by Sarah Capper
20 June 2013
A week in the life of an Australian woman, courtesy of public discourse, the news and media commentary.
Tuesday 11 June
Catch the late news. The first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard has given a speech to a fundraising group in Sydney called ‘Women for Gillard’ in which she warns of a change in government come September, and how “we are going to make a big decision as a nation. It’s a decision about whether, once again, we will banish women’s voices from political life.”
Think about this and consider the change from having the current government which, along with a female PM, has a record number of women in Cabinet, compared to the number of women in the Opposition – currently there are only two women in Shadow Cabinet.
Gillard also adds, “We don’t want to live in an Australia where abortion becomes the plaything of men who think they know better”, and warns that should there be a change, we would be left with “a man in a blue tie – who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie.”
Wednesday 12 June
Wake up to howls of protest from politicians and media commentators about the Prime Minister’s speech. Many news items lead with Gillard “playing the gender card”. Yet again. Sighs.
Her comments on abortion are widely dismissed as a “state issue” (although some lone voices in Anne Summers and Leslie Cannold who have written extensively on the issue of abortion) dispute this and argue it is relevant federally.
The Opposition’s Julie Bishop says Gillard’s speech is “a crude political ploy from a desperate PM leading a bitterly divided party”, while Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton says, “when you look at the leadership skill of the Prime Minister, people are blind to gender.”
By lunch time, the dismissing of Gillard’s speech is overtaken by news of a circulating menu from a fundraiser for Opposition candidate Mal Brough.
Under the menu item entry for Moroccan Quail are the words ‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – small breasts, huge thighs and a Big Red Box’. Other male Labor politicians are also lampooned on the menu, but not in a sexualised way like Gillard. Think about Peter Dutton’s comments some more and shake head.
Mal Brough issues a curious apology (considering he later denies seeing the menu), for the “deeply regrettable, offensive and sexist” menu. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, who was at the fundraiser but denies seeing the menu, says “It is offensive and inappropriate whenever it was put out and it is now”.
Both the Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Labor backbencher Kevin Rudd (who, just days before on the ABC’s Q and A program, was labelled by former Labor leader Mark Latham as a “once-in-a-century egomaniac” who was deliberately sabotaging the Prime Minister) both appear in public in their blue ties. Rudd dismisses it as a coincidence and says he relies on wife Therese and adult-daughter Jessica for fashion advice. Uh-huh.
Rudd weighs into the menu debate, calling it “snide, dirty and I think a sexist trick”. He then suggests that all the money raised at the fundraiser be donated to the RSPCA. Not a women’s organisation. Indeed, the poor animals must be offended!
By Wednesday night, the story takes another turn, this time with a press release issued via Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s office (how convenient), with the restaurant owner at which the fundraiser was held, claiming sole responsibility for the menu (even more convenient), and claiming it was a private joke with his son, which Tony Abbott says “never made it out the kitchen”.
Think about how many loops the menu has done on social and mainstream media. Despite the so-called intention to ‘never leave the kitchen’, the menu DID get out and was distributed. Damage done.
Think about how the restaurant owner’s name is Joe, and distant memory travels to a cameraman also named ‘Joe’, who was once the fall guy for a bunch of powerful blokes many moons ago.
A couple of other stories make the news today:
– The Australian Soccer coach Holger Osieck apologises for remarks at a post World Cup qualifying game press conference in which he quoted a ‘latin saying’ to a female journalist, that “women should shut up in public.” Think about that gender card again and wish it could sideline Osieck.
– At a pre-sentencing hearing for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, a Victorian Judge lifts the suppression order on the criminal past of Adrian Bayley. Bayley we learn was on parole at the time of the murder – and the Parole Board failed to cancel this despite being found guilty of a violent assault. We also learn that he has two decades of violence against women, including the rape of five prostitutes in St Kilda in which he was jailed for just the minimum eight years. Think about that all powerful gender card again.
Light a candle and turn out the lights.
Thursday 13 June
During his show on Perth 6PR radio, host Howard Sattler says at the start of an interview with the Prime Minister that he intends to dispel the “myths, rumours, snide jokes and innuendo”. He then spreads myths, rumours and snide innuendo by asking the PM about the sexuality of her partner (and makes a sweeping generalisation about male hairdressers (Tim Mathieson’s former profession) and homosexuality).
The PM keeps her cool and rebuts the allegation. Wonder where Julia Gillard gets her inner strength from, and wonder if it’s possible to bottle. Wonder for a moment whether an experienced broadcaster on one of the biggest commercial radio networks would seriously ask Tony Abbott if his wife Margie was a lesbian. Resoundingly decide, no, they wouldn’t. Not. A. Chance.
Friday 14 June
Wake to more news about a group of Australian Army officers calling themselves the Jedi Council being under investigation for filming and distributing emails and photos degrading women. Three officers are suspended, up to 100 are under investigation, including senior officers. The materials are described by Lieutenant General David Morrison as “repugnant”. He talks about the importance of actively addressing systemic sexist attitudes, concluding “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.
Saturday 15 June
My head hurts. Decide not to read or watch any news today – and besides, am sick of reading about whether or not Kevin Rudd will challenge the Labor leadership, or something on the latest terrible political opinion poll. Yawn.
Sunday 16 June
While discussing the Sattler line of questioning during one of his regular appearances on ABC Television’s Insiders program, Murdoch columnist Piers Akerman says the Canberra Press Gallery has been privy to rumours about the bona fides of the Prime Minister’s relationship with partner Tim Mathieson, including questions surrounding his sexuality. Host Barrie Cassidy is quick to point out that Akerman is lurking in territory as low as Sattler’s, while fellow guest Lenore Taylor also strongly dismisses the suggestion. The public broadcaster does not issue a statement. Think about David Morrison’s quote on standards.
Also on the ABC, on Radio National’s ‘Outsiders’ program, Fairfax columnist and “industrial relations consultant” Grace Collier chastises the Prime Minister for showing too much cleavage in parliament. Laugh out loud because that’s about all that’s left to do.
Oh, and bang head against a wall.
Monday 17 June
Wake to news UK TV chef Nigella Lawson has been photographed with her husband at a London restaurant, during which she appears to be strangled and assaulted while in distress. Nobody at the restaurant does anything but the Mirror newspaper manages to take photographs and the story is broadcast across the world. In the Mirror’s reporting of the story, it is said that “now there are fears of severe problems in their ten year marriage”. Um, marriage problems?! Can we try calling it a criminal act of assault?
Melbourne Talk radio 3AW Deedee Dunleavy suggests that should Nigella not take a stand on domestic violence, we should not buy her books or watch her show. She then denies victim blaming. Uh-Bloody-Huh.
Tuesday 18 June
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott gives a speech during question time about there being “too much venom” in the political debate. Really laugh out loud at this point.
He says that, “parliament must be a better place”.
Think about Abbott’s previous form – appearing at protests against the Prime Minister alongside signs screaming ‘DITCH THE WITCH’, calling for the PM to “make an honest woman of herself”, and provocatively repeating a line about the Government “dying of shame” just after Sydney radio host Alan Jones shamefully suggested Gillard’s father had died of shame.
Think hard about David Morrison’s quote again – “the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept”.