The week that was will go down as YET ANOTHER shocker in revealing just how far we have to go to eradicate deeply entrenched unacceptable levels of sexism in this country. A few weeks back it was racism’s turn. Quite frankly I’m getting tired of it and it’s getting as boring as it is demoralising. Can everyone just grow up?
It started earlier in the week when a grossly sexist, offensive menu from a Liberal party fundraiser surfaced which had a dish titled “Julia Gillard Kentucky roasted quail” with “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”. Later in the week she endured a radio interview in which she was asked if her husband was gay because he was a hairdresser.
Are we done yet? Now? NOW?
It does not matter what your political persuasion. This is the Prime Minister of our country. Pull your head in and put your manners back on.
Just for a moment imagine such a thing happening to a male Prime Minister or even a male politician? Tony Abbott gets about in his red budgie smugglers enough for many a shot across the bow but one has never, that I can find, been fired about the size of his penis or the colour of his pubic hair.
A friend posted a comment on Facebook about it all that had a ‘get over it’ feel about it and I stopped. And said ‘no’. Too often we excuse away sexist comments or actions with a slight of hand, or “it was a joke”. But you know what happens when you do that? You end up with someone thinking it’s OK to put on a party fundraiser menu references not only to the Prime Minister’s body and genitalia but their size and colour.
You end up with a radio presenter thinking it is OK to ask the Prime Minister if her husband is gay.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a big fat lie .
Felix asked me about it and asked how someone would think either example up there was OK. We had a long chat about how things that are demeaning, sexist (or racist) and offensive are often excused away as a joke.
I explained to him that people in positions of power and authority are held to a higher standard because they set the benchmark for what is OK and what is unacceptable. If a politician does something morally repugnant – like hold a dinner in which a dish refers to the PM’s genitalia or asks the PM about the sexual orientation of her husband – there are huge repercussions not only because they should know better, but because it gives a tacit approval to others in the community that to think like that is OK. “It was just a joke” is not an acceptable excuse anymore.
That could not have been better proven by the revelation on Thursday that ANOTHER scandal about systemic sexism in our armed forces was revealed.
But a week peppered with such a remarkable number of brain-snapping incidents of sexism was kicked to the curb when this came along. It was as if the week was a slow crescendo to it. Incident upon incident building upon each other until it all came crashing down in a voice saying ‘not on my watch’.
From 1:13 is particularly good. As is from around 1:40. Hell, the whole thing is awesome. What else is awesome is that it is coming from a man, and indeed a man in power who clearly has integrity. It feels like there are so few of them around. Oh yes, women can quite easily stand up and defend themselves, say enough is enough. But that stance can, by those who most need to hear it, be denounced as shrill and uptight. “Chill out lady”, “it was just a joke”, “calm down”. So yes, men need to stand up, they too need to say enough is enough. Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison says it for all of us.
(Update: Annabel Crabb says it even better. As is always the case.)