Ask any New Zealander living in Australia, and you’ll hear how we learn to shrug off lame jokes about “fush’n’chups” and sheep bothering. What we rarely point out in return is that Australians, for all their relative wealth, have an unevolved appreciation of women in power.
This blogger spent a week in his native NZ the week before last, attending a funeral of a loved aunt who had a family of seven daughters and two sons. Naturally, it was a women-dominated event and one in which strong female voices could be heard without their asking for permission to speak. That’s characteristic of NZ, the first country in the world to give women the vote
So it was a shock to return to Australia and a series of events, all of which suggested this country is in a process of devolution in gender politics: A menu prepared for a fund-raising dinner
for the conservative opposition that featured crude and juvenile references to the female Prime Minister’s body parts, a shock jock
who questioned the PM to her face about the sexuality of her life partner and a chorus of apologists – male
– who sought to normalise this trashy, lowbrow, ratings-chasing outrage-mongering.
Whatever the merits of Julia Gillard’s political
effectiveness as prime minister, it is now blatantly obvious that a large chunk of the electorate – egged on by a overtly sexist media – cannot or will not
deal with a woman in power. These mostly old men, trading off their reputation as ‘authority’ figures, channel the most vicious and sexist prejudice for ratings. The vile Alan Jones
is the worst of them, but there are an army of jowled grumps behind him saying something similar.
Why do Australians’ put up with this trash? The short answer is they don’t. The media, as Wendy Bacon has recently revealed in her series on women in the media,
is still controlled by men. Not only that, but opinion pieces and political commentary are overwhelmingly by men.
The culture of newsrooms in Australia is male denominated. It always has been. And while other industries, such as financial services and health and retail and banking are starting to promote women like
at Westpac or Sally Macdonald
at Oroton, the media is still overwhelmingly a mates’ club.
None of this should be party political. That it has become so says a lot about the nature of politics in this country, which is clearly hellbent on importing the manufactured and idiotic culture wars
that have paralysed the American political landscape. The result is that what is decent and human is decried as “politically correct” by agents of power who want to pretend their power does not exist at all.
So under the guise of ‘freedom’, powerful voices seek to belittle or suppress the voices of those who traditionally are under-represented in our media – those from other cultures, the disabled, the gay and lesbian, the agnostics, the adherents of faiths other than Christian, and, the biggest group of all – women. The disgusting treatment of our first woman prime minister is just the latest manifestation of that.
It’s time all of us -women AND men – to put an end to it by demanding of those who hold power in the media and the advertisers who fund them that we will no longer accept as “OK” language that demeans anyone because of their gender, race, sexuality or faith.
That’s the way it’s going to be, whether you like it or not, MATE.