Finally, something both sides of politics agree on…
According to the perennially well-dressed Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former first lady of France and retired supermodel, it’s time for women concerned with fighting for equality to take a rest and find another way to fill their days.
“My generation doesn’t need feminism,” she breezily informed French Vogue this week, before gushing about her newfound appreciation of “bourgeois” domesticity in the self-entitled manner only a wealthy inhabitant of two mansions can muster.
If only the 44-year-old heiress could tear herself away from her oh-so-enlightened existence long enough to peruse a few of the Twitter posts making news in far-flung Australia she might not be so smug about allegedly living in a post-feminist world.
Among the light reading on offer yesterday was Wallabies legend David Campese’s grumbling about the wisdom in employing “a girl” to write about rugby union for a newspaper and a Labor backbencher labelling Julie Bishop “a narcissistic bimbo”.
Unsurprisingly, both men were initially unrepentant about their choice of words, assuring critics they were simply speaking the truth.
Yet, presumably after the intervention of cooler heads, MP Steve Gibbons reconsidered a Tweet in which he had blustered: “Libs are led by a gutless douchebag and a narcissistic bimbo who aren’t fit to be MP’s let alone PM and Deputy. Both should be sacked.”
Despite admonishing a follower that he was “just stating the obvious mate!”, Gibbons later offered what might well qualify as the most miserly recantation in history.
“Apologies to those offended by my use of the word Bimbo. I’ll replace that word with ‘Fool’,” he offered.
And just like that, Australian politics was restored to being impeccably polite and constructive.
Oh how right you are, Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy. Who needs obsolete distractions such as feminism in a culture in which women are so obviously valued and treated in high regard by parliamentarians of all persuasions?
First we gave women the vote, then our elected MPs ceased calling them “bimbos” in favour of the infinitely more charitable “fools”. At this stage we’ll stop calling for them to be burned at the stake any day now.
Gibbons’ unwarranted sledging of Bishop is not only further evidence that nastiness is alive and well in federal politics, but that Tony Abbott’s side of the house does not have the monopoly on misogyny.
In the bitter and counter-productive preening that has dominated the reality of minority government for two years, voters have consistently been let down by the inability of our so-called leaders to broker bi-partisan agreement.
While co-operation on policy regarding everything from asylum seekers to education proves elusive, it would seem there is at least one issue in which MPs of both sides are wholeheartedly in unison.
Both are equally capable of nasty characterisations of women in power. Consensus at last.
Now, now, I hear you cry – how can it be sexist when Gibbons also called Abbott a “gutless douchebag”? Yet the presumption behind that charming sentiment also lies in a dismissive view of women.
There’s no mistaking the insinuation: what sort of man hides behind a woman’s skirts? Because in allowing his deputy to lead the parliamentary assault against the Prime Minister this week, what other possible motivation could Abbott have other than cowardice?
Never mind that Bishop’s CV includes 20 years experience as a lawyer and a capacity to intimidate her opponents with a withering glance that’s the envy of many a less steely operator.
According to Gibbons, a woman is only dispatched to do a man’s job when ulterior motives are at play.
Try as her opponents might to deny it, Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was a watershed moment in modern Australian politics.
In acknowledging the great unspoken truth of her career – that at times she has been treated differently than her male predecessors on the grounds of her gender – her honesty resonated with many men and women alike.
That Gillard was largely celebrated for the performance, both at home and abroad, was a vindication of the fury that propelled her eloquent tirade.
But it was a victory that brings with it a responsibility; a duty to - as she herself promised at the time - denounce sexism where she sees it.
Yet there’s a prevailing view in certain circles that the act of sexism must only be acknowledged in direct accordance to where a recipient happens to sit on the political spectrum.
So while attacking a person with like-minded views is unacceptable, similar character assassinations made against an ideological foe go unremarked.
It’s for this reason the very same people who rightfully take offence at a sexist attack against Julia Gillard can be less inclined to feel outraged on behalf of Pauline Hanson or Julie Bishop.
It’s a flimsy understanding of feminism that puts even Bruni-Sarkozy to shame. Staring down genuine sexism is not a weapon to be conveniently employed in championing allies in the very same breath as demonising rivals.
Slurs on the basis on sex are unacceptable, irrespective of a woman’s political affiliation. Sexism of all kinds must be condemned by our federal parliamentarians – anything less is a stunt and insults our intelligence.
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