The late Senator Kimberley Kitching loved her dogs.
Ever-political, she and her husband Andrew Landeryou named them Ronnie and Nancy-Jane - after the late former US president Ronald Reagan and his two wives. Her furry companions were a “particular passion”, and even got a shout-out in her maiden speech to parliament in 2016.
Because she cared deeply about animal welfare - and she cared about human rights too.
Kitching was a staunch advocate for introducing the Magnitsky bill to the Senate. It’s now firmed into legislation, and is being used to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs and pressure Putin over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
She also felt strongly about injustice closer to home. Indeed, her critical questioning exposed Christine Holgate, the former Australia Post CEO who gifted Cartier watches to senior staff that negotiated lucrative deals with big banks. It resulted in an independent investigation and a Senate inquiry.
Kitching enjoyed swimming. And yoga. And she looked up to Hillary Clinton.
But you'd be forgiven if you didn’t know any of these things. Because since her untimely passing from a heart attack just 14 days ago, the public discourse has not centred on her life and achievements.
Yes, her name has been relentlessly brandished across headlines and the front pages of newspapers, but rather than us remembering her for all that she stood for, it has been reduced and associated with two words:
Yes, I’m cringing too.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the problem with the 'Mean Girls' narrative. Post continues below.
It's an epithet that is inherently gendered and condescending. Also, where in our lexicon is a similarly charged equivalent that judges men on their behaviour. Where are the “mean boys”? And to be a member of the “boy’s club”, doesn’t quite have the same zing, now does it?
Irrespectively, the term first appeared in a piece by The Australian just two days after Kitching’s death, which claimed that she had experienced bullying by three of her Upper House Labor colleagues - Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong. Kitching allegedly referred to the trio as “mean girls”, a claim they later denied.