I have an automatic aversion to Tony Abbott. However I’m concerned that this is a product of successful political mud slinging spin. I would prefer to think that my opinion is immune to spin but I think that’s pretty unrealistic (actually I know it is – last week I bought wrinkle cream with Kakadu plum in it because it is a fair dinkum miracle cream never mind I have observed no change whatsoever except maybe deeper wrinkles where my annoyed expression happens). Anyway, when it comes down to brass tacks (whatever that means), I actually don’t know what to think of TA, even though the sisterhood keeps calling him an aggressive misogynist (more spin?) and hooray-ing Julia Gillard for her dressing down of him the other day.
I should know what to think though because one day everybody might stop flinging mud and start running the country a bit and there’s a (shrinking) chance it will be him, so maybe I should pay more attention and form my own opinion, spin-free.
In the staying attentive process, questions have arisen: What was Julia all shouty about the other day anyway and was her finger pointing and stuff just theatre? Is Tony Abbott really just an over-aggressive misogynist with a prominent ball bag*? I don’t know, I need to work through this….
2) How did this misogyny thing all start?
First up, misogyny is a bugger of a word to spell, but I’ve found that if you break it up into miso (as in soup) and gyny (as in the fella who checks my jacksie every so often) then you’ll be set. Just don’t go calling anyone a misogynaecologist because that could be really nasty and is even harder to spell. Anyway, this whole misogyny thing started when House of Reps Speaker Peter Slipper sent text messages to 33 year old James Ashby, a member of staff who also happens to be gay. I can’t seem to be able to throw this bit of information in casually as if it doesn’t add anything but it sort of does.
What also seems to add to the story is that Peter Slipper is an ordained priest. Maybe that’s because it seems at odds with a strong Anglican faith to write such messages as, “funny how we say that a person is a cunt when many guys like cunts”. True enough I guess, but undoubtedly inappropriate, as is the one that describes vaginas as “mussles out of their shells…salty cunts in brine.” My instant reaction to this one, in all honesty, was to snigger, before I checked myself and put on a disapproving-how-dare-you expression. I am a wayward feminist I know, but I have sniggered with my friends about scrotums so I guess that balances things out.
In another text he called Sophie Mirabella (shadow minister for Industry and Innovation) a bitch (well actually it was ‘botch’ but I think we’re assuming that was an auto-correct thing). Anyway, you get the picture – there were evidently hundreds of these texts and Ashby (not without what looks to me like a bit of vigorous flirting) eventually accused Slipper of sexual harassment, which of course saw Tony Abbott clamour for his resignation, and later passed a vote of no confidence in him as speaker of the house, saying his texts were “vile” and “derogatory toward women”.
And this saw our esteemed PM rile right up and deliver a very articulate 15 minute speech (worth a look) powered by seemingly genuine anger, the crux of which is (I think, in my basic terms) “Yeah right you dickhead now you get all holier than though because you’re trying to knock bits off my majority and get rid of a man who has pissed you off because he was once your close friend and is now an embarrassing liability – you expect us to believe in your sudden noble condemnation of sexist behaviour when you’ve been a shameless sexist porcine all these years especially toward me? Well we see right through you, you HYPOCRITE KNOB.” Or something like that. And to quote her directly, she made this call, that will no doubt be repeated throughout history:
“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he’s writing out his resignation because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror.”
Clever, very clever, but is it not going a bit far? It was, I think, a heartfelt dressing down of Tony Abbott but I do think it was partly fueled by excitable opportunism (you know that feeling adrenalin rush when you realise you have a window of golden opportunity) mixed with last straw syndrome (I’VE HAD ENOOOOUUUUGH!). And I don’t believe she is silly enough to be defending Peter Slipper (his texts are slightly humorous but also slightly indefensible), so surely it was more about keeping her majority than honest sentiment…(segue to)
2) Is Tony Abbott a misogynist? (Rant Alert – and not in the way you may expect)
Well in the traditional sense of the word (a pathological hater of women), no of course he isn’t. He has a wife and three daughters and it’s a safe bet he doesn’t hate them. His wife Margie was recently wheeled out by the Liberal PR machine to say (more spinny) stuff like, “just don’t ever try and tell me that my husband of 24 years and the father of three daughters is on some anti-women crusade. It’s simply not true.” And it was (presumably) a woman who pushed him into the world and I’m guessing he has a few positive feelings about her too. His chief of staff is a woman – Peta Credlin – who he describes as the de facto deputy leader of the opposition (I guess he thinks Julie Bishop is a dud).
I think most people are. To varying degrees anyway – it’s just the way of the world. Sexism is fading as the decades go by but it’s inherent in our society and in us. Many woman are misogynists if you stick with definition 2. Maybe I’m one of them – I’m just seeing a short film into production that portrays women in very traditional roles and even includes bottom pinching and sexy lingerie**. I don’t expect my husband to write thank you letters or sew up hems, I do expect myself to. This belief is entrenched because my father never sewed or wrote thank you letters and my mother – a full time working academic – did. So yep, I am a misogynist. I can feel some of you rolling your eyes here because it sounds like I’m taking this too far, but there are women all over the country pushing misogyny onto any bloke who dares to mention women (or parts thereof) in a sentence and I think they are taking it too far.
If you’re digging around in someone’s past searching for evidence of misogyny then surely you’ll come up with something. Tony Abbott’s something was the alleged groping of a female activist when he was a uni student – an accusation that was thrown out of court when seven witnesses testified that the grope was simply a touch on the back.
Then there was his standing beside signs saying “ditch the witch” during a no carbon tax rally. Well he had to be there and there is no evidence that he commissioned the signs, nor did he pose with them. He perhaps could have called for them to be pulled down, they were nasty, but I wasn’t struck by the their sexism (another example of sexism being inherent?). If they’d said, “Ditch the Witch, she’s got Tits”, then I would have uproared with the best of them.
On this note, I do tend to agree with Mrs Abbott when she said, “I believe a disservice is being done to women when the gender card is played to shut down debate about policy” and not just to shut down policy but just to be grasping at straws of evidence so flimsy you couldn’t pick your teeth with them. I mean Abbott was accused of being sexist because he said that Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings spoke to him in a ‘schoolmarm manner’. Oh come on, he didn’t call her a useless woman or stare at her boobies and if he did it would be rude and stupid but it doesn’t mean he hates women. Stop crying wolf for your own ends girls or we’ll start earning the complaining women status.
2) Do his anti-abortion views make him a misogynist?
I don’t think so. I suspect his religious tainted views would apply to men as well if they happened to be the ones to have babies. BUT his stance on abortion does set off other alarm bells – ding dong extreme conservatism dong ding.
As a young activist he was fiercely anti-choice in the abortion debate. In 2006 he attempted to block legislation to pass the anti-abortion pill RU486, arguing that “every abortion is a tragedy” and the rate of abortion at the time was “this generations legacy of unutterable shame”. I know it’s a sensitive issue and a life changing, terrible decision but in many cases abortion is the sensible option. No not always the easy option as Abbott has stated, but a necessary one. And the hard truth is that kids are having sex younger and younger – in 2008, it was found that 25% of year 10 students were having sex (La Trobe Uni) – so this is not an issue we can throw blanket judgment over. Every case is different and should be assessed individually by people trained in the field of family planning – not by some big man up in the sky.
3) Does he have trouble dealing with women in positions of power?
Durr, yes. The Prime Minister is a woman, he is her prime opposition – they dislike each other immensely, of course he has trouble dealing with her. But she has trouble dealing with him too, clearly thinking he is a twat. Have you seen them try to be civil to each other at sober, we-are-you-are-austalian events like the funerals of statesmen or soldiers? Awkward.
Whether he has an actual problem problem (i.e a psychological wonk) with women in power, maybe he does. Maybe his doodle does a little in-his-head shrink when a woman asserts authority over him), maybe he had a bossy mother he spent his life trying to overcome and now he’s in a habit. I don’t know, who does. But if it’s a serious mental problem then surely we would have seen more compelling evidence of such.
4) Is Tony Abbott aggressive?
I think there’s an element of aggression in all politicians – especially the high profile ones. And evidence suggests Tony Abbott is an aggressive politician, which would make aggression a definite aspect of his character. But I don’t think stuff like bending road signs (he did this as a uni student shortly after the grope allegation), and kicking glass panels (after being defeated in University elections in 1976) illustrates harmful aggression. As for kicking or bending people, well there are a few slightly worrying examples and allegations:
- allegedly punched the wall on either side of a woman’s head at uni after he’d lost the SRC election to her (he denies this)
- walked in a threatening manner toward Labor’s Graham Edwards after he called out “You’re a disgrace”. Should this be made worse by the fact that Mr Edwards lost both legs in Vietnam? I don’t think so.
- punched Jo Hockey while playing sport in the 80′s
- made a thoughtless remark about the cruise ship Costa Concordia a la “That’s one boat that did get stopped”
- said, “Shit happens” when being given details of the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan. I’ve watched this footage and I think he said it because he just didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t a throwaway don’t-give-a-toss kind of line, just a very tactless remark. I think his response in the aftermath was truthful – that he would never make light of such a tragedy. What bothers me most about this matter is his reaction when questioned by a journalist on Sky News. He seemed utterly paralyzed – by what? Fear? Total loss of words? Some kind of medical condition (looks like a seizure to me)? Or is he about to punch the shit out of the journalist? After a 28 second silence accompanied by a steady dose of stink eye, he told the journalist that he’d given the response he deserved. Creepy.
Senator Barnaby Joyce apparently said that Tony Abbott’s aggression is evident in his gait.
The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan was active in university politics with Tony Abbott, and his best mate. He said on a recent episode of Q&A that Abbott was never aggressive, especially toward women. His view is that the aggressive portrait has been painted in response to fear of a conservative catholic running the country.
At odd with this, Sydney barrister Irving Wallach, who was at the same uni at the same time but not a friend of Abbott’s, said (on the same episode) that Abbott was a pushy and physical person who loved his beer (nothing wrong with that) and that the reported aggressive behaviour is consistent with the Tony Abbott he knew.
Australian writer Robyn Davidson said that he exudes a kind of barely controlled temper and my gut feeling (pretty damn trusty) is that she is right. I think his levels of aggression could be a problem to him and could become a problem to Australia one day. But hey, I’m no psychoanalyst.
5) Is Tony Abbott a Liar?
Well Leigh Sales certainly proved he is a little ‘loose with the truth’ when she destroyed him in a recent 7:30 interview – watch the carnage here. She and others over the years have highlighted his misrepresentations of the truth when it comes to all sorts of issues – climate change (it’s a little blurry as to whether he really believes in it or is just saying so to win votes), carbon tax, asylum seekers…but I don’t think his wonky truths are unusual or particularly scary. What is a bit of a worry is that he can’t seem to think on his feet well enough to even remember what he has said before, how he stands on important issues or even – as shown in the 7:30 interview – make any sense at all when put under the pump.
We don’t need a PM who goes to pieces and gets all weirdly starey and creeped out when under pressure. NOr, for that matter, do we need one who can’t seem to keep track of his beliefs. I am yet to be impressed by a public performance of his (this doesn’t carry much weight as I don’t go out of my way to follow his public appearances).
6) Would he make a good Prime Minister?
Nope. My opinion. Willing to hear others. I’m over him now and the sun’s just come out so I’m pushing off. See ya bitches.***
UPDATE: My friend, a brainy statesman type who read my post 1) agreed with what I said (and I love it when a brainy person agrees with me), 2) added to my sentiments and 3) improved greatly on my lazy answer to that last question. I quote…
“ I think he is an ultra conservative bully, a position which results in a certain degree of homophobia, sexism and God bothering.
Whilst those traits are concerning on a personal level, what concerns me more is that he doesn’t appear to be all that bright. Of course if history has taught us anything in politics it’s that a high intelligence quota is hardly a pre-requisite for taking office. All the same, I’d prefer someone in The Lodge who can remember the nuclear codes – if we ever get nuclear weapons (God forbid).
Coming back to the misogyny argument, whether he is one or not (under definition a) or b) I believe he’s brought the label on himself. Partly because of his actions, there’s no doubt he has issues with women in power, and partly because his election campaign seems entirely devoted to mud slinging and bullying tactics. “Julia’s a liar, Julia’s a liar. Julia’s a fraud blah blah blah”. You throw enough stones you gotta expect a few back.
And finally, if we are both wrong and he really is a woman loving, homophobic moderate with an IQ somewhere between Einstein and Stephen Hawking, there is still one major problem – do you really want someone running the country who is that aligned with the views and politics of Alan Jones?”
Niiiiiice. Thankyou Matthew Annells.
*This is a good example of something that could be construed as misandry, or hatred of men and boys. But how silly, I mentioned his ball bag but I quite like some ball bags (well one anyway) and it doesn’t mean I hate men.
**To find out more about my film and maybe even get involved, click here.
***No misogynistic undertones intended.