Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

What the fuck, Australia?

This post discusses domestic violence.

And contains swearing.

Lots of swearing.

In the last few months, the racism and sexism and misogyny and vileness in our society have all come to the surface like a nasty boil:

Australia, this is you right now. If you think this is gross, imagine all the images I looked at to find it. Image: Mental bleach

Australia, this is you right now. If this grosses you out, imagine what I saw while looking for it. Image: Mental bleach

First it was racism, with a 13-year-old girl calling AFL player Adam Goodes an ape, then Eddie McGuire’s King Kong comments. And all those videos of people being arseholes on public transport. And today, more racist dickheads at an NRL game.

Then there’s the menu at Mal Brough’s fundraiser, and Socceroos coach Holger Osieck saying women should shut up in public. His apology was just a clusterfuck of wrong. Someone should tell him, in small words so his little brain can understand, that telling your wife to shut up, and saying “I’m still pretty happy with my wife so everything is fine”, doesn’t actually indicate “a lot of respect for women”. Sort of the opposite, really.

And there’s the bunch of idiots in the armed forces calling themselves the “Jedi Council” (what, are they 13 years old?). And Howard Sattler’s disgraceful questioning of the Prime Minister, and Piers Akerman repeating it all on ABC tv.

And we have News Ltd reporting that a 15-year-old girl has attempted suicide and the geniuses there put the story in the GLOBAL GOSSIP section (I’m not linking to it). She’s a child, they shouldn’t be reporting it in the first place. For fuck’s sake, what the hell is wrong with people?

Then we have the decision by The Mirror to publish a fucking NINE image photo gallery of Charles Saatchi assaulting Nigella Lawson. In Australia, News Ltd and Fairfax both republished the images, thereby furthering her distress. Hopefully I’m not doing the same by writing about the appalling coverage. Dailytelegraph.com.au and News.com.au even went with a cutesy headline calling him “hubbie”. Didn’t ANYONE in those newsrooms say “hey, we’re just hurting her more if we publish the images”? Are their brains just painted onto the inside of their skulls?

This morning 3AW radio host Dee Dee Dunleavy called for a boycott of Nigella Lawson’s products unless she takes a stand against domestic violence. What. The. Actual. Fuck? By the afternoon she’d issued a clarification, saying she wasn’t calling for a boycott. But what else does “If you want us to buy your books and watch your shows on how to run our kitchens, then we need you to make a stand on domestic violence” mean, other than to say we’re not going to buy your stuff unless you do what we want, aka a boycott. And then issuing a clarification instead of an apology, which should have said “I didn’t realise that’s what I was saying but that’s what those words mean and I should never have put pressure on a domestic violence victim to be a public spokesperson and I am so very very sorry for what I said and I apologise to everyone”.

It never ceases to amaze me that people who use words for a living think so little about those words. Another example is the wording of the link to the images in Dunleavy’s post:

Distressing to some people, but not a thought has gone in to how distressing it is for Nigella Lawson.

Dunleavy’s warning misses the point.

Trigger warnings are good. Shame there was a complete lack of thought for how distressing it might be to have the photos republished around the world.

Just because she is famous, doesn’t mean she “owes” us to be a spokesperson. In fact, at the moment we owe her. We owe her because we gawked at the photos. We owe her because all of the reporting is about her and not about Saatchi, just like it always is when Australian journalists report violence against women. We owe her because we’re writing opinion pieces and blog posts about her private hurt – this one included, and I don’t know how can I point at the coverage and yell THIS IS SO FUCKING WRONG without being just as bad as everyone else.

So. What do we do now? I don’t have any solutions but I do have a lot of swearing.

On the positive side, it’s a massive YES THE FUCK WE DO to everyone who says “Australia doesn’t have a racism and sexism problem”. It’s kinda hard to pretend it doesn’t exist now.

But on the negative side, I AM SO ANGRY AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

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.)

All the better to see pointless journalism

Why do I get the feeling that I’m going to be blogging a lot about stooopid journalism between now and September 14? I kinda feel bad for the Sydney Morning Herald because I always focus on them, but I don’t read News Ltd rubbish so I don’t blog about their nonsense.

Anyway.

Today’s example of pointless journalism is All the better to see the opposition with, by Judith Ireland and Shelly Horton.

Here’s the story in the paper, on page three:

Story about Julia Gillard's glasses in the Sydney Morning Herald

The large blue photo holds the story

Page three is important real estate. Yet almost half of page three is taken up by this story about the Prime Minister’s glasses. Specifically – ooh, it’s a glasses pun – what people on twitter said about the Prime Minister’s glasses.

It took two journalists.

To write 306 words.

About what three people said on twitter.

As the Adelaide writer and “vampire hunter” Michael Scott Hand posted: “I don’t remember seeing Julia Gillard wearing glasses before. Is it because THIS TIME SHE MEANS BUSINESS?”

Some punters hypothesised that the member for Lalor was courting the youth market with the trendy new accessory. “It seems @JuliaGillard is already campaigning to the hipster voters with those new glasses. Well played,” wrote Kath McLellan of Sydney.

Then again, the glasses were suspiciously similar to the pair sported by the outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. How hipster could that be?

Justin Colee (who describes himself as pro-carbon tax) had other ideas: “did @JuliaGillard borrow her glasses from Greg Combet?”

But they must be three influential people, right? People with thousands of followers, like @GrogsGamut or @HelenRazer? Nope. Michael Scott Hand has 215 followers. Kath McLellan has 29. And Justin Colee has 19 followers on twitter. Only the tweet by Kath McLellan was retweeted, and that was once. Now, I’m not trying to poo on their sandwiches. I’m just questioning the editorial judgement of using two journalists to write a piss-arse story about what three people said on twitter, and then filling almost half of page three with that piss-arse story.

I’d also like to know if Julia Gillard said anything else during her address to the National Press Club on Wednesday. Because the coverage would indicate that she rocked up, said “Election’s on September 14, bitches” and left.

Here’s how the story is promoted on the smh.com.au homepage:

Smh.com.au makes a big deal out of the PM's glasses

It’s a pair of glasses. Get over it.

The caption under the photo of Julia Gillard reads: “What’s with the glasses? Election announcement plays second fiddle to PM’s specs.”

If a pair of regular, everyday glasses has played second fiddle to the Prime Minister’s address to the National Press Club, then it’s your fault, journalists. So what if a few people tweeted about her glasses? THOSE PEOPLE ARE NOT THE NATIONAL PRESS GALLERY. If you thought the coverage of the last election was bad – and pretty much everyone did – then just wait to see the rubbish the mainstream media will call “news” this time.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think news has to be stuffy and serious all the time. If it’s stuffy and serious then you’re not thinking enough about how you can tell stories. But honestly, this?

The everyday shit they call journalism

There’s a story in the Sydney Morning Herald today that’s a great example of how meaningless political journalism has become. It’s not about a manufactured scandal, or a gaffe, or something that happened decades ago, but is just the everyday political journalism that is, frankly, rubbish.

I don’t think it’s because political journalists are stupid. It’s more that they write for each other and not for the public, and they don’t ever stop to think about what they are actually writing. When I was a journalist, I used to write in journalese, just like every other journalist. Every now and then, the news editor made half-arsed murmurs about not using journalese – like Person A “slammed” Person B, or “Thailand’s restive south” (go on, google that and see the 497,000 results for a phrase that no one but journalists use) – but journalese was only ever seen as particular words, and not the sentences that make up a story.

So, Rudd backers turn on PM for celebrity choice, by Mark Kenny and Jonathan Swan (interestingly, if you look at the URL, the “news story” is filed in opinion…):

The move to parachute the Olympian Nova Peris into Parliament has re-ignited discussion about Julia Gillard’s political judgment and the value of so-called “celebrity” candidates.

Now, the article contains no discussion whatsoever about the “value of so-called “celebrity” candidates”. None. Not a single sentence. The online version includes photos of Cheryl Kernot, Maxine McKew, and John Alexander, without any explanation of why these photos are there. Which is pretty suckful when you consider that the online version is almost permanent and will be the information that other journalists use when they write their stories. The paper version runs a pretty lazy story on the side of the main one, also by Mark Kenny, using these three people as evidence that celebrity candidates don’t work. Kernot shouldn’t be in that list. She was a senator for the Democrats from 1990-1997, then for Labor from 1998-2001. That hardly makes her a celebrity candidate. After all, no one says Billy Hughes was a celebrity candidate and he changed parties five times while in federal parliament, including while he was Prime Minister.

So that leaves McKew (a former ABC journo) and Alexander (a former tennis player). McKew won Bennelong from John Howard in 2007. Alexander won Bennelong from McKew in 2010. I hardly think Kenny’s case is made by one seat. Particularly when you consider Peter Garrett, Andrew Wilkie, Malcolm Turnbull, cyclist Hubert Opperman and cricketer/hockey player Ric Charlesworth all had high profiles before getting into politics and lasted quite a while. (And these are just the recent ones that I’ve found with a quick search. Remember the days when journalists did basic research?)

Anyway, moving along to the bit about how the move has “re-ignited discussion about Julia Gillard’s political judgement”.

But Labor figures loyal to the former prime minister Kevin Rudd rounded on Ms Gillard on Wednesday, calling the drafting of Ms Peris to replace a sitting Labor senator for the Northern Territory “unprecedented”.

Who are these Labor figures? Oh, look, there’s just one:

“Because we are in an election year, most MPs will bite their lips, but people are furious,” said the MP, who wished to remain anonymous.

One. Unnamed. MP.

One. Unnamed. MP. Who didn’t have the guts to put his/her name to his/her words.

One. Unnamed. MP. Who wanted to undermine the PM and asked the journalists to leave out his/her name and they agreed.

One. Unnamed. MP. Who is a bit shitty about something and is using docile, unquestioning journalists to have a bit of a whinge. Can Mark Kenny and Jonathan Swan seriously not see how they are being used? Are they that blind? But I guess “One MP has a bit of a whinge about something” isn’t as exciting as OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO KEEP WRITING ABOUT RUDD IN CASE THE PARTY DUMPS GILLARD AND RETURNS TO RUDD EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO INDICATION THAT ANYONE WANTS THAT BUT MY GOD WE AREN’T GOING TO MISS IT AGAIN.

But wait, there’s more.

In an article about Nova Peris being endorsed as a Labor candidate there is no mention of her suitability. Except this bit:

“Unfortunately Nova doesn’t realise she’s being used by Julia Gillard,” said Michael Anderson, a former leader of the Australian Black Power movement and a founder of the Aboriginal tent embassy.

“Ms Peris-Kneebone is only being used as a public relations exercise for Labor. She has not been involved in major political processes, rallies or otherwise. She has been missing in political action all the time.”

Which is wrong. The journalists should have indicated that Anderson was wrong, not only for using her old name (she hasn’t been Peris-Kneebone in over a decade), but for having no fucking idea what he is talking about. Nova Peris was awarded the Order of Australia, she was a treaty ambassador for ATSIC, she created the Peris Enterprises charity to promote health and education for Indigenous children, then there’s the Nova Peris Girls Academy. And she was an international ambassador for the World Health Organisation (for youth suicide prevention), and a national ambassador for Reconciliation Australia, and a delegate to the National Constitution Convention, and a national patron for Beyond Blue. And here’s a list of 17 things she’s been involved in that make her one of the best candidates for political office that I’ve seen in a long time.

I found this information in less than one minute. Yet Kenny and Swan didn’t even make a basic effort to point out that Anderson is completely wrong. They published his ignorance/lie, playing in to the narrative of Nova Peris being an unskilled celebrity candidate who will no doubt crash and burn and it will be ALL JULIA GILLARD’S FAULT.

I started this post by saying Kenny and Swan’s story is a pretty bad example of political journalism. But now that I’ve dissected it, and seen how lazy and how wrong the story is, I’ve changed my mind. It’s fucking appalling journalism and they should be ashamed of themselves.

On wanting the PM to be everything

When Julia Gillard became PM – and it wasn’t because she “knifed him” as the MSM mindlessly repeats, but because the majority of the ALP decided that she’d be better than Kevin Rudd – I got very excited.

Very.

excited

I’m not a Labor voter, but I was so very very pleased that we FINALLY had a woman as Prime Minister.

And even though I disagree with the ALP on lots of issues (like their breathtakingly cruel asylum seeker stance) I think Julia Gillard is doing a pretty good job. Particularly faced with a hostile/stupid media who are being taken for a ride by the Opposition and who berate the Government for not being able to get their message across when at every policy announcement they ask the same questions about leadership, the latest Opposition beat-up and blah blah blah. Seriously, political journos have no idea how silly they look to the rest of us.

Of course, as a woman in power, she is being held to an impossibly high standard. If she isn’t considered The World’s Greatest Leader by people on both sides of politics then it will be taken by many as “proof” that she wasn’t a very good PM. Which, apart from being fucked, is fucking ridiculous.

Anyway, I realised something on Saturday. (It was during a pub lunch that started with tequila and finished with me ranting at my poor friend at 2am, so be kind.)

A lot of us want Australia’s first female Prime Minister to be AMAZING. We want her to make Australia a better place so we can point and say, “See? She did that”. We want her to implement marriage equality, save the environment, pump funding into public education, end homelessness, increase support for people on low incomes, and to do all these things even if the rest of the ALP doesn’t support them.

In other words, we want the leader of the ALP to be an autocratic Green.

A story about nothing

I love how when you’re thinking about something, you tend to notice examples of it around you. This morning I read ‘Young people, politics and television current affairs in Australia’ by Evans and Sternberg (ref below) and came across this bit:

… young adults also feel it is not worth investing time in television current affairs because any political information received from the programs is usually trivialised and played for entertainment value, (1999, p. 105).

And then I read this article by Jacqueline Maley, in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Gay marriage pledge puts pressure on PM:

THE Prime Minister is again under pressure on the issue of gay marriage as the Labor Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings, said she would face down any constitutional challenge of proposed legislation for same-sex marriage in her state.

To get all Journalism 101 on you (and apologies to those who know this), Australian journalists use the “inverted pyramid” model of reporting, in which the first sentence is supposed to give the audience the most important information, and everything after that fills out the story with more detail.

Maley’s first sentence suggests that Julia Gillard has threatened a constitutional challenge. But she hasn’t. According to the story:

The Greens called upon Ms Gillard to rule out a constitutional challenge to the Tasmanian legislation but she did not.

“We don’t have any details on [the Tasmanian gay marriage bill], so it’s far too early for anything like that,” she said.

In other words, she’s not going to comment on a bill she hasn’t seen. Which, frankly, is the appropriate response. You can’t possibly give an informed response to something you haven’t read.

Every time I read about a politician refusing to “rule out” something, I know the story is going to be rubbish. Our group-think political journalists are hooked on the “rule out” game, because it’s a really easy (ie, lazy) way to create controversy. If someone refuses to rule something out, the headline breathlessly implies that the politician is being cagey BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO RULE IT OUT. If the politician does rule it out and then later changes the policy, then GOTCHA! YOU RULED IT OUT SO YOU’RE A BIG DIRTY LIAR AND THAT WE’VE CAUGHT YOU IN YOUR BIG DIRTY LIE MEANS WE’RE DOING OUR JOBS PROPERLY. The idea that a politician should rule something out forever and ever amen, even if the situation changes, is terrifying (check out the scariest graph in the world).

The Greens know journos love the “rule out” game and journos dutifully played right along.

The story is 548 words. The last 129 words are on leadership bullshit, so we can immediately delete them. And there’s 107 on Cairns getting the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in 2014, so we can delete that too. What we’re left with is 312 words about a constitutional challenge that no one has proposed, to legislation that may or may not even be drafted, that happens to be different to two pieces of federal legislation that are not named or explained (the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 for more info), and no mention of when the two parliaments will deal with the relevant bills that might trigger the constitutional challenge that no one has proposed. If the purpose of the news media is to inform the audience, then that’s a massive fail.

Now, back to that first sentence, about how Gillard is “again under pressure on the issue of gay marriage”. As she says in the story:

“The Marriage Act is a federal law and we do have a bill before the federal Parliament dealing with same-sex marriage,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Cairns. “I determined that this should be a conscience vote for the Labor Party and people will be free to determine how they vote.”

So, the pressure we’re talking about is pressure for Gillard to change her personal opinion. There are two options here:

1. Journalists are trying to get Gillard to change her opinion on marriage equality because ending discrimination is the right thing to do. But if ending discrimination is the goal, then they should be pressuring Abbott to allow a conscience vote because that would ensure the bill’s success. Journalists couldn’t be so stupid as to think that Gillard changing her personal view is all that’s needed for the bill to succeed, could they?

2. Journalists have already written their BACKFLIP!!!!!!!! stories and really, really want to publish them. And then Abbott will say something about how women change their minds and so can’t be trusted, and then the journos will write about how feminists have “branded the Opposition Leader’s comments as sexist”, and then they’ll get to write about leadership tensions because the PM changed her mind and hey look, there’s another week in which they don’t have to do their jobs properly.

From the Maley story:

Ms Gillard would not countenance a question on the security of her leadership, saying: “I can’t be bothered with any of that today.”

Neither can we, Prime Minister. Neither can we.

References:
Evans, V. & Sternberg, J. (1999), ‘Young people, politics and television current affairs in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 23, no. 63, pp. 103-109.

Germaine Greer and body-shaming

Germaine Greer is a professional shit-stirrer. She wasn’t the only feminist in the 70s (and onwards) yelling loudly about the need to treat women like real people, but she was one of the loudest. And for that, Australian women owe a lot to her. (Even those who think feminism is bad.)

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call her on it when she body-shames someone. We should always call people on that shit.

Here’s the footage from Monday’s QandA. Everything she said up until 1.16 was great. And then, well, that’s what this post is about:

(Miranda Devine illogically says that Greer’s comments mean ALL FEMINISM IS A SHAM. But that’s what News Ltd pays her for, and I don’t pay very much attention to her. Check out Clementine Ford on that one.)

Greer is not a perfect feminist. I don’t think there are perfect feminists and we shouldn’t hold someone up and say, “See! This one’s perfect!”. I’m certainly not a perfect feminist. The other day, when Lady A told me she was having a little boy, I said that her (very active) partner must be happy about that since he’ll have someone to be all fit and active with. And then corrected myself, because seriously, what a dumb thing to say. And when I walk down the street, for all my talk about body acceptance, I still secretly compare my body to other bodies and feel better when I decide that some body part of mine is better than some body part of someone else’s. It’s stupid. The size of my arse hasn’t stopped me getting a degree and a masters, doing a doctorate, having loads of wonderful funny smart friends, and having a fabulous relationship with The Most Awesome Man In The World. The power of popular culture is a hard one to fight. But every time I catch myself doing these things, I make an effort to correct it and to not do it again. To be a better feminist.

I’m not excusing what Greer said. Not at all. It is completely unacceptable to use a public forum to make negative comments about someone else’s body. It is even more unacceptable when you’re adding those negative comments to a discussion about their professional life. And it is worse for a celebrated feminist to make such a comment than it is for Joe Douchebag to make it. None of us are perfect feminists but that doesn’t mean feminism is faulty. Nor does it mean that when a feminist says something stupid, other feminists should just say, “oh, it’s ok, she’s a feminist, we’ll let that one go”. And that is how we all get a little bit better*.

* and take down the patriarchy