Tuesday, October 23, 2012


If Tony Abbott felt that he needed prove his great relationships with women, his superior understanding of women and how we work, he should have stayed in bed this morning, or sent Margie in his place. Instead, he fronted the post-MYEFO media and declared that the Government doesn't really understand families; if they did, they would never have monkeyed around with the Baby Bonus.

Echoes of 2007, when Bill Heffernan called Julia Gillard "deliberately barren" bounced around Twitter. Was the Leader of the Oppostion really drawing attention back to the Prime Minister's choice to remain childless, and using it as evidence that the Government doesn't understand the pressures on Australian families...during a time when he's trying to appeal to women voters?

Journalist and academic Julie Posetti tweeted:

"You've got to be kidding me - Abbott played the 'Gillard isn't a mother' card. Again?! Interesting misogyny accusation deflection strategy."

Gold Coast Columnist Sue Lapperman tweeted:

"I can't believe @TonyAbbottMHR has not learnt anything from the past couple of weeks. Badly done Mr Rabbit, badly done."

There are probably more than a few people who are surprised that the conversation about equality, misogyny, sexism and respect has lasted longer than just a few days. It's more than a wistful post-mortem to a surprisingly successful social media campaign. The latest opinion polls are reflecting the gender divide, with Prime Minister Gillard pulling away as preferred PM.

The initial blast was triggered by Alan Jones claim that the 'women are destroying the joint', the murder of Jill Meagher, and the emergence of Tony Abbott's family on the national stage. The rage subsided just a little, only to have Alan Jones throw an entire warehouse full of ammo with his "died of shame" comment in front of a room full of future conservative leaders.

After worldwide attention, countless editorials, panel discussions and blogs, plus fifteen minutes of unforgettable honesty from the Prime Minister, the women of Australia show no signs of sitting down or shutting up. Even women who acknowledge that they avoid the news are talking about Jones, Abbott, Gillard and why its so much harder for women. Plenty of men are standing beside the women this time. A new generation is learning the lyrics to I Am Woman.

That early conversation about destroying the joint has made way for a whole range of new discussions, from the acceptability of the word "vagina" in polite conversation, to questions about the continued existence of a corporate glass ceiling, the cost of tampons and the right to choose to be a stay-at-home Mum.

More importantly, it's not just hipster-talk. As late as yesterday, big companies were still choosing to withdraw their advertising from the Alan Jones Show on 2GB. Assuming that they'd allowed enough time for the heat to dissipate - or figuring that they'd lost enough money - 2GB reintroduced advertising during the Alan Jones show. It didn't go well for them, with several ads from companies who had withdrawn from the Alan Jones Show "accidentally" going to air. 2GB has underestimated the attention span of their foes.

We'd have to include MRN's Mr Jones and Mr Tate in the list of men who are surprised that the women are still destroying the joint. This is no storm in the Royal Doulton, dear. This is serious.

It's no longer a protest or a campaign; it's becoming an oestrogen-propelled perpetual motion machine with the power to reignite the processes of change our mothers and grandmothers started back in the sixties. This time there's a difference: women have nothing left to prove. We can choose whether to burn our bras, run them up a flagpole or strap ourselves into lacy underwired torture devices. They're our bras, and it's our decision.

Equally, we can choose to focus on career and crash through the glass ceiling like Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop have done, we can reproduce like bunnies and care for the family full-time, or we can plan to balance career and family.

If you stay on the right side of the law, and well away from those who need to apply their version of propriety to everyone, you're fine, but right now, the focus remains on the levels of balance and respect between men and women.

The latest Essential Poll asked about perceptions of sexism. The results aren't good for anyone, with the possible exception of Prime Minister Gillard. Sexism is very much alive and well, and this goes some way to explaining why her infamous speech about Tony Abbott's misogyny is still reverberating.

Margie's Abbott's appearances to help her husband look softer and more (politically) appealing to women are backfiring too. With the greatest respect for Mrs Abbott, putting her in front of a cynical media simply strengthens her and weakens him further. She becomes the story.

Those of us still fighting the battles against misogyny don't mind if women want to stay home with the kids. In fact, that might have been my choice, had my situation been different. The point is, it's a valid choice, every bit as worthy as any other choice a woman makes - what to wear, when and if to have children, how to cook a decent sponge cake. That's the point that Heffernan, Jones, Abbott and the rest of the Misogyny-R-Us Superleague just don't get.

It's our choice. We don't need permission, approval, or guidance...but if we want any of those, that's fine too.

There was one guy on Twitter this morning who had a 140 character pouty. His point was that he was sick of hearing every gender-related comment reframed against the current environment, and measured for sexism. His frustration is understandable...but he might need to get used to it, at least for now. We don't want our daughters and granddaughters fighting the same old battles.

1 comment:

  1. wonderfully clear CONTEXT .

    Also funny,a light touch to a serious matter.