Sorry, but it’s time for another pseudo-political rant. I do try to keep these at a minimum, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s more than a little fed up with the quality of ‘debate’ from our federal politicians of late.
Let’s get the biases out of the way first; yes, I lean slightly to the right. No; I probably wasn’t thinking of voting Labor anytime soon anyway. But my rant isn’t really aimed at Labor (although they get the brunt of it by virtue of being in government); it’s aimed at the culture of federal parliament in general.
Firstly, I’m a little bit sick of the overuse/misuse of the word ‘sexist’. And don’t get me started on ‘misogynist’. Having dabbled with a spot of chauvinism myself, I feel qualified to remark that the speech writers charged with driving the rhetoric of political debate either don’t realise that they are mischaracterising what these words mean, in which case they should be fired, or they are fully aware that they’re mischaracterising what these words mean, in which case they should be fired.
It’s old news by now, but just for context let’s look at the attacks on Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
It’s not sexist to disagree with a woman, particularly if that woman happens to be the leader of the party opposing yours. Questioning the competence and integrity of a government cannot be called misogynistic simply because the Prime Minister is female. One does not automatically earn the label ‘sexist’ by being a member of the Catholic Church.
And – most strikingly of all – it is not sexist to demand the resignation of the speaker if he’s been caught sending highly inappropriate and - yep – sexist messages to his staff concerning female body parts. As rousing as Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s response to this was, as and much as it was a great relief to hear her speak with some sincere passion as opposed to the bland, focus-grouped rhetoric that has come to characterise the Labor party since the Kevin 07 election campaign, the fact that she continued to support such an obviously messed up man right up until he resigned, and that she then jumped up and down calling Tony Abbott, instead of Peter Slipper, a misogynist left me a little bewildered.
Tony’s got issues, there’s no denying it. But I really don’t see how ‘sexism’ is supposed to be one of them.
Fast forward a few weeks and now the Prime Minster has come under renewed scrutiny over some bank records from years ago that might or might not show (if she would just do the right thing and confirm what happened) that Julia Gillard, who was working as a lawyer at the time, was involved in a rort of union funds. Or that her boyfriend at the time was, and gave her the money, or not. Whatever.
The point is that the response from the Labor party, rather than to cooperate and demonstrate to the people they are elected to represent exactly what happened, has been to come out swinging, accusing the Opposition of a smear campaign. Apparently seeking integrity and full disclosure from members of parliament is not as important as ignoring/changing the meaning words to manufacture the idea that the opposition leader has a problem with women. It’s come to the point where the opposition has wisely chosen to have Julie Bishop, rather than Tony Abbott, spearhead the attack on the Prime Minister’s credibility, because she’s obviously not sexist because she’s a woman (just have a sit and think about that one for a bit).
But for me, the clincher came earlier today, when Steve Gibbons broadcast a message on Twitter, in which he called Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop a bimbo, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot a douche bag.
First, let’s deal with the fact that the quality of political debate in our country has now descended to the level that small children get in trouble for in the playground. Seriously – we teach our kids that this is a bad way to behave. And here are our federal politicians going at it like naughty school kids. That’s bad enough.
But then Steve realised he’d gone and left a muddy footprint all over the hypocrisy line by using what was perceived to a be a sexist term to attack the opposition. He issued a retraction, in which he apologised for using the word ‘bimbo’ and substituted the word ‘fool’. As if that’s any better.
And let me see if I have this straight: If you call the Deputy Opposition Leader (who happens to be a woman) a bimbo, you have to issue an apology because that’s inappropriate, but if you call the Opposition Leader (who happens not to be a woman) a douche bag in an open forum, then that’s fair play. I don’t think I could construct a more ridiculous or ironic situation if I tried: Apparently our leaders are obliged to treat women differently to men, because if they don’t they’re being sexist.
How the hell did that happen?
I don’t even care which ones are and aren’t sexist anymore, the term is so over-used and over-applied that it has practically become meaningless, at least in the political polylogue. I’m just about at the point where I will vote without question for the first party to propose a policy – any policy – without first using it to create a wedge against the other party.
Make of that what you will.
Garry with 2 Rs