Musings on International Women’s Day

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It’s fitting to be in Adelaide on International Women’s Day, as South Australia was the first place in the world to give women the vote.

And yet, 128 years later, I despair at how blokey it is down under. “Why do women exist? … So men have something to like down on, while having shag,” runs a typical joke. “Why don’t women surf?…It’s so hard to get the smell out of the fish.” Australian foreplay?  “Are you awake love?”

Proving that the difference between many male politicians and a brontosaurus is about two brain cells, in 2012 Union Leader Martin Ferguson described women campaigning for paid maternity leave as “hairy-legged femocrats.” Former Labour party leader, Mark Latham backed him up. “The Aussie bloke is in crisis and in danger of being replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexuals, knobs and tossbags because Leftwing Feminists have sanitized public culture.”

Another politician who seems to have given himself a D.I.Y. lobotomy is MP Andrew Fraser. In a parliamentary debate, he told the Small Business Minister Sandra Nori, to, “Go and wash up.”

The mainstream media is equally misogynistic. Radio announcer Ray Hadley marked Germaine Greer’s recent birthday with the comment, “I bet she’s now sorry she burnt her bra all those years ago!” It seems to have completely escaped his notice that he has a beer belly drooping over his belt. (What we call in Australia, ‘a verandah over the toy shop.”)

Last year right wing radio, DJ, Alan Jones, raged against the PM Julie Gillard, Sydney’s Mayor, Clover Moore and the former Victorian police commissioner, Christine Nixon, complaining that “Women are destroying the joint. Honestly. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

The announcement of Gillard’s Prime Ministership in 2010 had male knuckle draggers quaking in their Ugg boots. As if it’s not bad enough having a Sheila at the political helm, Gillard’s an unmarried, childless, agnostic, shacked up with a hairdresser. Right wing senator Bill Heffernan scandalously described her as “deliberately barren”, implying that a woman is little more than a life support system to an ovary and somehow not fit for political office.

Last year David Farley, CEO of the Australian Agricultural Company demonstrated a machine in an abattoir with the comment, “So it’s designed for non-productive old cows. Julia Gillard’s got to watch out.”

At anti-carbon tax rallies protesters hold aloft placards reading “Ditch the Witch”. Cartoonist Larry Pickering, invariably depicts Gillard naked, wearing a strap-on penis.

When Julia Gillard used Tony Abbot’s testicles as maracas in her infamous “smack-down”, it made global headlines. In Britain, France and the US she was praised for the most outspoken attack on sexism in political history. Yet most of the male dominated Australian media wrote off her speech as a disaster.

Despite 1969’s equal pay amendment Australian women still only receive about 80c in the dollar as well as getting concussion hitting our heads on the glass ceiling. Only seven chief executives in the ASX 200 are female and only 10 per cent are key executives.

Of course, there is just as much sexism in Britain which is now 60th on the international league table of female political power, down from 33rd in 2001. Only one in four MP’s and one in five peers are women. David Cameron’s condescension chromosome’s apparent in the way he mocked Tory MP Nadine Dorries as being “extremely frustrated” and told Treasury spokeswoman Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear” at Prime Minister’s Question Time. Only two chief executives in the FTSE 100 are female, and only 17% of directors.

But here in the birthplace of modern feminism, let’s honour our female forbears and live up to our auspicious beginnings by calling a truce in the sex war – starting with chauvinists negotiating their terms of surrender.

Click here to read some of the comments from my readers

4 Comments

  • wasn’t NZ the first place in the world to give women the vote? 1893

    Reply
  • Yes, New Zealand was followed by South Australia 2 years later, however that was I think the 6th Bill placed before Parliament. It took 5 years from the first Bill presented before it was finally passed in both houses. Several members lost the support of their party and their electorate and one clergyman lost the support of his church over it. You might have expected this to happen in Sydney or Melbourne rather than in peaceful old Adelaide, but then SA has a number of firsts (not all good – but many of them are) such as the first female superior court judge and non-fault based divorce.

    Reply
  • I wish I’d read this post before I wrote the blog piece on Kingsman… I’d have just sent them here! The facts of this are depressing… how can the word feminism have been so hijacked and spoiled by the very people who made the word necessary?… but thank heavens we have Kathy Lette to point this out! It renew my faith we must keep believing and standing up to be counted. Thank you 🙂

    Reply

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