What pollies can learn from The Bachelor

Article by Karen Brooks /
The Courier Mail /
September 10, 2018  /
Click here to view original /

HERE’S a question I thought I’d never ask: what can former rugby player, Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins, the current Bachelor, teach Prime Minister Scott Morrison and parliamentarians about bullying?

If what happened on TV screens last week is anything to go by, a great deal.

For a few weeks now, bullying has been on the national agenda. Ever since the infamous leadership spill which saw Scott Morrison crowned PM, accusations of bullying, intimidation and bad behaviour have been levelled.

Well-known female politicians such as Liberal MP Julia Banks — who’s resigning over this — Julie Bishop and Lucy Gichuhi — all with years of experience between them, have come forward to claim they were bullied and/or bore witness to aggressive, menacing and inappropriate comportment deployed in an effort to sway minds.

Julie Bishop went so far as to describe the conduct “appalling”.

Pretty strong words and gestures from a group of women who are being repeatedly told by various commentators and colleagues to “toughen up”.

Instead of being believed or at least validated, these female politicians have been subjected to a range of frankly pathetic, patronising and inappropriate responses. As Lauren Rosewarne writing for abc.net.au writes, these rationalise and normalise the sexist mentality that leads to women’s (and men’s) abuse in the workplace.

Every time these women are reminded that political discussions can be “robust” (as if they — or we — didn’t already know that) or that the bullying wasn’t witnessed (the inference being it never happened), they’re condescended to and demeaned. So are the public who are watching this play out.

If it never happened, then it doesn’t need to be dealt with, does it?

Cowards.

At the least, their accusations deserve respect and serious attention.

Which leads me to discuss the Bachelor, Nick Cummins.

Fans of The Bachelor will know that from day one, there’s been a trio of “mean girls” — Cat Henesey-Smith, Romy Poulier and Alisha Aitken-Radburn — operating in the mansion. Making snide comments, whispering derogatory things about other competitors to Cummins and his family, undermining others’ self-confidence, as well as gaslighting, to describe their conduct as bitchy is generous.

They even victim-shame, humiliate, name-call, and try and project their own manner onto those they’re bullying. For example, when contestant, Tennille, tries to stop Romy from putting words in her mouth, Romy cries, “Wow! You’re so aggressive!”

Pot. Kettle.

Defending their behaviour as “honest” (no, it’s just malicious) and “strong”, few are buying it.

Manipulative, derisive, emboldened by each other, these women were appalling bullies who can’t admit any wrongdoing. And let’s not forget the squirm-worthy way Romy forced kisses on Cummins and crawled into his tent on a sleepover.

Yet again, editing is being held responsible.

Sensing something was rotten in the State of Honey, a “misalignment of values”, as host Osher Gunsberg later described it, Cummins confronted it. Giving one of the victims (Tenille) permission to “tell (him) who was being mean”, he listened.

With great civility, Cummins pulled aside the ringleader, the appropriately named Cat and, sitting her down, spoke kindly but bluntly about what he would and wouldn’t tolerate from those who were invited to compete for his heart.

Unlike our PM or those making political commentary about the spill and bullying, Cummins didn’t need to see the behaviour. As he admitted, he intuited it because of the effect it was having on the culture of the mansion. Nor did he label the victims “weak” or tell them to “toughen up”. Instead, he faced the bully.

Attempting to deny Cummins’ accusations, Cat cried, seeming to forget she’d already plotted with her accomplices earlier to use tears to influence should the need arise.

Cummins listened to her justifications patiently, then gently shut her down and without further ado escorted her from the house. He explained, “Cat can say whatever she wants, but all the drama seems to revolve around her.”

Showing more leadership, Cummins also went on to remove the other two offenders.

How the dynamics of the mansion will alter remains to be seen, but to take such strong action, to actively support the victims and remove the bullies and the “pollution” their behaviour engendered, sets such a great example.

Cummins won’t tolerate bullying or its excuses in any guise.

It’s an example our politicians would do well to emulate. Listen, empathise, investigate and uncover the culprits then remove them. Don’t hide behind didn’t-see-it-so-it-didn’t-happen apathy. You’re excusing and normalising it.

Like the Honey Badger, the PM needs to show where his values and those of his parliament lie and tell the bullies, “It’s time (for the behaviour and people) to leave the House.”