Vibewire: Enter at Your Own Risk: Misogyny, Politics and the Australian Boys’ Club

Above Image Credit:

July 2, 2013
By Marie Bellino

When I grow up I want to be a pop star. If a pretty young girl uttered these words, few would question her career choice, as it’s perfectly acceptable to pursue an occupation that capitalises on her physical beauty.

Conversely, if another girl proclaimed: When I grow up I want to be the Prime Minister, her statement would probably provoke looks of bemusement or mockery, considering ‘saviour’ Rudd’s return as leader of the Labor party.

It is only in recent history that an Australian woman has assumed this role of great national importance, but it is an unenviable spotlight to be in since it invites its fair share of controversy and disdain. As a journalist wryly observed in the UK Guardian, the “slaying” expected by women who dare occupy high office in Australia, is comparable to the impending doom of a “recently-deflowered teenage girl at an abandoned summer camp in a horror movie.”

There’s no escaping the unflinching criticism directed at women who take on influential positions traditionally held by members of the exclusive ‘boys’ club.’ Recent events in politics and the Australian Defence Force highlight the imbalance of power that threatens to derail women’s continued progress in Australian society.

Australia was once synonymous with Crocodile Dundee, Sunday barbies and a fiery Kiwi thespian we like to claim as our own, until that speech; an unexpected, explosive commentary on misogyny in Australian politics, delivered by none other than Prime Minister of the time, Julia Gillard.

The impassioned speech attracted thunderous applause from women around the globe, as Gillard challenged Tony Abbott and his party’s attitude towards women and disrespect for her leadership role. She recalled an interviewer’s question about the under-representation of women in institutions of power, to which Abbott replied: “what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” His comments suggested gender equality in leadership positions was of no consequence, and by extension, underhandedly questioned Gillard’s suitability for the top job.

Image Credit: Troy Constable Photography

Every time Abbott undermined Gillard’s authority as a woman, the nation experienced a dangerous flashback to the 1950’s, when women’s rights were suppressed by dominant patriarchal values, and work life was largely an extension of their role in the domestic sphere. Mid twentieth century mores have no place in 2013 politics, yet degrading, female archetypes are still a part of everyday vocabulary. Who can forget Gillard’s disgust when Abbott stood next to signs outside Parliament that characterised her as a “witch” and “man’s bitch?” His sentiments were bolstered by outspoken talkback host, Alan Jones, who has been given a substantial platform to espouse misogynistic ideals, once implying Gillard needed to be silenced by “putting her into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea.” But there was no greater blow than Jones’ personal attack at a Liberal party function, when he attributed Gillard’s father’s passing to “shame” over his daughter’s questionable leadership. Abbott later played tag team with Jones, echoing his stinging remarks in Parliament.

Julia was the butt of many a Liberal party joke during her leadership; the most juvenile being an LNP donor’s unsavoury ‘mock’ menu for a party fundraiser, which crudely likened her body to a “Kentucky fried quail.” Whether or not Liberal MPs were aware of the menu, the restaurateur’s description of the incident as a “light-hearted” joke intended for him and his son reveals the inherent sexism in Australian society, which reduces intelligent, capable women to mere bodies exposed to harsh judgment and ridicule. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the blatant objectification of women continues in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The effect on victims of this gross violation is no laughing matter.

Women in the Australian Defence Force Image Credit: MATEUS_27:24&25

The recent scandal involving the circulation of emails containing degrading, explicit images of female ADF members and others, along with offensive commentary, has rocked the foundations of the institution. According to Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison, the seriousness of the incident surpasses the 2011 ADFA “Skype scandal.” Three officers have been suspended, while more than 100 other personnel appear to have had some connection to the incident. What makes it particularly problematic besides the sheer number of people involved, including high ranking leaders, is the conniving way the details were disseminated. Lewd material was not only distributed across Defence computer systems, but also over the internet for millions of people to view and scrutinise, thereby exacerbating the humiliation. The act sends the message that women don’t belong in the army, and objectification is acceptable.

The dark side of machismo has long cast a shadow over the male dominated ADF. Dr Ben Wadham, a former infantry soldier, received death threats after leaking denigrating comments on the RAR buddies Facebook page, which described all women as “filthy, lying whores.” Similar pages created by members of the Australian army have emerged. Despite the obscene behaviour of the culprits, these beliefs are not formed in a vacuum. Identifying their employer and posting photos of themselves in official uniform connotes pride in their actions, alluding to the normalisation of misogynistic beliefs in army life. Wadham affirms sexism is a major characteristic of the culture, revealing details of a 1990’s book published out of the ADFA known as the Lexicon of Cadet Language, which included roughly 200 derogatory terms for women. Although initiatives have been implemented to address inequality in the Force since the publication was released, recent events demand a more systematic approach to stamp out misogynistic views entrenched in army culture.

A deep-seated patriarchal belief that women play the supporting role, rather than the protagonist in the public domain is at the heart of the gender power imbalance. According to the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership, Australia has the lowest percentage of women in top executive positions compared to countries with a similar corporate structure like New Zealand and the United States. Dr Jennifer Whelan, Research Fellow at the Melbourne Business School, attributes the slow progress to a common view that “gender diversity and inclusion” is not a “crucial bottom line endeavour.” Women’s voices are often drowned out by the supposed authority of their male counterparts.

Destroy the Joint, an anti-sexism organisation, garnered attention for their commentary on Gillard and Morrison’s exposure of the culture of misogyny in politics and the ADF. They maintain that Gillard was “mocked and trivialised” in Australia, while Morrison was “hailed a hero.” The great divide between two leaders’ essentially congruent messages about gender inequality reiterates the rational man/emotional woman dichotomy, which attributes women’s words and actions to feeling, rather than logic and intellect, thereby questioning their validity. The dismissal of her concerns as emotional rhetoric suggests it takes a man in a leadership position to render it a legitimate issue.

Misogyny will continue to infiltrate social institutions as long as we turn a blind eye to it. As Morrison asserts, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Despite the controversy that marred her leadership, Julia Gillard’s fierce conviction and drive as PM will facilitate the empowerment of aspiring female politicians to come. The leaders of this country have a responsibility to take a stand against misogynistic values and practices as she did, raising the level of respect for women and supporting their integral place in the public domain. On a micro level, families and educational institutions have the ability to instill confidence in young women, thereby teaching them self-worth.

Goddess Graduates is an initiative that empowers female university graduates entering the workplace. It aims to shift restrictive thought patterns and foster trust in their abilities, which its founder, Lisa Camille Robertson, identifies as a major inhibiting factor for women pursuing leadership positions. The workshop will be taught throughout 11 universities in NSW and include a mentorship program, equipping women with the resources required to achieve their career goals.

It is high time we started focusing on the quality of the contribution we make to society, rather than the combination of chromosomes that partly constitute our DNA. Equality is crucial to the prosperity and health of the nation. It is every woman’s right to aim high without fearing her safety or dignity will be jeopardised. The glass ceiling only exists if we allow it to. It is time to destroy it.


59 thoughts on “Vibewire: Enter at Your Own Risk: Misogyny, Politics and the Australian Boys’ Club

  1. I’m curious to know what sort of mental gymnastics a person must employ to be able to cry victim of discrimination and simultaneously discriminate against others, all while maintaining a clear conscience.

    • And Michael I’m curious to know what sort of mental gymnastics a person must employ to be able to stab one leader in the back, swap their choice in leaders and then stab this same leader in the back, all while maintaining a clear conscience.? Yes I am talking about Bill Shorten and Greg Combet.

      • Typical males. They manage to turn something concerning females into something totally different, usually about them. This type of deflection happens all the time & has been going on for a gazillion years. Nothing seems to have changed.

        • Michael, your first comment came across as a male deflecting from the issue addressed so yes I do see you as being “typical” in that way & no, I don’t see all men as being like this. There are many who would read the the above article, comment on it & not try to change the subject.

          There would have been hell to pay if Tony Abbott had been treated in the revolting manner Julia Gillard was but as he was one of the main instigators nothing was said. Of course, the irony of the fact that one of the nastiest, vilest detractors of Julia & also a main supporter of Abbott, is a closeted queen, has not escaped me.

        • I was simply trying to say that a person making a claim of being discriminated against weakens their argument when they too are discriminating against others. It’s irrelevant whether the issue is misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. My gender is irrelevant here and it’s unfortunate you targeted me because of it.

        • The author of this article is making no such claims of being discriminated against but that other women were suffering such discrimination. So it is unfortunate that you chose to claim otherwise. Your gender was mentioned because that is part of the problem. No male has any idea of how subtle the differentiation of treatment between a male & a female can be. Even the most enlightened male can be guilty of this. No, I am not referring to males opening the door for females, etc. That is simply manners & I believe those misguided women who object to this are arrogant fools.

          Tony Abbott is such a discriminator & the mere fact that he has a wife, three daughters,,a female Chief of Staff & a female Deputy is incidental. No matter how much others try to use these facts as a crap example of his “love of women” it doesn’t mean he “likes” women. .

        • I happen to be one of many people, male, female or otherwise, who were and continue to be the victims of discrimination meted out by Julia Gillard. I don’t know what the author’s personal situation is, but I don’t see how that is relevant to my point. And I maintain my point is being made irrelevant of my gender, because there are plenty of women who are also the victim of her discrimination and who may feel the same way as I do.

        • The only alleged “discrimination” Julia Gillard could be accused of was not solely of her making. Whilst she does not agree, for her own reasons, with equality of marriage, she did allow a conscience vote, for Labor MPs, when the bill came before parliament. It was Tony Abbott who refused such a vote with the LNP MPs having to toe the party line, which caused the bill to be defeated. So he was the one guilty of discrimination in this area.

          Maybe you are referring to the changing of the single parent benefit when the youngest child reached 8 years of age. This is a continuation of the initiative implemented by the Howard government where they made these changes effective when the youngest turned 6 or 7. As a former single parent I am in agreement of these changes which aren’t as draconian as the MSM would have us believe & they cannot be called discrimination as such.

        • Joy, I refer to your first point, not your second. Gillard crossed the floor and voted against a marriage equality bill. No one forced her or dragged her to do that. She did it of her own accord. No one else can take the blame for that except her. That she allowed a conscience vote is irrelevant, really. She voted against her party’s position and continued to support discrimination. She did not set a positive example, as prime minister of the country, as a leader and, for what it’s worth, as a woman. She failed. And that is why I do not believe when i hear people crying out about misogyny, that I can really take them all that seriously, when they do not have a solid stance against all forms of discrimination.

          For the record, her official position is stated here in this article in The Australian, March 21 2011:

          On gay marriage, Ms Gillard said: “I do find myself on the conservative side in this question.”

          Declaring there were “some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future”, Ms Gillard said her view was that the Marriage Act – and marriage being between a man and woman – “has a special status”.

          I must say, her “justification” for supporting her discriminatory position is so tenuous it’s laughable, and really should be an embarrassment for a person of her intellect.

          Sad really, because I’d like to help fight the bigotry she faces, but it’s so much harder to do it from the back of the bus when she’s up the front.

        • Alan Jones hates women for reasons known only to his warped little mind. This is an attitude which is NOT typical of gay men, and leads us to the conclusion that Jones is a misogynistic, horrible devious vindictive person.

          And just read “Jonestown”.

    • No, you are not just “curious” I’m pretty sure you are 100% batting for the other team. Yeah bit like you calling the PM a cunt aye Micheal? ” weakens their argument when they too are discriminating against others.” Yeah shame don’t actually practice what you preach.

      • Yes how can Michael be shouting discrimination when in not attacking other Members in Parliament, he is clearly discriminating against Gillard?

    • Michael I’m curious to know what sort of mental gymnastics a person must employ to be using The Media as their source of information, all while maintaining a clear conscience?

  2. Totally agree, MMU, Alan Jones is a vicious, vile, vindictive, nasty piece of work, of this there is no doubt & he is in a league of his own.

    Michael, didn’t I already mention that, for her own reasons, Julia Gillard is against equality of marriage. Why, I do not know as she is very progressive in many other ways. This is why she crossed the floor for the vote on the bill & we knew would happen. The Coalition MPs weren’t given a choice & had to vote the way they were told to. If they had had a conscience vote the bill may very well have passed. Nevertheless, this incident should not negate all she has achieved nor the dreadful treatment she has received here in Australia

    Could not read the link you provided to The Oz as I have a very effective Murdoch Blocker extension.

    • If a person is not held to account for their discriminatory position against same-sex attracted people, for example, then why should others be held to account for their discriminatory position against women, for example? Sounds like some people are held to a different set of standards. You seem to be letting Gillard off fairly lightly here for having “her own reasons”.

      • My word, you do seem to have a one track mind, don’t you, Michael? Why don’t you look in the direction of Tony Abbott when you complain about the discrimination of not being able to marry the person you love because of their gender. The fact the bill wasn’t passed was not solely Julia Gillard’s fault but the fault of all the other MPs who did not vote for this bill. It is discrimination to attach the blame solely onto Julia Gillard & is something Tony Abbott is quite happy to allow to happen. If he wasn’t such a gutless wonder he would take his full share of the blame for this.

        • Tony Abbott isn’t the victim of misogyny and he isn’t a woman and he hasn’t been a prime minister of the country yet. I don’t care for Tony Abbott and his discriminatory perspectives either, but he isn’t claiming to be the victim of discrimination.

        • *Shakes* my head in wonderment. Now I think I shall *pound* it against the wall in disbelief.

        • So just to clarify here Micheal, any person who opposes gay marriage is discriminating against gays? yes or no.

        • So with the case of marriage having only ever been between a man and a women…..I think to even consider gay marriage is like inviting a white to an all aboriginal party.

          If black people have a party for black people only, or native Americans have a gathering for only Native Americans (which does happen) and I’m outside protesting because I can’t get in do you think that is not a little egocentric and brainless?

          Does the universe really revolve around me?

          Do I have to be involved in everything, and cry if I am not involved in something?

          What about madi gras for straight people? The Sydney heterosexuals madi gra. Just like a Brazillian Madi gra but better.

        • As an individual citizen Allen you are more than welcome to hold whatever sort of private party you want, including those people you like and excluding those people you don’t.

          However when a government has a law that excludes people for no good reason then that is called discrimination, and only bigots uphold discrimination for no justifiable reasons.

        • I’m just interested in whether all homosexual men feel this desire to get married. I’m also interested in whether all homosexual men feel like they are being discriminated against.

          I wonder who would suffer more discrimination in todays society, an unemployed person or a homosexual. Some people are treated like second class citizens because they do not have current employment despite their education or qualifications. Some of the job network places have been known to have all sorts of incidents, but the irony of the situation is that most of the people working in the job network centres have only been in the job for a few months.

          Often the people working there did not even pass school, so how are they of benefit to someone who is educated, but is not currently working?

          What about single mothers or homeless people? I think that it is a disgrace that there are homeless people in our cities. Surely we can do better.

          For homosexuals and Lesbians why not come up with their own ceremony. Maybe one day straight people will be complaining that they cant get “mutterbinded” and then the same gender attracted will retort “well this is our ceremony, just like you straights have your marriages, we have mutterbindings”.

          Simple solution to me.

      • That is a ridiculous question. When you talk about “discriminatory position against same-sex attracted people” be careful of what you are accusing these people. If someone is not in favour of changing a marriage law they are not being discriminative in the same sense as calling a black person a xyz or the prime minister a xyz. That is just their opinion, and opinions are to be respected, not everyone is going to have the same opinion. People are allowed to have differing opinions, even differing opinions to yourself!

        • Allen, of course people are entitled to their opinions, even if they are discriminatory opinions. Gillard is entitled to believe some people are not as deserving of the same rights as other people, for no good reason. That is her right. And if that is how she wishes to behave, then she really shouldn’t be surprised when some people accuse her of discrimination. And you are wrong. I do not have to respect anyone’s opinion. I do respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion though.

        • I agree – Gillard opposing gay marriage is a form of discrimination.

          Our website operates on the idea that it is acceptable to put shit on a person who discriminates.

          But it is not okay to discriminate against Gillard because she is a woman. It is okay to put shit on Gillard if she stands for maintaining legislative discrimination – telling gay people they have less rights than straight people.

        • So you can concede that it is ok for people to have opinions that are different.. “Allen, of course people are entitled to their opinions, even if they are discriminatory opinions”

          The trouble seems to pop up when that opinion happens to be different to your own.

          I happen to not support gay marriage, lock me up and throw away the key! Marriage has always been between a man and a women, I can’t see it as anything different. Homosexuals are in homosexual relationships. Imagine this conversation among some lads catching up when they see the local hairdresser

          I think he be gay,
          yeah aye think so.
          actually I heard him say he was married.
          Your bloody joking?
          Actually he is married to another man
          you mean he is a homosexual?
          aye hit the nail on the head there.

          So both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, John Howard and any others that have not wanted to change the current marriage act are guilt of discrimination. Guilty, Guilty.

          I like this one also

          Micheal -” And you are wrong. I do not have to respect anyone’s opinion. I do respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion though.”

          I wrong lol it’s not because I have a different opinion, and you are trying to create your own mini post rules.

          Micheal – ” I do not have to respect anyone’s opinion”

          Okay , now

          Micheal- ” I do respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion though”

          And this last statement considering your first is very interesting and I am going to hold you to it.

          If you said that……………….you do respect peoples different opinions, but don’t agree with them..

          I would think that was reasonable. People would extend that respect to you Micheal.

          Micheal you are wrong.

          You show respect for people and their different opinions. You don’t have to agree with their opinion, but respect that they are entitled to a different opinion.

          Otherwise honestly how are you at all ..
          “I do respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion though.

          You aren’t, and it is a joke that you would even try and say that.

          Remember to practice what you preach Micheal.

        • To be honest, I think deep down Gillard would support gay marriage. But polls dictate political standings.

          Penny Wong said no to gay marriage in order to tow party line for a long time.

        • Really? Your logic is mind-boggling. You are incapable of making anyone respect anything. You cannot make me respect your discriminatory position on marriage.

          There is no valid reason for you to uphold a view on marriage that excludes same-sex couples short of one that is based on bigotry.

          Just because something has been a certain way for a long time does not justify keeping it that way. Women once didn’t have the right to vote. Only a bigot would insist women weren’t allowed vote in 2013. And similarly, only a bigot would insist same-sex couples are not allowed to get married under civil law in 2013.

        • However you would be comfortable with the logical statement of –
          everyone is entitled to their own opinion…?

          That to me indicates that someone should not be viewed as a villain just because they happen to have a different opinion.

        • Micheal – “You are incapable of making anyone respect anything.”

          Nice generalised global statement there. What else can you tell me about “myself” ?

        • I think that marriage is actually becoming less binding than it was 100, 200 years ago. A lot of marriages don’t last long. Couples living together have similar rights, especially if they have children. To equate women receiving the vote to gay marriage is a bit of a stretch. Women not having the vote means they don’t have a say, this was some time ago I might add.

          Gays not being able to “marry” affects them how?
          It’s like the difference between an unmarried couple living together with children and a married couple living together with children. Essentially it is nothing more than a certificate. We do it because it is tradition. That’s the only reason. Tradition between a man and a women. Homosexuals always existed, not as many as today, we have more people today, too many people. There were more people that may have experimented then preferred the opposite gender, or were homosexual in secret (source evidence: Ashley’s arse pumpers and pornograhical films from the 1970’s) Some people are ladyboys for economic reasons also. such as in Thailand (this babe is a boy) or (she gives as good as she gets).

          In our current society to be a homosexual is a non issue, it’s like to be a woman who does not have children. It is acceptable, and nobody really cares. Some young girls still get the jollies over have a gay friend, but generally people are not fussed.

          It’s not like a person talking to you with their penis hanging out of their trousers with a bit of brown stuff on the end of it. It’s just a homosexual man and people just say oh ok he is a homosexual that is his business, whatever.

        • Viz a viz Allen, if we were in Canada, The Netherlands, France, Argentina, Iceland, New Zealand or Spain either of us could marry a person of the same sex (or each other if that took our fancy). See how easy it would be for us if we didn’t have discrimination in the law here in Australia and the all too many bigots upholding it. 🙂

        • Actually you might want to try some of the markets for mares milk, I buy goats cheese and milk from growers market I’m sure if you were to ask someone could help. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t obtain it somehow.

  3. Great Michael Barnett can’t you do any better then use The Media, in this case The Australian as your information in claiming it is Gillard Official Position?

    What’s next claiming Today Tonight tells the truth?

  4. And I guess from this in writing Tony Abbott “isn’t claiming to be the victim of discrimination” is based on Michael believing the media especially The Australian rather then reality?

  5. But of course rolling back racial discrimination laws if elected, Tony Abbott well not be discriminating against others?.

    Michael you are a Liberal Party fool.

    • I might be a fool Keith, but I’d never be foolish enough to support the Liberal Party. That much is for sure. As for using The Australian as the source for Julia Gillard’s position on marriage equality, I’m sure you’ll find most media outlets have published the same, if not similar comments from her, so I don’t think The Australian have made this one up.

      • Yes you are a fool Michael based on your own rants, in believing what comes out The Media especially News Ltd is the truth.

        And from this it is hard to believe you are telling the truth that you never be foolish enough to support the Liberal Party, especially when both The Media and The Liberals are friends and supporters of each other.

        Now go away and do what are you good at, believing The Media BS.

        • Just to allay your fears that I might be misrepresenting Julia Gillard’s discriminatory position on marriage equality Keith, I’ll give you the opportunity to hear it direct from her:

          I haven’t given any thought to Abbott and racial discrimnation to date. However I suspect that if/when Abbott is elected to the office of Prime Minister, his bigotry and that of his party won’t be limited to matters of race.

      • But of course Michael rolling back racial discrimination laws if elected, Tony Abbott well not be discriminating against others?”

        • If we look at the case of Kevin Rudd who had a personal journey about same sex marriage and confessed he had been a dinosaur about it for some time, it’s hard to believe him. He is against changing the marriage act now he is for it. Anyone can realise that he is just after votes and attention. I’m pretty disappointed in the labour party, I thank Julia Gillard for being Australia’s first female prime minister. Being first is never easy. Having said that, my vote will be going to Abbott. He has the team, the stable policies and deserves the job.

        • I think it’s more important to be able to pay for all these policies, but I still laughed at your joke.

  6. Or put it another way>

    Does Michael think Abbott if elected, is behaving for the benefit of the community by rolling back racial discrimination laws and well not be discriminating against others?

    If Michael doesn’t answer on Abbott, he shouldn’t be surprised that I accuse him of being a Liberal Part Member and Supporter.

    Because if you are against a party leader that much, you write comments saying this, like Michael done with Gillard.

  7. Putting up links to media, this time one Sky News Video (Owned by the owners of The Australian) Michael has proven he cannot think for himself and believe in BS from the media?

    Clap clap, way to go.

    And he won’t give any any thought to Abbott and racial discrimnation to date is because he think Abbott racial discrimnation is ok and proves Michael is in fact a Abbott and Liberals supporter.

  8. I am not in fear as Michael claim,I know in bringing up Media links only, Michael has proven to all he is in fact IS not night be misrepresenting Julia and Michael himself is in fear of the truth.

    And Michael should stop replying, as I got better things to do then read crap from those who cannot do better then bring up media link and think the links are the truth..

    My quote:

    “A mind who is focus on believing the media, is in fear to move on to face reality”

  9. Keith you are a moron. How does it matter if it was skynews or abc. There was no manipulation from any media outlet in the video that Michael posted before, it was a question posted to former pm Julia Gillard and she gave her answer.

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