As notions of feminism, sexism and misogyny gain more and more traction in the mainstream media, slowly but surely those very same notions are being used as weapons against women.
The sheer stupidity and lack of logic of these ‘arguments’ has been overlooked by the mainstream media because gender-based abuse means ratings and profits.
Two days ago, an angry young man gave Kate Ellis a lecture on the ABC’s Q&A. Aggressively leaning forward and jabbing his finger at her, he declared that she didn’t know anything about feminism and he knew it all.
I was looking forward to watching Ellis put the little snot in his place. She never got the chance.
Tony Jones interrupted her as she started to reply, blithely said the young man’s aggressive attack was to be taken ‘as comment’ and moved on. This was just one instance of Kate Ellis being shut down and shut up by the men on that panel. Another was when Christopher Pyne called ministers Kate Ellis, Tanya Plibersek and Nicola Roxon the ‘handbag hit squad’. Not even Lindsay Tanner, who is supposedly a loyal member of the ALP, called him on it.
Yesterday, we saw the Prime Minister wipe the floor with Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy. The video clip of her verbally skinning him alive has gone viral worldwide.
She has been lauded by women’s organisations and publications, editors, journalists and celebrities the world over. Yet here in Australia, the mainstream media have used it as an excuse to lecture Gillard on how she’s not a proper feminist and the widespread viewing of the clip has been dismissed as meaningless.
Peter Hartcher kicked it off by giving Gillard a stern talking to, firstly on the ABC and again in the Sydney Morning Herald. According to Hartcher, this Prime Minister’s role differs to that of the men who preceded her. We expect men to lead, be ambitious and make decisions in the best interests of their party. But not Gillard. According to Hartcher, “Australia’s first female prime minister should have been a flag bearer for women”.
Feminism is there to define and limit a woman’s role to that of being a figurehead for others of her gender. Gillard hasn’t obeyed Mr Hartcher’s Rules For Ladies In Office and thus, has suffered a ‘loss of credibility’.
Hear that ladies? Do what the blokes tell you to, otherwise they won’t take you seriously. Oooh, scary.
This is very similar ‘logic’ (and I’m using the word mockingly) to Pyne chastising Gillard for being ambitious. Men can be ambitious but it’s an against-god-and-nature-abomination for a woman to be anything of the sort. Ladies should sit there demurely and learn to take ‘fair criticism’ as Abbott labelled it today.
In other words, ladies should keep quiet when they are attacked. When Gillard is called a bitch or a witch, when she’s the subject of the most revolting images and when she’s called a slut, she should shut up and take it. She deserves gender-based abuse because she’s a politician who happens to have a vagina. That’s fair criticism, isn’t it?
This is the Word according to Abbott: if bitches be bitches, the bitches should take it like bitches.
Dennis Shanahan was absolutely right when he wrote in The Australian that there is ‘no moral equivalence’ between Slipper’s text messages and Abbott’s behaviour towards women. Unfortunately, as if often the way with Dennis, he got things the wrong way around.
Slipper made a number of pathetic attempts to impress a gay man with lame, misogynist jokes. Despite the mock indignation of Liberal politicians and right wing commentators, the whole thing was pitiful in its obsequiousness and so far from doing any damage to anyone except Slipper that it was laughable.
On the flip-side, Abbott has given speeches saying that ‘abortion is the easy way out’, he tried to stop women getting access to Gardasil (the cervical cancer vaccine) and voted against giving women access to RU486 (the ‘abortion pill’).
Slipper made some lame vag jokes. If he becomes Prime Minister, Abbott has the power to legislate against every vagina in the country.
That is what Julia Gillard was arguing in her speech yesterday: the sheer hypocrisy of a man who has proven his contempt for the interests of women time and again has now magically become a feminist. It was blindingly obvious that was the point she was making. But the truth doesn’t always make the best story, does it?
Using Parliament to judge Slipper when there is a court case in motion sets a dangerous precedent and makes a mockery of what Parliament is for. That is what the vote was about yesterday. Virtually all media outlets have either ignored this or don’t understand it.
Emma Alberici on Lateline called the decision to leave it up to the courts ‘hypocrisy’ and said Gillard can never again expect respect. I genuinely don’t understand how our mainstream media can fail to get their heads around something as simple as the separation of powers.
No-one voted in support of Slipper’s comments, as Alberici claimed, they voted in support of not allowing Parliament to be used as an extension of the judiciary. It’s high school level politics. To call this is ‘proof’ that Gillard supports sexism requires a leap of logic that not even Evil Knievel could have managed.
Feminism is capable of holding disparate views and dealing with complex problems just like any other robust intellectual or political movement.The idea that feminism is simplistic is predicated on the myth that women are simplistic.
It’s the only way I can explain why intelligent men like Hartcher think they can tell women how to conduct themselves in public office.
It’s the only way I can explain why Pyne thinks that bleating constantly about the Prime Minister being sexist and Abbott being a victim is going to be swallowed by women. It’s the only way I can explain why Abbott continues to laugh off the very valid claim that his views about women are archaic and damaging to our rights as equal citizens.
And it’s the only way I can explain why the Liberals think they can call the Prime Minister a traitor to women one day—and the next glibly claim they will accept Slipper’s vote.
MORE STORIES BY CORINNE GRANT IN THEHOOPLA
*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.