Tag Archives: Misogyny

Why Julia Gillard is my sister

3 Jul

I’m not the type of essentialist gender feminist who believes every woman is my sister simply because we share biological characteristics, unlike leading public figure Anne Summers, who in this article  expresses outrage against certain female MPs who did not resign “in solidarity” with Ms Gillard when she lost the ALP leadership to Kevin Rudd last week.

I don’t usually follow the line that a high achieving woman is making things better for all of those who share her sex. That to me is a romantic idea that has little basis in reality, indeed there are women among us considerably worse off after Ms Gillard’s prime ministership, for example the sole parents shifted to Newstart, and women seeking asylum.

Summers’ test of faith I find entirely self-defeating. What would it serve Australian society if every time a woman in public office was badly treated, her female colleagues resigned? In a nano second, there would be none of us left anywhere. It’s the sort of demand a comfortable middle class feminist can make from her armchair without pausing to consider the ramifications, for individuals and the greater good of our society.

That being said, these last few days I’ve noticed a sense of relief in myself and people around me. What is this about? The cessation of sexist abuse against Ms Gillard, that’s what it’s about.

It’s only since Ms Gillard left the leadership that it’s become painfully clear just how bad and how constant the gender-based abuse was. It’s like the relief you feel when you stop hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, if you are given to that form of self-abuse.  We no longer have to witness the daily public denigration of a woman, because she is a woman. We no longer have to witness the gender war in all its frightening darkness, as fought between Ms Gillard and the sexists from all walks of life, whose first complaint against the Prime Minister was that she is female, and who viewed every other dissatisfaction through that gender prism.

We have never seen such a terrifying display of anti woman feeling in our politics, because we have never had a female leader. We couldn’t see how bad it was until it stopped. We couldn’t see how the sexist abuse distracted from the most important  task of keeping our society functioning, which Ms Gillard’s government achieved better than almost any other Western government.

There is a great deal on which I vehemently disagreed with Ms Gillard. I did not personally take to her, though as Deputy PM I thought she would one day be an excellent leader. That day came too soon, and under fraught circumstances that could not have been worse for our first female PM. That the ALP chose to depose then leader Kevin Rudd in his first term was a questionable decision. That they should seize the opportunity to install the country’s first female leader, who as well as everything else was forced to become the blood-soaked symbol of the fallen man’s “knifing” beggars belief. One can only assume that as usual, the blokes brought a woman in to clean up their mess.

Though I am wary of joining anything, let alone a sisterhood (you will not find a woman less interested in or less capable of belonging than me) every time Ms Gillard was abused because of her sex, I was also abused. The unrelenting sexist and misogynist commentary directed towards her was directed at all women, though the perpetrators would no doubt strenuously deny that. It cannot be any other way, anymore than racism can only be aimed at one individual, leaving everyone else untouched.

We should be outraged at the contempt and insult daily enacted towards Ms Gillard. At any moment it can be and is turned against any woman who falls foul of those men and  women who are so conflicted in their attitudes towards us they can only fear and hate, solely because of our sex. One of Ms Gillard’s achievements, though it is not one any sane person could have anticipated or desired, is that she has shown us, through her personal endurance, the degree to which hatred of women still flourishes in Australian society and the awful toll it takes on that society.

In sexism and misogyny, Ms Gillard is my sister.

Men who hate women are everybody’s problem.

13 Jun

It’s no surprise that there dwell among us packs of males, whose feelings about women are so conflicted that while outwardly conducting apparently reasonable relationships with females close to them, they display the most base hostility to women they perceive as different, and in some way dangerous.

It also comes as no surprise that this hostility is expressed in sexual terms. Our breasts and our genitals serve as a focus for the fear and hatred felt towards us by some men, all of whom have mothers, some of whom have wives and female lovers, many of whom have daughters and sisters. Our body shapes and our faces are also the focus for this hatred, and our physical characteristics are almost always the first object of complaint when such a man feels himself provoked by something we have or have not done.

What ought to really terrify us, apart from the frequently repressed fear of going about our daily lives amongst these marauding packs, fear we must repress or we’ll never get out of our front doors, is that some of them will likely soon form the government of this country.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has served as a lightening rod for woman hatred , but anyone who thinks it’s only about her needs to think again. Any one of us who crosses any one of those men will be treated in exactly the same way, because that is what they do. They have no idea how to do anything else, and they don’t care to find out.

These men, and the women who support them, will have control over an array of legislation that directly affects women in terms of our reproductive health, and child care, for example. If the ALP defeat is as catastrophic as is forecast, there will be little in place to curb their enthusiasm for controlling our lives. We must not have men who hate us and the women who support them, wielding such power over us. Read this piece, by Lenore Taylor, on the possibilities.

This is Tony Abbott’s statement on abortion

If the last few days of ugliness have shown us anything, it’s that there are men who hate women and women who will make excuses for them, fast heading into a situation where they will have an alarming degree of control over our bodies and our lives.

I know there are men who are disgusted and repulsed by the attitudes and actions of some of their fellows. You have to speak up. This is not just a problem for women. Anything you can do and say. Whenever you can do and say it.

It is a bizarre and isolating feeling, to live in a body that can be so vilified simply because it is female. The slurs may be directed against Ms Gillard in these latest instances, but they threaten every woman. Everyone needs to take a stand against those men who need to belittle women, in order to feel good about themselves. It isn’t fun. It isn’t just a joke. It’s a sick and perverted masculinity.

Now is not the time to have a pity party for the PM

2 Mar

Considering the kind of lives many women are living on planet Earth at this time, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s is up there in the very top level of privilege.

So it comes as something of a shock to read leading feminist Anne Summer’s piece today, in which she frames Ms Gillard as a victim. Victim of bastardry and misogyny, cruelly mocked, scoffed at, subjected to vile commentary including pornographic representation; criticised whichever way she turns, frequently on the basis of her sex, and shown “not the slightest drop of mercy or respect.”

Not only is Ms Gillard deprived of respect, Summers writes, but as a consequence of  personal disdain for her, the office of Prime Minister is also inevitably disrespected.

It’s a bit rich to expect the public to respect the office of Prime Minister given the complete contempt the ALP itself showed towards this office when it was inhabited by Kevin Rudd. This disrespect was compounded when the ALP gave us no warning of their intention to topple the man who had so triumphantly defeated John Howard, and instead acted as if they were governing a nation of mushrooms.

Be that as it may…

While there is much truth in Summer’s assessment of the situation, one has to wonder if it is wise to paint the Prime Minister in such catastrophically underdog terms at this time. There will be plenty of opportunity to dissect the sexism Ms Gillard has endured after the election. If she leads her party to victory she can be portrayed as a glorious survivor of vile misogyny. If she leads them to failure, books can be written about the cruel and unfair treatment of our first female Prime Minister. But right now, nobody wants a victim in charge of a government that is already hurtling down the road to ignominy.

No matter what your opinion of Ms Gillard, I don’t think you could deny that she is a woman of extraordinary strength and tenacity, and a damn good fighter.  Indeed some, perhaps all of her best speeches have been made when she’s been on the back foot, and defending herself against personal attacks. Think the globally acclaimed misogyny speech, for example, as well as the press conference she gave to settle the matter of her alleged involvement in dodgy dealings whilst working at Slater and Gordon. These are not the actions of a woman with a victim mentality. They are the actions of a survivor.

What Ms Gillard endures is sadly no different from what many women endure on a daily basis. That any of us have to put up with misogyny is an outrage, and there are many among us who live with a great deal more of it than Ms Gillard, without any of the compensations she enjoys. In view of this, while it is appropriate to point out misogyny when it so publicly manifests against  a high-profile woman, it isn’t appropriate to cast that woman as a helpless victim. In the hierarchy of female suffering at the hands of the patriarchy, Ms Gillard is luckily on a low level.

I find it difficult to imagine that the Prime Minister herself would appreciate the gender card being played in this way at this time. I see no indication that she considers herself in any way an underdog, and her reaction to sexism and misogyny has been anything but that of a woman looking for mercy.

“Is mockery the new misogyny?” Summers asks.

Mockery may well be yet another form of expressing misogyny in this situation. But the sad fact is that we can’t afford to focus on that right now. Gillard is facing the fight of her political life. Far more importantly, the ALP is facing the same. Do we really want to offer the nation the picture of a victimised, bullied, vilely mocked woman as our next PM? Or should we be wise enough to keep our peace on the misogyny angle, and leave the pity party for another time?

Flexing my mussel

15 Oct

WARNING: this post contains images of shellfish and flowers that some readers may find confronting

I’m not at all disturbed by the disgraced Peter Slipper likening my lady bits to a shellfish, in one of many private text messages sent to his then new friend James Ashby.

For a start, as I have often said, one overlooks the insult (if indeed we confer on this text message the status of insult) on considering the source, and chooses not to waste one’s time and energy getting exercised about it.

Secondly, the comment is hardly original. Women’s genitals have been likened to fish of one kind or another many times before. Does anyone recall that scene in Bliss, the Peter Carey novel turned film, in which sardines cascade from Bettina Joy’s vagina? Yes. Well. Is it a boy thing?

For myself, I’m more inclined towards the Georgia O’Keeffe visual analogies such as this one:

But hey, whatever floats your fishing boat.

On the other hand, I find Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comments on women profoundly disturbing. For example:

It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons. 

Or:

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience… Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year… When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boat people, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

Why anyone would spend five minutes of their time worrying about how immature men describe female genitalia when we have an aspiring Prime Minister who thinks like this about women, is a mystery to me.

Then there is the semantic quarrel about the difference between sexism and misogyny. You don’t have to hate women to be sexist, apparently, but you do have to hate us to be a misogynist. Why do I not feel consoled by this distinction?

And let’s not forget hatred can take many forms. It does not have to be overt. It adapts itself readily to many guises. If I am treated as inferior because of my sex, as Mr Abbott suggests, am I to feel better about this if it is described to me as sexism rather than misogyny? Surely sexism is an expression of misogyny?

Tony Abbott has three daughters. He feels their virginity is their most  precious gift. He reduces his daughters to a hymen, a reduction I would argue denies them their full  humanity, as so many of Abbott’s statements about women deny us our full humanity.

What we need to ask is do we want a Prime Minister whose default position is to deny women our full humanity?

And why would he want to do this if he doesn’t hate us, however well that hatred may be disguised?

The REAL Gillard hypocrisy

11 Oct

In the brouhaha about sexism and misogyny, the passing of legislation to reduce single parent payments to the Newstart allowance when a child reaches the age of eight has gone comparatively unremarked.

The government will save some 700 million dollars through slashing up to one hundred dollars a fortnight off payments to about 150,00 single parents,the majority of whom are women.

With no evidence to support the theory, the government believes that forcing single parents into poverty and charity handouts will increase their ability to find work.

At the very least, one would expect that before taking this drastic action the government might have commissioned a study, an inquiry, a report, a something into what actually happens to people when you take away what little they already have. Off the top of my head I’d guess it makes them desperate. I’d guess it makes them depressed. Neither are states of mind conducive to taking charge of one’s life and neither are states of mind conducive to the best parenting.

Common sense would suggest that the way to get single parents off benefits and into the workforce is not to first reduce them and their children to crippling poverty.  The “we will make you and your children homeless and hungry and then you’ll get a job, won’t you” approach is punitive, classist and I believe sexist.

I have no idea what the ALP stands for anymore. I have no idea what kind of a feminist Julia Gillard is when she delivers passionate speeches about misogyny and sexism while at the same time making life so much more difficult for some of the most vulnerable women in society.

If ever we were to plead “Somebody think of the children!” then now would be the time. Because it will be the children of single parents who will suffer most as a consequence of the Gillard government’s cuts.

So Ms Gillard can make as many fancy speeches as she likes about misogyny and sexism, while she’s willing to condemn women and children to living on a Newstart allowance that almost nobody considers even remotely adequate, just to achieve a budget surplus, her words are little more than a noisy bell and a clanging cymbal, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.

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