Media women name & shame sexual predators. Unless they are politicians.

26 Oct

 

Further allegations have been made against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, including multiple sexual harassment and molestation claims dating back to 2012.

One of the allegations concerns a 17 year-old girl.

On ABC TV’s The Drum yesterday evening, a segment was devoted to the latest alleged high-profile offender, banished by Conde Naste from practising his profession as a fashion photographer after allegations of serial sexual harassment and assault of his model subjects. Katherine Murphy was one of the panelists, and the host was Julia Baird.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch Australian political journalists comment on sexual harassment by powerful men in every workplace other than the Australian parliament. The elephant loomed large in the studio as Baird and Murphy discussed a topic over which journalists have thrown a cone of silence when it concerns Australian politicians.

It’s increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Australian journalists are complicit in, and enable, sexual harassment and worse in the parliamentary workplace.

The situation for alleged victims of Australian politicians’ sexual impropriety is a dire one. At the best of times women (and victims are predominantly women) struggle to be heard and believed when we complain about sexual harassment and assault. It’s been obvious for some time now that the media play a significant role in bringing harassers to everyone’s attention, giving victims a voice, and making it difficult or impossible for perpetrators to continue their behaviour.

Yet none of this support is available to women harassed in the parliamentary workplace, because the media will not investigate, and will not report on sexual crimes and misdemeanours occurring there.

How ironic that there is currently a name and shame campaign under way, led by high-profile journalist Tracey Spicer, against men who harass women employed in the Australian media, while at the same time, media women protect politicians from scrutiny. This selective approach to outing sexual harassers in the workplace damages the credibility of every woman involved in the campaign, particularly those who comment on politics.

This post by J.R. Hennessy on the Press Gallery convention that protects politicians from scrutiny of their “private lives” is excellent, and well worth a read.

I continue to ask the questions: why are politicians given the freedom by journalists to sexually harass and abuse women, a freedom that exists in no other Australian workplace? Why don’t the Press Gallery care about women in the parliamentary workplace?

The idea of protecting perpetrators because they are “entitled to privacy” has kept women and children in violent and abusive situations for centuries. That it continues to hold sway at the heart of our democracy is absolutely shameful, and every political commentator should be absolutely ashamed if they support this long out-dated convention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Politicians, sex and the Press Gallery

24 Oct

 

 

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, the Daily Telegraph decided on Saturday to publish a piece inferring that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce engaged in an extra marital affair with a staffer that has caused upheaval and discontent in his workplace, and his home.

My colleague Noely Neate offers some interesting speculations on the Tele’s piece here. 

What caught my attention was the reaction on Twitter from a few journalists, among them Katharine Murphy of the Guardian, who tweeted:

I’ve written on this convention here, but there’s more to be said about it.

The problem with Murphy’s convention is that it makes any scrutiny of the parliamentary workplace well-nigh impossible. If journalists are not willing to do the necessary investigations, and politicians know they are safe from scrutiny no matter what their sexual activities unless a victim complains to police, they are at liberty to conduct affairs with employees in circumstances that are far from equal. A politician is a powerful individual, some more so than others. Staffers not so much.

In Barnaby’s case he is the Deputy Prime Minister. The power differential between himself and his staffers is considerable. Consensual sex requires a modicum of power on both parts, and it’s arguable whether or not the staffer of a DPM, in a workplace such as Parliament House, has that modicum of power.

I’m not aware of any workplace in Australia other than our Parliament that has an agreement with journalists that employees sexual lives are private, and will not be reported on.

While Murphy’s criminality rider is relatively straightforward, coercion and abuse are not. It is difficult to see how situations of coercion and abuse can ever see the light of day, given the agreement the Press Gallery apparently has with politicians to keep their sexual lives private.

Whether or not an individual is entitled to a private sexual life depends entirely on the nature of that life. If we look at examples such as Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, to name but a handful of men whose sexual lives consisted in large part of exploitation  and sexual assault, then no, those sexual lives are certainly not entitled to privacy. Indeed, according them privacy enables their abusive and criminal behaviour. Without journalists denying them that privacy, we’d be unaware of their predations.

I’m not, of course, suggesting there’s a large number of politicians indulging in predatory sexual behaviours, but given the Press Gallery’s refusal to go there, how do we know? It would be naive in the extreme to believe their workplace is the only one on the planet in which sexual predation does not occur.

We know how difficult it is for victims of sexual predators to speak out. How much more difficult must it be if you’re in a workplace where you know the culture is one of protection for perpetrators?

There are circumstances in which a politician’s sexual behaviour is absolutely of concern to the public, and those circumstances need not be criminal, coercive or abusive. Barnaby, for example, campaigns vehemently against marriage equality on the grounds that it will somehow destroy the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, while he’s allegedly destroying the sanctity of his own marriage vows. If we are being governed by the hypocritical, we have a right to know that.

Paula Matthewson deals with the implications of illicit sexual behaviours in the political world, and our need to know, here.

There are situations in which a politician’s sexual life is absolutely irrelevant, and privacy appropriate. The Press Gallery convention, however, makes no such distinctions, and journalists’ hands off attitude to politicians’ sexual behaviours ensures a cone of silence around their workplace that can only disadvantage less powerful employees, while allowing our elected representatives freedom from accountability journalists grant no other workplace.

Guardian columnist Jeff Sparrow posted this tweet:

While there’s no argument from me that our sex lives shouldn’t matter to politicians, there are occasions on which politicians’ sex lives should matter a great deal to us. Why, for example, is there no investigation into Barnaby’s alleged affair? Did he use public money to fund its enactment? Is it an isolated incident, or does he make a habit of betraying his family?

This is a government that has subjected LGBTQI people to a foul postal opinion poll that gives everyone the right to “vote” on their human rights, based entirely on sexuality. Barnaby Joyce wholeheartedly supports this disgusting intrusion into the sexual lives of others simply because they are not heterosexual. Why is there a journalistic convention that protects Joyce from scrutiny?

Let’s not forget as well that Minister Alan Tudge announced stringent and intrusive requirements for single parents to prove they do not have a sexual/intimate relationship, before they can receive benefits. This government increasingly encroaches upon our privacy and into our bedrooms: yet politicians’ privacy and bedrooms continue to be considered be sacrosanct.

Why?

 

Bernardi & Abbott: a shared psychosis

23 Sep

And the week finished on a spectacularly self-mutilating note for the No side, with Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott inadvertently exposing the dark spite at its crippled heart through a couple of straw-clutching stunts that only served to reveal the dire lack of substance in the anti-marriage equality tripe.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday provoked a media kerfuffle when he decided to report an alleged assault on him in Hobart not to police, as one might expect, but to Andrew Bolt and various other representatives of the gutter press. He had been head butted, he claimed, by a Yes supporter, in a totally unprovoked attack and this is all we can expect from Yes supporters who are disgracefully violent.

Eric Abetz, with whom Abbott later lunched, declared that if marriage equality becomes a thing we can expect that married same-sex couples will go round head butting whomever they want, because marriage equality gives legitimacy to head butting. Or something.

Eventually the Tasmanian police, alerted by media reports, contacted Abbott about the assault. They subsequently arrested  Hobart DJ and anarchist Astro Labe, who stated quite bluntly that his attack had absolutely nothing at all to do with same-sex marriage. Astro just hates Abbott and half-tanked, took an apparently god-given golden opportunity to “nut the cunt.”

That the media unquestioningly ran with Abbott’s fantasy that he had been attacked by a marriage equality supporter because of his stand against same-sex marriage, is disturbing. As the story unfolded, it became clear Abbott had quickly confected the motives for the assault, and the media went right along with his confection. I am tempted to speculate that Abbott’s opportunistic lies explain his failure to report the assault to police, and hopefully will cause him some difficulties when the matter comes to court.

Senator Cory Bernardi took umbrage at the South Australian Craigburn Primary School’s “Do it in a Dress” day, an event they’ve held for the last six years in which boys are encouraged to wear school frocks as part of a fund-raiser for African girls who are in urgent need of education.

“This gender morphing is really getting absurd” thundered the chiselled-faced senator who apparently believes if you allow a boy child to wear a dress for six hours he will morph into a yucky girl and a rampant homosexual and destroy the values of western civilisation and all this ruination begins with marriage equality you are being warned!

The school expected to raise about $900 for the African girls. At last count they’d received some $120,000, as citizens outraged by Bernardi’s perverted attack on the generosity of little kids expressed their feelings via their credit cards. Bernardi has been left with an inordinate amount of egg on his Ken-like features, and his mean-spirited efforts to shame primary school boys because they don a frock has exposed the despicable lengths he is prepared to go to in his anti LGBTQI and marriage equality campaign.

These two men are, quite frankly, hideous in their zealotry and their willingness to exploit every situation in support of their cause. Both men have been exposed as extremists, who see the world through the lens of their bigotry and homophobia, always on the look out for circumstances they can turn to their advantage. These tactics have backfired for both of them this week.

The media is also apparently biased against the Yes side, with No campaigner Lyle Shelton receiving three times, that is three times more mentions than prominent Yes advocates.

You’ll be relieved to hear that Abbott received only a “very, very small swelling” on his lip. You might care to consider this alongside the murderous violence perpetrated against gays, for example, and the astounding lack of interest and concern shown by media and authorities in these atrocities.

Post Script: I have just with my own eyes seen a photo of Bernardi and his wife in their own home with a large painting of  Australia’s most famous gender morpher, Dame Edna Everage, on the wall.  Nobody could make this shit up. Nobody. 

 

 

 

Turnbull’s postal opinion poll: a vicious, bullying farce.

19 Sep

It’s rather difficult to empathise with the marriage equality No crowd’s insistence that they are being “bullied” by the Yes side, given that the postal opinion poll on the issue is, in itself, one of the most outstanding examples of government and social bullying that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Subjecting groups to the judgement of their fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality is bullying, of the most insidious and damaging kind. Sexuality is an integral part of who we are. It ought not to be the business of anyone other than ourselves, and those we choose to share it with. And yet here we are, bullied into participating in a bullying opinion poll on our bullied fellow citizens.

(Well done, Prime Minister Turnbull. We all know you chose this persecutory path this because you’re scared dickless of your right-wing. We also know that bullies are always cowards.)

The opinion poll is a survey (and I use the word loosely, given it wouldn’t pass muster as an actual survey anywhere except perhaps North Korea) of what some Australians think of the sexuality of other Australians. It is inherently privileged: gay people do not and never will have the right to participate in a government-initiated opinion poll on the sexuality of straight people and their right to marry. (The very fact this comment sounds ludicrous is solid evidence of entitlement and privilege). It is a survey with a non binding outcome if the answer is yes, and a binding outcome if the answer is no.

I understand that the national result of the opinion poll will be broken down on a federal electoral basis, thereby enabling politicians to claim they will vote in parliament according to their constituents’ wishes and not their own. Yet again they’ve worked out a way of getting themselves off the hook. Eluding responsibility is the one skill this government seems to possess in abundance.

Although the postal poll is to say the least haphazard (piles of envelopes left in the rain at apartment blocks; sent to people who’ve left the address ten years before; stolen forms auctioned online and so on) the results will be a permanent record of opinion in each federal electorate without any safeguards in place to ensure everyone in that electorate had the opportunity to comment. It really is an absolute farce, confected by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and embraced by Turnbull as a way to save his sorry arse from a right-wing kicking. If this isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is.

The No crowd, on the other hand, seem incapable of distinguishing between disagreement, and bullying or silencing. It’s a conservative trait to believe anyone with an opinion that differs from yours is your enemy. According to the right-wing, if you aren’t agreed with you are “silenced.” To this end, the No crowd continues to appear on every available media platform on a daily basis, protesting their “silencing.” Not one of them can see the irony in this.

Here, yet again, we see entitlement and privilege in action. The No crowd is working from the premise that they must be agreed with, simply because of who they are and what they believe. It’s become perhaps an over-used concept since the advent of Donald Trump, however, the notion that anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is wrong and wickedly trying to silence you is teetering towards narcissistic. It’s also bullying.

So far throughout this debacle, the right has shown itself to be relentlessly seeking victimhood. However, for mine, Shelton’s appearance at the National Press Club last week conclusively undermined his accusations of silencing, both for him personally, and for his followers.

Let’s face it: we should be so lucky…

 

Let him eat cake: Abbott & marriage equality.

12 Sep

Tony Abbott marries himself. Mural by Australian artist Scott Marsh.

 

In the first paragraph of his opinion piece in The Age today, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott encapsulates the condescension and toleration typical of many on the No side of the marriage equality debate thus:

Like most, I have tried to be there for friends and family who are gay. They are good people who deserve our love, respect and inclusion but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to reserve the term “marriage” for the relationship of one man with one woman, ideally for life and usually dedicated to children.

(Note: in almost every statement you can think of, whatever comes after a “but” negates wholly or in part what precedes it).

“They” are good people who deserve inclusion, however “they” do not deserve that ultimate straight privilege: marriage. And why don’t “they” deserve it? Because they are not heterosexual.

It ought to be obvious to even the dullest of minds that if your sole reason for denying another human the rights you unquestioningly hold yourself is their homosexuality, then you are practising homophobia.

Neither can you give the right to one group of citizens to determine the humanity of another and call for respectful debate at the same time. The premise of the debate is inherently disrespectful and harmful.

At this point, I could rest my case that the postal opinion poll is, in itself, homophobic, and as such anyone involved in it ought to be fined for vilification by participation, including me as I’m answering Yes. I remain enraged at Prime Minister Turnbull for his lazy and cowardly outsourcing of this matter to the public, thus forcing me, because I’m not prepared to chuck my survey in the bin, into engagement with a process I consider discriminatory and cruel. I couldn’t live with myself if I did anything to enable a No victory. The sucky little bastard has me wedged.

In Britain, Abbott bemoans, Catholic orphanages have been forced to close down as a direct consequence of marriage equality. This would seem to me to be a win-win, given the well-documented atrocities visited upon children in Catholic institutions but Abbott apparently considers it a reason to tick No. In the US, he continues, a baker (a baker, in the whole of the US, in the entire western world in fact, a bakerhas been prosecuted for refusing to put a slogan on a wedding cake. This, my friends, is all the drunken little toe rag has to prosecute his argument that marriage equality will destroy the principles on which our society is, in his perception, based. Bring on that long-overdue destruction, is my feeling on the matter.

This debate is about power. It’s about who controls the damn narrative. It’s about changing a society in which some people are considered less human than others solely because of their sexuality. It’s about ending exclusion. It’s about challenging the absolutely unacceptable hold religion has on our secular country. It’s about allowing the expression of human love beyond the narrow confines of the heteronormative.

By all means, let us discuss the institution of marriage, its pros and cons, its dominance in our culture. Its inherently exclusionary nature, the many ways in which it disadvantages women, all of its many problematics. However, these are separate issues from denying the privileges of marriage to anyone, solely on the basis of their sexuality.

If marriage equality does, as Abbott insists it will, fundamentally change our society, this can only be a good thing. Change will mean an equalising and an opening up, rather than the fearful and repressive hunkering down advocated by the No side, simply because they cannot deal with any kind of difference.

 

 

 

Tolerate my intolerance or I will destroy you

5 Sep

 

It takes some arrogance to declare that your support for others is contingent upon their actions and speech being acceptable to you. In other words, they earn your support by dancing to your tune, not because you have any real interest in their cause. Your primary concern is that your own sense of decorum may endure temporary violation, and you will not tolerate that, no matter whose human rights are at stake.

“Do it my way or else” is hardly a respectful way in which to approach debate and disagreement.

(I’ve long been of the belief that arrogance is a psychological defence mechanism employed to conceal from self and others terrifying feelings of  insecurity, uncertainty, and lack of self-worth. It’s a thin veneer.)

Such arrogance has been expressed by several right-wing commentators and was yesterday reiterated by one Tom Switzer, currently employed by the ABC as a “radio host.” Fairfax recently published this piece by Switzer on marriage equality and intolerance. To paraphrase: I would vote Yes in the marriage equality postal survey, declared Switzer, but the same-sex advocates are being so objectionable I’m rethinking that and may vote No.

I like to think of this attitude as a desperate (and despairing) effort to retain control by those who feel they are perilously close to losing their hold on the status quo. The “If you are not nice to me I will not support your cause” position is narcissistic, in the sense that offending these people is experienced by them as a narcissistic wound, a threat to their very being. It reveals the fragile, threatened ego that needs everyone to be nice to it all of the time, otherwise it will blow you up, metaphorically speaking in this instance though the threats of annihilation are more substantial at the more powerful end of the narcissism spectrum where we find Trump and Kim Jon Un. Switzer of course is not in their league: his narcissism is of the petit bourgeoisie class for whom bad manners, language and graffiti are offences that far outrank just about any denial of human rights.

The ultimate exercise of control: do it my way and don’t offend me, or I will use my power to affect your life against you.

Many of us can likely find a parallel in childhood, when our parents told us we wouldn’t have what we wanted unless we were good.  Switzer, et al, are applying the same authoritarian discourse to adults seeking equality with other adults. They are demanding their own intolerance, either of marriage equality or the manner in which the fight for it is fought, be placed front and centre in a discussion on equality. In so doing they destroy any possibility of equality and respect in the debate, let alone in its outcome.

This is a tactic used by the privileged against many minority groups. The ruling class sets behavioural norms, and gives itself permission to break them while severely punishing and shaming those who are not of their tribe. Tony Abbott’s taxpayer-funded drunkenness comes to mind as an example, as he advocates for the humiliation of indigenous people with the imposition of a cashless welfare card to prevent their purchase of alcohol.

The intolerant, such as Switzer, are not interested in respectful debate and just outcomes. They are concerned with their own feelings of offence, and consider themselves to be so important that a vote on the lives of others hinges entirely on whether or not they suffer affront.

Respectful? I don’t think so. Tolerant? Nah. Silenced? Give me a break.

 

 

 

 

The fluidity of tradition.

2 Sep

 

Tradition is a word we’ve heard a lot these last few weeks, as the anti marriage equality crowd cast about, in increasing desperation, for valid arguments to make against the Yes vote.

I’m being generous here, in describing the No contingent as engaged in a search for valid arguments: there are no such arguments and the Nays are resorting to all manner of nebulous scare tactics, including, but not limited to, the threat same-sex marriage allegedly poses to” traditional” marriage.

Here is  federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie with his understanding of traditional marriage:

I could spend the rest of the day deconstructing Hastie’s evangelical Christian opinion of marriage as solely for procreation, but readers here are more than capable of doing that for themselves. Suffice to say the man has publicly revealed his sexual repression, commiserations to his female partner and back to tradition.

There is a sense in which people who call on tradition as a justification for perpetuating contested attitudes and actions hold the belief that tradition, in and of itself, entirely validates the status quo. Tradition is to them a numinous concept, and as such, unchallengeable.

A moment’s reflection ought to alert them to the perils of such an assumption: think of the many traditions our society no longer tolerates and one is immediately aware of the fluid nature of tradition, why it’s almost as fluid as gender, hey Mr Shelton? 

There are many examples of traditional values that have revealed themselves, in a society struggling to evolve, to be bigoted, exclusionary and privileged, not to mention racist, sexist and genocidal. Traditional is not a synonym for good, or compassionate, or decent. It merely means that a certain set of behaviours has been naturalised or normalised at the expense of another set of behaviours. The determination is inevitably made by those who have the most power, and the most to gain by investing their favoured behaviours with the allegedly eternal quality of tradition. He (and sadly it usually is he) who controls the narrative controls what is to be considered traditional.

I’m going to venture out on a limb here and suggest that tradition, in and of itself, is bollocks. There’s absolutely nothing numinous or eternal or universal about it. It’s nothing more than reified repetition. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing generation after generation provided it isn’t damaging people, but please, let’s not pretend it carries a mysterious power of incontestable rightness, simply because it’s always been done that way.

So there you go, No vote. That’s fixed tradition for you as an argument. Next?

 

 

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