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12 October 2012 @ 12:35 am
Stop calling us sexist, ya bloody shielas!  
Ah Australian politics … It's been too long since my last update, mostly because I am focussing on good health this year and commenting on the situation is rubbish for my blood pressure. However, you may have seen some of the news coverage regarding Prime Minister Julia Gillard's recent speech in parliament where she called out the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott for his pervasive sexism and misogyny. In case you missed it, here's a link (it's 15 minutes, but there's some fabulous fury):

And here's the transcript for those who dislike video. Now, you might wonder why she's so very cross. To begin with, let's start with a recap of this image from last year:

Yes, kids, that's the Leader of the Opposition standing in front of signs both depicting the female Prime Minister as Bob Brown's Bitch (Brown being the then-leader of the Greens) and demanding we Ditch the Witch. Abbott won an award for sexist behaviour for that one, known as an Ernie (one of nine he's collected over the years).

Those two women standing beside him are senior members of his own party, too. Shame. See the one on the left? That's Bronwyn Bishop, who today said that Gillard was 'pathetic', and had 'demeaned every woman in parliament' by 'playing the gender card', adding that if she couldn't 'stand the heat, she should get out of the kitchen'. Nice.

And no, 'Juliar' isn't from the same stable of ungrammatical commentary as the missed possessive apostrophe in Browns, it's a 'clever nickname' dreamt up by this man (himself an Ernie winner):

This is Alan Jones. Let's talk about him for a minute.

Alan is a shock-jock, the American papers have been calling him the Australian Rush Limbaugh and that works for me. He has a daily audience of 150,000 people. To put that into context, it's about the same audience as the Australian Dance Academy audience. Admittedly Jones's audience is mostly pensioners and Dance Academy's are mostly teenage girls, but I don't see leading politicians courting Tim Pocock or Xenia Goodwin.

Jones has spent years viciously attacking Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a personal fashion, and in fact broke out the 'Juliar' tag in a personal interview with the PM during which he attacked her for introducing a tax on carbon. That's a whole other Reason Alan Jones is a Fruitloop post, so I'll just focus on his sexism for now.

In addition to hectoring the Prime Minister, telling her she was a liar and whipping up crowds of protesters against her, he came up with: 'The woman is off her tree and quite frankly they should shove her and Bob Brown in a chaff bag and take them as far out to sea as they can and tell them to swim home.' And the sweetly succinct: a 'vitriolic, bitter, lying, condescending facade of a prime minister'.Of course, Gillard isn't his only target. In his Ernie-winning comment for this year, 'She (the Prime Minister) said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating. Women are destroying the joint - Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly, there is no chaff bag big enough for these people.'

A coalition of previously un-associated women have since declared they are Destroying the Joint at every success they manage. Which Jones declared was a cabal, because all feminists know each other and agree on Every Single Issue.

Recently, he outdid himself. At a speech to the Sydney University Young Liberals, he said, 'Every person in the caucus of the Labor Party knows that Julia Gillard is a liar, everybody. I will come to that in a moment. The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.'

Gillard's father did indeed die a few weeks ago, which she found absolutely gutting, as one would. To do him credit, Tony Abbott gave a beautiful condolence speech in the parliament and did criticise Jones's comments, albeit very gently: 'Alan’s remarks regarding the PM were completely out of line. It’s good that he’s recognised this and apologised for them.'

Jones's 'apology' was a rambling near-45-minute affair which started off saying that sometimes one needed to man up and admit why one was wrong, and then went into a lengthy 'but I'm not really that wrong … And besides, she started it.' You can catch it here if you are currently desperate for something to be appalled by.

Understandably, people were somewhat outraged. On Twitter, a bunch of people called for a boycott of Jones and his advertisers. In a cheery development, a bunch of his major advertisers withdrew their sponsorship from his program, some even before the call for a boycott. He was typically measured in his response to Mercedes-Benz who took their money and the car they had gifted him: 'Now this bloke McCarthy [Mercedes executive] has big noted himself on behalf of Mercedes-Benz and said: "Well we want the car back straight away and if we don't we'll get over there and we'll repossess it and we'll take it away from him."

'You big hero Mr McCarthy. How many phone calls did you make to me, you absolutely gutless wonder? None, none.'

He then declared he was the victim of bullying. "21st century cyberbullying" and "cyberterrorism" no less! And made loud demands that he be apologised to by these ratbags on Twitter who were waging a Campaign Against Him.

Mercedes-Benz released a dignified statement saying that as a company that valued integrity, they were happy with their decision.

Sometimes he just makes it all too easy …

So. How does this all link to Tony Abbott?

To start with, the photo I led with was taken at a Jones-organised rally outside Parliament House. Abbott declared that he did not know those signs were behind him. There is video footage of him turning around, but he could have missed them. What he couldn't have missed were the crowd chants of 'Ditch the Bitch', which he clearly heard and did not stop.

His assertion that Jones had apologised and that should be an end to it was widely read as weak. Political opponents then condemned him for not hitting Jones harder. Personally, I think that is drawing too long a bow and diluting attention from the genuine target, Jones himself.

However, it comes at the end of several months of Abbott receiving flack when it comes to women, some because he has the habit of shouting over them and telling them to shut up in parliament (which, if that was his only offence, I would not call a hanging one given the standard of parliamentary debate), some because he has a long line of genuinely sexist comments behind him, and some because he was accused of punching the wall beside a woman's head while he stood over her shouting abuse after losing a student election in the 1970s. 

Before we go on, let's take a look at a few of his more famous comments.

'While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it's inevitable and I don't think it's a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.'

'I'm dead against paid maternity leave as a compulsory thing. I think that making businesses pay what seems to them two wages to get one worker. Almost nothing could be more calculated to make businesses feel that the odds are stacked against them. So, voluntary paid maternity leave: yes; compulsory paid maternity leave, over this government's dead body.'
Said as a Minister in the Howard government. In fairness, it should be mentioned that he has now committed to the very popular policy of paid maternity leave should he win government.

In response to a question by the Australian Women's Weekly on what advice he would give his daughters on sex before marriage: "I think I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question ... it is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving, and don't give it to someone lightly," he said.
To put this into context, Abbott long thought he had fathered a child at university with a student girlfriend.

'I won't be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that's because I'm a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won't be.'

A transcript from the PM program talking with Tony Abbott on his banning of RU486 while Health Minister under the Howard Government:
TONY ABBOTT: I conclude that there is no reason, based on the report from the Chief Medical Officer, to change longstanding practice in regards to RU-486.
Journalist CATHERINE MCGRATH: But the AMA says itself, that it is the best and safest, or it is an option for the best and safest termination, where doctors are assessing the risks to the patient.
TONY ABBOTT: That's not my reading of the report from the Chief Medical Officer. My reading of that report is that there are significant additional health risks associated with medical terminations, and that the safest way to have a termination is a surgical termination.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: To say the AMA is stunned is an understatement, and the peak medical body takes issue with the advice Tony Abbott has received. Penned for the Chief Medical Office by Obstetrician Professor Andrew Child, the AMA says the author did not consult widely with specialists and did not discuss the issue at all with regional obstetricians. Tony Abbott's advice talks about the difficulties with prescribing RU-486 without full medical supervision, but the AMA has never argued that it be given without that supervision. It also says international medical research shows the drug is safe and in some circumstances far preferable to surgical abortion.

Abbott is a staunch Catholic, which is a perfectly reasonable personal belief but not something that should inform public policy. However – 'Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.'

‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.’

‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’

‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’

‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’

And thanks to this website for saving me having to look up the last 4 of those. Some more pearlers there on other topics, bless.

Last week his wife Margie came out to speak on Abbott's behalf, stating that he clearly did not have a problem with women if her experience and that of his daughters and sisters was anything to go by. It was actually a good speech and one that considerably humanised Abbott. If he had rested on that and his condemnation of Jones, it could all have been fine. But no.

Instead, he declared that he would not be boycotting the Jones program in future, because he was not in the business of 'ignoring a big audience'. Which came as news to the ABC (the Australian BBC), who have been trying to get him to come on and answer questions on several of their programs for over a year.

'I am the Leader of the Opposition, my job every day is to reach out to the people of Australia and reassure them that we are a great country and a great people let down at the moment by a bad government. So I am certainly not going to ignore an audience of half a million people in Sydney. I never have and I never will.'

You will note that he confuses 500,000 people with 150,000, but let's let that slide. Several ABC programs rate well over 500,000 viewers. Just saying.

Of course, Abbott isn't the only culprit. On Monday night, Christopher Pyne, Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, appeared on Q&A, the Australian version of the BBC's Question Time, basically a panel show with a moderator and 5-6 public figures, usually including politicians. Minister Kate Ellis was another guest, she's an attractive young woman and was interrupted or spoken over by Pyne no fewer than 21 times during the program. Pyne then went on to deliver this masterpiece of consistent narrative:
'To suggest that Tony Abbott is a misogynist is part of a smear campaign designed to stop him becoming Prime Minister and let me say this: it is a distraction from the issues like cost of living pressures, job insecurity, the economy, and Labor wants us to have that distraction. They want the Australian public to talk about everything other than the economy, job insecurity, cost of living and the carbon tax and unfortunately that question falls for that Labor Party campaign. To Margie Abbott came out on Friday, because she was thoroughly sick of people telling bald faced lies about her husband. Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, unfortunately Kate Ellis, others have been responsible for this, what’s been dubbed the handbag hit squad.'

Nothing sexist there. Also, I am a Swedish Supermodel.

On Tuesday, it all kicked off.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives was then a man named Peter Slipper. He was member of the Liberal National Party, and Tony Abbott described him as a personal friend and attended his wedding. Then he took up the role as Speaker, effectively granting the Labor Party government an extra vote in the house, as the Speaker does not vote. The Opposition immediately declared he was an untrustworthy rat and had sexually harassed his young gay staffer.

He may have, the court case is still underway. The texts that have been released, though, reveal they were both foul-mouthed, including this gem from Slipper on the topic of vaginas: 'They look like mussell (sic) removed from its shell. Look at a bottle of mussel meat. Salty Cunts in brine.'

Not classy. If the argument was that Slipper was a nasty little man, I'd be in full agreement. The argument that being an oik in private text messages outweighs sexist oikery writ large in the federal parliament, on the other hand, that doesn't work.

Abbott has led a months-long charge to have Slipper dimissed. Gillard has held the line that since there is an actual legal process in place, she would await the outcome of that rather than have the parliament act as a kangaroo court. Slipper has since resigned. In parliament, Abbott declared that it was inconsistent for the PM to refuse to boot Slipper, while calling Jones sexist. He described Slipper as 'sexist and misogynist' and declared that the government should have 'Died of shame'.

You might recall that 'died of shame' phrase. Even Alan Jones sucked air through his teeth and said he thought that was ill-advised.

Understandably, the PM went him. I think she was controlled and proportionate, given that I'd've been down in the parking lot slashing his tyres.

On the whole, the world's media has been saying 'Oh, well done, that Prime Minister!'

You might think that the Australian media would have been leading the praise. You'd be wrong.

Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote: 'Julia Gillard confronted a stark choice yesterday - the political defence of her parliamentary numbers, or the defence of the principle of respect for women She chose to defend her numbers. She chose power over principle. It was the wrong choice. It was an unprincipled decision and turned out not to be pragmatic either. The Prime Minister gained nothing and lost a great deal.'

Paul Sheehan, also of the Herald, wrote this piece, which is so staggeringly crazycakes that I can't actually pick a single line that sums up the delusional vitriol, but I did find myself worrying for his drug intake after reading it. And I did want to kick him in the shins after reading this line: 'Why invoke the accusation of misogyny, hatred of women, against an opposition leader whose chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is famously one of the most formidable woman in politics, whose mostly female staff is devoted to their boss and who, unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters?' A slur so petty in its nastiness towards the childless PM that it was wisely removed by the Herald's site editor, Darren Goodsir.

In fact, the only good thing I can say about that article is that it led to this blog post, which was one of the finer bits of frothing umbrage I've read recently.

After reading through the papers yesterday, Abbott wanted to just move on. After all, the Australian media already had. In his words: 'It really is time for the Labor Party to stop hyperventilating about Alan Jones. And just because the Prime Minister has sometimes been the victim of unfair criticism, doesn't mean that she can dismiss any criticism as sexism.'

'I think it's time that everyone in the parliament moved on from this gender game that so many members of the government have been playing.'

Yeah. Because none of that has been sexist. At All.

Today, Jacqueline Maley, one of the Herald's women journalists – presumably to show they care, or possibly because the menfolk were busy having to do their ironing while all their wives were tweeting 'GO JULIA!' – wrote a piece entitled 'Gillard's fiery retort – Did the mainstream media get it wrong?' Her conclusions were: 'No', 'of course not', 'we were talking about something different altogether', and 'Yes, we totally fucked up there'.

The one cheering thing in all of this has been the enormous number of normal everyday decent men who have been saying 'Actually, there do seem to be double standards, and some of that shit is not on.' This has been an overwhelming theme not just in blog comments and dear old Twitter, but on the bus, in the Broadway shopping centre (the boganest edifice within 5 miles of my home), in the shops and cafes, and even at the Erko Lawn Bowls Club.

As to whether Tony Abbott is or is not sexist and a misogynist, I think he is definitely sexist. I don't think he is a misogynist in general, there are too many women willing to speak out for him for that to be true. But until there is a word that means 'hates women in positions of political power that I don't want them in, with a hatred that is delivered in a particularly gendered fashion', it'll have to do.

This afternoon, Julie Bishop, possessor of the finest Death Glare in Australian political history came out in defence of her Fearless Leader. Fixing the media scrum in her laser sights, she forcefully declared: 'Tony Abbott loves and cares for many women.'

Which would. of course, be an entirely different scandal.

illereynillereyn on October 11th, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
Wow, the reaction from mainstream media sounds very different to the one on social media. I saw the video on fb, where the reaction is various forms of 'Go Julia!' And then read about it in the front page of the mX, which was...a surprisingly non-hyperbolic article (bad puns aside).

It's an ironic day when the mX has a more measured approach than the Sydney Morning Herald.
AutumnHearti_autumnheart on October 11th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
Awesome summary :)

I gave up on Sheehan's article after the first paragraph - really couldn't believe he got that published, and he's now on the list of people-to-avoid-reading-unless-the-day-is-to-be-ruined.

(tiny edit for typo)

Edited at 2012-10-11 02:32 pm (UTC)
lyraslyras on October 11th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
Great summary!

I watched the Q&A thing go down on twitter the other day - watched my Australian friends rage at Pyne (and also Tanner and Akerman - by all accounts the suppression of Kate Ellis was bipartisan in that respect). Seeing Gillard's speech the day after that gave me shivers; she was so angry yet articulate and full of facts.

And then to see the media get it so, so wrong...argh.

Did you see Penny Wong talking to Leigh Sales about Abbott and misogyny (transcript here)? Although I have no idea what Sales thought she was doing, particularly in trying to equate Hillary Clinton's comments on abortion with those of Abbott.
goddessrissgoddessriss on October 11th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
Gosh, Abbott and Jones sound like a lovely pair of gentlemen. While this is an entertaining read, it grieves me that people like this are in positions of influence and power in this day and age, and that others legitimize their opinions. It makes me full of grrrr. Nice photo, that last one!
mama_pyjamamama_pyjama on October 11th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
Awesome post.
Vaysh Swiftstorm: Vicomte Renevaysh on October 11th, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
The one thing that did not make me froth in rage is the thought of Brammers as a Swedish Supermodel! Yay!! And thank you for the run-down summary.
lokifan: Ciel: outragedlokifan on October 11th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
That video is fantastic - GO JULIA indeed. The rest of it... ugh, ugh, ugh. "Died of shame" is such a horrific personal attack even before you get to the terrifying rest of it. I knew Abbott was a sexist idiot but that he actually said publically women's "aptitudes and abilities" make them inherently less fit for public life... !!!
nevernot_brokennevernot_broken on October 11th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
About time someone pointed out all the BS that man has sprouted over the years! Thanks for the run down too - much easier to read than having to deal with mainstream media and figure out what was what
quatrefoilquatrefoil on October 11th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
In an online poll more than 70% of ABC viewers voted that Julia Gillard's speech 'rocked'.

As for Margie Abbott's speech, I actually think it was a complete admission of failure on Tony Abbott's behalf - it's right up there with the mass murderer pointing out that he's nice to small animals. Being loved by your wife and children with whom you are in a particular intimate relationship is really neither here nor there as an indicator of how you treat women in positions of power over whom you have no control.
mrsquizzicalmrsquizzical on October 11th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
most of the australians i know who would be totally 'go julia' were also very caught up worrying that aware people would be so busy cheering that they missed commenting on the terrible stuff done to centrelink payments that would adversely effect single mothers. i felt torn on that, but do think that this was a really high point for the P.M. and deserved its moment in the sun. it doesn't wipe out the rest of her fail. but it's definitely a great moment on its own.

Edited at 2012-10-11 10:37 pm (UTC)
Sin: sga - teyla sighsinden on October 11th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, lets move on the from the gender game when women (who make up slightly greater than 50% of the vote) have only about 1/3 of the parliamentary positions. And if you look at the number of wormen in the national parliament we fall 38th in the world. Behind Afghanistan. [reference]

Nope, no sexism or misogyny. None.

This speech was a thing of beauty and I hope she stays. I miss the woman who walked into parliament during the RU-486 debate with the t-shirt "Get your rosaries off our ovaries" for the consience vote. The spin doctors at the ALP have been screwing her over.

Edited at 2012-10-11 11:48 pm (UTC)
Harrold the Flying Sheep: crichtonGunNutsharroldsheep on October 12th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
your posts give an insight into Australian politics that normally flies so under the radar here in North America, i would not be surprised in the least if the majority of my fellow men and women were ignorant of the fact Australia HAS a government.

"so, eh, the kangaroos ain't in charge?"

please continue!
boodiedharawal on October 12th, 2012 03:57 am (UTC)
While I disagree with Prime Minister Gillard on a few things, the one thing she has my full support over is these increasingly obnoxious and sexist attacks on her, that no other Prime Minister has had to endure, no other PM has ever been spoken of with such little regard due the holder of the title, REGARDLESS of what your personal opinion is.

Even former PM John Howard, when he was on his way out and his popularity was diving, was never ever adressed solely as John, it was always Prime Minister Howard, , or John Howard Prime Minister.

You might want to have a read of this by Anne Summers, noted feminist and author of one of the definitive books about the female perspective from the time of settlement "Damned Whores and Gods Police"


This is the R rated version of Annne's lecture complete with all the distateful and highly sexist and in some cases pornographic images that people have used to ridicule and demean Prime Minister Gillard.

No other Prime Minister has ever had to endure things like that, not even the most unpopular ones like Gorton, or Fraser, even Paul Keating was never subjected to this type of sustained abuse.

Shadowiamshadow on October 12th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
I bloody love that book. Anne Summers should be just as well known as Germaine Greer, IMHO. She should be required reading in this country.
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on October 12th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
Your summaries are, as ever, lovely.
kaedhlinkaedhlin on October 12th, 2012 10:08 am (UTC)
A most succinct summing up (no really, we could go on for hours, with hand-puppets and anecdotes and frothing at the mouth). It has been all rather gob-smacking indeed. I've been particularly bemused at the seeming misread by the popular press in Aust compared to the prevailing attitude of social media and general vox populi (although, if we are going to start using Broadway as a benchmark, we ARE in trouble...)
I've tended to avoid much of it since it starts to make my jaw hurt with the clenching and grinding of teeth. And also with the muttering and throwing things at the tele/radio/computer and throwing of the newspaper. Mr B needs an umbrella sometimes due to the spluttering. I usually need to go look at baby sloth for 5 minutes to calm down.
I agree; I don't necessarily think misogynist is the right term, but, from personal experience, he has no time for anyone who he does not perceive as 'useful' to him politically and that goes double for girls.
I can't talk about Alan Jones, I don't have the strength of will - where is that website with the baby sloth again, I'm beginning to twitch... http://cuteoverload.com/2012/10/11/some-days-are-rough/

Edited at 2012-10-12 10:08 am (UTC)
Hollyhollyxu on October 12th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
I haven't read any of the official news reports, but the difference between their stance and general social media stance are shocking. They're basically poles apart! Everyone's been like, 'Whoo Julia go!'

That was a beautiful example of being emotional and factual and taking your opponent down brick by logical brick.
Jaeenchanted_jae on October 13th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)

And I thought the US had the monopoly on male politicians being all around ass-wipes when it came to belittling and demeaning women.

ladyjanevaladyjaneva on October 13th, 2012 08:54 am (UTC)
I listened to the first 10 minutes of her speech, and I have to say: WAY TO GO! WOW. She impressed me so much. I could feel her rage and her anger, and yet she kept to the facts and was so articulate. It really moved me. How strong she must be.

(and I loved hearing an aussie accent :-)).
mayela_delaruemayela_delarue on October 17th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
I've been keeping up with the tidbits that come across on fb as I recently travelled from Europe to America and the only way to keep up is other people's posts. Last night, so, your yesterday, I saw this article float across the interwebs: http://mobile.news.com.au/national/abbott-defends-indonesia-boat-talks/story-fndo4eg9-1226497740411
My favourite quote is: "I am not going to be lectured to by a prime minister who is more interested in complaining about the opposition than she is in getting on with government."

Now that is rich coming from him, all he has done for the last two terms of government is complain about the government and side step questions about his policies and how he will fund said policies, tax cuts and magic beans. Suddenly I'm really glad I'll be living in the UK for another year.