By REBECCA SPARROW
I feel a little sick in the stomach about writing this post. Mostly because I know it’s going to infuriate a large number of women I admire. But here goes.
When Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave her ‘historic’ speech in Parliament during Question Time on Monday, I didn’t pump the air with my fist. I didn’t cheer. Or clap. There was no whooping. I was a whoop-free zone.
Why? Because I didn’t buy it.
When I watched the PM open a can of whoopass on Tony Abbott I didn’t feel like I was watching some spontaneous smackdown ignited by Abbott’s moronic “died of shame” comment. I didn’t feel like the PM had been tipped over the edge and just exploded into a speech that would strike the heart of every feminist.
Nope. I felt like I was watching the PM play her latest card in the “Let’s paint Tony Abbott as a misogynist” smear campaign. She had her notes ready to go and Abbott essentially cleared the stage.
Labor has a historical fondness for smear campaigns. This year in Queensland I saw Anna Bligh’s Labor government spread vile and completely untrue lies about Campbell Newman’s family via a letterbox campaign. Think what you like about Newman – love him or hate him, I don’t care – but the dirty tactics when discovered by Queensland voters was the nail in Bligh’s coffin.
And do I even need to remind anyone of the “Kevin Rudd is a psychotic power-mad dictator” campaign they rolled out against one of their own?
So, Tony Abbott.
Do I think the Leader of the Opposition is sexist? Yeah, I do. Do I think he allows his religious beliefs to influence his political decision-making. Yep.
But that doesn’t make someone a misogynist. What are we now? Qualified psychologists? Well, thank you Dr Phil. I think to throw that label around is so incredibly offensive it makes my head explode. Anyone who has dated or met a man who is a true misogynist knows what I’m talking about.
But the real kicker for me in Monday Question Time was for the Prime Minister to give a “I’ve had enough of the sexist, disgusting appalling things Tony Abbott has been saying about women” speech only to VOTE TO KEEP PETER SLIPPER AS SPEAKER. A man who wrote, oh you know, just a whole heap of creepy, sexist comments about women’s genitalia.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
No, really. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
And don’t DON’T even try telling me it’s because the PM is waiting for the outcome of legal proceedings. That’s to do with the court case between Slipper and Ashby. Peter Slipper’s foul comments about women were enough to deem him an inappropriate – HELLO MR CREEPY – choice as Speaker. Or is sexism and misogyny only a problem when it’s uttered from the mouths of a Liberal party member?
I’m at the point where I don’t even know what the Prime Minister actually stands for. (This is where I’d ideally like to open my own can of whoopass on the agreement she broke with Andrew Wilkie on poker machine reform. And the fact she’s backed out of key elements in the package of carbon tax reforms.)
But I digress.
Annabel Crabb summed it up perfectly yesterday when she wrote this on The Drum:
There is no doubt that our first female PM has been tried extensively by references, attacks and criticism that would never have been made of her male predecessors. Much of it has gained public ventilation thanks to a communications revolution that now allows front-bar remarks to achieve a national audience.
In a coruscating speech that went around the world, Ms Gillard finally let rip with her frustration about all this, and left no doubt about whom she considers to be responsible.
“The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office,” said the Prime Minister, with the cold fluency she reserves for moments of genuine anger.
“Well, I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation.”
Principle! Well, yes, sort of. Until you consider that the PM’s distaste for sexist remarks stopped at the door of her own Speaker. Yesterday afternoon, she decided to speak with the voice of principle but vote with clay feet. Subsequent events show she needn’t have; the Government now finds itself defending the ghost of the Speaker with the shreds of its principle.
I’m going to lay my cards on the table. I’ve voted for Labor in every federal election – bar one – since 1990 (I think I voted John Howard into office in 1996.) [Edit: In hindsight, I think I may also have voted Greens in the 2004 Federal Election as I was unable to bring myself to vote for Mark Latham] I like Prime Minister Gillard. And I think she’s at her best when she’s on the ropes. And on Monday Gillard was full of fiest and passion. The PM had many, many valid points to make about some of the appalling things that have been said to her and about her in politics. But that speech was about as impromptu as Brynne: My Bedazzled Life.
There are many things I love about the Labor party.
But their fondness for smear campaigns isn’t one of them. And PM? If you’ve got a real opinion, I’d like you to stick to it.
Frankly, next election, my vote is up for grabs.
Do you think politics has become all promise and no delivery? Are you tired of the game playing?