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.


Kicking Against The Pricks

A slightly different take on Eddie McGuire’s comments


Like many others I awoke to the news that Eddie McGuire did not need to take the “phone a friend” option to say something stupid.

I won’t repeat what Eddie said as it was stupid and foolish, and clearly many people took offense at it. Although it’s available all though the press, and you’ve probably heard it anyway.

I will however say some things in Eddie’s defence if I may.

In the context of how it they were used, his words were clearly meant as a joke. Now I know that is not an excuse, however I think the line with jokes comes down to intent.

I don’t believe Eddie had a malicious intent when he uttered the words he is clearly now regretting. He now seems genuinely upset that he has foolishly caused offense.

He has however done the right thing so far, he has fronted up and…

View original post 948 more words

Defending without an attacker

By Matt Elsbury – posted Friday, 26 April 2013

Matt Elsbury

According to Christopher Pyne, Anzac Day is undervalued in our current school curriculum, being “locked in” with the likes of Harmony Day and Reconciliation Day. Despite the group that the day represents, and the day itself, being studied at various year levels, apparently Anzac Day is at risk of being eroded by political correctness. Anyone not going through yesterday with their eyes shut might have been left with a different impression.I am reminded of the slew of social media postings that appear every year in late January, perpetuating the myth that Australia Day is about to be rebranded in a fit of multiculturalism as Citizen’s Day. The fact that this is blatantly and obviously untrue doesn’t stop some people from leaping to Oz Day’s defence, demanding that those who immigrate here immediately speak English, eat a pie and follow a football (not soccer, FOOTBALL) team, or leave.

I have a potential solution: every year, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offer gifts and pampering for those who qualify, and while Christmas and Easter have their religious, social and family ties, they are also given a magical sheen for children. Perhaps we should cater to another societal group in a similar way, and establish White Fear Day.

For one day a year, Strayans who are convinced that people of a different hue have come to our sunny shores with the sole intention of eroding the traditional values of Australia, and Taking Our Stuff, would gather at officially sanctioned White Fear Barbecues. There, without fear of suffering the eye-rolling disapproval of bleeding heart pinkos, they could indulge their beliefs that asylum seekers are indeed “illegals”, who have risked their lives to come to Australia in order to either take our jobs, or blow them up. For one day a year, they can talk loudly about how we are less than a decade away from Sharia Law, how people should list themselves as Christian on the census, even if they aren’t, in order to prevent a mosque being built next door, and how Christmas itself is under threat from cultural oversensitivity. Alan Jones could be the official patron, and the day could close with a minute’s silence to mourn the passing of what it means to be an Aussie.

There is, however, a deal to be struck before White Fear Day can be implemented. For the rest of the year, participants must acknowledge, and live in, reality. This means that for three hundred and sixty-four days, they must admit that seeking asylum is not a crime, that Christmas is as safe as Sharia law is distant, and that the government doesn’t build mosques, regardless of whether you describe yourself as Christian, Muslim, Jedi or Platypus. It also means that those two pillars of Aussieness – the belief in the “fair go”, and the love of the battler – should be adjusted slightly. Namely, thinking more deeply about who should be allowed a fair go, and realising what some people have had to, and continue to, battle against.

It’s a tactic used with monotonous regularity; positioning oneself as the defender of something that isn’t actually under attack (see Equality, Marriage). The National Sorry Day Committee has expressed surprise at their commemoration being painted as one of the villains of this cartoon, pointing out that their event and Anzac Day “…are not in opposition – both Days are linked in our shared history, and commemorating both is now an intrinsic part of being Australian”. This states, clearly and efficiently, the hollowness of the Member for Sturt’s gambit – he is the self-appointed watchdog, but instead of confronting intruders, he is merely barking at passers-by.

Joining in the noise, Dr Kevin Donnelly of the Education Standards Institute accidentally gave a howler of his own. In describing the current syllabus, Dr Donnelly says “Australia and our character is ignored in the history document, because it’s all about diversity and difference and multiculturalism and different perspectives. It’s a very one sided, politically correct view of Australian history…” All about diversity and different perspectives, and yet very one-sided? This is a very telling paradox – the goal of acknowledging a variety of viewpoints is to avoid taking sides at all, so by describing this as one-sided, Dr Donnelly establishes those he seeks to support as being “the other side”, thus drawing a line in the sand instead of simply enjoying a day at the beach.

The problem is this; what Dr Donnelly describes as political correctness, and Christopher Pyne refers to as “…a confidence-sapping ‘black armband’ view of our history…”, others would simply call context, and context is never a threat to an idea worth preserving. Clearly, the thousands of all ages who head to Gallipoli each April 25, and the respect and ceremony given to the day itself around this country, show that Anzac Day’s significance is not being lost, and to suggest that school curricula need to be adjusted to preserve it is merely the Shadow Education Minister shadow-boxing.

About the Author

Matt Elsbury is a stand-up comedian, satirist and writer based in Melbourne. He has toured nationally and internationally for over a decade, and has more than a dozen Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows on his resume, including 2007’s meaning…?, where he analysed the modern use and abuse of language, described in The Age as “…a bleak and funny tour of a world drained of truth”. He has appeared on Foxtel’s Comedy Channel, and on the ABC on such shows as O’Loghlin on Saturday Night and Standing Up! He can be found struggling with Twitter’s character limit under the handle @thinkforasec.


Alan Jones suggests ‘left-wing radical students’ link to Boston bombing


Megan Levy

Breaking news reporter


Broadcaster Alan Jones is facing an online backlash after suggesting on national television that “left-wing radical students” were behind the Boston Marathon bombings and that Australia should reconsider its intake of foreign university students in response.

Really, you just said that Alan Jones? I have no words…

In a segment on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday morning, the controversial 2GB host said Boston was a student city home to prestigious institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and suggested that students could be the culprits.

Controversial comments: Alan Jones appears on Sunrise on Wednesday morning.

That is despite US authorities saying they do not have any suspects in the case and they do not know who is responsible for the blasts. No organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed three people and injured more than 175.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a conspiracy amongst students, left-wing radical students in Boston, and I think we have to think also very seriously here about our own student numbers,” Jones said on Sunrise.

“We’re very keen to have foreign students pay the way of universities in this country without a lot of discernment about who comes in. But I think the fact that we’ve been spared this kind of thing, touch wood, for so long highlights, as I said, the relentless work done by ASIO and all our police organisations.”

Alan Jones: “We’re very keen to have foreign students pay the way of universities in this country without a lot of discernment about who comes in.” Photo: Jim Rice

Former NSW treasurer Michael Costa, who was also on the segment, immediately responded that people shouldn’t “jump to conclusions yet about what’s behind all of this. Let the American authorities deal with it”.

“You know, America has got a history of domestic terrorism unrelated to the sort of broader jihadists’ terrorist movement and we don’t want to jump to conclusions,” Mr Costa said.

“But for Australia the lesson is clear. Complacency can’t be tolerated. We’ve got to support our authorities and we’ve got to ensure we’re vigilant.”

Jones responded that there were “a lot of things here that we can’t be told”.

“I think governments here have been very good in dealing with all of this and I think they will continue to be very good,” he said.

“This was a very sophisticated attack, this wasn’t the work of amateurs and there were several bombs designed to do damage in big numbers and I’m sure Australian authorities are alerted to all that.”

The online response to Jones’ comments was swift and damning:


The third person to die in the blasts was identified on Wednesday morning, Australian time, as a foreign student attending Boston University.

The Chinese Consulate in New York said the student was from China, but officials were not authorised to release the male victim’s name.

Boston University said on its website that the the victim, a graduate, was among a trio of students who had gone to watch the race at the finish line.

The controversy surrounding Alan Jones is the latest to dog the radio personality, who was lambasted last year for claiming that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s late father had “died of shame” over her “lies” during a speech at a Liberal Party function. He later apologised for the comment, but not before 60 companies pulled their ads on 2GB.

The Australian Federation of International Students said Jones’ outrageous claims harmed the relationship between international students and the Australian community.

“For Alan Jones to paint such an inaccurate and presumptuous picture of international students in the mainstream media does the Australian international student body a huge disservice,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Putting forth these unsubstantiated claims will only do harm to the relationship between the international student body and Australians. We wholly reject the manner in which Alan Jones has portrayed international students in Australia.”

The federation said international students underwent a rigorous health and security check before they were issued with a visa for entry into Australia.

“‘The Department of Immigration and Citizenship conducts its own security screenings which we accept to be suitably appropriate,” the federation said.

“International students contribute immensely to Australian society in many ways – by volunteering their time in non-profit organisations, contributing to diversity in a university environment and sharing their cultures with Australia.”

“I think governments here have been very good in dealing with all of this and I think they will continue to be very good,” he said.

“This was a very sophisticated attack, this wasn’t the work of amateurs and there were several bombs designed to do damage in big numbers and I’m sure Australian authorities are alerted to all that.”


Do jerks deserve free speech?

January 22, 2013 – 11:58PM

Alecia Simmonds


On 28 September 2011, Andrew Bolt was found to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Photo: Justin McManus

Imagine if Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt could be thrown in prison and charged money for vomiting venomous racist bile in public. Seriously. I don’t mean this in an ‘imagine if you were invisible and could fly’ kind of way. Nor in the sense of: ‘imagine if Ryan Gosling begged for you to be with him but you turned him down in favour of being a lesbian mother with Portia di Rossi.’ I mean this in the sense that [insert sonorous BBC news voice here] the NSW Parliament is conducting an inquiry into racial anti-vilification laws which impose criminal penalties for hate speech. Specifically, section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act is for ‘serious racial vilification’ and carries a penalty of $5,500 dollars and 6 months in jail if you’re found to have incited ‘hatred’, ‘serious contempt’ or ‘severe ridicule’ of a person or a group or to have threatened physical harm. Since the law’s inception in 1989 there have been 27 complaints referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions but not one has been prosecuted. The legal requirements are too stringent. The Inquiry may look at revising the requirements to make it easier to sue. [Now stop reading in BBC voice or it will become distracting.]

Already the announcement has sparked the usual Cassandra like murmurings of free speech advocates wringing their hands and making terrible prophecies: Pestilence! Death of democracy! Gagging of political dissidents! Voltaire is quoted with promiscuous glee: I may not like what he has to say, but I’ll defend to the death Alan Jones’ right to call Lebanese people ‘vermin and mongrels’. Democracy needs free speech. And in the free marketplace of ideas, the truth will always triumph.

A similar debate raged last week in England over writer Julie Burchill’s breathtakingly transphobic article in defence of her gob-smackingly transphobic mate Suzanne Moore. Moore made a jibe at ‘Brazilian transvestites’ in an otherwise excellent essay on female anger. In so doing, Moore incurred the wrath of some ‘bullies’ standing up for transgender rights. I don’t want to repeat what Burchill said in defence of Moore, but suffice to say it was so horrendous that the Guardian removed it and released an apology. It was in flagrant breach of their anti-vilification policy. In their ping-pong game of hate, Moore hit back in defence of Burchill saying that she had been censored by ‘humourless, authoritarian morons.’ ‘How has the left ceded the word ‘freedom’ to the right?’ she brayed.

So how do we make sense of this seeming opposition between equality and free speech, especially given that we pinko lefty types tend to cherish both and have historically stood up for both. Perhaps it’s best to start with the fact that freedom of speech is not an unqualified right or an unqualified good. Your ‘freedom to’ say what you want can’t come at the expense of other people’s ‘freedom from’ fear, violence or hatred which may be incited by what you say. The left hasn’t given up on freedom. We just want to stretch it to include the most vulnerable members of our community.

Studies have consistently shown that hate speech is not just words, but that it usually precedes an attack. Sociologists Rowan Savage and Gordon Allport describe it as part of a continuum of violence where racial vilification can slide easily into violence or genocide. Hate speech makes violence possible and is also itself a form of violence. Law Professor Mari Matsuda has found that victims of vicious hate propaganda experience physical symptoms such as difficulties breathing, increased pulse-rate, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. So, I would think, like any form of violence, hate speech should be subject to criminal sanctions, not just toothless symbolic legislation.

And what about the free marketplace of ideas? The idea that the truth will win out through rational debate while bad ideas will wither and die? The problem with these arguments is that they imagine that the marketplace affords everyone an equal right to speak and that every voice is equally loud. This is nothing more than a beautiful fiction. Unfortunately, very little can rival the booming flatulence of Alan Jones. Migrants or Aborigines don’t have the same access to public space.

And you have to wonder why free speech advocates are mostly concerned about the stifling of right-wing views. If people like Tony Abbott were genuinely concerned about free speech then surely they would campaign as fiercely for the protesters involved in the Palm Island riots as for powerful bigots.

We’ve had anti-vilification laws for over twenty years now and don’t appear to have spiralled into a totalitarian state governed by authoritarian morons. I think we need to stop debating whether the laws will gag democracy and start questioning why, in NSW for instance, they apply to homosexuals, ethnic minorities, transgender people and people with HIV but they don’t apply to women. Of the State and Federal Anti-discrimination Acts, only Tasmania condemns inciting hatred towards women through language such as whore or dyke. Is it because too much of what passes as ‘pub talk’ could constitute hate speech? Is it because it would release a flood of litigation around everything from pro-rape facebook pages to misogynistic shock jocks to sleazy uncles? Is it, ultimately, because we live in a society where violence against women is simply not taken seriously? I think it’s high time that Jones and Bolt were sent to the clanger, but for their misogyny as much as their racism.


Simon Berger, The Young Liberals, Alan Jones and That Chaff Bag Jacket

Simon Berger is Community and Government Relations Manager of Woolworths Limited. At a fundraising event for the conservative Liberal Party of Australia, Simon Berger donated a ‘chaff bag’ for auction. It was bid for and purchased by Alan Jones. The chaff bag represents a symbol of political violence against political opponents especially women. The chaff bag was introduced into Australia’s political debate by extreme right wing media commentators including Alan Jones who advocated that the Australian Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard be dumped in a chaff bag and taken out to sea. Simon Berger is a member of the Liberal Party and a former election candidate of the Liberal Party.


What Organisation Could Possibly Support Alan Jones?

These ones:

This Facebook page has the most up to date list of organisations still clinging to this right-wing parrot.

Click the link to see which organisations still support Radio 2GB and Alan Jones’ popular talk-back radio program. Then use their contact details to let them know that you won’t be supporting their organisations until they withdraw their support for Alan Jones and Radio 2GB.