TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains a reference to sexual assault.
Things got a little tense on the January 6 episode of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, when Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico suggested that fellow camper Abbie Chatfield shouldn’t walk around in her bikini.
62-year-old Dipper joked to Chatfield, “You’re not going out like that” prompting the former Bachelor contestant to question what that meant.
“You know when a father sees his daughter grow up and she’s going out to see a boyfriend or whatever and walks out with a mini skirt…,” he explained. “We’re protective…of you girls being hurt,” he said.
The AFL legend then veered into dangerous territory when he started to say “It’s like you’re…seeking attention. Asking for it…”
Questioning him, Chatfield asked: “Asking for what?”
The 25-year-old went on to point out that fellow contestant (and rumoured love interest) Ash Williams walks around shirtless without anyone batting an eye, but she is criticised when she wears a swimsuit.
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Chatfield addressed the matter again on her Instagram after the episode aired, writing, “Women are told to cover up, or risk being accused of asking for it. What “it” is may range from attention to sexual assault. We are told to alter our behaviour because men are dangerous. The notion that comments like this exist, because men are “protecting” us, is, put bluntly, f—king bullshit.”
While Dipper seemed to mean no harm, merely espousing the beliefs of his generation, it raises an interesting argument that is certainly not new, taking on more ferocity since the #MeToo movement began.
Historically, it has been women who have been told to dress and act a certain way, so as not to invite unwelcome advances from the opposite sex. We are cautioned to not leave our drinks unattended when at a bar, to avoid walking alone at night (or to keep keys in our hands as weapons when we do) and to dress demurely in the workplace so that we can be taken seriously.
In the delivery of these warnings, men are somehow exempt from responsibility, as though they simply cannot help being sexually inappropriate, sexist or even criminal because “boys will be boys” and all that jazz. Instead, it is the duty of the woman to do what she can to temper a man’s urges and, apparently, prevent her own traumatic assault.
Mercifully, the conversation has shifted in the last few years to the importance of raising good men, of teaching our sons to be respectful and to understand consent. They are being taught to never weaponise their gender or their privilege and to celebrate that women are amazing, capable, strong and, most importantly, equal.
When Dipper and other adults his age (“Boomers”, you might say) were growing up, these ideals may well have existed in some households, but they were neither widely disseminated nor largely acknowledged.
The idea was that men were the providers and protectors (who earned their five o’clock beers just by having a penis) while women were best utilised in the bedroom, kitchen or nursery. It is one that was deeply ingrained, and can therefore be tricky to shake for some. Even the most “woke” of folks from that generation might find themselves falling back on old values as they actively work to dismantle them.
It’s good to remember that we are, as a global community, experiencing a huge learning curve in the arenas of women’s and LGBTQ rights, as well as social justice and climate change, so having the patience to explain the virtues of the new guard to members of the old one will take time and patience — and may not always be successful.
For Dipper and Abbie, their dispute was settled in the old fashioned way — by one teaching the WAP dance to the other and as I watched the duo twerk and grind, two thoughts occurred to me.
One, how ironic that it was WAP, which has itself evoked a slew of sexist double standards, that brought these two together. And two, Dipper picked it up way quicker than I did.