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It’s 2016 and a rugby exec only just found out that strippers are people too

Alex Casey reminds Andrew Flexman that a woman who takes her clothes off professionally is still a human. 

Yesterday, a stripper named Scarlette spoke out about her experience at a Chiefs end-of-season function, where she was subjected to inappropriate licking and touching without her consent. Flexman, the Chief Executive of the Chiefs, responded to the story by saying that the woman’s “standing in the community and culpability is not beyond reproach.”

Flexman has since apologised for this statement, but it doesn’t put an end to the harm that countless comments like these do to women – no matter their profession. This was a woman, hired to do a job, speaking out for suffering unwanted behaviour on that job. It doesn’t matter if she was a waitress, a cobbler, an investment banker or a professional chip crinkler. She was abused on the job, and it’s her right to call out bad behaviour.

But she’s a stripper, so… lying? Strumpet? Naked witch demon? Boob-showing banshee of lies?

For Flexman to question her “standing in the community” shows that he is placing a moral judgement on her chosen occupation. She’s not like those nice trustworthy women with their bonnets and their Shakespearean collars, eh Andrew? Those reliable good sorts who churn the community butter, darn the socks and ice the cakes.

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The woman, known as Scarlette, articulated her experience to Radio New Zealand this morning, claiming that she “made it very clear she didn’t want to be touched.” She kept a smile on her face, asking professionally and politely that the players respect her boundaries. Scarlette claimed she felt as if she couldn’t stop – any woman who has had experienced any degree of abuse at a job will know this exact feeling.

This is not the first and certainly not the last time a woman in New Zealand has been denigrated in the name of ‘boys-will-be-boys’, and then had her credibility questioned after questioning it. I’m really sick of writing these types of pieces – I’ve run out of ways to say the same thing over and over again. But all it takes is a trip to the comments on the New Zealand Herald Facebook page to be reminded just how fucked we are.

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Any woman who has ever spoken out about any form of abuse knows that no amount of celebrity is ever worth the horrific experience. Unless this comment is referring to the poignant life-after-divorce film Enough Said, this is definitely not enough said.

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Hardly. A. Classy. Victim. Because she was wearing less? How short was her skirt? How low cut was her top? Where have we seen this before?

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Stupid person what do you expect? The more people do the shrugging emoticon at men abusing women just because of their “red-bloodedness”, the further into the toilet bowl we go. And what does that say about our expectation of men?

It also doesn’t help when a major sponsor says “if a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her.” Greetings from the U-bend.

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Here here, down with brazen sloths flaunting their wares.

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It doesn’t matter if a woman is wearing a short skirt, undresses for a living, or swims in a beekeepers costume. It doesn’t matter if a woman has taken sexy photos once, flashed her crotch during a dance routine or appeared on a televised dating competition: she doesn’t deserve to be treated with any less respect.

So cheers for the apology, Flexman, but consider next time that these statements ripple into the ether, feeding an already thriving culture of victim-blaming. This is a country where lawyers will pace back and forth, furiously trying to redefine the definition of the word “no”, where a man being stripped naked makes headlines and a woman’s sexual assault does not, where the Roastbusters roam free.

As Scarlette said so succinctly, in what I vote as the quote of 2016, “if my word means nothing, then so does every other woman’s word.”

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