If you haven’t seen or heard of the Australian Prime Minister’s smack-down of her opposition in Parliament, then sit back and watch and listen (video is below). Its good. Its good because women in leadership positions in patriarchy most often turn a blind eye to the garbage that’s thrown at them. Women in leadership positions are forced to play along with the patriarchy and pretend that either they deserved the attacks, commentary or unfounded critiques, or that they just don’t exist.
Remember the unfounded and often cloaked attacks on then Senator Hillary Clinton when she ran for President? She didn’t dress right, she was too emotional, she was a cold ball buster, she wore pants suits (OMG), she wore too long skirts, too short skirts, too low-collar shirts, too high collar shirts, it just never stopped and it all served to trivialize her and dismiss her as incapable of competing with the boyz.
But Hillary had to hold her head up and charge on, ignoring the charges lest she be punished as being too ‘radical’ a ‘feminazi’ or just plain unhinged if she called the shit for what it was; shit. Oh and to instruct the young ones here, us older folks will never forget the Vice President Bush Senior’s remarks following his debate with Senator Geraldine Ferraro.
There’s a note-worthy write-up of the Geraldine Ferraro/Bush debate by told from the vioew of someone who worked closely with her, Ben Heineman, from his story from which we excerpt here:
The most famous line of the debate, of course, was Geraldine Ferraro’s. The vice president began an answer by saying: “Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.” To which the first woman national candidate in American history replied: “Let me first of all say that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.” This was the debate clip shown the day after — and to this day. In the years after, I would see Gerry Ferraro at this occasion or that. [snip]
After the debate was over, Vice President Bush remarked into a still open mic that he had “kicked a little ass.” Given the expectations before the debate, I felt, along with so many others, that it was actually the other way round.
Despite Mr. Heineman’s honest account of the debates, he fails to mention that the press ran with the “kicked a little ass” story over and over again until one began to believe that indeed Bush did kick some ass. As Heineman tells us, Bush didn’t and at first polls showed no one a direct winner. But our public was not ready to see a woman get out in charge and assert herself in front of male power.
Denying that misogyny exists, just like denying that rape doesn’t exist or racism doesn’t exist empowers the power structure and allows the press to not bother to vet knee-jerk sexism or other forms of conformity with social injustice in their reporting or writing. Denial allows the system to perpetuate the injustice and those who benefit from it to go freely along without responsibility.
So, its good when the rare instance comes along for a woman leader to call shit for what it is; mysogynist shit meant to keep women down and punish those who dare to raise their heads up and demand to be counted. Here Julia Gillard let’s it rip right into her opposition who had staged numerous mysognist attacks on her that you will see her refer to.
But, after you watch the video, you must come back down to earth and realize that women still have a long ways to go. We still aren’t on an equal footing, even if we can have the freedom to speak out more and call a spade a spade. We still have to bargain with the devil all too often in order to get that power that still lies in the iron grip of our oppressors. Many of us feminists expect not only entertaining verbiage, but some back-up in the form of follow-through by supporting policies that lift women out of their subservient economic and social status.
On the other hand, we’ll take juicy bits like this when we can as it feeds us. You know sugar can be intoxicating in large doses, but it does provide energy when you need it.
Tracy Egan Morrisey on Jezebel:
Here’s some history: Abbott demanded that Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House, step down for allegedly sexually harassing an openly gay male staff member in a series of text messages, one of which apparently compared female genitalia to mussels. I know. Juicy already. Abbott then implied that if Gillard defended Slipper, she would be just as sexist as a gay man who talks shit on vaginas. Abbott said, “And every day the prime minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament, another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame.”
(Inside baseball: The line about “dying of shame” was a dig at Gillard’s recently deceased father, whom a shock jock said “died of shame” over his daughter’s policies.)
So Gillard let him have it. Here are some choice quotes:
I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. Not now, not ever. What i won’t stand for, what I will never stand for is the leader of the opposition peddling a double standard, a standard he has not set for members of his own front bench.
If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the house of Representatives, he needs a mirror.
I was very offended personally the Leader of the Opposition said abortion is the easy way out.
I was offended by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition cat calling across this table at me as I sit here as prime minister [saying], ‘If the prime minister wants to make an honest woman of herself…’ something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.
I was offended when he stood next to a sign that described me as a ‘man’s bitch.’
He has said, ‘If it’s true that men have more power, generally speaking, than women, is that a bad thing?’ [and] ‘What if men, by physiology or temperament, are more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?’
He can apologise for standing next to signs [about me] saying, ‘Ditch the Witch.’
Now he is looking at his watch [which Abbott was] because apparently a woman’s spoken too long.
But, bear in mind as well, that some victories only come in pieces and that the back-story or deeper picture may not follow the trajectory that you or I as supporters of the oppressed might wish. When we look closer, as another blogger did, what we’ll find all too often is a compromise on the deeper issues of social justice hidden underneath the heated rhetoric and the amazing speeches.
An excellent analysis by Stephanie Convery for Overland
La fille mal gardée
By now, you’ve probably seen the video of Prime Minister Julia Gillard spending the better part of 15 minutes calling the Leader of the Opposition a misogynist in parliament yesterday. But as satisfying as it was to see Tony Abbott get the verbal smackdown long due him (and I don’t deny there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had) it should be put in context.
Abbott’s ‘problem with women’ has been in the headlines for a while now, and it’s hardly out of character for him to attempt to turn a personal attack onto the PM herself. His fall guy was Peter Slipper, whose vile sexist text messages have been put on the public record, and whose career as Speaker was quite obviously on a time limit. Gillard’s speech was a response to that challenge. It is in no way irrelevant that despite it being a smart – and unprecedented – move to speak to the currently running narrative about sexism so bluntly, and to attack Abbott so openly on his quite obvious misogyny, she was doing so in defence of Slipper.
If winning or losing in politics was merely a matter of who had the best one-liners to throw along with their stones, then Gillard won yesterday hands down. But politics is notsimply about whip-smart wisecracks and cutting speeches. It’s about policies and practices, legislation and social organisation.
Yesterday, the Gillard government also passed welfare reforms through the Senate that will cut single parent payments between $56 and $140 a week. This is a measure that will disproportionately affect women, and particularly those in the sectors of society that the Labor Party is traditionally supposed to represent. And yet, when the heavily debated reforms finally came to a vote in the Senate, only the Greens and Independents Madigan and Xenophon voted against it.
It’s been said before but it bears repeating: standing up for women’s rights is not just about calling sexism for what it is. It’s about agitating for specific change. It’s about making concrete demands of society and of the government. So if this is feminism that Gillard is representing in parliament, then I want to know, whose feminism is it? I don’t care how many sharp speeches she makes: her government is making life for some of the most vulnerable women in Australia even harder than it already is, and I want no part in it.
So here’s a call to arms. If we want to stand up for women, let’s start by standing up for these women. Let’s stand in the street and tell the federal government that this is not okay. That we want them to reverse the welfare cuts. That we want them to raise single parent pensions by $140 a week. That single parents undertaking study should be given more support, not less. Because this would make a qualitative difference to the lives of many women in Australia. This would be a win.