Recently, actor Kristin Davis made an appearance on morning news/current affairs show, Sunrise. She was there to talk about the work of the UNHCR with female refugees, specifically about working to prevent gender-based violence and sexual assault.

After a brief chat, hosts David Koch and Samantha Armytage propelled her into a skit inspired by her work portraying Charlotte in Sex and the City- a show which ended in 12 years ago. Davis appeared very uncomfortable and has since made it known that she wasn’t thrilled with the Sunrise crew and Samantha Armytage was subsequently replaced as host on a UNHCR luncheon.charlotte satc sunrise

Given the number of refugees in the world right now and their dire need for assistance, it was a poor choice to cut short valuable discussion on that issue with a tacky, uncomfortable skit. The outraged response is reasonably justified and I wasn’t going to write on it because far better minds than mine have already eloquently outlined the issues. What did catch my eye, however, was a piece written by Samantha Armytage. In it, she hits back at a piece written by journalist Virginia Haussegger.

Haussegger’s piece is a fairly harsh criticism that does appear to focus on Armytage, as if she were solely responsible for the cringe-worthy skit and seeming disregard for the reason Kristin Davis was on Sunrise. Was it really all down to Armytage? Probably not. I imagine there was a producer involved somewhere, at least, plus the rest of the cast. Hussegger’s headline says that the “Bimbos of breakfast television disgraced themselves and feminism” and calls the female cast ditzy, daft, mindless and more. The skit was tacky but I think calling it a disgrace to feminism is a bit much, purely because Sunrise is hardly known for it’s feminist advocacy. The male lead, Kochie, surrounded by often giggling women, has always been their schtick. Even when they disagree with Koch, the women on the show generally do so mildly, while still following his lead. Koch was in the news a while back when it was revealed he was paid around $300k per year MORE than former co-host, Mel Doyle. I haven’t seen anything to indicate Sunrise are bridging their gender pay gap since then. Up until just recently, they also had a segment called Kochie’s Angels- a condescending title for a session where he would discuss current affairs and opinions with 3 female panelists- “angels”. Sunrise has never been, in my view, a particularly feminist program!

In her piece, Armytage accuses Haussegger of taking up valuable column space to criticise her, which could have been better used to discuss refugees.

sunrise

However, Haussegger actually did discuss refugee issues and the work of Kristin Davis and the UNHCR in her article; Armytage’s response did not. Instead, Samantha Armytage only addressed Haussegger’s criticisms, labelling them vile and vitriolic. I can see why- being labelled a dizty bimbo can’t be a nice feeling. However, she has also blamed feminists for being “unkind”.

Haussegger’s fiery piece clearly shows how infuriating she found Sunrise’s treatment of Kristin Davis and it was obvious that she was disappointed in the female contingent of the show for fan-girling and giggling when they had an opportunity to speak to a high-profile humanitarian. They could have used Sunrise’s wide platform for something important; the current refugee crisis. Her frustration was most evident when she said that, on television,  “there is a screaming lack of representation of women’s knowledge, wisdom and expertise.”  

I wholeheartedly agree with her words asking Armytage and Co. to consider what privilege and power they have as women on television and how it was made possible for them to be there because, yes, feminism did that. 

Armytage’s piece shows she didn’t quite get it, with questions like: “Why is it that some of those who shout the loudest about feminism are the most unkind to other women?” She didn’t actually address any of Haussegger’s points, instead resting on the premise that she should not, as a woman, be attacked by other women in the name of feminism. She labels Haussegger’s criticism as bullying.

First up, criticising someone for their actions, even calling them names, isn’t nice- but it isn’t necessarily bullying either. We overuse that word; if we keep it up no one will remember what it actually means. Using it every time someone has a critical opinion takes away it’s power and dilutes the meaning further. Bullying is a form of sustained, repeated harassment. Not a once-off unfavourable reaction to something you’ve done or said.

Secondly, feminism is not about being kind or unkind to other women- it is the fight for all women to have the same rights and opportunities that men already have. There’s no set dogma to feminism other than that basic tenet- equality. As Armytage observed, it can mean different things to different people, centred on that core value. Haussegger’s  frustration and disappointment were clear and well articulated but for me this would have been just as evident without using insults and arguably sexist terms like “bimbo”. Armytage says that feminism, to her, is about supporting and empowering other women. And I agree with that. But does that mean other women are above criticism? I don’t think so. Sunrise’s antics (because I do not believe Samantha Armytage is solely responsible here) meant that Kristin Davis’ message was overshadowed by a silly skit.

Doesn’t it just make you want to throw a few dollars to the UNHCR for all the excellent work they do?

 

#FYBF @ With Some Grace.

 

 

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  • LydiaCLee

    I’d missed the details of this because I don’t watch Sunrise and as you point out, SITC was 12 years ago and we’ve all moved on….but I am astounded Davis was here for UNHCR. That didn’t make any of the headline/soundbites I saw on it. It’s making sense now why she thought it was imbecilic. And the dumbing down of the nation continues….

    • LydiaCLee

      How on earth do you segway from talking about “working to prevent gender-based violence and sexual assault.” with a comedy skit?? I guess there was a “Let’s lighten the mood..”? and I’m guessing it came across as “This is boring. We’re not listening”

      • Yes, she’s been doing humanitarian work for some time- check her twitter feed out! And yes- refugees to slap-dash comedy. Nope.

  • I disagree with some of what you’ve said here. Does someone need to be bashed or talked down to twice before it’s called bullying? I don’t think so. Bullying happens in one moment. It’s when someone uses superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone). Once, twice, three times, it’s still bullying. Haussegger was harsh on Sam. Love her or hate her, the skit was bad taste, but to then have another woman degrade her profile and mistake which had already received wide criticism – makes the writer make the same mistake as Sam. You shared some points that I didn’t realise about the pay gap with the presenters. It proves that we have a long way to go for women to have equal pay. When will feminists realise they shoot themselves in the foot when they hate on each other? To find the positivity of this, the whole debacle has brought Kristin into the public light and hopefully viewers and readers have been motivated to find out exactly what Kristin was here to promote.

    • Basically yes- the definition of bullying differs from once off matters because it’s on ongoing issue- this isn’t my personal definition, it’s the accepted one (http://bullyingnoway.gov.au/teachers/facts/definition.html)
      I think Haussegger was overly aggressive and definitely could have critiqued constructively, for sure. I don’t think this is simply a lesson for feminists- it’s a lesson for everyone. Feminism doesn’t endorse name calling, after all! 🙂

  • TeganMC

    The segment was an absolute embarrassment. This isn’t Armytage’s first stuff up of this magnitude either. I don’t think she was solely to blame for this of course, but channel 7 seems hell bent on making it’s female presenters nothing more than giggling embarrassments.

    I also hate the idea thrown around by some people that being a feminist means that women must agree on everything all of the time. It’s perfectly ok to call someone out on their actions, regardless of their sex. While I don’t agree with name calling in an article (I think it detracts from the argument) I don’t think it amounts to bullying. Armytage had an opportunity to clear the air but instead chose to write a whole article about how mean the other writer was.

    • I agree- the name calling was probably pure frustration- but that’s why we edit. Her point could have been made without it but, you know, clickbait…

  • I don’t watch Sunrise so missed it all.
    As always I love reading your blog because I get to hear about all this stuff …
    Re bullying … I agree it is losing its meaning because of overuse.

  • The whole thing was just an embarrassment – the skit itself, and then both Virginia and Sam’s responses. I thought Virginia really came across as bitter and twisted – “I’m cleverer than her, I’m a serious journalist, why does she have such a profile?”
    And then Sam commented that she even had to Google who Virginia was…sticking the knife in a bit more. Just bitchy, high school stuff played out in the public sphere. With the Sunrise producers sitting back rubbing there hands with glee at all the free publicity.

    • Full agreement from me for this comment. Perfect.

    • Yes it got very mean girls didn’t it? Not cool!

    • I never saw the video and have only learnt about this situation by reading articles and comments and from what I can gather, yes, it seems like it’s all been taken a little too far in terms of women attacking eachother. Sort of sick and tired of seeing women everywhere in media pulling eachother down. On the other hand, I think it was in real poor taste regarding the skit.

    • It got very high school there, it really did- such a shame.

  • I don’t watch Sunrise so I missed this too,
    I do agree that pay needs to be equal for women and men
    And great organisations need help to survive though.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    It was an embarrassment and a major stuff up. I cringed watching it and felt everything Kristen was there to do was being belittled. I am a feminist but that doesnt mean I cannot and will not have a go a women just because they are women.

  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    I didn’t catch the skit but i did catch the fallout. I never watch Sunrise or Today because I never get anything of value from them. This situation just confirms that belief. Hopefully UNHCR may be able to leverage some of this discussion and finally put refugee issues front and centre.

  • Very true- excellent point!

  • I think a few people have questioned why Michael Pell, producer of the show and (apparent) conceiver of that segment hasn’t been the one raked over the coals for this one …

    As always with Sunrise, (a show of which I used to be a huge fan, but not so much any more), they have taken the ‘we don’t understand why everyone is persecuting us angle’ instead of the ‘we unintentionally offended Kristin and for that we are really sorry’ angle.

    The next day when Kochie and Sam ‘apologised’ Kochie said (actual words) “Kristen was ‘apparently’ offended by the segment” before going on to pointedly raise his eyebrows about the fact the the UNHCR asked Sam not to chair their lunch scheduled for that day as originally planned.

    No Kochie. Kristin wasn’t apparently offended. She WAS offended. And the appropriate response in that case is to say ‘We are deeply sorry we offended you and you have our unconditional apology.’ The end.

    • YES. The word ‘if’ has no place in an apology.

    • Absolutely agree, Kelly! What a shitty excuse for an apology it was.

  • Sunrise is cringe worthy TV. They are forever stuffing up and this was a classic case. I’m sorry Kirsten had such an uncomfortable experience in Australia!

  • I didn’t see the actual skit either, but also saw the fallout and read both articles. On a show like Sunrise it is clear the the producers and writers would have been behind the skit, but one would assume the presenters would have some say in whether they felt comfortable doing it. It certainly would have been disrespectful to any celebrity to just spring it on them. There are usually a lot of terms and conditions to agree to before a celeb appears on a show and it was probably clear that Kristin was just there to talk about her humanitarian work and any mention to SATC would be brief. The stoush between Sam and Virginia is interesting. As an aside Virginia has since come out and said that she once interviewed Sam for a presenting job, which Sam was unsuccessful in obtaining, although she was a strong contender. There is obviously some bad blood between them. I would have thought that Sam would have remembered going for a presenting job and an unusual surname of an interviewer would ring a bell – maybe not. Maybe it comes down to women taking things more personally than men? I did think it was unfair to blame the whole thing on Sam. Lots of factors seem to be at play here.

    • Definitely. There’s no way it all came down to Sam.

  • I didn’t see it live, but I have since watched the segment. I don’t think the skit in and of itself is the big problem. It’s how they rushed through the chat about refugees, not even listening to her answers, clearly gagging to get to the SATC stuff. It’s the conversation on the couch afterwards, and playing the clips and asking the quiz questions. I would have been sitting there, watching her reaction to those things, thinking, “She’s not enjoying this. We should stop this now, and there’s NO WAY we’re going ahead with the skit.”
    It was offensive, not because of the bad acting or any other reason, but because her primary reason for being there was pretty much dismissed.
    Was it Sam? Was it the producers? I don’t know. But NO-ONE at Sunrise has stepped up to own it and apologise properly, so zero respect from me.
    Also, Sam responded to the first paragraph of Virginia’s article. It’s as if she didn’t even read the rest and realise there were valid points that should probably be addressed. Interesting choice for a journalist?

    • Yes to all this. I watched the replay- not live- as well and cringed the whole way through.

  • I haven’t watched it because I value my time but have read a bit of my commentary. Sunrise isn’t my bag. I don’t find the people entertaining and it baffles me how Kochie is so revered. Honestly, I am not surprised that any of it happened, the event and the response.

  • Firstly, ugh, Sunrise… actually no, that pretty much says it all for me.

  • A huge lack of tact for sure! I don’t watch sunrise but I heard all about it at work. Hopefully the publicity from this can be turned around and used to support Kristins work with UNHCR.

  • This whole ordeal is just so frustrating. And knowing a little abiut what goes on behind the scenes in the tv industry, I think it’s ridiculous that Sam has taken the brunt of it all. Having said that a simple apology should have been broadcast by sunrise. Calling someone a bimbo and all those other names in print should never be tolerated. If sam feels it’s bullying then it’s bullying in my book.

    • I should add, the bullying definition isn’t my personal definition but the one used in schools. The name calling really took away from the message though.

  • YES! So much yes for what you said here! I also listened to Samantha A being interviewed by Mia Friedman on her podcast ‘just to hear what she had to say’. I agree it was not wholly up to her..the show’s makers must take responsibility. I actually cringe now if commercial morning tv is shown as a highlight somewhere. Prefer ABCTV breakfast! Denyse

    • Yes, ABC is giving the rest a really run for their money!

  • I never watch Sunrise and this is a perfect example why. It’s just embarrassing and an insult to Kristin and the work that the UNHCR do.

  • SATC ended twelve years ago?! How is this possible? (I don’t watch sunrise, not even sure what it is….!)

    • I know right? Sunrise is a morning news/current affairs show.

  • Thanks for joining in the Lovin’ Life Linky over at my place Amy. Definitely made me smile!