Seeing Red

photo of bin

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.


14 thoughts on “Seeing Red

  1. I am an Australian but of the old school where respect to others from wherever they arrive from or gender are welcomed to this country without fear or favour Now just like the australian cricket team too much money dumbs aussies down to bad taste and racial intolerance. Are shock jocks or nrl players our examples of a fair go and respectful counity? I dont think so
    A different menu puleese!

  2. Everything I’ve been thinking has been written so succinctly in your blog Angie. I support all you’ve said and applaud you for saying it but the one thing you haven’t helped me with is: who the b……. hell am I going to vote for in this coming election?

  3. I’m with you, Angie! It’s all so appalling, it’s hard to know where to begin discussing the matter. But you’ve done it very well.

  4. I agree with your sentiments Ang! The whole thing has been a most unedifying spectacle…fodder for the tabloids.

  5. Relax Angie. In my experience women are much more likely to attack other women over their appearance than men. Have you ever done this? If you haven’t its most unusual.

    Your namesake the German leader never gets attacked for her appearance because she is a class act.

    Australia is controlled by women – the PM, the GG, Our richest person are all women. They are more than 50% of the population and control the vote. They outlive men by seven years. Its the post feminist era and the women have won but Julia is letting the side down. “Little” Johnnie Howard” copped endless jibes about his eyebrows and made no fuss whatsoever. Hawke was called the “silver bodgie” and laughed about it. Julia puts the boots into other people often enough not to deserve protection or sympathy.

    As always I enjoy your article – keep them coming.


    • Hi Grant, I didn’t really want to get into the gender thing and I did argue that Julia’s failures are of judgement, communication and policy delivery. But I just could not stand by and see her and her office demeaned in such execrable ways. It’s one thing to mock someone’s eyebrows, but hey, let’s draw the line at breasts, thighs and genitalia.That is so awful I can scarcely believe it. As well I don’t think that Australia is controlled by women but we’ll agree to disagree on that one till I google a few more statistics. Take care, and as ever, many thanks for taking up the cudgels. It makes for good reading, love Angie

  6. Another great one and something we can all identify with. I think it was Harry Truman who said “Give me a one-armed economist, then he can’t keep saying – on the one hand, on the other”. We live in a world where millions, billions and trillions are bandied about to the point where they don’t mean anything. The poor suckers at the bottom of the pile have always been shafted and will continue to be so. I’m still trying to work out how, if the UK Government bailed out Lloyds Bank (mine), why are the banksters still getting their bonuses and why does nobody seem to care about it.

    There is a danger in your blogs having a prophetical element. You do one on Julia and within a week she’s gone!

    Maybe the same thing could happen to the economists
    Love Mike

  7. Hi Angie,
    Thought I would check out your blog after our excellent conversation this morning.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog regarding Ms Gillard and your balanced insights resonate strongly with me.
    I will tune in again! Louise

    • Hi Louise, thanks so much for taking the time to look in.It was lovely to see you and hear about your lovely family. Not sure about the way you divide cake, though! Take care, Angie

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