Features Australia

Christmas notes

16 December 2017

9:00 AM

16 December 2017

9:00 AM

Public shaming

I know Christmas is a time for families and togetherness but frankly, I’m concerned that flicking the switch to festive will mean a dangerous lapse in the year’s most widely embraced activity. I’m not referring to selfies or even to ‘contouring’ or ‘strobing’ to achieve selfie-readiness. I fear, in fact, that we may lose the plot when it comes to condemnation.

Public shaming and its consequence, public contrition, have overflowed like a blocked convenience during 2017. An annus horribilis you might think, considering the pain of so much humiliation and prostration. But truth be known, the new avengers luxuriate in the brown soup. There is nothing more worthy than flaying the boor du jour on ‘social’.

Speaking of which, is Kevin Spacey dead yet?

At the apogee of last month’s lynching, the 56-year-old Spacey was publicly shackled to his 26-year old self. The 2017 version pronounced himself ‘beyond horrified’ at his earlier self’s alleged licentious behaviour. After one allegation prompted an inundation of accusations, Spacey sought treatment for something, and was disappeared from a film he could have sworn he’d played in. It hardly matters now since he’s probably been swept out to sea, or is cracking coconuts on Elba. Next Christmas we could be asking: Was there ever a man called Kevin Spacey?


Harvey Weinstein started the year as a rich guy with a knack for producing successful  films, and cultivating Bill and Hillary whose world view he apparently shared. It all turned out rather badly (except for the Clintons who are still, as they say, the richer for having known him). The whole affair came as a terrible shock to the rest of us since the idea of casting couches and trading parts of one’s body for better parts on screen was previously unknown. On the upside, if Weinstein is guilty of some of the things he is supposed to have done, he will have the opportunity to research a feature film on prison life first hand, release date, pending.

The glee with which previously mute starlets took to the humiliation games reminded me of those people who lie in a coma for years, stubbornly mute, eyes shut tight — dead, to all intents and purposes, for all but the loved ones hanging on for a twitch or fluttering eyelid. There were Hollywood sirens who had not spoken for decades but who rose from their beds to give voice to condemnation of Weinstein. ‘We all make mistakes. I’ll get a second chance, I hope’, Weinstein said, in a significant vote of confidence in the Judaeo-Christian ethic of forgiveness — especially as he was speaking to a media posse. In your dreams, Harvey. The undead have risen.

Before we get too far into this particular Christmas article, I wish to make it clear that I’m as apologetic as the next woman or man for what is undoubtedly my own personal truckload of wrong-doing. One has learned a thing or two in one’s many years on earth. What may have passed in the past will not stand in the present. Indeed, behold the order in which I placed the sexes a couple of sentences back. Had I reversed them, or, God forbid, omitted the first, I might have been named and shamed for cocking a snoot at womankind, and falling into the old reflexive gender biases. Cocked snoots at any right-minded cohort whatsoever are doubleplus verboten these days.

I therefore respectfully add that if contrition regarding anything at all I have ever said or done were to become necessary, I am more than prepared to apologise as seeming guilty probably means I am. Truth be known, I’m already a little uneasy about the above allusion to a part of the male anatomy (not the snoot, we all have those).

The realisation has dawned—and let this be a lesson to me—that in allowing my hands to get away from me (typing), I may have exposed myself to accusations of prejudice and perhaps even harassment by omission. In failing to mention a series of letters, now etched in our culture as indelibly as SPQR in the stony streets of ancient Rome, I have probably committed an offence against some or all of the capitals involved. For this, I am truly sorry, whether the offence is taken by L or G,  or even Q or I, or any other hitherto disenfranchised alphabetical unit. I now realise, perhaps too late for some, that gender is in no way the facile binary arrangement of yore.

At this juncture I must give a shout out to the first lass in a short series, who embraced the cleansing zeitgeist with such alacrity as to finger (excuse me) 93-year-old George H. W. Bush. At great risk to herself, several years after the fact, she was moved to announce that the wheelchair-bound and reportedly senile, former president wrapped his arm around the nearest thing to him—her posterior—as a group posed for pictures with the 41st President of the United States. Speaking truth to power — attagirl!

Also, I have a confession, which I realise may disturb some readers. I was recently contacted by a very pleasant reporter who offered me the opportunity to relate my experiences with a hitherto unexposed sexual predator who, apparently, serially forced himself on women a couple of decades ago. With a surprising degree of confidence, the friendly reporter suggested the alleged roll call of victims included me. It was with a sadness reminiscent of former Greens senator Larissa Waters’ upon discovering her Canadian-ness, that I was forced to report the man had never touched me. Or if he did, I’d missed it. Nor had I been aware of any such claims about him until the reporter’s call. Disappointment all round. A case, I’m afraid, of #NotMeToo.

My own inadequate testimony notwithstanding, it would be a mistake, dear friends, to compromise on vigilance this festive season. By all means, love and share, but beware of old men bearing gifts.

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