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Nothing resolved

06/08/2013

There is no doubt in my mind that Australia is a sexist country, and I ashamed to say a racist one.  Early on in Julia’s term as Prime Minister, I found myself watching my daughter’s basketball practice with another parent: a successful and well-to-do tradie who along with his equally hard working partner are putting their two kids through private school.  I know he is a well meaning, hard working and I believe a fundamentally decent person.  As we watched our girls working through their routines, the conversation drifted lazily away from its normal football and sports orientation into something vaguely political and suddenly it goes right off the rails.
He turned to me.  “How’s that Julia Gillard mate…?  You wouldn’t fuck her mate… you’d have to be desperate… I wouldn’t touch her with a barge-pole”.   I blinked.  I couldn’t say anything.  I’m no prude but this made me angry.  It wasn’t just the sexist disrespect and contempt he was showing to the Prime Minister, it was the disrespect he was showing to all women including his daughter who was just meters away.  There was also the rather absurd notion that he seemed to think the then Prime Minister would want to be anything even approaching barge-pole distance from him – a far from perfect example of our gender.   I have no idea why he felt compelled to share this with me.  The sad thing is I don’t think he really knew what he was saying or why.    He was just repeating what  up he had probably heard countless times in his working week, but always said in a jocular knock-about way, so that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously.  But it does mean something and it gets repeated.  It becomes a kind of self perpetuating meme and in the process it becomes normalised (accepted as normal); so normalised that my acquaintance couldn’t see anything wrong with sharing with yours truly, way it outside the normal speech community .
It’s this witless humour, so charged with insidious hatred that infected our national psyche for a while. Of course it’s not always that crude and direct;  the “Tim must be gay” claim that the former PM was confronted with by Western Australia shock jock and which was subsequently reiterated by Piers Ackerman on the ABCs Insiders, is a good example.  Clearly this is tapping into some deep insecurities that many Australian males (and perhaps some females) have about intelligent, successful, unmarried, childless women in power.   It’s a shame that these forces appear to have won the day or at least gone unchallenged.   Had Julia been allowed to go to the election I believe these issues would have started to crystallise and  the essential wrongness of this would become more apparent.  I may be deluded but I like to think that the Australian people will see through crap… eventually.
I never foresaw the apparent regenerative powers of K Rudd.  I am no fan of his (as previous post will attest) and I am as surprised as anyone that he has, at least for now, turned the ALP’s fortunes around.  It’s a circuit breaker and he appears to have refocussed and reenergised the party.  I’m not convinced that it will last but I hope I’m proved wrong.  If he manages to stop Abbott getting control of both houses it will be enough but it’s a shame that so many principles (not just gender) have been swept aside.  It’s a shame that the gender issue was never really confronted or resolved.

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