What began as a calling out of thoughtless, cringe-worthy, and perhaps even disrespectful, morning TV has moved to a bitter debate between two female TV presenter’s about the definition of feminism – and the definition of bullying.
Today, Channel 7 Sunrise host, Samantha Armytage, has hit back at veteran journalist and ABC TV presenter, Virginia Haussegger, for saying she “disgraced feminism” and for calling her a “mindless bimbo”, “daft” and head of the “bimbo brigade” in a weekend column in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Whatever your interpretation [of feminism], it does not provide a license to attack — personally and professionally — another woman,” Armytage wrote for News Ltd.
“To use petty barbs such as “bimbo”, “dumb”, “ditzy”, “daft” to prove a point, does not make you a feminist. It makes you a bully.”
But does it make you a bully? And what does an embarrassing, thoughtless skit on morning TV have to do with feminism in the first place? Do all roads lead back to feminism? My feminism vs your feminism?
Haussegger argued that breakfast TV is revving up the whole dumb woman routine at the exact same time that women’s “knowledge, wisdom and expertise” on television has gone MIA.
“Their nonsense nattering does a major disservice to feminism,” Haussegger explained. “If Armytage and Co. don’t give a hoot about feminism – fine. But perhaps they should think about women like themselves – glamorous, privileged women who are in positions of power and influence – and how hard others have fought for such women to be taken seriously. To be heard. And to have their views considered worthy of prime time, serious discussion.”
Kristin Davis was in Australia last week as a guest of UNHCR to bring attention to refugees, in particular the daily threat to women and child refugees of sexual violence.
But all on-screen roads that morning at Sunrise led back to the show she starred in 11 years ago, Sex and the City and the Sunrise version of SATC complete with an unfunny skit and wigs that wouldn’t be out of place in 1972. To top it off the reel they chose to show of Davis’s work from SATC was from an episode where she had explosive diarrhea.
It was like a seven-year-old boy, who was the class legend for making fart noises with his underarms, had been the brains behind the morning TV operation.
Presumably Armytage, who was due to MC the UNHCR lunch the next day and interview Davis for it (her duties were cancelled after the segment), was well-versed on its mission statement and why Davis was in town and why, in fact, Davis was on Sunrise in the first place.
Was Armytage a “bimbo” or “dumb” for putting on a big curly wig to look like Sam from SATC and giggling with her workmates while missing completely how embarrassed her guest, Davis, was?
She certainly was thoughtless. So too was the whole team.
And if Haussegger had toned down her language, would her point be more valid?
Are all women meant to support all women, because they are, well, women? Hillary Clinton might have a point of view on that.
Armytage thinks so.
“Feminism means different things to different people,” Armytage wrote. “To me, it has always been about empowering and supporting other women. For most, it happens naturally. Not all wear it like a badge of honour.”
Haussegger did go in hard with her language. But what of Armytage’s points in her response to being bullied?
“I am eternally grateful and in awe of the women who paved the way for people like me to receive a good education, pay off a HECS debt and work bloody hard.”
“I am a proud woman and I will no longer tolerate women who rubbish our sisterhood in the name of feminism.”
“I don’t blame anyone else for my marital status or childlessness (I’m only 39, there’s still time!) and I am not bitter.”
The last is a particularly interesting observation considering Haussegger wrote a book Wonder Woman: The Myth of Having it All that stemmed from a column she penned about her own childlessness and women waiting too late to have children due to focusing on their careers and not having enough information about fertility called “The Sins of our feminist mothers”.
Haven’t seen it yet? You can watch the skit below. Post continues after video.
Unlike Haussegger, I’m not sure the Sunrise segment disgraced feminism. I think it disgraced a person – Kristin Davis – and her work. I think there is a broader issue at play about the “dumbing down” of women on television, and the effect that has on feminism, but that point could be made 365 days of the year.
And unlike Haussegger, I’m not singling out “the women” because there were men involved in the planning, men involved in the execution, men watching on.
This was a planned segment. Morning TV is not impromptu theatre. There was plenty of time for someone to say “No, don’t you think we should think about this, handle it differently?”.
I’m calling out all the adults, all the professionals who went to work one day and didn’t stand up for themselves and didn’t stand up for a woman, who yes, was once ‘Charlotte’ on a famous TV show, but was in Australia to promote the very real threat of rape and violence faced by women and children who are refugees.
I’m calling out adults who, if we want to use the world bullying, perhaps bullied Davis to do something she obviously didn’t want to do.
I’m calling out adults who didn’t stop something that was obviously embarrassing, and probably insulting, to the woman who sat opposite them and was a guest on their show.
Isn’t that what smart, talented, informed adults are meant to do? To take charge? Just ask any seven-year-old.