My adopted home Australia has always prided itself on its commitment to equity and fairness and I have often shared that feeling but today I’m questioning whether I want to share citizenship with the people who wrote the menu that mocked the personal anatomical parts of the Prime Minister. Latterly the restaurant owner claimed the menu was a joke for his kitchen to be shared with his son. I sincerely hope that this is the case, and that it wasn’t manufactured by the people who are asking us to vote them in September, but it is still appalling on many, many counts:
- Is this what he is teaching his son about women and the dignity of office?
- Are there any women working in that kitchen? Do they feel the waves of hatred and derision?
- If you’ve got enough time to make up and PRINT a menu like that for a joke, you can’t be spending enough time on the cooking.
As you can imagine, I won’t be patronising that restaurant, and it sounds as if the food might be crap as well.
But regardless of who was responsible for the menu, WHERE is the outrage? Opposition leader Tony Abbott flicked it away as a “tacky joke,” and suggested we move on. Wrong! It’s a symptom of a really terrible demeaning of one gender by another, and of a trashing of any shred of respect for the office of Prime Minister or any politician. Be careful what you help to destroy, Mr. Abbott, when you step into that office you may find that it will crumble under your feet, and that Australians are looking anywhere but parliament for their leaders and heroes.
Many media outlets dismissed it as a bad joke, and one went so far as to call it “a gift for the Prime Minister.” A gift? To be publicly demeaned in such humiliating ways? Remind me not to invite that commentator for the Christmas morning present exchange. The luke-warm, casual, or politicised response has been astonishing. You don’t have to like Julia Gillard…I personally feel her time in office has been a tragic failure forever tainted by her method of seizing power (see my very first blog post: Maggie and Julia, A Tale of Two Sisters) But surely the demeaning of her gender and of the office demeans us all.
And herein lies a paradox. Her usurping of incumbent Prime Minister Rudd offended Australia’s deeply ingrained sense of fair play and decency and she has paid dearly for it. So hey, let’s punish her for breaking that code, by shattering the same code over and over again by such execrable insulting of her femaleness – something over which she has no control – with such regularity and escalating abandonment of all decency and seemliness. If we’re going to make such a fuss about her lack of decency, we are surely bound to behave with the decency we trumpet back to her.
I was made aware, by Anne Summers at her Sydney Writers Festival presentation, The Misogyny Project of the level of hatred directed at the Prime Minister. It’s clear she’s extremely unpopular, and has been the butt of many vitriolic and unseemly attacks and Summers reiterated a litany of these attacks that are made on social media as well as some personal observation of young women exclaiming how much they hate her, citing that voice! What happened to hating that policy?
Well, here the blame must be sheeted home to the current government. There is much to be proud of in their policies: disability insurance, educational reform and inclusive apologies to marginalized groups to name a few. But inept delivery and continual vendetta-style political in-fighting have completely overshadowed their achievements. Gillard’s political judgment has to come into question when she makes such spectacularly poor calls that completely sabotage what should be triumphant announcements: Gonski – carefully considered educational reform policy announced the same day as the cut to funding of universities! A really important day in parliament for those assembled to hear the long overdue apology to the families separated by forced adoption was completely sidelined by Simon Crean’s ill-judged and ill-disciplined leadership spill. And this week, when it’s possible that she may garner some sympathy for the personal attacks and shock jock Howard Sattler’s outrageous questioning of her, she drops the abortion bomb into the mix in a crass attempt to ramp up the gender debate. I don’t understand how a woman with such undoubted courage, ability and personal charm can show such a spectacular lack of political savvy. And the polls have punished her, sending males previously disposed to support her over to the other side, and barely raising any interest among women.
If I were to ask the Prime Minister one question it would be why? Why depose Rudd in mid term? Why not wait until he stands or falls on his own merit, then be elected legitimate leader. You were young enough to wait it out. The fallout of that decision provides some spectacular examples of what we might term unintended consequences:
- She has created a resurrected Rudd the martyr parading himself in shopping centres, receiving adulation for heroic vision instead of the inept self-serving leader he proved to be.
- Tony Abbott the Opposition leader just has to sit back and watch the other side self-destruct. He is under no pressure to produce any more than the usual three-word policy.
- Support for females in leadership positions has been badly undermined and the damage to our democracy and the country will affect us all.
It’s all very depressing, sorry! More laughs next time.
I acknowledge an article by Devin Desir in “The New Islander” from which the picture came.