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I believe in men

“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.” – Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women, March 2014

Senator Cash was born in 1970, the year I started high school. Even though feminism, or women’s liberation, was a burgeoning movement, all girls were still obliged to do sewing and cooking and all boys had to do industrial arts.

A few years on and Gough Whitlam came to speak at my school. The world was changing for people my age in so many ways. Anyone could now aspire to go to university. But there were many places that we could not go and there were many men and women, including Tony Abbott’s mentor Bob Santamaria, who saw no reason to change the status quo.

Pubs had Ladies’ Parlours where a few adventurous women wearing hats and gloves sipped politely on a small shandy while their husbands held court in that male bastion, the public bar, where women were most definitely not allowed. As women began questioning their right to be considered a member of the ‘public’, we were told that they swore too much in there and we wouldn’t want to be there. I remember telling a publican that I would forgive them their lack of vocabulary. He didn’t let me in.

And then there was the snooker room. If you went to the club together, it wouldn’t be long until the men disappeared downstairs to that other female-free zone, the snooker room. Having played a lot of pub pool whilst at University, I rather fancied myself at the game, so one day my girlfriends and I decided to join the boys in the snooker room at the club. We set up the table but before we could break, the club manager was straight over saying we had to leave. When I asked why he said it was the rules. I said “Yes, I know. I want to know why it is the rules.” His response was that we would hold up play so I promptly challenged him to a game.

By this stage every guy in the room was listening and they all started urging him to take up the challenge and I must say, with a smile and good grace, he accepted. He wasn’t quite as jovial after I beat him though he did shout me a drink. The rules changed a month later at that club. It took much longer elsewhere.

Fast forward to a few years after marriage, both of us working full-time, no kids, no debt, deposit saved for a house. Off we go to the bank manager for a loan to buy my parents’ house for a very good price. We were rejected because I was “married and of child-bearing age so your wage cannot be considered”. This was the mid 80s.

We have much for which to thank the feminists of the past but for Michaelia Cash to say “that was an ideology from many, many decades ago” is unbelievable. This is the woman who is supposed to be representing women’s rights at a decision-making level and she seems to find the word feminist to be some sort of derogatory label for ungrateful women who just can’t move on.

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.”

A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. Isn’t that what our Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Woman should be doing?

Feminism is aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

Feminists have campaigned for women’s rights such as women’s suffrage, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Activists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women.

Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but men have also reaped many rewards from the feminist movement.

It gave our economy a huge and long-lasting boost as women entered the workforce. It has led to better relationships and more satisfying sex for all concerned. It heightened awareness of gender discrimination helping men who were also victims. Contraception gave men and women more sexual freedom and abortion also gave them an option other than an unsatisfying marriage. It caused the definition of rape to be changed to include men. It gave men more time off to be with their kids. It demanded that the media change its representation of men from the stereotypical macho muscle man and encouraged men to rethink outdated masculinity standards and gender roles. More men entered fields like nursing and teaching.

Feminist is not a gender-specific term. It applies to men and women who recognise the equality of the sexes, the right to equal opportunity and pay, and the shared responsibility for unpaid work. So it’s rather off-putting when our federal minister responsible for women says it is “ridiculous” that identifying as a feminist should be a prerequisite for her job.

When asked by a journalist at the National Press Club during the lead-up to International Women’s Day in March, whether or not she considered herself a feminist, Senator Cash replied:

“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.”

Right. Let’s not alienate the men, as advocating for women’s rights is bound to do. Know your place and don’t cross the line or you will be labelled a misandrist. Just ask Julia Gillard.

And as for working hard, Michaelia decided to work hard at entering politics from a young age. She is the daughter of Western Australian state MP George Cash and, by age 18, was an executive member of the Curtin University Young Liberals from 1988 to 1990 where she studied public relations, politics and journalism, and then the Western Australian Young Liberal Movement, where she held numerous positions including state vice-president. She is a member of the state council and was the president of the Moore Division. She also served on the party’s state executive.

Ms Cash also expressed her admiration for Julie Bishop, describing her as “stylish” and admitting she has “a bit of a passion” for the Foreign Affairs Minister. It is obvious she is trying to emulate Julie’s style if not quite with the same aplomb.

On rare occasions, politicians make inspired speeches that strike a chord. On even rarer occasions, these words reverberate around the world. Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was one such moment. Not only did millions around the world sing its praises, some very talented young Australians turned it into song, literally.

And then there was Michaelia Cash’s vitriolic rant in the Senate directed at Penny Wong after Rudd replaced Gillard as the leader. Listen to the way she spits out the words “her own sisterhood” and “Emily’s List” (a political network in Australia that supports progressive women candidates to be elected to political office). Listen to the sneer with which she emphasises the word MISS Gillard – the barren adulteress.

During a Women’s Day event, Tony Abbott referred to himself as a “feminist”. In comparison to Michaelia, Tony’s looking almost good.

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  1. MissPamela

    Bravo! Well said, Kaye Lee!

  2. Matters Not

    Perhaps you were inspired by Merle and Rosalie?

  3. Lee

    And she has a voice to match the concrete on her head. It rates up there with scraping fingernails down a blackboard. Ugh!

  4. billy moir

    As a lapsee, I find it tragic but hardly surprising that michaelia believes in the rabbott and his church’s doctrine of women as physiologically flawed and psychologically impaired for 3 days per month. Still a private school girl is a work in progress and was selected by the rabbott for having broken through the glass ceiling on the other days.

  5. fryaduck

    Kaye Lee perhaps instead of whining about it you might actually do something. It seems that 70% of women don’t care to act, which is their fault. Change is only made by those who are willing and have the intestinal fortitude to act.

  6. Stephen Tardrew


    Go and do something useful like defeat the government then we will listen.

  7. 'george hanson'

    had the great delight in putting m.cash , LAST on the senate vote form …TWICE .[i live in W.A. ]

  8. Carol Taylor

    Fryaduck and,

    It seems that 70% of women don’t care to act, which is their fault.

    Thereby meaning what? That 70% of women are at fault for..it seems, mostly everything.

    Yes Kaye Lee, I have had very similar experiences which include being excluded from promotion, even though far more qualified than male applicants – why? I might have left and had a baby. Of course in the ’80s this was just an excuse for exclusion. I recall that after women achieved equal pay being sneered at, told to stand because if I wanted equality…then I could pay for it.

    Abbott’s latest, including speculation (and it’s been mooted several times including prior to the last election) of including the family home in any assets test for the pension will of course effect elderly women most of all, the family home often being their one and only asset. Any kind of level playing field is way off in the dim future and certainly won’t be rectified by Abbott’s handouts to wealthy ‘women of calibre’.

  9. The Trees

    Taken individually ,members of the LNP are appalling!Michaela Cash being one of the worst!
    But taken collectively eg Rabbot,Pyne ,Brandis,Abetz.Andrews,Cormann,Bishop x2, etc ,they are our worst nightmare.

  10. Gaik

    There is nothing worse than a female misogynist

  11. nickthiwerspoon

    @Fryaduck. What a feeble comment. She *IS* doing something about it. She wrote a piece. Which I tweeted to my 12,000 followers on twitter. Just as in the piece she described how she persuaded the manager of her local to allow women into the pool room. Opinions matter. Hugely.

  12. Kaye Lee

    The more I read about the Young Liberals, the more I find them to be a bunch of ungrateful privileged little snots who don’t seem to recognise that their parent’s wealth and position have given them opportunities that are closed to others less fortunate. They don’t seem to realise that the “rights” they enjoy were won through the blood, sweat and tears of feminists and unionists. They are happy to put out their hand for the impressive salary and entitlements that come with being a politician, but have no idea of the world of the “little people” they are elected to represent. It’s all about daddy’s business and their own ambition.

  13. Jane Pulltheotherone

    Trying to get Ms Cash to answer a question is like trying to call back a dog going doolally in the off-leash area.
    And just what IS it about the front bench voices? Pyne’s whine, Abetz’s grating drone, Abbott’s oo errrrr moments, Hockey “it wasn’t me sir” tone, Julie Bishop’s clipped Madam Lash briskness, and the list goes on.
    I have a theory they do it on purpose, to make it impossible for reasonable people to watch current affairs shows for more than a few nano-seconds, before running screaming from the room.
    I’m only thankful that the nodding mouth, Ms Mirabella, has found lucrative alternative employment courtesy of the Coalition benevolent fund.

  14. Terry2


    I’m intrigued about the Young Liberals’ Black Ops revelations including, it seems, a dress code – black skivvies no less – Wiggles for the colour blind perhaps ?

  15. Kaye Lee

    Klaxons blaring….DIVE DIVE DIVE

  16. Kaye Lee


    I actually wrote about the Young Liberals’ International Conference this year.

    “Young Liberal Movement of Australia: As is tradition, Saturday night’s dinner will be black tie and the Victorian delegation, in a fit of self-importance, will ignore the dress code.”

  17. dafid1

    I will refrain from expressing my feelings publicly re the person Cash. I was brought up old school 1950/60.

    ”Always be a gentleman in the company of a lady” my beloved mother taught, something I have tried to live up to. However, my dad offered this advice on the side, (out of mums hearing of course :-)), in his soft rhythmical Irish brogue, born in the lush green hills of Kerry. “Sometimes you will come across a lady who isn’t, then there are choices to be made”. Said profoundly, but with a distinct twinkle in the eye. He was not one to offer advice about females so this was to be honoured as serious stuff.

    I have tried to follow both parents wisdom in these matters, old habits remain, walk on the road side of the footpath, open doors, stand when a woman enters the room, does me no harm.

    So Ms Cash today I will reluctantly be a gentleman….. but don’t push it.

  18. Kaye Lee


    Your parents gave good advice. Your courtesy and thoughtfulness show a respect that women appreciate. Feminists don’t hate men. Many of them ARE men. The gentlemen of this world also deserve respect for their considerate behaviour.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Tony Abbott’s views on feminism (speaking about courses at Sydney University):

    “In the government department for instance you have extensive courses on things like feminism and the political exploitation or women and what have you and quite frankly, not only are they trivial but they are attempts by unscrupulous academics to impose simplistic ideological solutions upon students. As it were, to make students the cannon fodder for their own private version of the revolution”

    If you don’t wish to listen to the whole interview, this quote is at 6:20 in the video. Also check out 12:45

    Tony Abbott did confess to calling Ms Ramjan a “chair thing” rather than chair person.


  20. Stephen Tardrew

    Damn the sixties seem so long ago. That thriving challenge to tradition and the birth of the feminist movement. When at Uni I was intimidated by those angry young feminists who were like guard dogs waiting for a slip of the tongue or some habituated male ignorance. In the end became great friends with many who had been physically, sexually, psychologically abused and discriminated against. No wonder they were angry. If you showed understanding and empathy it was not hard to be accepted. Many years later and women are still treated as second class citizens in a so called democracy. We certainly are not there yet. The rights of businesses to exploit women is still more important than the just rights to equal wages and equal opportunity.

  21. Kaye Lee

    One thing that particularly annoys me on the internet is when total strangers make unsubstantiated assumptions about you. Usually I treat it with the ignore it deserves but, just for the record fryaduck:

    In 1975 when I was 17 I gave a speech at the Lions Club about the gender discrimination in their organisation. The headline in the local paper the next day was “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias” above an interview with me. The rule was later changed. That year I also was sponsored by the local Liberal Party to go to Canberra and meet with MPs Philip Ruddock and John Carrick.

    I quit two jobs – one when the middle-aged male proprietor insisted I wear a mini-skirt to work in a newsagency, the other as a barmaid when they introduced lingerie night when the barmaids were supposed to wear baby-doll pyjamas.

    I was also the first female bookmaker’s clerk in the ring at Harold Park trots, somewhere I had to excel to earn respect. When I worked out the payment for a winning bet, punters would ask the male bagman if I was correct, something I found very annoying as I had the book and he didn’t. To his credit, he replied “Whatever the lady said.”

    I have taught maths to generations of women showing them that maths is not exclusively a man’s domain. I was on the management committee for a homeless youth refuge where we helped young people, many of them victims of abuse.

    So when you say “perhaps instead of whining about it you might actually do something” would you like to share what YOU are doing to help?

  22. joy cooper

    Just looking at the body language of the first image showing Cash & Abbott. It made me feel sick to my stomach the way she was interacting with him, a married man & she a married woman. Shudder. Thankfully, Abbott wasn’t looking down at her cleavage. That would’ve been just a wee bit too much for me.

    What is with with these female Liberal MPs. Do they think they have to flirt their way to “power”. Julie Bishop does it all the time.

    Thankfully, re equal pay, it was in existence in NZ when I was working there in the 1970s as happened in my job. Women also had the right to use the public bars etc,if they wanted to, well before then. The lounges were more salubrious for both sexes though. 😉

  23. Kaye Lee


    If you think the body language is inappropriate in that pic, look at the one I chose NOT to use


    And there are many social justice areas where New Zealand is streets ahead of Australia. Since Abbott got elected, I have even considered becoming a Kiwi, particularly during Rugby season, though the Waratahs are doing much better this year.

  24. joy cooper

    Kaye Lee Hehe re Rugby. Don’t blame you, especially during the Bledisloe Cup games. 😉

    EEEEWWWWW!!! That link made me nauseous. What is it with these Liberal women (can’t call them ladies) & Abbott??? That image of Abbott & Lisa Newman trying to swallow each other is burnt, permanently, on to my brain & will surely enter the Infamy.Hall of Shame.

    Congratulations on all your brilliant work & analyses. Our world is a better place for reading them. Keep it up, we need you. 🙂

  25. Eileen Dixon

    I am reading this while I eat my breakfast, I just clicked on the photo you chose not to use, I feel soooooo sick. He is so slimy and his tongue is for ever hanging out. Please, please, if we must have a liberal government change the leader I don’t want him representing me or mine

  26. Helen Shanks

    A great article. Spot on. Growing up as a young adult in 70s and 80s…so much of what you have mentioned I experienced! My young husband at the time insisted I come into the main bar of a Geraldton pub…and we debated with publican that I had the right to be there, and I refused to move. Didn’t seem to bother others. It was also the times when I needed my husbands signature to buy a car! Thank goodness for women who acted before me….

  27. Social Constructs

    Absolutely brilliant article. As someone in the same age group I can relate to all the examples you gave and remember encountering very similar attitudes. I am proudly feminist. Like you I believe in equality for all.

  28. diannaart

    Lest We forget.

    Thank you Kaye Lee. Everyone needs reminding on what has been achieved and what is still to do.

    It is not difficult to understand why the likes of Abbott would prefer the company of women like Cash (he can’t attract anything better) and, quid pro quo, such women see much advantage in promoting men like Abbott. We may deplore such women, there will always be sycophants, I would include some of the males in Abbott’s cabinet are just as fawning. Greg Hunt and Christopher Pyne spring to mind for some reason.

    Women are not a single homogeneous lump – neither are men. We never will be 100% united for equality for women (and men – not all aspire to be bullies or brutes). Hence we have the Cashes and Bishops who happily step over the rights of their gender to gain some power from their male counterparts.

    That’s all for now.

    What I really wanted to comment on – the photo you-did-not-use ….. UuuuuuGGGgggHHHHH. Looks like Cash is trying to turn a toad into a prince. LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

    Gar, cough, heave… excuse me folks have to….

  29. Booboo

    The reason I prefer the term “Egalitarian” to “Feminist” is largely because of the bad rap the Feminism movement has gotten in the past decade or so, with the emergence of so-called ‘Radical Feminists’ who do not fight for equality but the enslavement or punishment of men for whatever women have suffered for the last several thousand years. In that way, I too would not like to be labeled a Feminist these days because I abhor the connotations the word brings. But there is nothing wrong with the original idea of Feminism as equal rights at all, and I doubt that Cash went on to clarify that she was an Egalitarian rather than a Feminist. I suspect she is just a misogynist, as you said. I hope that made sense … :S

  30. diannaart


    The reason I prefer to refer to myself as a feminist is largely due to my objection to being bullied.

  31. rossleighbrisbane

    Women who say that they don’t believe in feminism often become strangely militant when told that it doesn’t matter what they think.
    It’s easy to say there’s no problem when one has all the rights of people who had to fight for them.
    It’s easy to say that people should be doing something when one isn’t actually suggesting what needs to be done.
    Keep reminding us about what certain people would have us forget.

  32. Lee

    It amazes me too that women who flirt and sleep their way to the top also don’t seem to recognise that they are not treated as equals and promoted on their other merits.

  33. MissPamela

    I am not ashamed to say I am a feminist and have been since the sixties. As mixed groups from uni we visited bars in Adelaide (Shock! / Horror!)- there was definitely support for equality from like minded male students. When I started teaching we did not even get equal pay in South Australia and Maternity Leave did not exist. We have come a long way, but I an sorry to acknowledge that after all this time there is still a long way to go. I was never a militant. I do not hate men. However, we must keep fighting against the misogynists, both male and female. to stop what was won being eroded and continue to advocate for greater equality for all.
    Sorry for my rant but I am proudly a FEMINIIST!

  34. John.R.

    It appears that Michaelia Cash would amount to little more then a token Feminist for the Liberal Party as it allows her to enjoy the benefits of power
    The term Feminist has in a way outlived its design. On Q&A the other week this was discussed briefly and the term “GENDER EQUALITY” was put forward.For myself I find that this is a more encompassing term as it is also one that makes the the subject a two-way street as it highlights the essence of the whole matter and it takes away the concept of having to simply come from behind and catch up and whereas it also infers an inequality already exists and makes men more aware of this fact
    @ FRYADUCK….Fair enough comment as to why 70% of woman don`t do anything about it
    Within our society and not just in Australia but globally are well established institutions as well as strong Cultural behaviours,some built from these institutions,others going back further then their establishment which instill into the people involved defined roles for males and females.
    In many of them if a female is determined to be her own person and break with ” TRADITION” ,she is usually on the end of some form of abuse or is ostracised. Some women in the group will admonish them for stepping out of line and “upsetting” the status quo. They do this out of FEAR…!…NOBODY male or female enjoys being ruled over or dictated to but they are told THIS is your role.Regardless of what we see no human soul is “happy: in that role.This is why people crave freedom. Physical Abuse by a male is always perpetrated by a weaker and insecure being who cannot conceive that another being,let alone a female could be “EQUAL TO THEM” because it is what he has been …TAUGHT

  35. lawrencewinder

    KL, I’m disappointed in this article.
    A/ It generously assumes Liarbrils have imagination.
    B/ It then requires us to believe that the women who join an unimaginative political party have intelligence enough to see this lack of imagination and will reform it.

    You are far too optimistic.

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