Tag Archives: Julia Baird

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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On ladies who fear being silenced by trolls

17 Feb

In order for this post to make any sense, you’ll need to read this piece titled “Twitter: a new world of abuse against women” by Julia Baird in which the author addresses the problem of “evil” trolls.

Then I strongly urge you to read this piece by Helen Razer, titled “A troll in the park” in which, among other things, the author points out some crucial statistical absences in Ms Baird’s argument.

Then you ought to read this piece by Cathy Young, titled “Is there a cyber war on women,” and if you want further complexity, you could read this piece by me, titled “Toxic, online and feminist. Really?” in which I address the matter of white media feminists claiming they are being “trolled” and “silenced”by women of colour, and am chastised in the comments for my audacity by a couple of white media feminists who no doubt have added me to their list of trolls.

No thinking person could quibble with the disagreeability of being targeted online for abuse. While I can control this on the blog, I’ve been surprised by the abuse sent my way when I’ve written for media outside of my control, and sometimes have had cause to wonder if the moderators were sleeping.  It is not nice. It is not acceptable. It can be frightening.  For women who are usually relatively safe, and have managed to construct an environment for ourselves that is relatively safe, the internet is an area over which we have no control.

An argument made by Ms Baird is that if  anonymity is forbidden at sites that provide the opportunity for engagement, the problem of online abuse will disappear. Very few trolls, apart from the famous ones who make a living from it, use their names, so there is some sense in the argument against anonymity.

However, many, many internet users prefer anonymity, not because they wish to abuse and troll, but because they prefer to maintain their own privacy for any number of good reasons. Should everyone be forced to identify themselves in order to provide a safe space for ladies who fear the troll will silence them?

To my mind, this would result in an appalling silencing on an appalling scale, and so is in no way acceptable.

If we are to participate in an online world we have to be able to deal with its reality, which is that we are not discussing topics around the dinner table in our homes, or only with the like-minded, but we are participating in a global exchange that lacks any of the usual social protections normally enjoyed by the privileged. Anyone can say anything to us. And they do.

Some of us may well be silenced by trolls and this is, of course, wrong and unfair. Yet I know many, many women, myself among them, who have endured enormous abuse, physical, sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual, and who have not been and never will be silenced by abuse we’ve experienced.

The world does not adapt itself to protecting us from the massive potential for abuse it contains. In the scheme of things, the sorry-arsed losers whose only source of pleasure is attempting to intimidate someone else on the internet are very low in the hierarchy of potential abusers. Yes, they say very mean things. Yes, they make threats that are alarming and intimidating. No, of course they shouldn’t do it, and we shouldn’t have to be subjected to it.  However, as there is no way of making the internet nice, and perhaps we should be grateful for that, we’re going to have to toughen up and learn, like the man kicked by a donkey, to overlook the insult on considering the source.

Don't feed the trolls

Entitlement, bullying, and private faith

21 Jan

Since I received defamation threats from Melinda Tankard Reist’s lawyers, I’ve had occasion to consider just what a defamation threat is actually intended to achieve.

If I had done what was demanded of me, that is apologised, retracted, signed and published a letter drafted by the lawyers, and then paid all Tankard Reist’s legal costs, I would now be free of fear. This is the deal. Do what we say and you won’t have to worry about massive legal costs that will break you. Don’t do what we say and you risk ruin.

This is what a defamation threat does. It is weighed in favour of the plaintiff. It does not require a fair hearing in a court of law for it to be effective. It works entirely on fear. It is bullying. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s a bullying scam. The plaintiff counts on you collapsing and doing what she’s demanded, for fear of what will happen to you if you don’t.

You pay all the costs of her instigating this bullying action against yourself. The plaintiff will get exactly what she wants, which is you silenced, and it won’t cost her a cent.

Neither Tankard Reist nor her lawyers counted on their intended victim announcing she’d received defamation threats on Twitter. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to play out. Bullying only works when there’s secrecy. Take it out into the open, shine the light of day on it, and it’s useless as an intimidatory tactic.

Tankard Reist is reportedly horrified at the swell of reaction against her, some of which has been quite foul. I have also received some disgusting tweets from people claiming to be her supporters. I know how to use the block button. I know Melinda does as well. It works. If you don’t want to see them, Melinda, get someone else to monitor Twitter for you. And take responsibility for having created this situation all by yourself.

In her article in the SMH today, Julia Baird says in her last paragraph that it would be a pity if Tankard Reist’s faith was used to try to discredit her.

I’ve never used the ad hominem argument that MTR’s views should be dismissed because she’s a Christian. My argument is that as a public figure, seeking to influence public policy on female sexuality and its representation, and on abortion to which she is unequivocally opposed, she needs to be upfront about her religious allegiances. Women have the right to know if someone who is working to prevent access to abortion is doing so from concern for women, or is fueled by her belief system.

We need to have from MTR evidence -based arguments against abortion, and many other issues she argues on emotive and anecodotal grounds. Because if this evidence isn’t available, her conclusions are subjective. This is not good enough.

No one should be attacking Tankard Reist because of her faith. She should be rigorously questioned on her evidence for her claims and if she has none, then she should be asked to explain on what they are based. This is the price paid for advocating a public morality. I don’t care what she tells her children to do. But once she’s prescribing for women, thats another story.

Baird also asks the question when must a private faith become public? I would say certainly when the believer is in a position to effect public policy making on issues of morality. The churches have considerable power, consider for example their exemption from anti discrimination legislation in the matter of employing gays and lesbians. Any other employer who refused to hire on the grounds of sexual orientation would be liable for prosecution. Not so the churches. Why? Because of their beliefs.

So are we required on the one hand to adjust our laws to accommodate the Christian faith, while simultaneously granting the believers who influence those laws the right to conceal that faith from the public gaze?

Are any Christians entitled to wield such influence, and to demand protection from all scrutiny as well?

I don’t understand this notion of privacy around religion. It seems to me many religious followers, perhaps not all Christians but certainly some, believe that living their faith in the light of day is one of the things their God requires of them. Christian politicians for example, usually seem reasonably up front about where they are coming from. What reasons would a Christian have for demanding privacy for their faith in Australia? They aren’t facing any kind of discrimination or persecution, indeed it is their churches that are enacting discrimination.

This:

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

And this:

Matthew 28:18-20
(18)  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  (19)  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (20)  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

While it seems that faith is regarded as personal in many Christian teachings, it is not regarded as private, and these are two entirely separate things.

Tankard Reist has publicly said that she tries to live her life doing what Jesus wants. Where does Jesus require his followers to be private about their belief in him?

I don’t know how long Tankard Reist and her lawyers can keep their threats hanging over my head. I have no control over this. In the meantime thank you to everyone who is helping me with their concern, interest, signing of the petition, tweets, DMs, blog comments, phone calls, and even dinners and wine. I count myself lucky. Very, very lucky. And I thank you.

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