Bob Ellis: Oh, why can’t a woman be more like a man?

31 Dec

Bob Ellis is a very good writer. Like Christopher Hitchens, with whom Ellis enjoyed drinking privileges, one may not always agree with his content but his form is generally erudite and entertaining. Ellis’s review of the new film about Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady”, published here at ABC The Drum, is no exception. Written with Bob’s unquenchable passion for language, it’s an eloquent review.

Unfortunately it also contains more than Ellis’s usual quota of reactionary misogynist crap, as do several of the comments he makes in response to his readers. Ellis manages to turn his review of a biopic which he feels should have been a political back room drama, into a thinking(?) bloke’s cri de couer that women ruined this movie. First of all by writing it, and second of all by not having the capacity for creating political back room drama to anything like the standard of that created by men.

While Ellis may have a point here, and political back room dramas (not always good ones) do indeed flow more easily from keyboards operated by male fingers, his explanation for this discrepancy is nothing short of insane. According to Bob, it’s because we’re female. That’s it. Our cunts govern our brains, to our everlasting detriment, and because we bleed we are “less good at disagreeing with ourselves” than are those of you who are possessed of hairy balls and pricks that produce semen (and political back room dramas) in glorious milky fountains. Sometimes.

The fact that women have not been allowed to participate in political back room life to anything like the extent and for anything like the period of time afforded to men, seems to have escaped Mr Ellis’s notice.

What is actually FAR more remarkable is that given the male domination of politics of all kinds, not just back room, there is such a paucity of good political drama available.I mean really, Ellis and those who agree with him, you’ve had centuries of experience and opportunity denied to us, in fact its only been in the last two that women have had any real input at all.

In spite of your total blokey domination of the political scene for all of human history, hardly any of you, comparatively speaking, have come up with political dramas that anyone will bother to remember. I could probably count them on my fingers and toes, plus another woman’s, and that doesn’t say much for thousands of years of male political domination, now does it?

Maybe there aren’t too many of you either who can “disagree with themselves” to the extent required for good back room political drama. Comparatively speaking. There’s a lot of male dross out there.

“The male impulse to power” Ellis claims, “is better understood, as a rule, by men.” I call bullshit, Ellis. There’s nobody understands the male impulse to power better than those whose lives are governed by it, whether they’re male or female. The male impulse to power is tragically generally NOT understood by the men who exercise it, understanding being of far less importance to such men than action, regardless of consequences. Indeed, understanding weakens this hegemonic masculinity.

The female impulse to power could be claimed to be equally misunderstood by men, usually because of the terror they experience when confronted by it. This impulse is increasingly channelled into hegemonic masculinity as more women take up influential political roles. None of this has anything to do with our cunts, and everything to do with the narrow biological imperatives imposed on us solely because we have them.

Ellis unforgivably imputes a creative intention to the writers of “The Iron Lady,” an intention that is in fact entirely his own, or would be if he’d been writing the script. Which he wasn’t. Maybe nobody asked him. How slack of them, considering he knew Maggie for three days, really really liked her legs, and was seduced by her breathless flirtatiousness. Ellis assumes it was the writers’ intention to create a back room political drama, in what could only ever be an imitative attempt to keep up with back room initiates like him. He then trashes the result, because in his book the attempt failed. He then extrapolates the trashing to the entire female sex, and says we can’t do it like they can. Because we’re women.

The more serious question here is why Ellis is compelled to frame so many of his arguments as gender wars, and more than usually stupid ones at that. A movie is not what he expects, or what he would have liked. Suddenly this is a statement about the inferiority of women, based entirely on our sex, without any context at all, political or otherwise.

Replace “women” with “Jews” or “Palestinians” or “Chinese” or “Germans.” Yes. It’s not pretty, is it.

23 Responses to “Bob Ellis: Oh, why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

  1. David Horton December 31, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Once, when the world was young, I quite liked some of Bob’s stuff. His style of writing, generalising from a couple, or fewer, anecdotes, into some all-encompassing world-wide theory of something or other was appealing to someone who has been known to do something similar.

    But what was once a strength in Bob has turned into a fatal weakness – a single anecdote, event, the merest glimpse of someone passing by, is turned into an all-encompassing doctoral thesis-style summary of the theory of everything.

    Bob Ellis, whose writing was once so easy to caricature, with some affection, has now turned into a caricature of himself. And it is no longer a caricature we can view affectionately.


  2. paul walter December 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Well, the article I read bears little relation to its critique by Jennifer. I went to the Drum expecting a huge, foaming at the mouth dose of woman hating on the basis of that, and found little of it.
    I think what he’s interested in is British decline over his own lifetime and underlying inertia-Thatcher’s current state resembles Reagan’s representation as a decrepit symbol for vainglory and days of future passed, with the USA.
    He doesn’t dislikeThatcher because she’s a woman. He dislikes her because she’s an example- amongst many cited- of the parasitic opportunist politician that now controls the system at the expense of those with some consciousness and sense of direction, as to where they’d take a society.


    • Jennifer Wilson December 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

      I wasn’t writing about the movie or his review of it – I was critiquing his comments on the inability of women to write political drama! Also referring to his comments as well as the article.


  3. gerard oosterman December 31, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Well, not too many women came to the defense of their own sex. I did (the female sex) and pointed out that their were some top female political motivated film makers/writers. Bob agreed, but pointed out, not to any degree of both quality and quantity of the male variety.
    The debate got lost in bantering backwards and forwards about genitalia and Hitler. Bob Ellis is a great stirrer and doesn’t easily get defeated.
    The question of ‘why’., did not get many answers.


    • gerard oosterman December 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      note the new spelling of ‘their’. replacing ‘there’.


    • Jennifer Wilson December 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      You were great and so was Helvi! I like it where you said you wanted credit for darning your socks!


  4. Tracy December 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    This was a pleasure to read. I am glad you took the time to write it. The last sentence is very true. When misogyny is normalized men can’t – and won’t see it, and just want to argue some other point. Does Ellis really think that there are no women in his family, for example who have the talent to write political drama? We are at the end of 2011 and this crap is still part of everyday life. So very sad.


    • Jennifer Wilson December 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      I don’t usually get too riled because life’s short, but this time he just went too far!!


  5. Marilyn January 1, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    I wonder if any here know Bob? I do. We met in the family court in SA when the government were determined to keep the Bakhtiyari kids in jail for life.

    We danced around when the court released them.

    Bob is one of the kindest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He cared for the kids for years you know, he cared for Cornelia Rau when many thought she was too troubled – in fact the last time Bob and I had a chat he was taking Cornelia to the river for a short cruise to help in her recovery.

    Yes he can be cantankerous, but no-one else tried to sponsor Ali and the kids when the government used bogus documents to cancel his visa.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 1, 2012 at 8:03 am #

      Yes, I agree Bob Ellis has a big heart and has been steadfast in his support of asylum seekers. Some of his writing about refugees is brilliant, and I’ve always expressed admiration for that. He’s complex, like many of us. He’s got blind spots, like many of us. I don’t think our blind spots cancel out our goodnesses, and I don’t think our blind spots should be overlooked because of our goodnesses when they degrade and dehumanize human beings.

      Ellis likes to stir, and while I think he believes much of his own misogynist crap, he also uses it to taunt women into reacting. He wouldn’t use refugees for that purpose. Why use women? We aren’t objects to be poked and prodded into reactions that amuse Bob Ellis and gratify his need for public acknowledgement, no matter how negative the acknowledgment might be. We’re human beings. Is he saying, look how silly these women are, they don’t even know when I’m teasing them?


  6. gerard oosterman January 1, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Let’s just all link hands and do a ‘ring-a-ring- a- rosie-… and….. we- all- fall- down. All the best for the New Year.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 1, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Happy New Year Gerard, and everybody! May it be good for all of us. I’ve already broken one resolution. That’s a good start!


  7. paul walter January 1, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Doing my rounds of the blogs, I find this unpleasant tendency toward biopic thread starters for the silly season flourishing. Across the cognitive road, a rival of Wilsons has put up something similar on John Clarke, which looks on the verge of deteriorating into full- and deserved- Kiwi-bashing.
    Now, have re-read Ellis and Jennifer’s response and must admit it is impossible to add further, not having seen the show itself.
    I do like Streep, tho. She CAN act, usually works with material that carries some sort of social comment or meditation on human behaviour and personal relationships. Everyone seems to dislike the film she did on the Chamberlains, but I think it was a beaut and was an education on Australian culture- the best scene was the one where TV crews had them bailed up at home, so the crews and presenters occupied themselves by pre-doing their fake “noddies” whilst waiting like vultures for Lindy Chamberlain to surrender.
    Ellis did troll a little at the last, mischeivously rather than spitefully and “come in spinner”, as to some of the responses.
    Is the thing a
    “Biopic”, that is to say politics sanitised to soap opera, for mass audience purposes, as Ellis seems to allege?
    Or is the criticism of the show due to it not fulfilling effectively enough the criteria for this problematic genre which is valid when handled well, as says one poster at the Drum?
    It could be true that women might find some types of tv unrewarding, as many men find some purported womens tv shows unrewarding.
    One final query. Jennifer suggests that men’s penii (not that any one man possess several penii, oneis usually the limit) produce sperm. This is in fact a categorical fallacy (scuse pun!), a dick is merely a conduit. Sperm are produced in the testes and combined with bearer fluids in the prostrate gland which then ejects the material during male orgasm, into the female, “mouse’s ear”.
    Lastly, it may be that Jennifer’s assertion that womens brains are not connected to their what-nots is true- certainly no women turned up to brighten my Xmass, or maybe their brains were too ineffectual for them realise what it was their nether regions were trying to tell them, as to available “man-power”?
    Seriously, isn’t the definition of human-ness, limit?
    All of us are challenged by all sorts of subjectivities during a day’s lived life; desires, prejudices, frustration and fears. I know Jennifer would love me to admit that male brains are run by their dicks but I dont know about other blokes, only myself and I unashamedly fess up, the female form remains a defining factor in my life. But it is not the only thing I’m interested in and nor do I rubbish women for having healthy desires, to go with their at times remarkable minds, merely acknowledge that subjectivities mediate on other behaviours for men and suggest therefore, why not women also.
    I think Thatcher might have been hated by some male rivals because she was a woman, more fool them and good on her for having the smarts to beat them at the game.
    But she’s really disliked by many not because of the woman thing, but the unkindness of so much of her policies and the suffering she caused so many other people. And if you call me “chauvinist” for not wanting that sort of politician in control (of my life), I’ll wear it proudly, same as I’d gladly wear the “lefty” insult, for disliking Dick Cheney for similar reasons.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 1, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Would that be a categorical phallusy you’re talking about PW? 🙂

      I love it that people can be overwhelmed by desire for other people – it is one of the most wonderful, dangerous, and also loveable of human characteristics. I confess to having on more than one occasion set aside my brain and made decisions from entirely other parts of my anatomy. We humans are at times utterly hapless, probably much of the time but we dare not admit it, preferring to imagine we’re in control.

      I got a bee in my bonnet about Bob. It’s still there a bit, but subsiding! Happy New Year, PW.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 3, 2012 at 7:05 am #

      Have you come across this yet, PW? Ellis and the Williamsons do Jerry Springer


  8. Nell Smith January 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Puh-lease. The vulpian Ellis wasn’t a drinking companion of Hitchens’ – he had a drink with Hitchens after an ABC gig once, shared a taxi, and managed to cash in on it courtesy of ABC Online …


  9. Gruffbutt January 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Oh, my head… oh my stomach… oh my everything… oh it’s good to snog an old friend to see in the new year… Overwhelming desire indeed 😉

    What have I missed?

    Oh, yes, right, Thatcher… Yes, it’s very important that we don’t make it about her being a woman, so we can give her a rightly deserved bollocking…erm, condemnation…when she shuffles off this mortal coil. The eulogies for that disgusting muppet Reagan made me violently ill.

    Having said that, I’m looking forward to seeing the film eventually, despite its subject matter. Meryl will be worth the ticket, and mark her down for the Oscar now (yes, even though I haven’t seen it yet – Meryl for PM!).

    It’s a hot day in Melbourne. I’m staying inside with some therapeutic herbal teas and such.

    Cheers 🙂


    • Jennifer Wilson January 3, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Good for you, Gruffbutt, sounds like you had the perfect new year! Whatever you missed it wasn’t as good as what you got!

      I was complaining about Ellis’s rancid observations about women screenwriters – I think he was quite fascinated by Maggie.

      I hear it is stinking hot where you are, while here in the sub tropics I had to get another blanket last night.
      I hope your New Year continues as successfully as it began! 🙂


      • Gruffbutt January 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

        Yes, sorry for forgetting about your original argument about Bob and his lady writers. The Maggie-bashing tangent was irresistible.

        And I’m liking what’s on my horizon. Time to stoke the boilers 🙂

        And here’s to no more eggcidents ^^


  10. Gruffbutt January 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    If it makes you feel better, I’ll give you a tick for what’s in your head 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: