Undermining women with power

It’s pretty easy to undermine a woman in a position of power. We’re so used to seeing it that we rarely think about it. You can do it in the mainstream media by using her first name (eg, Julia versus Abbott); you can do it by calling her a puppet (eg, every news story about Kristina Keneally and factions in the NSW Labor Party); hell, even Doctor Who knew that he could do it with just six little words: “Don’t you think she looks tired?” – a line that would never undermine a male PM because no one cares what they look like. If you think I’m wrong, then show me the mainstream media stories about John Howard’s briefcase, or Paul Keating’s earlobes, or whether Bob Hawke had a stylist.

You can also do it by reducing a woman in control of the BBC1’s £1,113.1m budget to her clothes.

Daily Mail

Apparently you’re obsessed with your looks if you change your clothes each day for work. Seriously, what the fuck?

25 responses to “Undermining women with power

  1. My PhD supervisor told me I looked tired every time I saw him. Doubt he ever said that to his male students.
    And I’ll bet Bob Hawke had a stylist.

  2. Oh sweet fncking Christ. When proper upright elite men change their clothes every day, you can’t tell because their suits are practical and monochromatic. May as well have a headline saying “Woman conforms to pressure to be decorative, we still hate her anyway ’cause she’s a chick.”

    • And if she wore the same clothes for three days in a row, the headline would scream ‘what a dirty ho bag, she doesn’t change her clothes and besides, a woman shouldn’t be in charge of the BBC’.

  3. What was the point of the phillip coorey story in to-days smh? Surely the PMs visit produced more news than this. But no ,the travelling media decide to make great sport,the lazy fuckers, of the cloths on a dummy. You can diminish the work done by the PM and poke fun at foreigners at the same time.Do these people get paid much for this dross.

    • I didn’t read it. Was it about the toy with the costume? Sure, mention it, but don’t make that the whole point of your article. That’s the problem with this idea that readers don’t care about hard news so we have to dumb it down and make it ‘fun’.

      • Yes ,just a toy and really not worth the bother but I got sucked in and read to the end to see if there was a serious point to the story and realised I had wasted time on nothing.

  4. And meanwhile, when high profile women wear the same items on multiple occasions, they’re “obsessed” with them.

    “Did you see XXXX used the same handbag 8 times this month? She’s obsessed! Stars, they’re just like us!”

    Er, I use the same handbag around 30 times most months.

  5. This post seems to suggest that there’s some sort of conspiracy against women power. I strongly disagree.

    “You can do it in the mainstream media by using her first name (eg, Julia versus Abbott)”

    There is no evidence that the PM being known as “Julia” was due to sexism. Indeed, Gillard seemed to promote it when she announced during the election campaign that we would be seeing the “real Julia”. Furthermore, Kevin Rudd called himself and was often known as “Kevin 07”, “Kevin PM” and “Kev”.

    ” you can do it by calling her a puppet (eg, every news story about Kristina Keneally and factions in the NSW Labor Party); ”

    Sadly, anyone who leads the NSW Labor Party these days has to either be a factional boss or a factional puppet, given how much the factions and the unions have such a stranglehold of the NSW ALP. It is a fact that Keneally was a member of ‘The Terrigals’ faction, and was elevated to Premier by factional bosses Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid after Nathan Rees had upset them by dumping them from his Ministry. Pointing out that Keneally is a puppet is more of a criticism of the broken party she leads than the woman herself.

    Finally, the Jay Hunt story represents a classic Tabloid ‘gotchya’, where Hunt’s hypocrisy is supposedly exposed. This story is clearly based on sensationalism, not sexism.

    • Ah Leon Bertrand, you know I’m going to shoot down all of your points.

      Kevin Rudd was and is never called Kevin by the MSM. Always Rudd. And only Kevin07 when talking about the 2007 campaign. I’m talking about headlines here, which is all most people read.

      And every time Keneally is called a puppet it implies that she’s only there because some men – “faceless men!” – allow her to be there but they’re really the ones who make the important decisions.

      And lastly, this post is about the headline, not the story. You can’t tell it’s at all unusual that someone wears a fresh set of clothes to work three days in a row.

      I don’t think there’s a conspiracy against women in power. That would imply a concerted campaign and I don’t think it is that organised.

      • I think Leon sort of has a point about Keneally. Absolutely she gets her fair (well actually its not fair at all) share of sneaky comments and turns of phrases because of her gender. However, I think the puppet comments do relate to more of a factional issue than a gender issue.

        Having said that you are correct in your comment that the ALP party machine is a male dominated world and ‘faceless men’ is not simply pejorative. This does make her a puppet of the menfolk. I suspect (with no evidence I grant you) that there was an element of ‘lets experiement with a woman’ about the Keneally choice. ALP are already talking about replacing her – she hasn’t done too bad considering the ALP is such a poisoned chalice. I note that all the scandals have actually been her male MPs.

        • It’s the glass cliff – putting a woman in charge of a sinking ship. When she fails (which she will, because one person can’t save the NSW Govt), it will be used to ‘prove’ that a female leader just doesn’t have what it takes, in a way that never happens when a male leader gets dumped.

          And yes Leon, there is a great deal of evidence for the glass ceiling, particularly in politics.

          • Whilst its true that three females have been made Premiers of ‘sinking ships’, Anna Bligh of Queensland was given the Premiership in a position from which she could and did win the election that followed.

            I don’t recall anyone asserting that the cases of Joan Kirner, Carmen Lawrence and Kristina Keneally ‘proved’ that women don’t have what it takes. Everyone I have ever read has recognised that their election defeats (Keneally will certainly lose in March 2011) were due to the hopeless positions they inherited, not because of them personally.

            With a female Prime Minister and two female Premiers, I really can’t see how there still exists a ‘glass ceiling’ in Australian politics. It seems that the ceiling has been broken.

            • Everyone I have ever read has recognised that their election defeats (Keneally will certainly lose in March 2011) were due to the hopeless positions they inherited, not because of them personally.

              Leon, this is exactly the point I am making. That women only get the job of premier when the situation is hopeless.

              As for a female PM, you can’t use the example of one woman to declare the problem is solved. You only have to look at the ridiculously low number of women on boards and in senior management positions in this country to realise that the problem clearly isn’t solved.

              • or how many women sit on front bench or cabinet positions at both state and federal levels from both sides of politics? still a lot more men than women and that is probably cos more men to pick from cos more men pre selected for seats than women. Its not that women have no interest in politics. I work in a political sphere and I have studied for 2 degrees in politics – both my work and my study have had lots of female participants – so its not for the want of trying. I’ve heard of glass cliff before – its a good expression.

              • What I was trying to say is that it is not true that women only get the job of Premier or PM when the situation is hopeless. The stories of Bligh and Gillard show that this is not the case. They were both placed in winnable positions. The most that can be said is that so far, most female Premiers have been installed when the situation is hopeless.

                Lexy, Why there are more female than male MPs is a good question to ask. I think that it would be worth seeing if there are any fairly recent studies that compare the aggregate success rates of men and women who are candidates for preselection.

                And there are quite a few examples of women in safe seats I can immediately think of. Gillard’s Lalor is a safe Labor Seat. Anna Bligh’s seat is safe too. And the Queensland state seat of Brisbane, held by Grace Grace, is also very safe for Labor. On the conservative side of politics, Bronwyn Bishop’s seat is very blue ribbon, and Kelly O’Dwyer replaced Peter Costello in the long-time Liberal seat of Higgins.

  6. Leon is using another classic undermining strategy: you’re just being overly emotional.
    Gotta love “there’s no evidence” line as a response to an article pointing out actual instances of sexism. Everything we know about power and dominance in inter-personal transactions is all just a lot of bunkum, apparently. “It’s not sexism because Leon says it isn’t”. What a relief to my little tiny ladybrain. Popping off now to buy a new handbag.

  7. Talk about using any opportunity to undermine women in power. Wearing different clothes each day is hardly unusual. I struggle to see the point of the headline. It really is rather sad.

    And Leon, “This post seems to suggest that there’s some sort of conspiracy against women power. I strongly disagree.”…” There is no evidence that the PM being known as “Julia” was due to sexism.” the evidence is all around you IN THE HEADLINES, in the language and tone of news reporting . Do some comparative googling…

    While you are out googling, check out Alan Jones’ rant on Brigadere Lyn McDade: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3047599.htm
    The gender-specific derogatory tone and language used to criticise women in power, is markedly different to the language saved for the men. Do you ever hear a prominent radio rant resorting to justifying an argument around the repeated “that man…, that man, that man… take that man’s powers away…” and the excessive, willful use of false information to discredit his authority?

    Please Leon, post a comparable link.

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