By SHEENAL SINGH
Fairytales are rare creatures in Australian politics but the electorate of Indi in Victoria is not far from delivering a story deliciously close to it.
Today, celebrated Independent candidate Cathy McGowan is expected to vanquish the apparent enemy of north-east Victoria – the Liberal Party’s Sophie Mirabella. Only 500 votes remain uncounted and McGowan is several hundred ahead at the time of writing.
People of various political persuasions have watched McGowan’s grassroots campaign with awe. Finally, here was a real and continuing challenge to the major party machine.
A one woman powerhouse generated at least a 9 per cent swing away from the Liberals in an election where the conservatives were storming to victory. Impressive.
And good on McGowan. She deserves congratulations. But the accompanying abuse of Sophie Mirabella, the personal venom, the hatred, the cruel and vicious attacks, has not been okay.
It seems that this contest stopped being about celebrating one woman’s victory and descended into a hate-fest where the world was simply relishing in another’s defeat. And the relish was incredibly gendered, and dare I say it, a little bit sexist.
While many succumbed to the #Indivotes fever on social media, my mind has turned to Sophie.
I feel for her. Because: it seems people don’t like her so much. As in, at all.
Time and again I have encountered a stunning depth of dislike for her on social media channels. Twitter users have begun to bid her adieu in a variety of, er, interesting ways. There’s a “Sophie Mirabella is a disgrace” page on Facebook, complete with the same ditch the witch and shame-on-you-woman sentiments we witnessed and bemoaned during the Gillard era.
Long derided for her abrasive political style, I have an uncomfortable feeling that part of the aversion towards Sophie Mirabella is borne purely from a distaste for aggressive traits in female politicians and a parallel inclination to judge them based on values such as compassion and decorum.
It’s unfair but unfortunately true. Academic ink has been spilled to make that very point.
People don’t like seeing aggression from women in the public eye. The public reacts badly to it. Behaviour that we consider okay for blokes, isn’t acceptable for women.
As little sympathy as I have for Sophie Mirabella’s policy positions and politicking – I can’t help but compare the robust debates we had about the way the media and public treated former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard to the relatively uncritical response to the portrayal of Mirabella in the past few weeks.