By Loz Lawrey
When it comes to toxic masculinity, neither Labor nor the Coalition occupy the moral high ground.
Both parties have male “rats in the ranks.” Women in both camps, whether politicians or staffers, continue to suffer from the insidious repression of their power, forced upon them by our patriarchal system.
It’s clear that our overarching Australian male-dominated social culture itself is the problem and, when it comes to the mistreatment of women, neither side of politics is beyond reproach.
Liberal MP Nicole Flint has called out sexist attacks and stalking she has endured, claiming that the safety of women should be “above politics,” while in the same breath accusing Labor of refusing to condemn the perpetrators.
As a woman, she deserves support and redress for any mistreatment she has suffered, yet her Labor-blaming demonstrates the usual right wing conservative politicisation of issues and response to criticism: avoid responsibility, refuse to address the facts and deflect, deflect, deflect…
Yet patriarchy is non-partisan. Male privilege and entitlement is everywhere.
It’s on the right, the left, and in the centre. Our system entrenches it as if this is nature’s way, the “natural order.”
It’s so easy, as a man, to accept that this is simply “the way of things” and thank our stars we weren’t “born a woman.”
To my shame, at times in my own life, I have had this very thought.
I’m now in my seventieth year. Yet still I continue to try to learn and grow my understanding. We can all improve on our former selves.
As I hear more and more women speak out about the mistreatment they endure,
I learn. My instinct is not to try to shut them down, but to listen. I know that if I do, I will learn, grow, and become a better person. I will connect with my own empathy and understand in some small way what it is to walk in a woman’s shoes.
Whatever my own political affiliation, I must listen and act on the knowledge and understanding that listening delivers.
At this moment in time, our federal parliament stands exposed as a disgusting cesspit of sexism and exploitation.
In the parliamentary workplace, which has no human relations department to address the issues of those who work there, a toxic culture endures, nurtured and maintained by men of privilege from across the political spectrum.
There’s an opportunity here.
Australia needs to change.
Who should lead that change? Our federal government.
Who speaks for them? Scott Morrison.
Is this man capable of even comprehending and addressing the problem?
Sadly, no. Scott Morrison is the emperor with no clothes, a hollow man of “faith” devoid of the consideration and understanding needed to change our system.
The activist Grace Tame highlighted his gormless response to the issue of women’s safety during her speech at the National Press Club, pointing out that; “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.”
Morrison’s pathetic reference to his own wife and daughters, while intended to imply; “I understand the problem – I get it,” did just the opposite.
He doesn’t understand the problem. He simply doesn’t “get it,” which is why he sought guidance from his wife.
Scott Morrison is, purportedly, the leader of our nation.
He sits at the top of the very system that perpetuates the repression of women.
He himself is a product of that system, and thus a part of the problem.
Will he do anything to address the issues of women’s safety and inequality at their source?
Will he encourage cultural change in schools, sports clubs and churches, those petri dishes of toxic masculinity?
Will he call for mutual respect our streets?
Will he speak for “equal rights for all, regardless of gender”? Probably not.
Make no mistake. Private boys’ schools exist to entrench and maintain the patriarchy and the “male power” that sustains it. They are breeding grounds for the sexism that preferences one gender over another, and the entitled men these institutions produce go on to infect our culture and society at large with their toxic attitudes and behaviour.
I myself am a product of this system, and it’s taken me a lifetime to understand this.
Toxic masculinity exists everywhere – in all pollical parties, in the business world, in our wider communities. It is not partisan, and the issue of women’s safety should certainly be above and beyond politics.
Addressing this issue requires more than the mumblings of a conservative evangelist, one who appears completely unable to even understand the problem.
We need a real leader.
Australia needs a female prime minister, one who can foster greater understanding and acceptance between men and women.
We had one once.
Her name was Julia Gillard, and we all witnessed the champions of patriarchy in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian attack and revile her throughout her term in office.
What a cringeing embarrassment that was to witness: our nation at its very worst. What a poisonous presence in our society Murdoch has been.
Ms Gillard did her best. Her “misogyny speech” resounded around the world.
History will remember her kindly. Murdoch? Not so much.
In Australia, sadly, the patriarchy is entrenched.
Dismantling it requires the collective effort of us all.
Our nation must change.
Our culture must change.
The education and upbringing of men must change.
These things will only happen once we all work together to change the very system that entrenches patriarchy and male entitlement.
Men must realise that this implies no threat to them, no disenfranchisement nor emasculation.
Empowering women will not disempower men but rather help to, as Robert Kennedy said in 1968; “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”
In the civilised world, in these troubled times, the very survival of humankind depends upon collaboration, cooperation and mutual understanding.
Patriarchy has had its day.
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