By MIA FREEDMAN
Would you be offended if someone described you as having sex appeal? That’s what everyone seems to be talking about today.
I knew something was up yesterday arvo when my phone started ringing with a bunch of numbers I didn’t recognise. Media. All of them requesting comment on Tony Abbott’s latest ‘gaffe’. Unusually, I’d been offline for a few hours because it was my son’s 5th birthday and I was wrangling 11 kids and a stormtrooper (long story). So I had no idea that Tony Abbott had described a female liberal candidate as having ‘sex appeal’ – among other things.
Here it is:
Well, it’s not ideal. They’re political candidates not beauty queens. We can all agree on that. But I’m not going to pile onto the media frenzy over two words or try to use them to label Tony Abbott a neanderthal.
So I didn’t give any comments. But I will say this here:
My view is that Tony Abbott is a man typical of his generation. He respects women. He likes women. He appreciates women – and that includes visually – as most heterosexual men do. And that’s OK. Like many men of all ages, Tony Abbott hasn’t yet entirely caught up with the changed vernacular and what’s considered appropriate and inappropriate to say publicly.
Just look at the expression on his daughter’s face when he says it:
What daughter hasn’t rolled her eyes like that when her Dad says something awkward? Oh you can bet she shared a few choice words with him afterwards – as she should. Adult daughters are a wonderful influence on their fathers – look how Jess Rudd managed to turn around her father’s attitude to same-sex marriage.
By all means let’s use it as a teaching moment: a boss probably shouldn’t comment on the way a female employee looks.
But I don’t believe this speaks to Tony Abbott’s overall character or his attitude towards women. Just like the fact he used the word “suppository” when he meant “repository” earlier this week is not an indication that he’s stupid. When you’re working around the clock and having every word, gesture and facial expression scrutinised, stuff happens. Words fall out in the wrong way.