Australia’s leader of the opposition sexism fail

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I live in Australia, where we’re currently mid-way through a federal election campaign fought between our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott.

During Australian election campaigns the leaders of the two main political parties have televised debates on important issues, usually watched by a studio audience. At the beginning of the campaign, Tony Abbott asked Julia Gillard for three debates, but Julia said no. Recently Julia Gillard has changed her mind and asked if there could be another debate. Tony Abbott went on the record last night, on national TV, and actually said:

“Apparently for Julia Gillard, no doesn’t mean no.”

“No means No” is the (worldwide, I believe) slogan of the anti-rape movement. Abbott knows this, and was clearly trying to make some kind of clever joke. Since when did jokes about rape become funny, or acceptable? Worse still, although the head of the Rape Crisis Centre asked him to formally apologise, he refused.

This man is on the record as saying that “it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas, simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”, that he feels “threatened” by gay people, that abortion is a matter of “convenience”, that a woman’s virginity is the greatest gift she will ever give away, and as sending heartfelt appeals to the “housewives of the nation, as they do their ironing”.

And, according to the latest opinion poll, he’s going to be the next leader of the country!

Julia Gillard is an unmarried and childless woman in her forties. There has been way, way too much talk buzzing around the media lately claiming she “can’t really understand families” and that because she has “made choices that are different from the ones most Australian women make”, “she can’t relate to most women.”

I am appalled. Australia was the second country to give women the vote; I’ve always thought us a leader in terms of feminism. Now it seems that’s not the case. Oh well, #MFIF #Fail

via MM, Australia

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56 Responses to “Australia’s leader of the opposition sexism fail”

  1. Smidge Says:

    Very glad to hear she won though!

  2. Luna_the_cat Says:

    I’ve looked at Australia’s record on rape, rape “jokes” in the media, and the general treatment of women in media and culture, and I cannot share your faith in Australia as being any leading light of feminism. But this is just pathetic. Really pathetic. I share your anger and disgust.

  3. Alex Says:

    Julia all the way!

    Tony Abbott is just a small town racist, sexist and bible bashing homophobe. He’s not fit to run the country at all.

    Vote 1 LABOR.

  4. KatrinaSecret Says:

    This the “Real” Tony horrify’s me and people seriously think he has the aptitude (To use his words) to be on the world stage. He would send us backwards in every single fecking way possible. Nobody would come here because he’s just so 1950’s.
    His sexism gives me the heebies jeebies and I just fear if he becomes the leader He’ll undo anything positive and forward thinking in this country. THEN I’m totally moving to America.
    He puts on this image of being family friendly and strong-woman accepting but really he ain’t. The Liberals can do better then that.
    He’s also crazily hypocritical. He called out Julia on her take over of Labour when he basically did the same thing to Liberals.

    Also that patronising speech about how only woman’s virginity is their only precious gift to give to a lover was appalling. Come on. We. Are. Not. In. The. 1950’s. People!

  5. Jaz Says:

    She’s didn’t win the election, there was no voting. Julia Gillard was the Deputy PM and stepped up when Rudd was forced out by his own Labour Party. Unfortunately Australia isn’t ready for a female Prime Minister, the country is too backwards. I don’t know how females or people of colour manage to live there. I will be surprised if she wins the elections this month.

    • BranchMonster Says:

      Hi Jaz, I know that the use of some terms can vary a good deal from place to place and thus, what one location would find perfectly acceptable is far from PC in another. Some people find that “people of colour” and “females” are not PC. I wish I could provide some insight as to what terms are more commonly used and how to decide which to post, but it’s a delicate web to navigate and I haven’t found any solid guidelines on the topic of PC word choices.

      • Alibelle Says:

        Actually, you’re wrong. The term People of Color is the accepted term when talking about anyone not white. You’re thinking of “colored people” which refers pretty much only to black people and is really offensive. I’ve used POC it on every single activist blog I’ve visited and my favorite bloggers at Shapely Prose and Snarky’s Machine use the term as well.

        Females is a more offensive one because it often sounds like the way people talk about animals and pets, plus no one uses “males” when talking about men. Prefacing something like prime minister with female when talking about subjects like this is cool, but using women instead of females everywhere else is the better idea.

    • Jaz Says:

      Look, I’m a Kiwi and I have a vagina – if it is so important to some of you to be specific – oh and bonus – I’m indeginous to Aotearoa (New Zealand).
      It appears to me that there is alot of energy wasted on getting terms correct when it is obvious offence is not intended and cannot be clarified.
      There is alot of selfrighteousness in this thread.
      Don’t read more into the terms individuals use when it has nothing to do with the objective of their comment.
      I state the facts on how Australias current PM was placed. As as for usign the word WON – that’s what happens when there is an election – you WIN it.
      Australia has a history of racial tension that is prevalent today. The Australian people did not vote in their current “PM with a vagina”.

      • Meg Says:

        If offense truly isn’t intended, then once someone hears the message once, they’d be sure to watch it in the future. If everyone just corrects another person once on the “females” point, then the number of people who avoid referring to adult humans with vaginas by JUST the bit about vaginas (conveniently erasing their adulthood and humanity from the convo) would rise exponentially (since each correction will be heard/read by more than one person on average). Considering how little energy is required to make one correction, and that humanity and adulthood is more important to the average woman’s everyday life and identity than the vagina, I don’t think that’s much of a “waste” at all.

        I find it gross and fishy when people insist on lumping me in with children and animals, but can’t bear to put me in the same class as men. YMMV.

  6. Smidge Says:

    I guess describing people as ‘people of colour’ is normal in Australia too?

    I didn’t realise she hadn’t ‘won’, thats how its been reported in the media over here. Interestingly she has been held up as well as a good example of how a woman should be able to make her own choices – the exact opposite of what some people in Australia say about her!

  7. Charlotte Says:

    Tony Abbott CANNOT be your next Prime Minister! I’m saying this and I’m from New Zealand. It’s sickening the amount of coverage her personal life is getting but oh yes, she’s female, what do we expect? She’s far too female to run the country, her bad. *massive eyeroll* *prays Julia gets elected*

    • H Says:

      I like this – too female, but at the same time, not female enough, since she hasn’t had kids.

      Women wanting to gain any sort of power or success have to moderate their femininity very carefully so as not to terrify anyone.

  8. Smidge Says:

    H – i know that, I didn’t mean to be offensive, just meant to ask whether that the term is often used in Australia? One thing is to ensure we do not use derogatory terms for anyone – especially women.

    • Dee Says:

      To answer your factual query: No, the term “people of colour” is not commonly used in Australia (or really anywhere outside the US and possibly Canada, that I’m aware of).

      • Robert Says:

        Not in Canada, either.
        That is, people say it, but it’s generally not well received.

    • Alibelle Says:

      I’m pretty sure you guys are all thinking of the phrase “colored people”.

      • Fauxnoc Says:

        No, we aren’t.’People of Colour’ is not a general term in Australian culture.

  9. Smidge Says:

    pharaohkatt – I didnt think it was – my sister is married to an Aussie and lives in Sydney and I’d never heard it used over there. I guess like anywhere its used by people who either dont know or dont care what it means. Thanks 🙂

  10. Alibelle Says:

    Here you go guys:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person_of_color

    ” People of color is preferred[by whom?] to both non-white and minority, which are also inclusive, because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority, by its very definition, carries a subordinate connotation.”

    “Although the term citizens of color was used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, and other uses date to as early as 1818, people of color did not gain prominence for many years.[2][3] Influenced by radical theorists like Frantz Fanon, racial justice activists in the U.S. began to use the term people of color in the late 1970s. By the early 1990s, it was in wide circulation.[4] Both anti-racist activists and academics sought to move understandings of race beyond the black-white binary then prevalent.[5]”

    Though I see in the same article that it’s mostly a US thing, so maybe that’s where the confusion is coming from. I guess I’m a little entho-centric there, but it is the prefered term here, so telling someone it’s not PC isn’t the right answer.

    • Alibelle Says:

      Also since some people don’t trust wikipedia (somewhat understandable) you can look up “people of color” on yahoo and google (in the united states at least) and find dozens of other uses of it as the prefered term by activists and academics.

    • hk Says:

      interestingly, i tend to think of people, regardless of skin color, religion, etc. as people.

      • Alibelle Says:

        Yeah, but in discussions involving race amazingly, having a term to use is helpful.

  11. BranchMonster Says:

    Alibelle, I think you need to read what I posted again, carefully, before deciding what I was thinking about and declaring “you’re wrong.” My approach to the issue of what is or is not PC (politically correct) is very general with the understanding that some people find it very easy to misunderstand each other in the written medium (your response being a good example of this) and that there *could* be parts of the English-speaking world where people do not think that “people of colour” is among the list of politically correct descriptions for people who are not white.

    Now, I could be simply be assuming that you haven’t visited every part of the English-speaking world and conducted research into what is or is not a politically correct term. If you have, in fact, done so, kindly enlighten us. Words can be slippery from culture to culture.

    • BranchMonster Says:

      Oh, this “correction” seems to be some form of blanket trolling to enlighten us all as to whether or not we want to be sensitive about the terms we use to describe people. Unfortunately, I cannot delete the response I posted that dignifies such assumptive replies.

    • Alibelle Says:

      First off, I’m not a troll, though I suppose that I could have said something slightly less strong than “you’re wrong.” However I was very surprised by someone telling another person that “people of color” which is the accepted and prefered term in my country (I addressed this in my final comment) was not polictically correct. I’ve been reading this blog since pretty much the beginning and assuming based on my confused though admittedly too frequent comments about this term that I’m a troll is really cool.

      I was confused by this reaction to the term that most people in the activist communities I usually visit use and reacted rather…weirdly? to it. I still don’t think it’s really fair to tell someone using the term that “I guess like anywhere its used by people who either dont know or dont care what it means” when they most likely do know what it means (at least in their country) and care.

      You’re right. (haha see what I did there) You were more respectful than me “Hi Jaz, I know that the use of some terms can vary a good deal from place to place and thus, what one location would find perfectly acceptable is far from PC in another.” With this and I’m sorry. Well you were more respectful until jumping to the conclusion that I’m a troll.

      I wish I could delete this comment: “I’m pretty sure you guys are all thinking of the phrase “colored people”.” But, honestly I was just sitting here going “Whaaa…?” After reading all these comments. And my final comment basically explains that it’s used in the US (hence my confusion) isn’t offensive and that no I still don’t think telling someone that it’s wrong to use it or that it’s completely thoughtless is the right idea.

      • Smidge Says:

        Actually that was me that made that comment before I knew it was a commonly used term in the states and I accepted that point below. unfortunately I reacted to what I saw was a racist term. I think you’ll find most people who are racist or use racist terms do use them because either they don’t know or understand they are racist or that they don’t care. That’s what I meant by that. fact of life there are racist and sexist people out there and thank you for site like this are out there to educate people that it is wrong!

      • BranchMonster Says:

        Alibelle – I do hope that my (ensuing) explanation and apology make you feel better, since I have clearly hurt your feelings.

        “Me – Oh, this “correction” seems to be some form of blanket trolling to enlighten us all as to whether or not we want to be sensitive about the terms we use to describe people.

        Alibelle – Well you were more respectful until jumping to the conclusion that I’m a troll.

        Alibelle – … assuming based on my confused though admittedly too frequent comments about this term that I’m a troll is really cool.”

        I can see how upset you are because I am certain from context that you meant “uncool.” Let us take a deep breath and stop typing for a few minutes. Then read more slowly. I’ll reiterate: some people find it very easy to misunderstand each other in the written medium.

        Admittedly, Alibelle, my choice of words was strong and I see that including “troll(ing)” can have stinging results. I hope you will come to understand that my words were an observation pending the conclusion that you could be a troll. I was concerned that the discussion would drag along with unnecessary arguing for the sake of arguing. The description was intended to suggest that I would come to view your posts as “trolling” if I returned to find that they continued to be argumentative while overlooking some of the details in question. Forgive me for failing to make that clear. I see how the description suggests that I was dismissing you from the outset. I apologize that this choice of words reached you so harshly.

        On that note, if it helps to clarify the intent of my comment to Jaz, I wanted to offer a general and gentle explanation as to why some of the people who had posted prior to it seemed put off by the terms “people of colour” and “females.” If you review how I addressed the topic, I did not say outright that the term “people of colour” is not politically correct so much as suggest that it could rub some people the wrong way. My hope was to offer a bridge between the use of the term and the clear evidence that Jaz was expressing sympathy and understanding. From our discussion, we can all see that I am just as involved in the ongoing process of learning to navigate delicate topics.

        I think “H” had the most success here: Oh come on, it’s pretty clear that Jaz is on our side, s/he just might not be too hot on terms.

        So Alibelle, I hope we can reach some understanding. It would sadden me to see this site turn into a place where people make enemies.

      • Alibelle Says:

        “So Alibelle, I hope we can reach some understanding. It would sadden me to see this site turn into a place where people make enemies.”

        Yeah, I agree. There are so many people out there that really just suck, and they’re coming out of the woodwork right now in America because prop 8 was just overturned. I definitely don’t want to fight with other people interested in fairness and equality. Especially over what’s the fair-est or the equal-ist term to use in any given situation.

        Let’s call it even and move on. I don’t think we actually disagree on anything here.

  12. Smidge Says:

    Personally I haven’t come across this term before but I stand corrected. The problem is that it is very easy to offend people with the use of terms to describe groups. The term colour when used to describe race has been pretty much ruled out in the uk as it has connotations to coloured! We might all have a colour or indeed be male or female but we should not be described or defined by it!

    • Alibelle Says:

      I think this might be from racism functioning differently in different countries, based on things like slavery. It’s not really used in everyday language in the US. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone walking around saying “people of color” to each other. It mostly deals entirely with “activism” I guess. In the US there is a huge huge gap in privilege between white people and everyone else basically. Saying everyone else or non-white is really othering because it suggests that white people are the norm and anyone not white is something “other.” Sorry I was a little snappy and weird about the comments, I forget that words can be well they can be weird. I also forget often that this isn’t even an american blog, haha.

      • Smidge Says:

        Ahh if it’s an activist term not commonly used then I guess people should be careful using it as in cases like this it’s easy to misinterpret and easily offend. In my line of work we use BME – black and minority ethnic – although a recent article in one of conservative newspapers has argued that we can no longer use minority ethnic as there are no longer no minorities in the uk! Although the article was skewed towards complaining about this! Horrific

      • Alibelle Says:

        This is another example of me forgetting about cultural and historical differences: “I think this might be from racism functioning differently in different countries, based on things like slavery.” I meant specifically black slavery in this comment, sorry. I realize slavery in other countries often wasn’t related to race.

      • Alibelle Says:

        Well this is the kind of situation where it is used. We don’t use minority so much here either. It’s just meant to encompass everyone who doesn’t have white privilege. So rather than listing black, hispanic, indian, native (american in this case), so on, people of color is used. I think what Jaz was trying to say when they used that term was that it’s difficult for a woman (who doesn’t have male privilege) and people of color (who don’t have white privilege) to live in a country controlled by white males.

        I don’t know, that might have been kind of mixed up and difficult to understand, in any case I think we’re basically on the same page here.

        I know what term not to use when I’m visting other countries.

      • Smidge Says:

        Careful with saying something is difficult to understand please! We are all intelligent people here and understand the issues (including Jaz’s point) As the responses to your comments have shown -we aren’t all a) American or b) activists so maybe you should take that from this conversation!

      • Alibelle Says:

        Oh no, I wasn’t saying it would be difficult to understand for you or anyone else here personally. I meant that I might not have made my point very clearly. Sometimes I just ramble on and never even make a point. I don’t doubt your ability to comprehend me at all, your responses have been very intelligent.

  13. Lauren Says:

    Wow. May I just point out that this blog is about sharing and supporting? Some of my favorite blogs were destroyed by nitpicking between posters.

  14. Kirsten Says:

    I think that apart from the occasional obvious troll, most people posting here are people who think about the world and are aware of bias and privilege and -isms. I think all we need to do is remember that our own culture is not worldwide and that other countries and cultures use different terms. In Britan, the “correct” term for people Alibelle calls “of colour” is “black and minority ethnic.” I understand that “retard” and “retarded” are still acceptable in the USA, but they haven’t been acceptable in the UK for years if not decades. Different terms are “right” in different places.

    • Jonathan Says:

      “retard” and “retarded” aren’t really acceptable in the US so much as the american right has made it their sport to oppose any form of sensitivity to anyone, and especially anyone without a strong enough lobby to make them pay in the polls for doing so.

    • Lauren Says:

      Yeah, retard and retard have not been acceptable for years in America.

    • Alibelle Says:

      It makes sense that she might think it was because it’s still commonly used by assholes, but no, no one considers it politically correct and it’s rarely even used as a medical term.

      I agree that most people definitely including myself can be pretty forgetful when it comes to the fact that not all english speaking countries are the same. I’m definitely going to watch that in the future. It’s really weird too because “black and minority ethnic” would not be a appreciated term in the united states for the most part.

    • Julian Says:

      I think Alibelle might be right when she says PoC is a term used in activist communities. I’m in the UK and I freaked out when I first saw it being used, because I associated it with my eebil grandmother talking about “coloured people”, but within feminist / queer / activist groups I’ve seen it much more, and used particularly by women who describe themselves as “women of colour.” It seems to have entered the UK activist scene via the US activist scene.

      If you’re the same Kirsten I know, you’re probably more used to using terms within a political / legal context where BME is definitely the UK’s preferred term. Of course if you’re not the Kirsten I know then that makes no sense at all 🙂

  15. Kali Says:

    By that logic, surely no man can ever understand any women voters? In which case, they should have one PM for men and one for women.

    • H Says:

      As much as I dislike the logic, I do love this suggestion. I can’t even begin to imagine how offended people would get if anyone made it, whilst it seems totally natural to most people to suggest women without children can’t understand the issues of women with children. What a provocative thought experiment!

      I do think there is a tiny grain of value in the logic, in that we shouldn’t presume to speak entirely for people who have had different life experiences – in the same way as white people shouldn’t assume they know what a black person would think about an issue (though in this case there is an added political meaning to ‘speaking for’, of couse), and I wouldn’t second guess what a person who is sixty years older than me thinks. Still, with sensitivity and empathy any sensible person can imagine what it might be like to be in someone else’s shoes.

  16. Siobhan Says:

    As a fellow Australian, I’ve heard all of Abbott ridiculous comments…if he becones Prime Minister I’m moving to the congo. lol.

  17. Dude Says:

    It’s really scary how many ‘enlightened, modern’ countries still have backwards ass treatment of women, Australia, Japan, South Korea to name a few.

    • BranchMonster Says:

      Dude, I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m scared that so many people, the world over, cling to the idea that women are somehow an inferior species who don’t matter. We’re not just dealing with geographical locations, but fundamental human relations. On the bright side, that gives those of us still fighting the good fight for equality among all human beings unlimited opportunities to start changing minds. Without the geographical boundaries, we can focus on each individual and we can do this using every (hopefully peaceful and respectful) approach we can imagine.

  18. yesmeansyes Says:

    I can’t stand the “No means No” slogan, because it still supports the assumption that women are in a default state of consent that needs to be opted out of. It doesn’t account for those incapable of saying “no” for whatever reason.

    • Q Says:

      As an Australian, I am disgusted by Abbott’s comments for three reasons.

      Firstly, I am disgusted that Abbott thinks in this manner, AND hopes to lead our country to whatever “greatness” he envisiones.

      Secondly, I am disgusted that there are large groups of Australians who are like-minded of Mr Abbott. This is even more worrying than Mr Abbott himself – there are groups of people out here who REALLY THINK THIS.

      Thirdly, I am disgusted by Mr Abbot’s reference to the “No Means No” campaign, because not only does it portray women in a “default yes” mindset (as you have mentioned), it also portrays women as utterly weak, subordinate beings reliant upon the decisions of others in order to respond to a situation. This campaign, I feel, has always shown women as untouched, unspoiled, unsullied beings so frail and fragile that they need a whole advertising campaign to remind everyone of that fact. Sure, Australia was one of the first countries to give women the right to vote, but have we given women the right to decide?

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