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Women go back to the future

In 1975 I was asked to take part in the Lions Club Youth of the Year Quest. The competition was in two parts. Firstly we were asked for our views on current affairs. I remember East Timor was a hot topic at the time. Secondly, we had to give a speech on a subject of our own choosing.

The Lions Club had an interesting rule stating that, even though girls could compete, they could not go on to represent their district at the next level. This had to be done by a boy, so if I won, the boy who came second would go to the state finals rather than me. As it was International Women’s Year, I chose to make this the topic of my speech, pointing out that the word “youth” was defined as “the time of life between childhood and maturity” regardless of gender.

I’m not sure if they were shamed into it, or if I was a token, but I won the public speaking section and the headlines in the local paper the next day said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias” – something I copped quite a razzing for from my friends.

So why am I sharing this self-indulgent piece of personal history with you? Because almost 40 years later I am still having the same arguments.

Politicians like Cory Bernardi and Fred Nile still accuse women of using abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and label those who advocate pro-choice as “pro-death”.

We have a Prime Minister who thinks that men and women have different abilities – and he considers that position to be evidence-based.

Mr Abbott said in the 1970s: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

In 2004, he said: ‘‘Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.’’ If the rumours I have heard are true, it is a “convenient exit” that Mr Abbott took advantage of as a young man, well before the much publicised time that he left his girlfriend just after she had given birth.

In 2006 we were greeted with this headline.

“IT took 15 years for Gardasil to make a national hero of its creator, Ian Frazer. But it took just three days for the world’s first cancer-preventing vaccine to make a national dill of federal Health Minister Tony Abbott.”

The gatekeeper of the federal drugs budget rejected Gardasil for PBS subsidy and the application by the drug’s promoter, CSL, for a three-stage national immunisation program. While justifying his concerns about the price on radio, Abbott floated the bizarre idea that a misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine might actually result in “an increase in cancer rates”.

It took just another 24 hours for the Prime Minister to put an end to the nonsense. John Howard, alert as ever to the public mood, delivered sparkling prime ministerial endorsement to Gardasil along with a clear direction to Minister Abbott that the immunisation program should proceed. And pronto.

“There is no lack of desire to get this wonderful drug available and the mass immunisation campaign to start as soon as possible,” Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Despite the fact that, in Australia, cases of human papilloma virus infection have dropped nearly 60 per cent since the immunisation program against the virus which causes cervical cancer began, Mr Abbott, whose views on virginity as a gift are well known, said no. ‘‘I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.’’ Maybe it’s because he has the ridiculous notion that it will encourage his daughters to be promiscuous without taking precautions?

He has led the Liberal Party at the same time as the Party has experienced a decline in women’s participation at top levels. Senior Liberal women have publicly protested over the systemic sexism in the party. Good people like Judi Moylan, who had the courage to cross the floor on the asylum seeker issue, are ignored in the Liberal Party, with preference shown for fawning sycophancy and dramatic histrionics.

When Tony Abbott announced his Cabinet with only one woman there was justifiable outrage. We are back to girls not being able to represent at the next level, back to the old Lions Club rules. If there are no “women of merit” in the Liberal Party, they should be asking themselves why that is. If this caused outrage, Tony’s self-appointment as the Minister responsible for women’s policies and programs was the ultimate insult.

To be represented by the man who says he “gets” us, like we are some homogeneous group with clearly defined views and aspirations, the man who, when asked about the merits of the candidate he was campaigning with, could only come up with “She’s got sex appeal”, the man who uses “ironing” to explain carbon pricing to “the housewives of Australia”, is really just too much.

Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about that. The middle-aged white males have it all under control. “Women of calibre”, go forth and multiply. Single mothers, get off your butts and get a job you bludgers, and why haven’t you got a husband anyway? And all you fakers on the Disability Pension can do likewise – we know you are spending all that money on golf lessons and martinis. We will no longer be contributing to superannuation for those of you who fail to earn a large amount of money as you have obviously not taken advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities on offer. And don’t think you will be getting an old age pension either. Why should those of us who earn a lot subsidise the workers who make us our money and the carers who are too lazy to get a job and provide for their own retirement.

Time to go find my apron and polish up on my darning.


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  1. PeterF

    Great Post Kaye Lee ; what an isolated life this man has lead.

    ‘ “Women of calibre”, go forth and multiply.’

    We should spread the word that the $25M denied Shepparton district’s main employer will pay for 333.33 ‘Women of calibre’ to be paid $75,000 each to ‘go forth and multiply’. Says it all , really.

  2. hilderombout

    Thanks Kay, it really goes to show that he has no idea about women. He has no idea about anything i think, except perhaps licking the arses of his masters. Phht! I wonder where Margie is? We have not heard from her for ages. I wonder how she feels about having to play the little housewife so he can feel a big man? I actually feel sorry for her and for his three virgins. Can’t be much fun being related to him. But that aside, i don’t think women will be easily put back in their box again. Oh sure, he can keep us out of positions of politcal power but that does not make us powerless, as you proved with your encounter with the Lions Club!

  3. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Yep, here ’tis 2014 and I watch my 15 year old niece facing the same issues – different labels of course and even more covert, than the blatant “girls can’t represent Lions Club back in 1975”. Among her many talents, my niece is a fantastic drummer – her timing is exquisite – and the looks of hate from the other aspiring drummers (all boys) at her school must be daunting. But that doesn’t stop her – she loves music and continues to represent her school. She likes to dress up – but not too slutty – people might think she is asking for trouble… sheesh.

    A quick look back to the future here in the 21st century can be found at:

    As for Abbott saying he “gets women”,,, WTF?… well I sure as hell don’t. I don’t understand why any woman would vote for his party let alone strive for membership. Lest we women forget, we are not a single homogeneous group – the Peta Credlins and Julie Bishops are a testimony to that.

  4. Kaye Lee

    And look pretty while you do it! I know the drill 😉

  5. Jan Dobson

    A woman is different from a man, but then one women has different strengths and weaknesses from another woman. A young man can have more in common with his retiring female teacher than with his peers, a grandfather can be more of a feminist than his granddaughter.

    The point that seems to elude the current government ministers and advisors is that we are all individuals and deserve the same care and respect, regardless. Well said Kaye Lee.

    And with that in mind, can I please ask respectfully, that we cease using ‘middle aged (or old) white male’ as a perjorative?

  6. Kaye Lee

    Point taken Jan. Just because they have historically had the front running in just about everything, and continue to do so, is no reason to lump them all in together. I actually know some very astute and caring middle-aged white males

  7. PeterF

    “And with that in mind, can I please ask respectfully, that we cease using ‘middle aged (or old) white male’ as a pe(r)jorative?”

    As a male wasp in my 70th year, I say ” if the cap fits . . “

  8. rossleighbrisbane

    Yeah, don’t forget this fabulous piece of advice in a song from the sixties:

    “Hey, little girl,
    Comb your hair, fix your make-up.
    Soon he will open the door.
    Don’t think because
    There’s a ring on your finger,
    You needn’t try any more

    For wives should always be lovers, too.
    Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
    I’m warning you.

    Day after day,
    There are girls at the office,
    And men will always be men.
    Don’t send him off
    With your hair still in curlers.
    You may not see him again.

    For wives should always be lovers, too.
    Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
    He’s almost here.

    Hey, little girl
    Better wear something pretty,
    something you’d wear to go to the city.
    And dim all the lights,
    Pour the wine, start the music.
    Time to get ready for love.

    Dim all the lights,
    Pour the wine,start the music.
    Time to get ready for love.
    Time to get ready,time to get ready for love.
    Time to get ready,time to get ready for love.”

  9. Michael Taylor

    How dare you speak out, Kaye Lee. Back to the ironing board you go. 😉

  10. Terry2

    Kaye Lee

    By extension, I think we as a nation owe an apology to Julia Gillard for the way we allowed her to be treated at the hands of a man who, to our eternal shame, we now call our Prime Minister.

  11. PeterF

    Yes, and when she did, on one occasion, speak the truth about Abbott, the low life in our ‘popular’ media tore her to shreds: one of the worst ever examples of how low the ‘herd mentality’ can be dragged.

  12. John Kelly

    Hint: take everything Abbott says, believes and does and you will trace its roots back to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Or Gilbert O’Sullivan’s classic from 1974 : “A Woman’s Place”

    The offending lyrics:

    “I may be old fashioned
    So what if I am
    I’m not any different
    To any other man
    I’m not one of those
    Who look for blood from a stone
    But I believe
    A woman’s place is in the home

    Now I’m not one to kid you
    You know it’s not my style
    I wouldn’t want to hurt you
    Not even for a while
    I’m all for a woman
    Who can make it on her own
    But I believe
    A woman’s place is in the home
    Ooh baby I believe, I do
    A woman’s place is in the home

    Or this more recent offering from the Raunchous Brothers in 2004 called “Women’s lib”

    I want a be a male chauvinist pig
    And i don’t give a f* about womens lib
    Women are weak they don’t deserve any rights
    The women’s movement is a useless fight

    They’re good for sex
    And they’re good for work
    But other than that
    They have no worth

    So shut the f* up bitch

    Who put these feminist ideas in their heads
    Keep them pregnant and chained to a bed
    They’re not worthy of any respect
    Cause all they are is a sexual object

  14. PeterF

    And even they didn’t have enough tolerance to allow him to stay.

  15. Howard Miller

    As a grandfather of numerous grand children, whatever that means, I believe it is time the ABORTION debate went off the boil.
    Now come on girls ? you have had reliable birth control methods for over fifty years, you are all educated enough to know what causes “babies”,? There are more gay males than ever before in the history of Australia AND for some unknown reason the society has to fund the termination of thousands of unwanted babies every year.?
    So I am old fashioned, stupid, chauvinistic and any other tight lipped curse you an manage BUT
    “To murder one unborn child is to spit in the eye of a loving God”
    There used to be a wrathful God, once? and before that, maybe the Mother Earth Goddess would have taken away the God given glory of childbirth from murderers.? If you don’t have a God, well, eternal oblivion awaits you, great prospect.
    Lucky for me I am a male and birth control is simple, keep well away from women who cannot control their life experiences. A bit selfish, a bit lonely, but it does work.?
    The sad part is, Australia needs every Australian born baby we can supply to pay the pensions of all the abortion supporters who arrive at old age with no family to help out.

  16. Fed up

    Then came along “I am woman” and “these boots were made for walking all over you”.

    Forgive me it I have the words wrong.

    Yes, back then, all songs reinforce the woman’s role in society,

    Only one woman on show at the launch of the saint and miracle worker today.
    Could have been more, but they were not in the sight of the camera.

  17. Möbius Ecko

    Deliberately provocative Howard Millar?

    So many memes to attack, chauvinism, religious bunk, population, pensions, marriage/family.

  18. diannaart


    I thought Howard was being ironic. My sides are still aching from laughter.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Howard Miller,

    You cannot know the emotional agony that a woman goes through both before and after an abortion. She faces a hormonal roller coaster, usually without any support.

    Speaking of support, I wonder why you say “come on girls” like condoms don’t exist. Is the responsibility for birth control solely that of the woman?

    “Lucky for me I am a male and birth control is simple, keep well away from women who cannot control their life experiences.” whilst you go along your merry way exercising no control whatsoever. After all, girls are either virgins or sluts, right?

    Are your children and grandchildren aware that they are expected to “help you out” in your old age? Just how many kids and grandkids do you have, and how many kids will they have, and how many people do you think this world can support?

    I know, I know, every sperm is sacred.

  20. Dan Rowden

    I’m a middle aged white man and I’d very much like to be excluded from the judgement that I’ve always had, and continue to have, the front running on everything. I cannot think of a single context in my life where that’s been remotely true.

  21. Möbius Ecko

    I hope so diannaart.

  22. Kaye Lee

    It is certainly a sweeping generalisation that has been rightly questioned, and obviously does not apply to even the majority. I will try to come up with a better phrase.

    Having said that, whilst you may have done it tough at times Dan, try being an Aboriginal woman with three kids trying to find somewhere to rent. Or an asylum seeker of any description (other than Brits and kiwis.)

    Advantage and disadvantage are all comparative.

  23. John Fraser


    @Dan Rowden

    Pretty sure I have never had "the front running" in deciding type and colour of curtains in our house.

    Mind you I did get to decide the type of vacuum I wanted ….. seeing as how i'm the only one who gets to use it.

  24. Dan Rowden

    Oh, ok, dammit, I lied about being middle aged. I’m 52. I’m middle aged in my head, ok? *sniffle* *sniffle*

  25. Dan Rowden


    Advantage and disadvantage are all comparative.


  26. John Fraser


    Uh oh !

    While I was attempting to be witty Kay Lee has inadvertently made me look a little (most likely a lot) stupid.

    For the record I endorse everything Kay Lee has said and that in no way means that I am not "front running" on equal terms.

  27. Kaye Lee

    Once again Dan, everything is comparative. Being 57 I consider you a pup. I also am yet to experience an age I haven’t enjoyed – things change no doubt but there is always something to keep me occupied.

  28. John Fraser


    @Dan Rowden

    I'm always being told to act my age.

    Have yet to discover what age I am supposed to "act".

  29. John Fraser


    I am certainly not going to be a frontrunner in telling anyone my age.

  30. Dan Rowden

    @John Fraser

    At least you have curtains!

  31. John Fraser


    @Dan Rowden

    For a while there it looked like it was curtains.

  32. lawrencewinder

    I don’t how you have time for all this writing and research… surely the scones are burning?

  33. PeterF

    Howard Miller. “keep well away from women who cannot control their life experiences”. Yes if THEY cannot control themselves we had better keep well away from them. I trust that you have lived up to your motto, Howard. I note that I appear to be in the minority here: most have ignored your rant. Perhaps I have misunderstood.

  34. Kaye Lee


    Thankfully I exposed my domestic incompetence to my husband long before we got married. He realises it is not my forte and would be unlikely to eat any scones cooked by me (due to some unfortunate experiences in the past).

    He is watching rugby from years ago while I type away. He just got himself a sandwich 🙂

  35. John Fraser


    @Kaye Lee

    I dutifully went and got some take away coffee and am now sitting here tapping away while the better half has a nap.

    Think I might get the vacuum out.

    If I want a shorter life !

  36. Kaye Lee

    Delegation is an art John. Your wife has obviously recognised your potential and is giving you an opportunity to shine.

  37. Scott Rankin

    I would seriously prefer you to talk about the white middle aged Tony Abbotts of this world, because, as a white middle aged male, that is the ONLY thing I have in common with Abbott.

  38. Trevor Vivian

    Kaye Lee. Hit the nail on the head. Thank you for this article.
    The state of play circa Women’s place,rights and expectations of in a society inculcated to a male separatist view of men’s and women’s place.
    I call it the sandpit culture.
    In the land of wait awhile(west oz) it’s called Babylon Sandpit.
    Good luck and all strength as you continue to break this mythological male separate hegemony that continues to blight the landscape.
    All you fellas can recognise your positions in the sandpit. Either the bully rules or you are the bully. And these positions interchange in split second.
    The shitstem breeds em and all the talk of change, politics of change and broken promises shows the whimpering nature of its players.
    End the War or End the War. Who will if you won’t

  39. Kaye Lee

    Not all middle-aged white men are conservative politicians, but all conservative politicians are middle-aged white men.

  40. Kaye Lee


    You know how Joe Hockey said we can’t subsidise businesses (other than mining and banks and private health insurers and pollie pedal sponsors)…..

    “The creation of business cases is expected to cost each group between $5 million and $10 million.

    Those outlays are likely to be either partially or wholly subsidised by the government, potentially costing $50 million before any construction plan has been chosen.

    Mr Nicholls said it was a necessary sacrifice to ensure competing companies weren’t scared off by the money they stood to lose.

    “We want the best companies with the best plans,” he said.”

    Add road builders to the list of companies we CAN subsidise just to get them to apply for a job.

  41. Jan Dobson

    Stirring @KayeLee? “Not all middle-aged white men are conservative politicians, but all conservative politicians are middle-aged white men”

    I have some words for you … Sophie Mirabella, Julie Bishop, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Gina Reinhart, Bronwyn Bishop, my not so enlightened near neighbour, the women who voted for LNP …..

  42. John Fraser


    @Kaye Lee

    Abbott's the Roads Minister ….. definitely not a scholar.

  43. PeterF

    He needs more training.

  44. Kaye Lee

    Jan Dobson,

    I was wondering how long it would take someone to point out the token exceptions. I am guilty of another generalisation. If we want to be precise about this government…

    Cabinet: 18 men 1 woman
    Outer Ministry: 7 men 4 women
    Parliamentary secretaries: 11 men 1 woman (14% female appointments)

    Coalition MPs: 72 men 18 women (20%female)

    Despite the landslide win which saw it gain a net 18 seats, only seven of its 29 new MPs are women, less than one in four.

    Even with the flogging that Labor took at the last election it has 20 female MPs – 36% of members

  45. John Fraser


    @Kaye Lee

    Its on the backbenches that the Liberal woman will most be felt when the plotting against Abbott gets into full swing.

    I can't imagine either Bishops having to many friends …. I stopped my fingers from typing "girlfriends" because it covers both genders … if someone doesn't have power the Bishops aren't interested.

  46. rossleighbrisbane

    Wow, Jan Dobson, you’ve listed seven conservative women. I didn’t realise that there were that many. But then I suppose I wasn’t aware of your next door neighbour.
    Sorry, if there’s one thing I can’t resist it’s a cheap shot!

  47. Kaye Lee

    The devil in me wants to say female conservative politicians are like bikie molls…they like hanging around with rich powerful guys and aren’t too picky about ethics.

  48. Dan Rowden

    Like their wives too, I suppose…

  49. Dan Rowden

    The trick is to buy an ironing board cover that already has that pattern.

  50. rossleighbrisbane

    Kaye Lee, if you have a devil inside you, you must let it out, by opening your mouth. What comes out will be that devil and then he’ll be gone, and you can go back to being nice. It’s what I always do!

  51. Kaye Lee

    When we were little, my cousin always used to blame her teddy bear. “Luvvie said….”.

    I think the grownup version of that is “senior sources”.

  52. John Fraser


    @Dan Rowden

    "The trick is to buy an ironing board cover that already has that pattern."

    Have you got any spares ?

  53. olddavey

    The scones aren’t burnt but there is a big black iron shaped mark on the ironing board.

  54. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    Great article Kaye thank you.

    All my life I have had to stand up for myself. And say to the men in my life, I will not take your bossing of me, or your rudeness. From the time I was little, it was my place to clean up and sometimes cook for the Men in my family. As I got older and worked to keep myself, I learned to stand up to those men in my life and there were many. They have never matured, most of them still try to rule us women because that is how they were brought up. I will not allow it to happen ever again.

    I pray all the time that my daughters understand and have learned, that it is not there duty to allow another human being to expect them to obey them!! Hopefully my Son has learned to realise that a woman is not born to be his to boss around either, that she is someone to respect.

    Hence Mr Abbott be aware Women now will not put up with your 50s Catholic ways they will not allow it. You may think everything is great with your 1 Women in cabinet. I am telling you now, it will not last. People will unite against you and your Liberal mates telling us Women what to do with our bodies!!! And our minds…

  55. Jill McCann

    Great Kaye, thanks, but I am wondering about your Lions Club. I was Youth of the Year in Dubbo in 1964 – and the other finalist was a girl, too. No suggestion that neither of us would be a worthy winner.

  56. Kaye Lee

    Girls were allowed to compete, and even to win, but we were not allowed to then represent at the next level. Did you go on to the state finals? They wouldn’t let us.

  57. Kaye Lee

    The awards began in 1964-5. The first female winner was in 1980-1. I think you will find they changed the rules.

  58. Fred

    Julia was right men with blue ties

  59. abbienoiraude

    Again, Kaye Lee you have written a superb piece that had me smiling in recognition.

    Over the years I would start my ‘argument’ for women with; “Do you remember 1975..” You would be surprised ( well maybe not) to find that 100% of the time every person ( man and woman) would say; “What is so special about 1975”. I would come to the point of nearly rolling my eyes with frustration and take a deep breath and start the history lesson of “International Women’s Year”….
    I get so sick of this fight for equal rights….equal considerations, equal treatment. If the religious want to go on about ‘abortion’ being so evil then I always revert to explaining to them that their god ‘aborted’ me twice….(In other words STFU…my body but in my case NOT my choice!).

    I worked hard to raise my children to be aware of ‘people’ first, never mind the gender. What shocked me was becoming a grandmother for the first time and went off to the shops to buy a little gift and stood open-mouthed in front of toy signs saying “Girls” and “Boys” with a sea of Pink and Blue either side!! I pointed and said to my hubby; “Have you seen this?” We were flumoxed what to do. It was breathtaking after all our years of raising our son and daughters to ignore such directives and ‘colour coding’. !!!

    Talking to young women at my daughters ‘Mother’s Group’ ( yes I did ask if ‘father’s’ were welcome…they just smiled tolerantly at me) how they felt about this. They all had sons…so it did not register with them. THAT alone shocked me.

    The idea that Abbott did not ‘allow’ his daughters to be immunised shocked me. I taught my kids carefully that if someone does not ‘allow’ you to do something ( especially a partner) then RUN AWAY! From when they were 5 they were always given a choice ( as a mum you have to be clever enough to give the choices that end up being what you require anyway), but the teaching was there.

    The idea that Abbott is now ‘our’ Prime Minister makes me go dry in the mouth every time it is mentioned. I just can’t believe it. I do have a tendency to ‘blame’ those who divided the Labor leadership behind the scenes as well as overtly ‘favouring’ one leader over another…’divide and conquer’ and all that. It was such a clever ploy one I watched and tried so hard not to become a part of, staying steadfastly left of centre no matter who was ‘boss’. And with that divisiveness we achieved “Prime Minister Abbott”….

    The ‘christian’ experience/experiment that we are having now will be Australia’s downfall. We need to distance ourselves as a nation from this archaic, judgmental, myopic and dangerous notion of a PM who mentions ‘god’ at the drop of a hat. Just last evening Abbott thanked the Aust people and ‘god’ (!!) for making him PM.
    It’s enough to make you puke!

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