cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

The sexism smackdown I've been waiting for

I've been angry at the relentless sexism directed at Australia's women politicians for a long time now.

The Democrat trifecta of Kernott, Lees and Stott Despoja all got sexist commentary, especially when the party fell apart, as did Carmen Lawrence.

Pauline Hanson? Her policies were racist and sucked, and she was terribly ignorant, but she was also vilified as a silly woman (rather than a poor politician) and used as a scapegoat so that the Howard government's racist policies could slide by as mainstream opinion.

Julia Gillard has been the focus of disgusting sexist commentary since she became Prime Minister. The Handbag Brigade? Really? Her ears and bum have some impact on her ability to make policy? She's barren, and a bitch, and a witch? Really?

This week, Gillard finally gave Tony Abbot a serve in the speech of her career (so far).

This is absolutely a consummate politician working a strategic angle in order to mitigate the Slipper scandal -- which is part of her job. It's also, and more importantly, our Prime Minister speaking a large and ugly truth about sexism in public discourse in Australia.

This sexist discourse has been well documented, and in fact was the focus of a speech just a couple of months ago:

Her Rights at Work (R-rated version): The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister, by Dr Anne Summers. Give at the Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture, 31 August 2012.

The response overseas to Gillard's speech is pretty universally congratulatory, recognising just what an important speech this is.

The response in Australia has largely been made up of ugly repetitions of the same old sexist apologist bullshit: you overseas people don't understand the context, this is just political grandstanding, it's a disgrace she said those things to Abbot, Abbot loves women, she always pulls the sexist card, she's seeing sexism where there is none, she's a liar, she's a bitch, she's a hypocrite for endorsing Slipper, she brought down the tone of Parliament. On and on and on. I actually got depressed while I was Googling for reactions -- after a while I could tell just by the .au in the URL what the article would be about, without even needing to click through. I won't quote any here; you can find them yourselves easily enough if you wish to.

The relentlessly sexist spin of the Australian media proves Gillard's point all over again, as though it needed any more proving -- the narrative has been decided, and no amount of evidence of actual sexism will change the knee-jerk vitriol spewing forth.

Listening to Gillard speak about this was one of the few times I've responded with pride to a political speech in this country, and all the more surprising given how much I've disagreed with some of Gillard's other statements, such as her recent position on marriage equality.

Yes, she's flawed and human, and clearly tougher than any action hero to withstand this bullshit everyday. She's our first female PM, and she nailed this sexism smackdown in every way; it was awesome and long overdue.

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Tags: links, politics, rant
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