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# Me Too produces little but money for lawyers and anguish for those alleging abuse

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Alright, Ladies. Before you call for her expulsion from all internet, permit your loving sister to be clear as a Perspex bell: this critique of the #MeToo moment is not also one of the entire feminist movement. This critique of the #MeToo moment, which continues its focus on that abuse committed or suffered by the media elite, is not also a case against victims speaking out. This critique of the #MeToo moment is no denial of true and widespread pain. This critique does not delegitimise real trauma, nor does it let abusers “off the hook”.

The answer to workplace abuse is not to enrich solicitors while subjecting a handful of victims to months of recounting abuse.

This critique is of a moment that has now lasted five months and is yet to produce a solution more meaningful or practical than “let’s buy some lawyers for all those who are ever abused”. Perhaps not even the combined personal fortunes of Bezos and Gates could last for so many billable hours. If your immediate rejoinder here is, “what’s your solution, smarty pants?” I’ll describe it again. The answer to workplace abuse is not to enrich solicitors while subjecting a handful of victims to months of recounting abuse. The answer to workplace abuse is to enrich and revive the labour movement.

Once, we demanded of our unions that they fight for our right to guaranteed employment and for the case for our safety at work. Yes, the power in a union has been diminished over time. No, this doesn’t mean we can’t seize these organisations—which often function in the Australian present to ensure little more than safety of ALP preselection—and make them work again for us. Join your union. Call your union. Annoy your union. Demand that your union does something more than “raise awareness” of a widespread problem like sexist or sexual abuse and say, “Make it illegal for those bastards to sack me, and, no, I don’t want another Me Too t-shirt for her.” 40% of Australian workers can be sacked without providing notice or rationale, and in these cases, legal advice provided to victims of abuse is of little value. What would be of real value is secure work for all. If you can’t be instantly dismissed, you can’t be so instantly bullied or hurt. Annoy your union. I do, on many matters. The union rarely answers my correspondence and is yet to accept my generous offer of advice. Which is largely, “lobby for job security and quit making Me Too t-shirts for her”. One day, they are bound to reply.

Why make a t-shirt when you have a world to win?

Those who are secure in their work are less subject to abuse. This is a fact and it is not a fact that “awareness” of allegations against celebrity gardeners or stars of musical theatre produces any tangible result at all. Yes, I acknowledge that there are everyday people who have been grateful to read these accounts and think, “it’s not just me”. But, really. Is this the scope of our current feminist ambition? Why settle for making some workers feel slightly better when you could aim for, and achieve, improvement for all? Why make a t-shirt when you have a world to win?

I propose that we immediately cease (a) raising money for expensive lawyers and (b) applauding major news organisations for their celebrity-focused anti-sexist outrage. Surely, if the everyday people forced to endure indignity at work were those our prominent journalists wish to assist, then everyday stories would be in everyday supply.

And maybe, an everyday means of secure submission would be available to everyday victims. Something like SecureDrop, whose young developer, Aaron Swartz, was himself abused by the powerful throughout his short, productive life. Look into using the system this brave kid worked on. It will provide secure, anonymised connection between journalists and Me Too whistleblowers. Why the eff are Australian journalists using email and Facebook for some of the most private information they’ll ever handle? Journalists, protect your sources. This is not just a nice idea. It is your moral obligation.

Me Too is a movement that has served media interest.

Me Too is a movement that has served media interest. It must become a movement that serves the everyday. We must stop waiting for the next tale of celebrity courage reported by a celebrity journalist. It is time to Occupy feminism, which, in its popular media iteration, has become feminism for the one per cent.

No, this is not just another injunction by some self-important turd—although, that I am. It is not contrarian. It is not to insist “you’re doing it wrong” just for the easy pleasure this declaration offers. It is to say that mass disclosure available only to a few is not in itself an end. It is to say that shaming individual abusers is not a “systemic” solution, but just an act bound to create more wealthy lawyers.

And, an act that has begun in some cases to seem inauthentic, unnecessary or, at best, just as though the kid assigned to the Me Too beat needed to meet a deadline. I don’t know how else we should account for today’s story on comedian Tim Ferguson, who is explicitly described in news as a Me Too-type perpetrator. Ferguson, who reportedly wrote a series of vulgar letters to a journalist in the 1990s, is appended to a hashtag devised for truly monstrous acts. While News Corp shows much more interest in this “story” than Fairfax, a Fairfax editor today publicly denounced Ferguson as “horrible” and linked to the rival house to make his case.

Before Tim Ferguson’s Doug Anthony Allstars (pictured) were sanitised for telly, they were wont to take a dump on their audience. It wasn’t always fun.

Before you get all, “don’t excuse male violence”, I’m not. I attended many performances by Ferguson when I was a kid growing up in Canberra, and I gotta say, I think he was probably reading too much Artaud at the time. Before Ferguson’s Doug Anthony Allstars were sanitised for telly, they were wont to take a dump on their audience. It wasn’t always fun.

I’d will the Dougs never to look my way. When Tim did once at an artsy place called Gorman House, I screamed, “Get fucked, mate.” I think he went on to improvise a song called Get Fucked, Mate. Either way, I attended no experimental comic performance in Canberra for at least a week.

This is no rationale for violence. This is no rationale for cruelty. This is no rationale to go easy on a person likely affected by MS at the time he committed this “horrible” offence—however, lability and disinhibition are among the condition’s common symptoms. Hey, it’s not even a rationale for the fourth-wall smashing performance art Ferguson was (clearly) practicing when he sent childish letters containing crude illustrations to a journalist. But, jeez. This is not “male” or Me Too violence because it was perpetrated by a man. It’s performance art violence, which is a genderless affront. Don’t tell me that Abramović has not been identically offensive in her conflation of life with art.

Don’t tell me that performers who openly sought to transgress some decades ago are among those whose shame will produce feminist results.

Don’t tell me that this is an expression of anything but the urgent need dying media institutions have for eyeballs. Don’t tell me this is feminism. Don’t tell me that performers who openly sought to transgress some decades ago are among those whose shame will produce feminist results. Don’t tell me that we have energy remaining for the true struggle after tooling around all day on social media getting angry about some guy who sent pencil cartoons of dicks to a “female” journalist more than twenty years ago.

Writers cop it. It’s part of the gig. It’s a part I’d rather have not encountered so often in the twelve years I wrote comedy reviews for The Age, and I truly wish that a favourite comic—to whom I had awarded five stars and unforgivably pretentious praise—had not urged a full Melbourne theatre to put me in a bucket and piss on me. But, war correspondents sign up for blood just as surely as the critic signs up for her derision.

If you don’t want people to send you indelicate messages, choose a more delicate trade. Public life is not for you. Feminism is not a rationale for every female problem.

Please. If you, like me, are committed to feminism, turn your back on this latest mutation. One that protects the acceptable, agreeable and reputable woman. One that produces nothing but loud noise and fleeting entertainment. One that does not consider real solutions that could be applied to real people. These solutions will not be truly advanced by awareness t-shirts, celebrity journalism and “calling out” long ago acts provoked by a Theatre of Cruelty seminar. They must include a commitment to the security for all workers. Not just those holding cultural or economic wealth.

Occupy Big Feminism. We are the 99%.

63 responses to “# Me Too produces little but money for lawyers and anguish for those alleging abuse

    1. If this “apology” (I do not defend the actions of Ferguson. I simply say that their prominence in media—does no one understand “framing” anymore—is misguided and harmful) is so typical, please point us to another example of its kind. One that spends three quarters of the article proposing an alternative to a media-led campaign largely about the media, and not about the many victims of abuse.
      Fuck. It must be very soothing to have all your opinions prepared earlier. Saves you the bother of ever baking new ones.

      1. Praise the Lord (and Razer) for someone who entertains shades of grey. Far more fashionable (and easy) to have your opinions par baked. That’s what we want – those par baked little white dinner rolls. Razer serves us bread full of grainy bits that require chewing. God forbid we might have to look at something from a few angles.

  1. Cubby received Ferguson’s “horrible bullying campaign” and didn’t make it personal Helen. The “ story” — are the quotation marks meant to undercut its validity — was the personal account of the journalist targeted by Ferguson. As a victim of stalking I’d have thought you might be more sympathetic. Sutton isn’t a celebrity. She’s a working stuff who tried to get support from her employer.

      1. May I also say to you, the true champion of feminism, that reminding a known assault victim of their past trauma to make a political point is something that may be considered triggering.
        Seriously. Using my experience, with which you are clearly familiar and would know that it ended my ability to earn an income and was of a physical and ongoing nature, to remind me that I am wrong. If we’re going to have a competition about who is the least compassionate here (and, jesus, again, this is a discussion of media framing, not of whether or not Ferguson acted well, of course he didn’t) you lost, son. You lost.

  2. What a ripper of an argument/article. This says so much about what has become a quagmire of unthought-through ‘shots across the bow’. Of course this article should be up beside all the comments that will follow the T.F. Article … but it wont … because most people will be too busy watching the latest preconstructed MAFS episode.

  3. Agree.

    It’s all gone a bit Salem witch trials rather than outing some truly monstrous behaviour.

    “Someone drew a picture of a penis and it made me uncomfortable” becomes front page news as much as “Someone raped me then threatened to destroy my career if I said anything.”

    And the media and the lawyers make a killing.

  4. Can’t agree Helen. At the DAAS gig you mentioned, you could shout ‘Get f**”!! and leave. End of your night, end of story. Not so for the journalist, there was no escape.

    She was an off-stage target, and there was no wishing that “the Dougs … not look my way” that’d save her.

    Bring on the faxes and images that would punish her for how-dare-you-have-an-opinion-of-my-greatness! As if being a REVIEWER wasn’t her job.

    The journalist was sent continual messages after one MILD review of work that was failing in former high standards she admired; was hounded with vile content that would *never* be seen as fit for comedy skits (no matter if you remember the lyrics of Broad Lic Nic with fondness).

    When she complained to ABC and others? She as dismissed and essentially told she had no case and that ‘sure, something will be said….sure…’ – as if something will be said a comedian whose father was high up in the admin of the ABC, something he writes of in his memoirs that you don’t mention?

    ‘If the letter was intended to be menacing, it succeeded. I would come to view faxes in my pigeon hole as unexploded hand grenades.” she wrote. Is that not something many of us can relate to as a potential career killer? Can she expect her other reviews to land her in the same position since this was considered acceptable?

    And how’s this for unashamed privilege?

    ‘“Months on and still no response. We sit staring at the machine. Willing note of recognition from it to no avail. Wassa matter? Cat got yer tongue, ‘Candace’?” [Ferguson wrote.’..] Threaten us with legal measures for harassment of a public personage. Enjoy yourself. We have won awards at every international comedy festival from New York to Montreal and Berlin. We must be worth chatting to. Where is your journalistic instinct? A story is chasing you and you are doing nothing. Let’s go babe! Call us anytime. Go ahead.’

    Oooh, we have awards, so we have the *right* to do this to you? WTF?

    As much as one can love the shenanigans of the past as part of a creative, wild time in Melbourne comedy history, it’s really a shame to see someone who themselves experienced stalking and harassment dismiss the experience of this woman.

    That it’s taken this long for someone to print their experience of harassment, is not a unique case. How many stories will never be told?

    That even now she’s dismissed by you? Shows us why such stories *aren’t* told.

    1. Such stories are told again and again, you foolish person. We have read little but accounts these past months of how women in media and entertainment had bad things happen to them. Very few accounts of what happens to the people media are supposed to serve.
      The point here is not about Ferguson’s morality. Of course he behaved like a prat. I made this clear.
      (Oh. And, incidentally, thanks for the advice on what I should have done at a performance. I will call you for all future moral quandaries.) I guess it is not clear to the many who have already decided that a corporate media led campaign about what happens to famous women is just awesome.
      Sutton does not offer much background to this account at all. Of course, it is an opportunist moment. This does not make her pain less real. But, come on. You are telling me that it is only now in this glorious (media led) Me Too moment that she is able, as a News Corp employee, to diss the inaction of the ABC? Lol. If she had pitched it earlier, it would have been entirely acceptable to her editors. They love that shit.
      But, sure. Gets more clicks now.
      Notwithstanding the matter of the opportunism and the occlusion of everyday experience in favour of a very unusual experience AGAIN that would only happen in that form to a person working in the media (a very very small part of the labour force; again, media is there allegedly to serve the people and not complain about how hard its own job is) why is Sutton not “calling out” her bosses at the time?
      I have worked in media for a long time. I have had far worse things happen to me than those detailed here. Look around today on the internet and see the sexist violent comments directed at me because I wrote this article. Lol, so funny.
      You know what the real problem is? Bosses don’t give a shit about traumatised workers. All public people get screwed in this way. All of them. We all get a stalker or an angry politician or someone who is angry at us for a perceived or real violation of their privacy or reputation. It happens. You can’t stop it.
      What you can stop is the organisational refusal to take it seriously. I have had organisations refuse to act on aggressors who have actually declared in writing their intention to kill me say “we can’t do anything about that because you are not an official employee”.
      Sutton was a staffer, I gather, at the time she was receiving these threats. What ought to have happened is that her line manager insisted she be cared for. Counselling, perhaps an order against future faxes. Any magistrate would have granted it and any future fax would have been considered a criminal offence (misuse of a carriage service.)
      So, where is the discussion of how media does not, in fact, give a shit about its workers who face abuse? I guess this may not be in the interests of media. Because this entire thing is about making media wholesome again. Poor us. People are mean.
      Yes. They are. I have a correspondence today wishing rape upon me for my lack of compassion. A person in these comments has reminded me of a past abuse made public and told me that I should have more compassion. How dare he?
      And how dare we be led to believe that the negligence of Sutton’s bosses is not an issue. It probably hurt her, I imagine. I know it hurt me in ways that reverberate into the present. It wasn’t the person (and persons, but there’s one in particular) who pursued and assaulted me in my place of work as the result of my work that still gives me nightmares. It was the memory of a boss who said, “Why don’t you fuck him, he’ll go away then?”
      Yes. Women (and many men) cop it. And the way we cop it in media is of a particular order. (And not “relatable”, which is why I have the shits with it. Remember. We are there to serve the people. Not our own interests.) People can be crap and will do crap things to others. If this happens at work, there must be provisions in place to deal with it.
      I am telling you, there are not. I am telling you that as my industry and all other industries are casualised, the thing that hurts us most (a lack of protection, an open door to us, a true disregard for what we cop) is that we have no rights.
      Ferguson behaved like a prat. I make this clear, again. I do not defend his actions. But I do object to making one individual the enemy and, thereby, making the shaming of individuals the way to defeat the enemy.
      The enemy at work is a lack of security at work. The solution is security and dignity for workers.
      If you just wanna read this as “Razer is bitch” go ahead. I don’t give a fuck, frankly. Someone told me that they wish I would get raped today. I am an “entrepreneur” and I have no protection. So, now, I’m on nmy own with that. Awesome.
      Don’t you fucking tell me, none of you, that I don’t know what it’s like. I know.
      I also know that I am not the story.

        1. Yes, Helen, you shoulda called Lyn a foolish person in non-derogatory fashion. And your insults shouldn’t be offensive.

  5. I’m a fan of #MeToo, really for no more sophisticated reason than that it’s a movement that’s turning over a lot of furniture, very rudely. Anything that makes loud, ugly, discordant noise in our sanitised, hypnotised times is probably on balance a plus. OTOH I work in casualised aged and disability care and everything you (often, and uniquely) point out about elite victim-narcissism is spot on. It’s usually around 2 or 3 am on the night shift when the latest #LAMeToo* bandwagon hijacker’s ‘outrage narrative’ starts to hit the TV/net feeds, at which point I’m similarly moved as you are: ie wanting to throw a full bed pan at the tedious botoxed wankers. But as angry nobodies we can chew gum and fart at the same time. (I am cheerfully capable of hating pretty much every old shitty thing, big and small, all at once.) And one thing I do really like about the celeb sub-genre of Time’sUppery – so many acronyms! – is the way it’s pitting (all) the Famous against (all) the Famous. The poor confused self-serving ego-drenched tosspots are eating themselves into extinction over this confusing sex/intersectionality/Gotcha! stuff…which is most chuffing, since the destroying of fame as an admired & desired civic attribute is after all but a mere necessary staging point on the way to the main game: that of destroying greed/personal wealth as said-same. Fame – a fancy word for PR Firepower – is after all the great lying gatekeeper of sustained (spiralling!) obscene inequality.

    First we Kill The Famous. Then we can Eat the Rich at our leisure…

    Never less than fantastic reading, HR, thanks & regards.

    * See what I did there tee-hee…

  6. Loved it. Given that Mr Ferguson is one of the least funny people on the planet, and vilifying people without humour (that’s the qualifier) should never be on the agenda, I can’t support anything he says or does. He is a “horrible” person from personal experience. However, we’re supposed to be grownups. I once had a writer I had to fire send me vile emails and threaten to kill me. I deleted him and moved on. #MeToo is out of hand and we really need to focus on the future…not the 20-30 year old past. Or I will become a tee-shirt manufacturer.

  7. Thank you Helen. Well written and argued. Were unions to take on such issues effectively, as they have done in the past on other contentious, difficult issues, they may again become relevant to the bulk of workers who seem to be ignoring them today.

  8. Don’t tell me that this is an expression of anything but the urgent need dying media institutions have for eyeballs.

    Nailed the current direction this movement is heading in one sentence; it will soon be #irrelevant. Shame.

  9. It was a bloody good read, thank you Helen. Whilst I have no concern with making lawyers rich (and like screaming generalisations about offenders or “victims”, that notion that all lawyers are undeservedly earning too much of a quid is bollocks!) I am greatly troubled by the use of the feminist banner for all things “horrible”. Can I remind everyone too young to remember – DAAS was horrible and dark and funny. We LOVED it. We revelled in it. It was a clever performance!! We, feminists all, grew and developed from it. Do not cast your revisionist faux-feminist gaze over it. But, yes to the unions getting back to their core business – as Josh Bornstein reinforced on that recent Q & A panel on the topic, that’s actually their role in the workplace and when they’re gone folks because you refuse to stand up the Tories who will find life much easier without them, don’t look to the employers to be at your back. But I allow myself to be distracted. You are right Helen, #Me Too is not a feminist movement. Its a lazy way to fill column inches or their equivalent and brings no strength or resilience or remedy. Jen D

  10. I would hate to be held to account for something I said twenty years ago. The deputy PM said some terrible things about gay people that has been in the news lately. I am not defending what he said but I am willing to bet that the media will forgive him long before they leave Tim Ferguson alone. The only problem with Tim and the DAAS is that they were never funny, just smug arseholes.

    1. Oh that’s harsh. They were plenty funny at times, while simultaneously being smug arseholes. That was the schtick and it was as refreshing as all get out 30 years ago.

  11. Had a very major incident in the workplace involving on-going harassment by an employee over several years . Unions became involved. Then discovered the union lawyers representing the harassed were the same as those representing the harasser! All in cohoots. Good reason, I thought, to renounce my union membership.

    Seems the feminist interpretation of ‘equality’ is supremacy over males. If feminists were ever sincere about equality, they would stop targeting males and work towards neutralising our laws such that gender is completely removed from the equation. We are all just people after all.

    1. Yes “we are all people”. But that statement of moral fact does not alter the social one. Which is that we are not democratised ideally in the present. Saying that we should be does not make it so.
      So, of course the awareness that women are likely to be more often the target of particular kinds of abuse should be upheld. However, we must not identify the “enemy” of women’s freedom (or anybody else’s) as individuals.
      And this is part of the problem with Me Too. Relentless focus on individuals, both victim and abuser, with no or little analysis of the background, real life circumstances. Just a moral look and the answer: this shouldn’t happen.
      Yes. It shouldn’t. But, how we instrumentalise that urge is the question.
      DO we keep “calling out” and agreeing that some dude or other is terrible. Does this work? I’d say no.
      But, no problem at all with seeing that certain identity categories are likely to face certain problems. The answer “we are all people” is a wish. The demand “we are all workers”, on the other hand, can bring about some change.

  12. I completely share your frustration Helen and your prescription of a labour revival leading to a rollback of inequality is hard, nay impossible, to disagree with. I’m in a very secure position from both a gender and employment perspective so I don’t say this having an obvious vested interest in the outcome. Nonetheless, the signs aren’t good that we are going to get result in the near or long term future. Indeed the if we were to have a order of magnitude shift then the constant back and forth of the media cycle would need to to collapse. The too cosy by far relationship between the media and the powerful was aptly illustrated by the Joyce ‘affair’ and the generous hand back by the ABC of politically embarrassing documents. I mean, wWFT is going on when the entire institution of the media remain silent during a crucial election where the main candidate, professing family values and undying allegiance to the Xian god and all that they stand for, has just spawned a first born male by another lady who’s many years his younger. And the ABC? Pathetic, it’s not like we’re at war or something. The performance by the executives in Senate estimates confirms my view that management at the Corporation has a view of its role that can only further erode it’s mission of providing us with a reliable source of news and commentary in a world sadly bereft of such. There is no hope.

  13. Having known two people with MS it is quite common for MSs first onset to result in quite uncharacteristic and extreme behaviour.

    And the endless focus on things that are in the scheme of things fairly small beer -in this case rude tasteless insulting letters written twenty years ago. When there are plenty of more serious matters that don’t get the attention they deserve does irritate.

    1. This is quite true. (See link provided.) I was looking through social media yesterday before writing this article, just trying to get a sense of how far I could push the point about media without myself copping it. (Not very far, apparently.) I saw one dude say “He wasn’t even diagnosed at that time.”
      I mean. Jeez. Everyone’s a neurologist, apparently. As you probably know, A-Dub, MS is a very difficult thing to diagnose. It is not usually diagnosed until an “eloquent” lesion creates a particular physical problem—blindness, paralysis etc. So. This is where we are now.
      The guy also said, “He can’t use MS as an excuse.” Actually, I don’t think he did. SO this guy, like so many people on social media, is having this intense conversation with an imaginary person and preparing all sorts of crazy debate which includes “you don’t have MS until a doctor says you does” and “he can’t use it as an excuse.”
      But, yeah. Same. I know what MS (a condition that can take years to diagnose after its symptoms first appear) can do in some cases to behaviour.

  14. Yay Helen Razer! Look I was a real true convert to Punk when a teen and I also understood the Theatre of Cruelty. We have truly lost a LOT in Australian Arts. I will say it till I die but the Arts in Australia are run by the the 3 tiers of Government as the Government has endless supplies of public funds AND the market for the Arts is weak in Australia. So essentially Arts in Australia is PROPAGANDA for the Status Quo.

    Also lets face it most “professionals” in the Arts ( and there are more than ever now) are appallingly Middle Class to Upper Middle Class, it comes with the territory. I’d like to know what percentage went to Private Schools actually. I’ certain the majority. So the Arts in Australia is CLASS BASED.

    So of course people want to get upset about some silly prank drawings from a Comedian 20 years ago! In a way I understand, I am still damaged from all the CASUAL ABUSE of Power I have had to endure in the Australian Fine Art World. All artists know what I am saying. I totally think people should bring things up that hurt them BUT we also must understand that people are innocent till proven guilty. # ME TOO has become a kangaroo court that ONLY feeds the mainstream media as Razer says here. BUT sometime sone has to court going over the line to be heard. Its tricky.

    I suggest one look at docos on Joan Rivers to see real Theatre of Cruelty in action. SHE was a Master! Let’s face it our “Culture” is now SO BORING, SO PC, SO TAME AND SCARED…now how does one get onto the Dark Web? Surely that’s got some life in it, the CORPSE of Australian YARTS is sicking to high heaven now.

  15. in my teenage angsty years i never thought DAAS was funny, even though friends thought they were so cooool and ireverent and risque…. and thank god social media didnt exist back then coz i’d be named, shamed, tarred, feathered, pilloried, damned, i could go on all day…. mate, if our youth ended up defining our adult self i’d be fucked hahah
    love your work Helen
    your feminism resonates with me

  16. The stars aligned. For the first time ever, I’ve agreed 100% with what you’ve written today. Bloody bravo Helen. You deserve a digestive and a cup of earl grey. Bless.

  17. “The answer to workplace abuse is not to enrich solicitors while subjecting a handful of victims to months of recounting abuse. ” Exactly and precisely. Well said Helen.

  18. Ainsley Gotto…”pert..wiggly”. Acceptable?

    People should keep the privates quietly in their pants, and their mouths firmly closed when they feel the urge to be inappropriate.. Engage the brain rather than the other bits of the body! Then we wouldn’t be having to suffer the “totally morally righteous about everything brigade”

    If you pay money to see a show and you don’t like what’s happening leave!
    Use your own voice to call out sexism, discrimination and other forms of harassment.
    Probably won’t get you a future to invitation to Christmas lunch but does that matter?

  19. I think Tim Ferguson wrote these letters 27 years ago.I was not a fan of DAAS ,but didn’t object to them.At that time, and before, comedy was big in Melbourne . Some people wanted to go to a venue ,and insult the act, who would then insult the audience.People loved it.The environment now is totally different, sometimes I wonder if we are returning to a strange sort of new prudery.I remember the 1960’s ,when people wanted freedom of expression and no censorship.What Tim wrote is vulgar and juvenile and obviously upsetting to receive,but also totally over the top which sometimes can be too ridiculous to worry about . I have no idea what Tim’s motives were, or what he was thinking, or even if he was not right in the head at the time.There must be some point where we discriminate between the degree of harm being done to someone.

  20. Ahem. It has come to my attention that there is a prevalent view this article is a strong defence of sending mean letters/performance art shenanigans.
    FFS. Do people form views about things they haven’t read? Well, I guess. I mean, I have a view about von Mises without reading him. I think he is a dick. But, I do, at least, draw this conclusion from knowing how much influence the dick had, and on whom.
    The influence of this article, which is NOT about defending performance art (can you not see that I am being derisive of artistes who throw things etc.?) and NOT about defending abuse/abusive behaviour (it is just an admission that it occurs, and an overview of how that offence or threat might be assuaged for workers, women or men), is pretty much nil. My influence is nil. Even if I did have influence, what is the bad thing that I am saying. You would not know, you twits sending me messages and calling me a rape apologist, because you did not read it.
    Why do you get so cranky? You won the culture war. Now just about everyone believes that individuals should be held to account and individuals are all-powerful. I believe that only a mass can be positively powerful in the struggle for true equality between all beings. This is now, as it often is, my argument.
    I say mass action is a good thing. I say focus on individuals or elites is not productive, and can be counter-productive to the change we all seem to be agreed we seek: less abuse and less of everything that impedes human flourishing.
    So, this is you true problem with me. You think individual moments of “calling out” or examining victimhood will produce a result. I think mass movements are the only way to positive change.
    If you want to argue that with me, argue it. If you want to really make the case that individual moments will change the world, then make it. If you think inspiration is the same as a political movement, make that case to me. If you think I am conservative or sexist in my view that taking down one guy will elevate all women, let me know how. If you think “we can do both things at once”, then let me know how that is going. For every thing you said about Tim Ferguson on your Facebook page or whatever, did you also say something about the power of mass movements? Did you also call your union and post on its page, “I think we need a legal and systemic approach to stopping abuse in the work place?” Did you? Can you not entertain the thought that a belief so ardent in individual power as you have (Helen Razer is a negative influence, Tim Ferguson’s embarrassment is a victory for all women, Candace Sutton is an oppressed inspiration to us all) means that you have completely abandoned any thinking about mass action.
    You are not special. Nor am I. We do not have influence. Corporate media does, however, and it has convinced so many that “Me Too” is still a grass roots thing and not an effing circus of shit and shame and pain that gets clicks.
    It doesn’t have to be. This is what breaks my heart. We could seize this will, which is real and truly comes from many women (and men) who have copped it at work, and turn it into something. But, really, what is it? A whole load of naming and shaming and awards for celebrity journalists.
    To the fucker who wished that I would be raped for writing this, have a think. To the people here in the comments who have told me that I should understand because I too have had an experience of male violence (foolishly disclosed in media by me over twenty years ago; shit I wish I hadn’t) how dare you.
    I may be a “victim”. I am also a person who believes that public reporting is a responsibility. And when so much of it about what happened TO the reporter. Well, really. What the heck? What about the rest of the people. My cosy little media experience is not the experience of everyone. My story is not one to report. This is the point. Get your heads out of your individualistic arses and understand that it is bigger that one person. “If it just helps one person” is a terrible, hopeless chant. If it helps the many, then I’m on board.
    Get off my back you idiots. And the next time you choose to call me out or anybody out on social media, have a little bit of a think about your objections to abuse. You think it is fun to be publicly pilloried and called irresponsible and insensitive to my own experience of violence? No. It’s not. It’s a pain in my date. I have been told since my experience of abuse that there is a “proper” way to respond to it. And some of you here have done that again. I am responding to it with a therapist, thanks. And the amazing thing about people who have copped abuse is that they can still, if they are lucky, do their jobs. And now I can no loner work in a corporate media that demands I uphold the fiction that Individuals are Amazing and Inspirational, my job is in independent media critiquing the force of the big guys. Which you who insult me and attempt to curtail my “behaviour” (seriously, telling me that I should be nicer because I have been abused, you shitters; feel bad about this) have completely bought.
    Effing. Just don’t read me. I am not going to quit questioning the power of the individual and their individual stories of hope. It’s a virus that has afflicted all media and much of the human sciences and your brains. You can think. Or, you can just react. Whatever. Leave me alone and forget that I exist.
    I am this close to quitting this writing in public gig, some days. If only I had any other skill set. But, hey. I might quit. And you effing turds who snipe can be pleased that you have made it impossible for a voice you don’t like to speak. Good one. Tell yourself you are doing that because I am “sexist” or “right wing” (LOLOL) all you like. The plain fact is, you are nasty little gossips.
    Some days, people.

    1. Helen, your persistence is awesome and appreciated, thankyou. United we stand, divided we fall. Apparently a far too controversial/outdated view, for some.


    2. You’re on it Helen.
      The cult of the individual has near destroyed the USA already.
      If we’re not to suffer the same fate, voices like yours must be heard, and heeded.
      Keep it up.

    3. Binary oppositions are gonna fucking kill us now everyones fucked-up nervous systems have been pegged to them.

    4. Don’t quit. Pleeeeeez. By all means people are free to take issue with you but you well know that those who resort to the personal lack reason or argument on their side. Keep it all up.

    5. Helen, I don’t always agree with you, in fact, often I don’t. But our media is richer for someone who constantly questions politically popular opinion and is able to walk and chew gum. Most can’t or won’t and we get dumber and meaner every day as a result. When I read you, even if you infuriate me, I sigh with relief that there is still intelligent commentary in our media. Hang in there. Never stop pissing people off.

  21. C’mon people the man has suffered enough #dontforgetdontforgetyourfuckingtoothbrush
    The shame, the indignity, the inhumanity.
    If Ferguson ends up in court because of this he might have to reboot this show to pay the legal fees!
    Please people think before you act.

  22. Some much needed rationality …. thank you Razer. You know I loved DAAS and my favourite was a joke about ‘a little ballerina with a nail through her foot going round and round…”

  23. “If you don’t want people to send you indelicate messages, choose a more delicate trade.”

    It doesn’t take a feminist to see the incongruity, the dismissiveness and misogyny of that statement. The workplace is for earning a living not harassment. Most workers, male and female, simply want to concentrate on their work and go home to their real lives. They don’t want to deal with bullies. And that is what unwelcome harassment is – bullying, sexual or otherwise.

    Taking a narrow view of Me Too complaints as Razor has done, ignores the fact that the problem of workplace abuse is on a continuum from abuse in families, to schools and at the workplace. It includes child abuse from priests to Disney employees. Yes Helen, Me Too includes a number of child actors who worked for Disney. It also includes film industry ancillary staff from cleaners to clerical. 5000 farm workers joined them. It has spread across many industries and around the world and bosses are taking it seriously. Not least because boycotts may affect their profits.

    Unions are also taking it seriously, many have for many years except, of course in America where only 3% of workers are unionised. But hey, do you really want to stop a campaign that may lead to greater interest in collective action and unions in America.

    Times Up is a leaderless initiative made up of several groups that have different goals – from defending victims, giving them advice and creating legislation, to combating sexual misconduct, to ensuring women of colour and LGBTQ are represented equally. It is administered through the National Women’s Law Center and those wealthy lawyers that Razor attacks so vociferously often work pro bono in sexual harassment cases.

    The link attached to Razor’s statement, “legal advice provided to victims of abuse is of little value…” does not say that at all but rather gives good reasons for setting up a legal fighting fund such as Times Up.

    It’s naive to think that, “If you can’t be instantly dismissed, you can’t be so instantly bullied or hurt.”  Permanency at work, is not a protection against bullying, Helen. In fact, hanging onto that rare permanent job because you have a family to feed or a mortgage on the family home can be the the equivalent of locking a victim in the same cell as the perpetrator. And as Josh Bornstein said on the Q&A Me Too special, “By the time a woman comes to see me about a sexual harassment case, the first thing that I’m always prepared for is her health will be severely compromised. ….and will be very, very distressed and traumatised.” 

    I was disappointed with Razors article. As Borstein said, here you have “a protest movement led by women who are whistle-blowers; whistle-blowers working with investigative journalists calling for major change.” And you keep trashing them Helen.

  24. I have some issues with #metoo, and I think you make some interesting and valid points, so thank you. But I also think you misrepresent the movement when you say ‘Ferguson, who reportedly wrote a series of vulgar letters to a journalist in the 1990s, is appended to a hashtag devised for truly monstrous acts’. #metoo is a hashtag that certainly can be appended to truly monstrous acts; it is also a hashtag that can be appended to more insidious forms of intimidation and harassment. Part of what #metoo is about is calling out the kind of behaviours that are passed off as harmless, or as just a joke, but that ultimately have a silencing effect on (some) women. (I specify some, because certainly not all women will internalise the message communicated by this kind of behaviour – and more power to those who don’t.)

    I also think that you’re being wilfully obtuse in suggesting that Tim Ferguson’s messages weren’t gendered. Since when have representations of male genitalia been used against men as tool of humiliation? The messages make frequent references to Candace Sutton’s appearance, refer to her as a cunt or whore. There is an implicit equation of her gender and the (il)legitimacy of her work.

    You describe this as ‘performance art violence, which is a genderless affront’. Who was this performance for? Largely Tim Ferguson himself, it seems – and possibly his friends. It is bullying behaviour. And given that the messages clearly weren’t intended for a public audience, I don’t think the present-day condemnation raises concerns regarding limits on artistic freedom.

      1. It’s a logical response, sure.
        It’s also one offered in the original piece by Sutton and available everywhere.
        These are the assumptions, which Alice has the insight to draw out.
        A big one is that all acts of violence occur on a spectrum. Ergo, #MeToo can describe anything from extreme and/or ongoing emotional and/or physical abuse of a woman to anything a woman just doesn’t feel really comfortable with.
        A big mistake, in my view. No, not a big mistake when Tarana Burke offered the understanding to s small group of girls and young women. It might be helpful in that context.
        But, scale changes things. It does not just increase the scale and import all the same intentions and outcomes.
        There is an immense danger with a campaign that continues to focus on stars and gives awards to star journalists. If we continue to examine these things (which are often not as “relateable” as this “all on a spectrum” bullshit suggests) we continue to see elite experiences as our everyday experiences.
        FFS. Framing. Media framing, people. Have you heard of media studies? Have you stopped to think that a particular focus on one element, however true, of a big story can change the world. Like the story that Saddam Hussein was not a nice guy. True. This truth permitted a lot of falsehoods, largely believed to be true.
        It is NOT true that receipt of a farcical and wilfully obscene note from a famous comic is a regular occurrence. It is NOT true that this is “relatable” or however you spell that non-word.
        If it is even a bit true, this, again, permits the falsehood to be true through an overemphasis on one tiny truth. Ever heard of Manus Island? Intense focus on this small problem created this place.
        No. People do not have much in common with Candace. And my experience of abuse (way more than five faxes, from a fax number I could I identify and a person whose identity I knew) is not relatable. It is true that sexist conditions made this problem worse. It is absolutely true. But the sexist conditions were for me in the workplace, as they were truly for Sutton.
        AGAIN people with MS are inclined to moments of lability and disinhibition. You cannot just count this out. AGAIN this was some “performance” bullshit which the Dougs did do then, and that no one is producing communications I am pretty damn confident forwarded (although largely to men) from that time is interesting. I guess this would suggest that Sutton was not the only recipient and diminish her entitlement to a Me Too claim.
        Journalists and entertainers say things. They cop it back in a way that they certainly shouldn’t. But, if you have a little look at the sorts of groups Sutton has written about and in what sort of frame, you might begin to think that she has more than this letter. I can’t imagine the bike gangs she wrote about never communicated their impatience with her opposition to them.
        SO why just this? And why does a person like Virgina Trioli get to say on Twitter “Wow. A woman’s best weapon against vile harassment? A filing cabinet. More power to you, Candace.” without being questioned?
        This gets to the misapprehension. Not a woman journalist’s best defence, but a woman.
        This is the language of the privileged who have come to believe, and convince others, that “vile harassment” is written down. And only happens to profesh ladies.
        Can you not see this whole thing is class blind and power mad?
        I will listen to your tutting when Me Too actually engages with changing conditions for the majority, and not just elites masquerading as every woman.
        Anyhow. I would really like a fresh perspective on this, Alice. You are bright and I would like you to consider my comments and think more. No one else is.
        Think about how things change on a larger scale and a public one. Think about the damage this is doing to the real will for change in the workplace. By all those abused. In all ways.

  25. I am not trashing. I am reporting on a phenomenon that is almost exclusively about big name victims and/or big name assailants.
    And I am not willing to accept your proposal that “it’s all a continuum”. And I am not content, as you are, to believe that power trickles down.
    It doesn’t.
    And, you go with your victim blaming, sweetheart.
    The trouble with unions is that people don’t join them?
    The trouble with unions is that they give no reason for people to join them because they turn systematic abuse into the same neoliberal era rot you offer, which is, “It’s all a continuum”.
    If you cannot see that the right to stable employment if upheld can change lives very significantly, well. I guess you didn’t watch the US election. I guess you never saw a Hitler documentary and have never considered, as many of our current neliberal batch of union rubbon wearers have not, that harsh and insecure economic conditions tend to create a response.
    No. You believe that elite lawyers and star journalists who choose to write about their own industry have the answer. And, hey. Call me a misogynist. And put everything down to individuals problems, as these shit unions you like to think of as true unions do.
    How you get to change behaviour through shaming people as a policy tool is beyond me?
    How you can call this a worker’s movement when it is led by people with no fucking interest in workers is beyond me. How you can say that the work of women, which is more often casualised or temporary or those other categories Bornstein cannot represent in an article on legal rights at work (not his fault, just reality) is more connected to abuse at home than it is to abuse of labour is insane.
    Get a clue. Stop reading your cultural studies brochures from the AWU or whoever it is and remember that workers have lost a huge chunk of their rights.
    Or, you know. Say I am a meanie and that “bullying” is never acceptable, even though it is inevitable in my trade (fuckers even call me a misogynist without reason, using the rationale that I deserve it because I am not the right kind of lady) and keep on believing you can “educate” people to be better rather than make true changes to the lives of workers which insist we all get protection.
    Weird fuckers who say mean things will always be an occasional fact of life. The point is to find protection.
    With this “bullying” line. FFS. With this anti-feminist feminism that just says it’s all about changing people’s individual behaviour one at a time by either (a) writing about it in nice newspapers or (b) shaming bitches like me.
    Why get so angry? You have all your mainstream feminism and all your anodyne unions who no longer care for workers. You neoliberals won. Enjoy. Leave me out of it. You who are so resistant to a challenge and who continue to love technocrats, respectable women and truly legitimate journalists in nice suits have your world.
    I want to live in another. Leave me to think with people who are willing to engage. You go have a wank to Piketty.

    1. It amazes me that people remember the white stars at the Golden Globes but seem to have forgotten the black and Hispanic, and male and female actors there also supporting Me Too and the fact that the movement has spread to many other industries and countries. This movement that addresses such a serious and pervasive problem, not just for women but also for men and children, would never have happened without the stars who brought it to the world’s attention,

      There is a great need for all women to speak out, to change the toxic culture of sexual abuse at work just as has already happened with paedophilia in churches, sexual predation in the military and abuse in the home. It is a problem that thrives under patriarchy and capitalism, or any system that gives power to some over others. 

Millions of workers, male and female around the world are fighting for a workplace free from sexual harassment, bullying and rape and all its concurrent effects including: depression, drugs, suicide, damage to relationships and families, sexual diseases including HIV and HPV and related cancers of the throat, mouth, anus and vagina, abortion, and more.

      The capitalist power imbalance in the workplace provides enormous opportunities for some men to sexually harass, bully and rape workers, male and female, and in some industries such as the Hollywood film industry, children too. Everyone knew it existed and no-one did anything about it in America until now.

      Falsely demonising Me Too to proselytize a personal anti-feminist agenda and reducing a mass workers’ movement to identity politics is deliberately divisive. Me Too does NOT consider all men fair game. Rather, it is about the power imbalance of a man or woman in authority who uses that power to sexually bully employees.

      Denying victim’s rights to free speech, whistleblowing and a safe workplace is denying human rights. Forming bonds of trust and respect with workers in all industries, all nations, all races and all sexes by demonstrating our support for their causes can not happen when gender politics is used to demonise this movement.

      At the moment, no matter how much it needs it, a socialist revolution is impossible in America. Are we going to sit on our hands as each social issue rises to the public’s consciousness and conscience? Or are we going to join them and show them what collective action can achieve as it did for civil rights and the vote.

      I don’t debate these issues out of malice or bourgeois morals but because I see a great injustice, both because the abusers have got away with it for so long and because the victims were attacked as soon as they refused to remain silent any longer. If Me Too hadn’t whistle-blown this terrible injustice in America’s workplaces, nothing would have changed. Individual complainants would have been ignored, threatened, paid off or sacked. Unity is strength.

      Doesn’t the ugly contempt of wealthy powerful men for their workers and their sexual abuse of them inspire your socialist rage?

      1. I now accept that you, an honourable feminist, see that instruction from the powerful will always achieve the best results.
        You go with corporate media. I’ll stay over here.
        Feel good about this. Most liberal progressives agree with you. Enjoy The Guardian. And those $100 per head International Women’s Day lunches that will affirm your belief: corporate media has, at last, come up with the solution. Only the powerful can save us all.
        Also, please go away.

  26. Helen,
    Don’t continue to do this in the name of your new-found Marxism. This is not the first time that people have counter-posed the socialist revolution to the independent struggles of the oppressed, be they struggles for women’s rights (elitist!),national liberation (bourgeois led!), land rights (private property!), same-sex marriage (patriarchal institution!) or war (middle-class pacifism!). Of course, this is not as serious as when there is a deep social crisis, and the masses are moving in the direction of taking power, to have the capitalists and their labour flunkies undermine them by reforms now, with repression later. Why are you obsessively targeting Me Too at a time when the horrific casualties of domestic violence are being revealed as far, far higher than that of terrorism which Dutton and Co are beating up. You finally recognised that the plebiscite was simply for marriage equality and not a vote for an oppressive institution (which it is). Do the same here and incorporate your all-powerful point about the connection between social liberation and women’s liberation into it, not opposed to it. Support bourgeois women as women but not as exploiting capitalists.

  27. Quite a gutsy article, to place workplace abuse in a larger context that requires that leverage this historical moment to work together rather than to further polarise. It is quite brave for you to point out that MeToo primarily increases the attention on, and the power of, Me! I notice that many complainants only speak of themselves and their peers in their own company or industry. In some ways, MeToo is playing the same hierarchical workplace power game as the abusers, with their only goal to reverse who is above and who is below.
    In contrast, the 60s civil rights movement was successful in channeling many instances of life-threatening racial violence into a long-term strategy of changing the laws which permitted it to freely happen so often. As you point out, laws for workplace dignity and security is the long-term strategy. But old habits die hard. For many people, shifting focus away from oneself toward the larger context, requires that one subsume one’s own importance in favour of the greater good. We seem to have difficulty articulating a vision of a secure, equitable workplace, and have perhaps even lost the complex interpersonal skills needed to sustain long-term relationships with diverse co-workers who are themselves continually learning and changing.
    Again, examples abound in the civil rights literature even today of people who see the potential for change in their enemies, that even their enemies cannot. I congratulate you for daring to name the opportunity for more meaningful change at this moment.

  28. Thanks, Helen – not an angle left unanswered! Oh, and by the way, for some reason there has not been a single article of yours which I have read with which I have disagreed! Your compassion and concern for all the others – that is what most impresses – and the sniping of insensitive/stone-hearted right-wingers – shows what a mess our society is – the call of the selfish individualism versus the collective and the community of unionism! Please do not give up – even when in the depths – we all need you. And if you need us – just say so…

  29. Helen, you’ve said it all so well. On a personal note, I did not march down King William St,in the late ’60s, shaking my fist at “whatever” to have girls too frightened to yell out at the time and too polite to knee the groper in the balls.

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