By THREE GIRLS ONE CAPITAL
The guaranteed experience of sexism is the greatest psychological hurdle any woman (young or old) knows she is going to have to learn how to jump if she intends to pursue a career as a politician.
Regardless of what party a woman belongs to, she will experience open sexism by her colleagues, the media and the population she is there to serve and represent. As a young woman interested in politics, this is a petrifying prospect.
I’m never sure whether I’m over-thinking sexism or injecting a sexist slant into a phrase or comment. British journalist Caitlin Moran’s book ‘How To Be a Woman’ helped me through this dilemma. Moran has a simple test for whether or not something is sexist: ask ‘and are the men doing this as well?’ So I’ve decided to really look at the political sphere I may one day be a part of to see if sexism really is prevalent against women.
In March of 2011, a mass gathering of anti-Carbon Tax protesters descended on the lawns of Parliament House. There were signs proclaiming ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘JuLiar, Bob Brown’s Bitch’ – signs which Tony Abbott and Sophie Mirabella stood in front of, silently approving of their message.
This absolutely outraged me; they were so blatantly sexist – it is undeniable that the words ‘bitch’ and ‘witch’ can only be used to insult a person’s gender. Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott have never been called ‘bitches’ or ‘witches’, or even male equivalents.
To my mind, any male equivalent is not offensive – would a man be offended at being called a dog or a wizard? (Perhaps if he was likened to Voldermort the latter would be offensive, though this insult is really only applicable to Peter Garrett).
Last month, Gillard was subject to the most disgusting display of sexism I have ever seen. It made me feel physically sick. Seeing the then-Prime Minister who was the most powerful and should have been the most respected woman in Australia described so crudely as ‘Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Hugh Thighs & A Big Red Box’ was horrifying. As if any woman would want to enter Australian politics after seeing the genitals of the prime minister ridiculed in this way!
The same menu contained a dish about Kevin Rudd. However, no part of his anatomy was mentioned – the offending dish was called ‘Rudd’s a Goose Foie Gras’. Of course I am not advocating that K-Rudd’s genitals should also have been incorporated; I would just like to know why the menu writers decided to be so severe on Julia Gillard. In this situation it didn’t ‘happen to the men’. This is sexism.
This sort of sexist behaviour isn’t confined to current federal politics. Former leader of the NSW Liberal Party, Kerry Chikarovski, was also subject to intense sexism during her 1991-2003 term.