23 Apr 2015

Council of Women write 'Dear John' letter

8:57 am on 23 April 2015

The National Council of Women is disappointed that the Prime Minister is downplaying his repeated pulling of an Auckland waitress' hair as just ''horsing around''.

280114. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. PM John Key at Parliament

Prime Minister John Key - pictured at Parliament (file photo) Photo: RNZ

John Key apologised to the woman and gave her bottles of wine, after she made it clear she was not happy with what he was doing.

The Prime Minister visits the cafe where the woman works regularly, and she wrote in a blogpost that his unwanted hair-pulling has been going on for months.

The National Council of Women sent an open letter to John Key yesterday saying it was disappointed by his actions, but glad he had apologised to the woman.

But it was not happy that he said sorry and then minimised what he did.

He told a TV One reporter: "Looks it's a cafe I go to regularly, I've been going there for years, we have a fun relationship, there's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and you know, look, that's really all there is to it."

National Council of Women chief executive Sue McCabe said it was 'not on' to use an apology to make the victim come off as uptight and oversensitive.

"A common reaction when these types of things are outed is for someone to say they are 'sorry... but', and after the 'but' always comes some sort of downplaying of the incident," she said.

"We see this all the time. It's often that it was well-intentioned. The onus is put on the victim - it was funny, can't you take a joke, that type of thing."

In its open letter, the Council of Women also said it was "never okay to touch someone without their permission".

But James Bagnall, a spokesperson for the men's rights group MENZ, said there were situations like comforting an upset person, for example, that would make that unworkable.

"Well, people do it all the time, so we're going to have a very large prison population if that's going to be made a criminal offence for touching somebody."

He said the Council of Women needed to give clearer instructions on how both men and women should conduct themselves and not just generalisations.

The council said that was a discussion that needed to be had but did not give any clear advice.

It said it wanted the Prime Minister to put the situation right by doing more to reduce sexism in New Zealand.

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