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HERE WE GO… OUTRAGE ALERT!

You can set your watch by this kind of outrage. 

Every time a tweak is made to anti-discrimination laws, a small but loud minority starts wailing about how the “bitches”, “pansies” and “ethnics” are taking over the world. It’s a debate that almost always reaches its apoplectic apogee when someone mentions Hitler.

Watching it unfold online is a little like watching zombies learn how to type.

Australia’s Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, announced this week that federal anti-discrimination laws will be changed in an effort to streamline the process.

As you would expect, the bigot brigade is already out in force, complaining that their right to vilify people based on their gender, sexuality or race is being curbed.

Eventually the debate lurches just that little bit more off the path, sniffs fresh blood and starts staggering towards affirmative action.

Raaaahhhh!!! This is the root of all evil!  Rahhhhh!!!! Women are stealing men’s jobs!  Rahhhhh!!!!

Most people recognise that refusing someone a job because of their race, gender or sexuality is bone-headed behaviour.

This is why the debate often turns to affirmative action: the underlying principles of affirmative action are not particularly well understood and it’s therefore easy to manipulate people with misinformation to ratchet up the fury.

Let’s clear things up: affirmative action isn’t about taking jobs away from white men, nor is it about giving jobs to unqualified or sub-intelligent women or minority groups.  It’s about giving competent and qualified people the support they need to reach the so-called level playing field that white men are occupying on their own. It’s about trying to get more diversity into workplaces, onto boards and into leadership positions.

It’s not about minority groups taking over, it’s about them being represented in a way that accurately reflects the population and recognises that everyone is equally capable.

I can understand some men being angry and fearful of this.  In a world where the unconscious bias of white males employing other white males seems like nothing more than a sensible business decision instead of instilled discrimination, the idea of giving the job to anyone else is challenging.

However, for affirmative action to work it must first be assumed that there are competent people out there to fill the roles.

This week, Jane Gilmore, the editor of online publication King’s Tribune, wrote a piece in support of affirmative action for women in online publications, but seemed to misunderstand some of the writing that women in that domain are already doing.

Her argument, in part, was that she can’t hire as many women as she’d like because there simply aren’t enough qualified women for the job.

It’s one of the classic logical fallacies: I can’t find them, therefore they don’t exist.

The most worrying part of the article was her assertion that the shortage of quality women was in some way attributable to women who wrote for “women’s sites” and were therefore probably not capable of writing about more serious topics:

“So, to get published, female writers are submitting work to the few outlets likely to consider their work – places like Mamamia and The Hoopla – and, if they’re any good and get repeat gigs, they become established not as a writer, but as a ‘Woman’s Issues’ writer. I’m sure I’m overlooking many a frustrated political writer because the only work they’ve been able to get published is on ‘women’s issues’ websites and that’s not where I go looking when I need someone to write about Tony Abbott,” she wrote.

As regular readers of The Hoopla would know, there are many articles on this site that cover not just Tony Abbott but state, federal and international politics from a variety of angles.

Near the end of the article, Jane encourages all publications to take the time to mentor the “bright but inexperienced” women and the implication seems to be that they can be saved from the “women’s sites” and trained to produce “high quality, interesting” content instead.

This isn’t affirmative action.

It’s a fundamental lack of understanding about what the so-called “women’s sites” are offering.

If editors of publications are ignoring the women who write for The Hoopla and other female dominated publications because it is assumed they lack the requisite skills to write about politics, then that needs to be addressed.

It concerns me greatly that Jane doesn’t realise that a lot of content on The Hoopla isn’t about lip gloss and cellulite and that both the writers and the readers are across more complex issues than fashion and boys. (Not to say that you can’t write a ripping, nuanced, articulate piece on skirts or lads by the way, I’m just saying that’s not the only thing you’ll find on this website.)

                                                                   Nice picture of lipgloss. Ed 

I applaud Jane’s call to arms to get more women in all publications, but it does concern me that a large number of women are being dismissed because they’ve purpose-written for a particular female audience.  The requisite analytical skills and ability to form an argument should be evident no matter what the subject matter.

We saw this same prejudice pop up on Twitter last week under the hashtag #fakemamamia.

People used the social media site as a way to vent upon middle class women that were perceived as vacuous and shallow. It’s an unfair assumption and comes across as snobbish: if some women like to read articles about fashion and beauty occasionally, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. And again, a quick look at Mamamia shows it is far more diverse than that anyway.

We have to be mindful of these subtle prejudices.

A site that is run mostly by and for women isn’t in some way lesser or lighter.  It’s affirmative action at its best.

We shouldn’t dismiss publications because of out-dated beliefs as to what subject matter constitutes quality writing or that “women’s sites” publish nothing of substance in the first place.

Perhaps we could go some way to solving this apparent dearth of experienced, high quality female writers if the editors of the male-dominated sites broadened their search to include the places many of these women are already working.

 

 

 

MORE STORIES BY CORINNE GRANT

The Crazy Culy of Busy-ness

Corinne Grant’s Rage Index: Rising

MI·SOG·Y·NY. Hijacked by pedants

The Vagina Dialogues

What do Women Want? Hmmm…

 

 

*Corinne Grant is a stand-up comedian, MC, presenter, writer and broadcaster and has performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her years on Rove Live and The Glasshouse, she has appeared on everything from Spicks and Specks to Dancing With The Stars to Good News Week. She has co-hosted successful national radio shows, performed countless solo live shows and appeared everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Kalgoorlie Arts Centre. Corinne’s first book, Lessons In Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder (Allen and Unwin) was released in September 2010 and went into reprint just months after its release.

 

 

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18 Comments

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Jude

    I agree with everything except re the ‘occasional’ reading of fashion and beauty. Women (and men) can read that stuff all the time and still be smart and informed. I know!

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Kelly Exeter

    Once again I am leaving a comment on an article by you Corinne saying ‘love your work’. I never have anything to add because, as always, you have hit the nail on the head in a clear and concise manner.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Michelle

    I agreed with you all the way up to your take on #fakemamamia which to me was a critique of the way they insult their intended audiences intelligence. And that is not a criticism of the people who write for MM or who read it! But I think it is a real shame that much of what they do is tabloid style journalism these days. The fact that it is hard to tell the difference bwn that hashtag and #realmamamia says it all for me.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Rhoda

    It’s pure condescension – nothing else. Unconscious I expect. Women have been condescended to for millenia. It’s a habit.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Marina

    I sort of love it. I know it’s damn frustrating – but those women who know what they want in life – will just go and do it.
    So while those with the mindset of ‘Jane’ go on about their banter of there are no experienced women – the ‘Experienced Women’ are out there doing their own thing.
    It’s hard – trailblazing hard yacker – but look at what it’s created – and look who is failing and crumbling because of it.
    I’ve seen so many fabulous successful women who have reached a point in a company and can’t move forward due to the limited view of management. These women want more from life and after a few (sometimes serious) restructures in their personal lives – things get so much better for them – they are happy and off the grinding treadmill. Sometimes they become even more successful financially – but mostly they have been able to spend more time with their families (making me – their fulltime nanny redundant lol!) and they get to do all those things on a regular basis that they used to cram into a 2 week holiday.
    I can see what your saying Corrine and there is a long way to go – but if we stop and look back to see exactly how far we have come – how women are in leading positions (which would NEVER have been considered 30 years ago) – I am truly grateful that we live in a country where we can do that, have loads of opportunities awaiting us and have a hard time wiping that subtle knowing smile off my face – knowing that my girls will have an easy run of things thanks to the trailblazers in this country :)

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Jim

    As a “white male” I read the Hoopla because of the quality of the writing. No because its written by “women for women”. Intelligence & wit has no gender. Oh, and I disagree with some of the articles too. It doesn’t make them less relevant though.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Alison

    What nonsense about #fakemamamia. It was mostly entertaining and dead on the money. Many of the fake hashtag headlines were almost impossible to identify from the real ones. The media needs to get used to the fact that if you publicly publish your opinions in the hope of reaching a wide audience you will not always receive flattery and praise.

    Most of the #fakemamamia tweets were witty and most were aimed solely and directly at the site itself and at Mia Freedman. Best of all Mamamia had no control over it, could not edit anything or refuse to publish comments. Here’s a link to a piece published at the time which showed average tweets for #fakemamamia: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/lady-parts-tweet-sparks-mia-freedman-backlash-20121117-29igd.html

    The public had their say and they laughed at Mamamia. Here’s hoping the media learns from that.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    SusiQ

    “The most worrying part of the article was her assertion that the shortage of quality women was in some way attributable to women who wrote for “women’s sites” and were therefore probably not capable of writing about more serious topics”
    This is at the heart of it. Jane is saying that women = not to be taken seriously. She clearly is a sexist p*g herself. We need to call out these white-anting women for what they are. Talk about rage index……arghhhh

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    ro.watson

    There is the queen bee scenario…..Alternatively, there is the valuing of differing voices~ within organisations. Groups do not change their input or output or cultural prejudices, until there is a sufficient number of people, previously excluded,who are present,accepted,represented and actively participating …..

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Katherine

    Disagree on the #fakemamamia hash tag. In as much as anything on twitter can be said to have a coherent message I thought the obvious one of #fakemamamia was the disappointment lots of women feel that the new media aimed at women looks and feels so much like the old media. The same old celebrity and body image obsessions, the valuing of women primarily as vehicles of consumerism. These things are common to soany sites aimed at women (although I’d say The Hoopla’s focus is broader) and are worthy of critique.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    sami

    On a slightly unrelated note, I used to enjoy reading mamamia until they published a Huge Schwyzer article and announced there would be more. Any womens site that encourages us to listen to the views of a guy that tried to murder his own girlfriend and then claim to be a feminist is not a site for me. Not to mention that anyone mentioning his history had their comment deleted to the point where they closed comments on the article.

    So that’s why I stick with the Hoopla these days. xojane is also good for a variety of topics and has a great community.

    Re womens publishing/journalism: Tara Moss is all over that kind of thing. She has written about the great gender imbalance regarding literary awards. She really is a champion for women in the industry (and a lot of other women too). Adore her :)

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    Carley

    I think all the women who read traditional media should quit reading it and stick to ‘women’s sites’ and see how quickly the aforementioned eds scramble to un-insult the readers and writers who frequent sites like the hoopla. Methinks they are disparaging a large chunk of their customer base.

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    Tony W

    “It’s pure condescension – nothing else. Unconscious I expect. Women have been condescended to for millenia. It’s a habit.”

    Yeah there’s no doubt about that. A lot of blokes just don’t get it, even when it’s pointed out to them what they’re doing. They really do see women as a different species, and a lesser one at that. I find it weird how any man would want to relate to women on such a superficial level.

    To be honest I’ve been surprised since coming to Hoopla that this kind of workplace discrimination is still so widespread. Having lived through the 70’s and 80’s I thought we’d pretty much outgrown it. Admittedly I’ve been out of the mixed workforce for a long time but I don’t get that impression from the media – there are plenty of women journos and commentators and presenters on TV. I guess it’s deceptive, the sexism is behind the scenes, as Tracey Spicer’s recent article showed.

    I’ve read Jane Gilmore’s piece and it doesn’t make much sense to me. For a start she seems to be saying you need 10 years experience in publishing before you’re publishable! And anyone who says Hoopla only covers women’s issues has obviously not even bothered to visit the home page. My overall impression is she’s big-noting herself as an Editor, and touting the Kings Tribune as having higher professional standards than so called “Mummy Blogsites”.

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    eyeswierd

    “They really do see women as a different species” – well, different, certianly, just as many women feel the same about men…
    …”and a lesser one at that.” Well misogynists do, how many of the population are they, do you suppose?

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    eyeswierd

    So affirmative action is “about giving competent and qualified people the support they need to reach the so-called level playing field.” Or is it pretending that the large numbers of highly competent, well-trained women who decide for their own understandable reasons to spend time raising a family and opting out of the rat race, and not
    selfishly devoting themselves to workaholism and job slavery like so many ‘successful’ men, do not exist?

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    mary

    http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/jessica-rudd-talks-politics-kevin-rudd-the-spill-and-owning-it/

    This thread is why many thinking women find the blog amusing to say the least….

    Its Mc Donalds media for the masses….

    Good on her success but its not for everyone….

  • Reply November 24, 2012

    Tony W

    @ eyeswierd – “So affirmative action is “about giving competent and qualified people the support they need to reach the so-called level playing field.”

    Only if they want to eyeswierd, it’s not a judgement on women on who choose to devote themselves to family instead.

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