Tag Archives: Gina Rinehart

Each woman must be assessed

This thing that’s going on lately, where women in public roles are assessed one by one and declared Feminist or Not Feminist, is a bit shit.

Gina Rinehart, Julia Gillard (many articles in The Australian which I’m not linking to), Taylor Swift, Marissa Mayer, Beyonce. And now, Margaret Thatcher (in a piece that fails to explain why being a bad-ass Prime Minister makes her a feminist, but if you’re going to read it, make sure you read this Hadley Freeman one afterwards).

Don’t get me wrong, it is important for feminism to be a natural part of our public discussion. And it’s important that our public discussion includes rad fems and lib fems, because feminism isn’t a monolithic beast. There is still so much to fix and I think we benefit from having different voices focus on reproductive rights, violence, everyday sexism, women in management, equal pay, women’s voices in the media, parenting, and poverty. For one person to fight on every issue would be exhausting. Attack from all sides! But I just think that whether or not individual women identify as feminist is less important than talking about the other shit we have to fix. Besides, holding women up, one by one, for the public to assess them isn’t all that different to the “who wore it better” and “stars without make-up” sections in celebrity magazines.

The thing is, while we’re discussing whether or not Gina Rinehart is a feminist, who’s writing articles about how women account for only 13 per cent of managers in the mining industry, and what can be done to fix that?

While we’re talking about whether or not Julia Gillard is a feminist, who’s writing about the fact that the LNP and ALP support so few female candidates in winnable seats that in federal parliament, women make up 24.7 per cent of the House of Reps and 38.2 per cent of the Senate.

While we’re talking about whether Marissa Mayer is a feminist, or criticising Sheryl Sandberg because her book is for some women and not all women, there’s less space to talk about sexism and misogyny in the tech industry. Yes, these things are talked about on twitter and on blogs, but I mean in the mainstream media so it reaches a wider audience. There is precious little room there so we shouldn’t waste it by judging women who are at the top of male-dominated industries, rather than looking at those industries and why so few women make it to the top.

Over the last 18 months, feminism has become mainstream – largely thanks to the middle-class feminists who are now being mocked for their efforts because apparently, in the she-pee contest about who is doin’ it right and who is doin’ it wrong, being middle-class means your opinion doesn’t count. Are we really going to use income levels to judge who has a right to speak and who doesn’t?

We have a great opportunity here. Feminism isn’t going to be mainstream forever, but while it is, we need to get in there and fix shit.

(There’ll be a delay in pubishing comments this evening – I’ll be at the very first Tipsy Rabbit, a panel discussion with Sevana Ohandjanian, Caitlin Park, and Richard Cartwright talking about music and writing about music. Doors at 7pm for a 7.30pm start, Red Rattler, Marrickville.)

Can we talk about Gina Rinehart without insulting her?

You know when you notice something and then you can’t stop noticing it? Like, when people say “like”, like all the time? Or when you think, “I like her yellow shoes” and then you see loads of people wearing yellow shoes? There’s a piece on Daily Life about whether or not Gina Rinehart is a feminist role model that is filled with something that I can’t stop noticing.

For most of the article, Alecia Simmonds looks at whether there’s evidence of feminism in Rinehart’s business life. But it’s the little digs at Rinehart’s appearance that I noticed, and once I noticed them I couldn’t stop noticing them, and I reckon Simmonds didn’t even notice she was doing it.

For example:

And she exhibits a delightful refusal to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty.

Um, what? If you do a google image search for photos of Rinehart, you’ll see that in almost all of them she is wearing make-up (usually lipstick, often eye shadow), her hair is coloured (I’m making that assumption because in some photos there’s grey hair and in others there isn’t), she’s wearing the classically feminine accessory of pearls, and she’s neatly dressed in feminine clothing. Now, I don’t have a list of patriarchal beauty standards, but if I did it would be any combination of: wearing make-up, colouring your hair so you look younger, wearing feminine outfits, being slim, being pretty, and spending money and time on maintaining the slim and the pretty and the outfits and the make-up. So, what exactly is Simmonds talking about here? Is it a comment about her weight? Because I’m not sure that Simmonds wants to be in the place where she says that women whose bodies are bigger than slim/curvy-yet-still-slim automatically stop conforming to/caring about beauty standards. Statements like that are best left for when we know, for sure, that a woman is refusing to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty. And we usually know this by asking her if she is refusing to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty and she says “yes”.

I definitely furrow my feminist brows when Rinehart is called an heiress while James Packer is called a billionaire. How is Packer any less an heir? When Julian Morrow quipped that Rinehart was ‘the elephant not in the room’, and Germaine Greer advised her to find a decent hairdresser I became a spit-flecked ball of feminist fury. Rinehart is held to a suffocatingly restrictive image standard that her counterparts like Clive Palmer and James Packer are not. We’re capable of discussing wealthy men without mentioning their hairy shoulders or wide girth. Gina Rinehart is reduced to her bingo-wings.

I agree with her point about Packer. I think Morrow’s comment was mean and childish. I think Greer, well, I find it hard to agree with anything she says these days. I think Palmer and Packer cop shit for their bodies, but without the nastiness that Rinehart gets. But in that final comment – “bingo wings” – Simmonds does exactly what she’s railing against: she makes a mean comment about Rinehart’s body. Look, I’m sure it was just a witty one-liner. But bingo wings is a derogatory term. It’s used to shame women – particularly older women – into covering their bodies. To stop them wearing comfortable clothing in hot weather, in case someone is forced to look at their arms for a moment. The horror of bingo wings is used to get women to diet and to exercise (this article suggests stretching your arms FIVE TIMES A DAY to avoid bingo wings. With all that arm-stretching we have to do, who has time to topple the patriarchy?). Why didn’t she just write “body” or “appearance”? It would make the same point about the “suffocatingly restrictive image standard” without buying in to the same language? This may seem like a trivial objection – this whole post is probably trivial – but I’m interested in the way that so many people just casually insult Gina Rinehart. Because honestly, what the hell do her arms have to do with whether or not she’s a feminist role model?

If you’re poor, then stop ‘drinking and smoking and socialising’, she barks.

Nasty people bark orders. It’s a small thing, sure, but the article is about whether or not Rinehart is a feminist role model, not whether or not she’s a nasty person. A better word would have been “lectured” (if you feel you have to use a word like this) or “said”. There is nothing wrong with said. It’s a very good word because readers don’t tend to notice it, so they focus on what is being said, rather than the fact that it’s being pondered/mused/uttered/barked. And it’s also a poor choice of word because dogs bark and dog is a word commonly used to insult women and you know I may be overthinking this.

Her philanthropic contributions to feminist organisations are negligible, she has campaigned to destroy decent working conditions and she refuses to see that opportunity is defined by social context. Let’s keep the obscene, unshared wealth of Gina Rinehart and feminism in opposite, warring camps, and focus more on the liberation part of women’s liberation.

Ah, Rinehart’s “obscene, unshared wealth”. I think we all have a philanthropic responsibility, because we’re rich people in a rich country. And I also think people can do whatever the hell they want with their own money. But when it comes to Rinehart, there’s an expectation – no, a demand – that she share her money (with who? With writers of opinion pieces?). Because women should care about others and help others and sharing her money with others is a nice thing to do and if she doesn’t share her money then she’s greedy and mean. And I’ll stop believing that this is what it’s about when I see an equal number of articles that casually mention that James Packer and Rupert Murdoch and Clive Palmer should share their “obscene” wealth.