Back in 2014, a confident Julie Bishop, buoyed by a substantive win at the 2013 election, took to the lectern at the National Press Club to tell us all she was no whingy whiny feminist.
“[Feminist] is not a term that I find particularly useful these days. I just don’t use the term … It’s not part of my lexicon.”
She then went on to deny that Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was the target of sexism and misogyny.
“I recognise that there was an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill towards Julia Gillard as our first female prime minister. But then, as should be the case, she was judged on her competence. And that’s where she was found wanting. She then turned herself into a victim and portrayed herself as a victim. That was her choice”
Gender has nothing at all to do with it Julie tells us, which sounds awfully like the victim-blaming that we women know only too well.
“I’m not saying there is no glass ceiling. But you’re not going to get me saying that my career has been stymied because of a glass ceiling. I’m not going to blame the fact that I’m a woman for it not working. I might look at whether I was competent enough or I worked hard enough or did the breaks go my way but I’m not going to see life through the prism of gender,” she said.
Michaelia Cash had expressed similar sentiments when she addressed the NPC in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.
“In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now. I consider myself a very lucky person whose parents told their four children to achieve, you work hard… All I know is that I believe in women … but I also believe in men.”
As Jamila Rizvi reminds us
“Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. And this isn’t just about who has the bits that make the babies. Australian women earn less from the very first year after they graduate from university and TAFE.
Women still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties.
Women are almost 51 per cent of the population and yet we hold less than 30 per cent of elected positions in the federal Parliament. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions.
Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes.
We earn less, we are heard less and we are hurt more.
And all of this pales in comparison, to the women around the world who still do not share the basic rights, safety, freedoms and equalities that here in Australia we all take for granted.”
But let’s not upset the boys by mentioning it.
This sort of enabling by Liberal and National women has consequences. Not only is there a dearth of women representatives, we have endured the unedifying spectacle of claims of sexual harassment and bullying by male politicians.
When a few women were so shocked by the behaviour of their male colleagues during the leadership spill that they actually called them out on it (without naming names), they were quickly silenced. Here, take an all-expenses-paid trip to New York. Oh and you two can have an Assistant Minister’s job, there’s a good pet. And any of the rest of you who don’t know what’s good for you, remember your preselection is not guaranteed (unless you are that stellar performer Craig Kelly).
The oh so earnestly sincere Greg Hunt, the man who has perfected the puppy dog look, launched into a tirade against the mayor of Katherine when she had the temerity to speak to him about better resources to deal with contamination from fire-fighting foam in her region.
“The very first mouthful was ‘you’ve got to f–––ing get over it, you’ve got to make Senator Scullion your f–––ing best friend’,” Ms Miller told ABC radio. “The next two sentences also contained the F-word, and then he sat back a little in his chair and said, ‘I’ve heard you’re feisty’. And I thought, ‘Really?’ I hadn’t said a word, not a word at this stage, because I was in such a state of shock at what he was saying.”
Asked how she found Mr Hunt’s attitude during the meeting, Ms Miller replied: “Misogynist.”
The tone had been set by the leaders of the Coalition parties.
In the lead up the 2013 election, when Tony Abbott was asked about the attributes of candidate Fiona Scott, he described her as young and feisty “with a bit of sex appeal”.
Prior to that, in 2012, Barnaby Joyce, who had by his own admission “consumed a few drinks” before entering the chamber, was speaking on a water efficiency bill when he was “distracted” by the sight of fellow Nationals Senator McKenzie, who was sitting a few feet away.
“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” he said. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber, there is no doubt about you.”
Both of these women, though obviously embarrassed, laughed it off as a compliment.
No. That is NOT how one should treat female colleagues at work.
Until women find the courage to recognise the problem and call it out, until we draw a line in the sand and demand respect for what we do, not comments on how we look, we will continue to be patronised by those men who would prefer we remained in domestic servitude rather than challenging for the jobs they feel are rightfully theirs.
So Julie, why do YOU think your party abandoned you when, according to all the polls and the bookmakers, you should have been a shoe-in for the top job. Not competent enough? Didn’t work hard enough? Or a room full of men who just can’t stand the idea of having a woman boss?
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