bigger picture.
The reality is that there are many men nodding along with the INXS frontman this Friday, fuelled by similar frustrations and a lack of understanding about modern day boundaries.