Deconstructing a Paul Sheehan piece can be like shoving bamboo splinters under your toenails and watching them bleed. Fortunately I have pain killers.
Sheehan has, remarkably even for him, reduced the entire Abbott government leadership crisis into that good old patriarchal standby, the good woman/bad woman trope.
In yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald Sheehan makes this claim: Tony Abbott’s new order: An invisible Peta Credlin and a visible Margie Abbott is the new template. Better late than never.
The new template? Template for what? The template for how, when all else fails, to use women to get you out of the trouble you think other women have got you into?
Margie Abbott is apparently at one with Sheehan on this strategy, calling for LNP “wives and partners” to get behind her man, a move Robyn Oyeniyi analyses succinctly in her piece on the topic.
Does Sheehan actually believe voters are so gullible as to be swayed by Tony Abbott wheeling out his wife in his time of sorrow, while tucking away controversial Chief of Staff Peta Credlin in a cupboard, presumably till things get back to normal for him, at which time he’ll pop Margie away again and let Peta out, because he can’t do without her?
Reading between Sheehan’s lines, which are so far apart you have to be careful not to fall into the abyss between them, he’s claiming something as simplistic as Peta Credlin got Abbott into this, and now Margie will get him out.
In an extraordinary own goal of unintended irony, Sheehan writes:
Mrs Abbott has never sought publicity but at the height of then prime minister Julia Gillard’s “misogyny” diversionary campaign in 2012 (amid several scandals) she famously intervened in defence of her husband: “Do you want to know how God turns a man into a feminist? He gives him three daughters … I believe a disservice is being done to women when the gender card is played to shut down debate about policy.”
Presumably, Sheehan and Mrs Abbott think they aren’t “playing the gender card to shut down debate about policy.” Really? Because it seems to me that’s exactly what they are doing.
In a desperate attempt to avoid the substantive issue, which is that some Abbott government policies have profoundly offended so many Australians the Prime Minister has been haemorrhaging political capital practically since the day he took office, Sheehan looks to a change of the woman behind the man to obscure this harsh reality, and save the government’s sorry bum.
Then there’s Mrs Abbott’s remark that God turns a man into a feminist by giving him daughters. And they say we should have god in schools. This is what happens when you let god in schools. Women grow up thinking we’re vessels for god to give men daughters to make them feminist. I can’t even….
Next we have this from Sheehan:
She has since endured attacks on one of their daughters over a college scholarship, with information accessed illegally and leaked to the media to embarrass the Abbott family.
No, Paulie, the Australian people had the right to know that while the Abbott government was intent on making higher degrees excruciatingly expensive for everyone else, the Prime Minister’s daughter was awarded a once-off scholarship to see her through her tertiary education. If this knowledge becoming public embarrassed the Abbott family, so it should. Though I doubt it did. Annoyed them, maybe, but embarrassed them? I doubt it.
The reason some men love the good woman/bad woman trope so dearly is because it removes all responsibility and accountability from the man. He is helpless as a babe in the face of the influence of a good or bad woman. Sheehan is an unreconstructed idiot, peddling this ignorant, venomous trash. It no more serves a woman to be put on a pedestal than it does to be despatched to the gutter. One can make allowances for Euripides, given his times, but Sheehan has no excuses.