When Michael Fallon put his hand on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee, she reportedly lifted it off and told him that if he did it again she’d punch him in the face. In so doing she lived true to the sprightly and forthright nature we know her so well for. But that moment is an outlier in a world where power and party loyalties are at play.
All sexual harassment is ultimately about power and the use of it. Wherever women are subordinate to men in the workplace, they’ll be at risk of it. In Hartley-Brewer’s case, the would-be cabinet minister had met his match — she wasn’t going to lose her job if she’d smacked him one.
An equally forthright journalist, Jane Merrick, simply did not feel the same when he made a lunge for her, aged 29. A woman on the factory floor telling her boss to “do one” after he’s groped her would also know that feeling all too well.