Credlin: victim of sexism and feminist martyr?

23 Sep

Audre Lorde Feminism


It is extremely difficult for me to think of Peta Credlin, the former Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, as being a victim of anything at all.

She hasn’t lost her job as CoS because of sexism. She’s lost it because Tony Abbott is no longer Prime Minister.

She copped a lot of criticism from some journalists and MPs for her management style. There’s no doubt some of that criticism has been sexist, however, none of that sexist criticism caused her to lose her job.

This is not to excuse sexist criticism because it is not excusable. That others resorted to sexist attacks is a reflection on them, not Credlin. Yet it is entirely possible that her manner of conducting herself was offensive, not because she’s a woman, but because her manner was an offensive way for one human being to behave towards others.

Credlin is neither a feminist icon nor a feminist martyr. If, as she claims, she is responsible for the LNP’s transition from opposition to government it was nothing to do with her gender, feminism, or women in any capacity at all, as was evidenced by the lack of female representation in Abbott’s cabinet.

Credlin worked closely with a man whose opinions on women are well-documented and they aren’t inspiring, with the exception of very few females of “calibre,” and his relatives.

I am unable to see how Credlin’s alleged feminism informed her boss’s policies in any way at all. Feminism by stealth entirely failed as a project in the Abbott government.

If we are going to judge Credlin, and we will for some time to come I think, we need to focus on her behaviour and not her gender.   It has to be possible to criticise women in powerful positions without having those criticisms dismissed as sexist. Kevin Rudd was accused of similar failings: micro management and excessive control, for example, without reference to his gender.

Credlin wielded immense power in a centre of hyper-masculinity. In spite of that power, she was apparently entirely unable to influence Abbott’s attitude to women. Whether she tried or not we have yet to discover. This doesn’t mean she deserves sexist barbs. She doesn’t. It does mean she isn’t a feminist icon, and she isn’t a feminist martyr.

Credlin used the master’s tools. Not one brick of the master’s house fell to feminist ideals. Yet feminist women will protest sexist attacks on Credlin, as we should, and we will also retain the right to critique Credlin’s behaviours as we do the behaviours of all powerful figures, even as we protest the gender-based insults.





13 Responses to “Credlin: victim of sexism and feminist martyr?”

  1. John Samuel September 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    Well said.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hudsongodfrey September 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    All fine good and agreeable as far as I can see. But when reading the previous article “It’s not me it’s them” I came across the part that goes, “…..only the most naive would deny she is as subject to sexist character analysis as are the rest of our gender.”
    It gave me pause to wonder whether either gender (or anywhere in between) can truly claim to be free of it’s own prejudices against the other. Whether in fact it isn’t so much the sexism that chafes as the effects thereof.

    To be ignorant of the fact that women have, and frequently give voice to, their own preconceptions about men must seem ridiculous to anyone who’s neither an LNP member nor living under a rock. Of course they do. But the effects thereof are, not to put too fine a point on thumbing one’s nose at so called men’s rights activists, tinier than some of their shrivelled….. Ahem, we think differently on the subject. There are differences between the preconceptions we all have and prejudices…..

    I think it matters in relation to Ms Credlin that, to her very slight credit, she does not cry misogyny, because she has enjoyed considerable advantage from hitching her caboose to one! A misogynist that is. To whit one T.Abbott. She can hardly claim to be surprised when supping with the devil that he served nothing but tripe!

    There are differences between the preconceptions we all have and prejudices…..because to be proper “isms” laced with prejudice they have to be…, well, prejudicial. Just wondering what any woman would be doing supporting a man like Abbott in politics isn’t sexism, its bloody natural, almost completely non gender specific, and frankly that’s because its true!

    Even if we’ve other reasons to distrust the account Credlin gives of herself at our most generous we might wonder what she did to try and reform the ogre. She has as yet done little to redeem herself post coup in having not thus far addressed herself to that point. Surely any “most powerful women” would’ve sat the little twerp down and schooled him in a few home truths his mother somehow omitted?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 24, 2015 at 6:24 am #

      The other small matter is while Credlin credits herself for getting them into government, she doesn’t seem quite as ready to own the fact that they didn’t know what to do once they got there.


      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 24, 2015 at 9:06 am #

        Apropos of that, I wonder whether this little encapsulation is in any way illuminating:

        Does it reveal the common ground of the working relationship?

        Liked by 1 person

      • hudsongodfrey September 24, 2015 at 11:25 am #

        They didn’t know what to do when they got there, but Abbott is now the third in a succession of PM’s flug out since politics installed its new poll driven revolving door. It raises some questions as to whether even knowing what to do the trap door would be sprung for anyone less capable of gaining approval for those initiatives.

        It seems you really do have to be a luminary if you can’t rely on the old school tie and porcine teabagging rituals to cement the loyalty among elites. Not that politics has ever been that much less of a bloodsport, but you wouldn’t exactly call it greater accountability if we’re beholden to mercenaries to deliver it.

        The hypocrisy of these Tories is that they know only what they don’t want for themselves, and yet they displace those who’ve an inkling to do right by others to get it.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Nick September 23, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    Was it under Credlin’s strategic advice that Tony Abbott appointed himself Minister of Women?

    If not, did she ever see fit to object to the bleeding obvious – why should any man be appointed to such a position?

    Didn’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote September 24, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

      I’m fairly sure that so far as Abbott was concerned, Credlin was the de facto Minister for Women.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nick September 25, 2015 at 12:33 am #

        The de facto “Prime Minister for Women”, Doug. They minted that one themselves.

        They never seem to last very long. Why is that?

        Liked by 1 person

        • doug quixote September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

          Why don’t they last long? The Ministry is seen as a lightweight post and a stepping stone to better things. It is generally a sop to the girls so far as the conservatives are concerned; Labor takes it more seriously but once policies are set there is little to occupy the upwardly mobile minister.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nick September 25, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

            Thanks, Doug. That’s pretty much what I suspected.


  4. doug quixote September 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    I don’t think the gender of an attack dog or a crocodile matters a great deal.

    Any sexism she has been subjected to pales into insignificance when compared to her high handed and aggressive behaviour.

    Good riddance.

    Liked by 1 person

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