09 Nov Prime Ministers, Ponytails & Punching Down
First published in the Press 6.5.15
There’s a drive I take when I can to clear my head. You probably know a road like it. Back roads through farmland, in parts narrow and winding but mostly wide open spaces. Autumn is the best time to travel Route 27 from Auckland toward Taupo – not the most direct way but the one I choose when the opportunity presents itself.
This isn’t where I grew up, but it feels like home. Periodically I put the windows down to let in the rural smells and slow down a bit to look a cow in the eye. You get the sense that the road is passing through the land, rather than that the land has been placed beside a highway. I like it when the traveller, the one moving through it, is not the most important thing.
I took Lucinda Williams for musical company. On a different trip with my daughter a few weeks ago, she’d been disparaging about Lucinda’s melancholic voice. I’d explained I found it so heartbreaking that in the end it was uplifting. She looked unconvinced. My 17 month old granddaughter, however, waved her hands and waggled her feet cheerfully in time with Lucinda’s languid Southern drawl. We’re going to get on.
This trip was a solo one with work at the end of it. Clear skies, empty roads, time to think. I caught myself grinning at the autumn lushness of it all, and laughed out loud at one point when I poked my nose out to sniff the air and a ute passed the other way with a dog doing the same thing. It was nice.
Except that I took Mike Hosking with me. Not the actual one, of course, the TV one and only in my head. Not a regular viewer, I’d seen the primetime clip where he’d described a young hospitality worker as “selfish” for speaking out about her personal experience of harassment.
I’d been shocked by it – more than I’d expected to be. Not at the calling out – that’s what commentators do – but at the ‘punching down’. We’re used to the Fourth Estate ‘punching up’ on behalf of the Little Guy in a dispute rather than being a voice for one of the bigger players who could just as well hire a PR expert or contact a gossip columnist or whatever the hell really happened. It was like watching Fair Go advocate on behalf of plumbers against someone who failed to leave her underwear drawer open to be rifled through. The status was all wrong.
On the return trip, I managed to push Hosking out of my head by focusing on Amanda Bailey. I wonder what her life is like now at work, at home, in her neighbourhood. And how weird it would be to be singled out as a bad girl by a powerful middle-aged man with his own TV show. A couple of Lucinda’s tracks could have been about Amanda. It’s an old story – being made to feel small, fighting back, being crushed. I’m glad there’s music that gives a voice to it. Someone has to.
– Michele A’Court