Bushby likes cats so the meow wasn’t an insult

Or something.

It happened yesterday but in the interests of my doctorate I’m only blogging once a day. Liberal Senator David Bushby – who, let’s be honest, no one outside of Tasmania had heard of before, despite the fact he’s been in Parliament for four years – actually meowed at Penny Wong.

Check it out:

In case you can’t watch it, after Bushby meowed, Wong replied:

“It is just extraordinary. The blokes are allowed to yell but if a woman stands her ground, you want to make that kind of comment. It’s not schoolyard politics, mate”.

And instead of apologising, Bushby said this nonsense:

“Her reaction to the issue of the [Treasury] Secretary’s appearance [at estimates] was like that of an angry cat. It could have been a male or female cat. So I thought she was like an angry cat, the way they sometimes strike out. I like cats.”

Um, what? And I’m not a cat person, but I’ve never seen an angry cat say “If I can finish now” when interrupted. It also shows Bushby has no idea why what he did was offensive, because he said it “could have been a male or female cat”. Clearly, in his mind, it’s only offensive to meow at a colleague if you imply she’s a female cat. Or something.

And then WA Liberal Mathias Cormann said Wong was in a bad mood. Ah, she must have her period. That explains why a woman wouldn’t like being interrupted. (And yes, everyone has bad moods and that’s fine, but we all know what is implied when a man says a woman was in a bad mood.)

Mr Bushby later said he was “sorry that Senator Wong has felt offended by my reaction. I have tried to call her to personally apologise”. Which was possibly just a tweet and by “I have tried” means he didn’t actually apologise personally.

Of course, it wasn’t a real apology, just the new apology, which is all the rage these days: I’m not sorry I was offensive, but I’m sorry if you were offended.

And sorry she “felt offended” when she was meowed at? There are very few workplaces where it is acceptable to meow at a colleague, and Parliament is not one of them.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know anything about David Bushby. I’m not even sure I’d heard of him before. According to Open Australia, Bushby has “spoken in 21 debates in the last year – well below average amongst Senators”. Obviously, these 21 could be interesting and relevant and well-argued and so are better than someone who just blathers on and on and on at any opportunity. But given that he meowed at a colleague, I find that pretty unlikely.

Bushby’s website says he’s been on six committees in four years. Can someone with more committee knowledge help me out here – is six a lot or not very many?

His website also says he is married and has three daughters. That’s four women in his immediate life and I’d like to think that if someone meowed at one of them at work, he’d be furious.

We’re pretty used to seeing politicians carry on, but seriously, meowing at someone? Senator David Bushby is 46 years old. He’ll be 47 next month, and this is how he carries on? Let’s hope he thinks twice before acting like a child again.

58 responses to “Bushby likes cats so the meow wasn’t an insult

  1. “And I’m not a cat person, but I’ve never seen an angry cat say “If I can finish now” when interrupted.”

    LOL. Love it. Just watching the meow stings a little. I can’t think of the number of times I’ve just ignored something like that, socially or professionally, because when someone makes you feel small it’s hard to have the strength to say so. I loved Wong for her response and that she named it.

    • I feel the same. So many times we brush something off because we don’t want to be “that” woman, you know, the one who can’t take a joke, the one who makes a big deal out of nothing, when the reality is that someone else is being a douchebag and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. Especially at work.

  2. I like cats. I have two of them. However, if anyone meows at me I might just punch them in the face. (The meow-er, that is. Not my cats.)

    The very sad thing about this is that Penny Wong is incorrect. It’s not extraordinary at all. This kind of offensive, blatant sexism is all too common and ordinary. Or maybe it’s not. My period is due soon so I’m probably just in a bad mood. As soon as my hormones settle down I’ll apologise for daring to be offended.

  3. The comments under that youtube video are very telling. Sexist and racist, and using sexual insults to denigrate women. (I wonder if they ‘got’ the Slutwalk – we’re proud to be sluts idea…hmm…) Keeping sexism out of parliament would be a good start.

  4. There was a loud cry of ‘go penny’ from our sofa last night. Then sadly this morning I was flicking thru the channels and saw this issue being reviewed on Kerrie anne (yep, yuk) saying that ‘they’ say that penny over reacted (cos she’s a tempremental woman I can only assume). So v quickly it’s blame the (female) victim yet again.

    • Of course it is. Let’s discuss her behaviour, not his. Sigh. It never changes, does it?

    • I can’t stand KAK. I slap any one in this house who dares not change the channel before I have to suffer one syllable from her bigoted mouth. I am so unsurprised she was too piss weak to defend a female against a misogynistic attack.

  5. I *love* the fact that Penny Wong didn’t ignore the meow and carry on.

    The reason that a dumb ignorant arse thinks he can make a hugely offensive comment on film and in that kind of forum, is because a) he’s a sexist douche and b) many women – including myself – are somehow reluctant to speak out in such situations for fear of being seen as the uptight chick who can’t take a joke (as an aside my favorite aunt used to have a fabulous badge which she wore on her jacket which said “I am a humourless feminist”) .. am now wondering if she still has it.

    Although about her statement, “It’s not school yard politics” … I mean, where would she have gotten such a foolish notion?

  6. Rhiannon Saxon

    All the comments above have said how I feel (Including, no, unfortunately it;s not extraordinary, but good on Penny Wong for making the assumption, publicly, that it should be) so I will (try) to confine myself to saying, another great post, thanks!

  7. Lexy, Tory Shepherd’s article on the punch was all about how it wasn’t really sexist and claiming it was takes away from strong women. I go from joy at Penny’s response and initial reaction to it, back to dumbfounded again at the same old tired ‘she over-reacted’ trope.

  8. Jezebel had a post about it, and thanks to one of the early comments on the post, I intend to never read Jezebel again.

  9. Meow = shrill.
    Both can be used for aswell as women, but you never hear men called shrill, or meowed at.
    It is belittling and so incredibly rude.
    What an aresehattosspot.

  10. Oh come on haven’t you ever done the same thing when you think that the person you are dealing with is being rather caty?
    I realise that you are showing Wong solidarity because she is a woman but really she has a most arrogant and supercilious and annoying manner, and to be honest I don’t recall you doing the same rancour when it was Julie Bishop doing a cat claw Gesture across the floor of parliament.
    Storm in a latte cup if you ask me 🙄

    • Actually, I’ve never done that to someone. And I didn’t know Bishop had done it until yesterday. If I’d been paying attention, I would have written the same post. It’s childish, nasty behaviour.

    • Yes, I also say cunt A LOT (at times it has an air of tourettes about it) but I wouldn’t say it in the workplace, to a colleague. I especially wouldn’t say if I was a fucking public figure/ politician who should be more professional than…. (sorry, went down the rabbit hole then).
      Would you bark at a woman you thought was unattractive? At work?

  11. In the parliament sarcasm rules as far as I can tell and the “meow” was nothing more than a sarcastic aside. Have you really never made sarcastic quips NWN ?
    Its not childish nasty behaviour at all its just the cut and thrust of parliamentary party politics and the good members take such things in the stride and learn to give as good as they get. Wong tends to take her self so bloody seriously and she tends to talk down to everyone she interacts with so it does not surprise me one bit that she should earn the odd sarcastic retort in reteurn.

    • Sarcasm = sexism?

      One can be sarcastic without be overtly misogynistic. Which is exactly the point.
      Bushby could have given her a serve in any number of ways, but he chose to be sexist. The surprise here is not that Bushby stooped to his usual bottom feeding level of politics, but that for once, a female politician didn’t let it slide, she addressed it for what it was. It may seem small and inconsequential to you. But for women everywhere, calling bullshit on work colleagues who seek to invalidate you through sexist language and behaviour is giant step in the right direction for work place equality.

  12. Pirra,
    How pray tell is implying that anyone is acting like a cat “sexist”??? Or misogynistic for that matter?

    • Because it is typical language aimed at women. Women are “catty” or “sex kittens”. A fight between women is called a Cat fight. At what point in society is any of that language directed at men? It isn’t. Bushby’s meow slur is overtly sexist.

      • Exactly. He wouldn’t have meowed at a man. And Iain, as Pirra said in her earlier comment, you can be sarcastic without using sexist language. That’s what we’re annoyed about.

        • By that logic just using a gender specific pronoun in sarcasm is to be sexist you really are drawing a rather long bow here and as I suggested earlier and in my own post on the matter getting rather upset about something that is of little or no consequence.

          • You seem unable to grasp the concept that meowing at a woman is inherently sexist.
            Unsurprising I suppose, if you’re trying to relate gender specific pronouns used in sarcasm as what we perceive as being sexist… it’s not, you’re the one drawing the long bow. It’s the other words and actions used with them that make the sarcasm sexist.

      • Also, one might argue that arguments between men can be stereotypically likened to a dogfight, but I’m fairly certain no male senator would bark and growl at another man during a committee. Also, even when someone meows in that way in a non-work setting, it is almost always some kind of condescending silencing tactic.

        That he thought he could get away with acting so inappropriately in a work situation, that he felt comfortable saying that to a woman (whereas, again I’m doubt he would have felt comfortable enough to do that to a man in the same situation) is a sad reflection of a culture where acceptance of all of these and other subtle instances of sexism have been allowed to fester.

        • Maj
          listening to the indecent really does not suggest anywhere near the sort of planning or consideration in the remark. and we have not seen the context of the full committee session.
          These things are naturally adversarial so I really don’t think the “well I wouldn’t think of doing it at work ” argument holds that much water.
          As for the barking and growling suggestion I would not be at all surprised if a search of Hansard were to find it nor would I think it notable either

          • Grrrr, woof , that should have been “incident” rather than “indecent” 🙄

            • Iain, can you point us to anywhere you have described a man as having an “arrogant, supercilious and annoying manner” for saying anything along the lines of “If I can finish now”? And animal noises are your idea of adversarial “cut and thrust”? Did you graduate from primary school? Most particularly, *you* don’t get to decide what is of “little or no consequence” when it relates to what women have to deal with, you ignorant narcissist.

              • Iain, I expect more from my politicians – regardless of party – than animal noises. I expect debate and argument, but not animal noises that are intended to mock and silence someone. And if women throughout the country are saying “this is offensive”, it’s irrelevant whether or not you happen to think so. And maybe the next time a man thinks about meowing at a female work colleague, he’ll keep it to himself.

              • Orlando
                I have been equally dismissive of individual men in the public eye that I find annoying, Believe you me I am an equal opportunity writer/speaker who neither asks nor gives any quarter on the basis of gender.
                Further I am I am deciding nothing here, all that I am doing is the same as you, offering an opinion on the matter.

          • The suggestion that there was no planning to the remark is still disturbing – that’s a reflection of the in-built acceptance of casual sexism in society, it’s just a natural gut reaction to do something like that.

            For me, it was just wonderful to see Senator Wong call out the crap behaviour for what it was because too often women let these things slide. But for something that is of ‘little or no consequence’ you and others seem extremely determined to convince us that what happened wasn’t sexist at all with complete disregard for our lifetime of experience of this behaviour.

            As for the barking, if there has been an instance it would be notable for the fact it was inappropriate behaviour for parliament. I’m wondering what you think would be crossing the line, or does just anything go and no-one is allowed to call out any offensive behaviour ever because, err, that’s the way it is.

            • Spot on: “you and others seem extremely determined to convince us that what happened wasn’t sexist at all with complete disregard for our lifetime of experience of this behaviour.”

  13. Pingback: Good sportspersonmanship in the political process, or a good reason not to whine about sarcasm in debate | IAIN HALL's Sandpit

  14. Quick question how can you be so up in arms over someone being meowed at yet you allow McDonkey’s casual insult to touretters to go unedited. I have Tourettes and I say cunt A LOT but the two are unrelated. I contort my face because I have Tourettes, I say cunt because I have bad manners. This bullshit that Touretters are incapable of not swearing randomly really pisses me off!
    Anyway back to the story, if Bushby really wanted to ruin his career he could have said in response to questions ‘It’s not sexist because I didn’t realise she was a woman’ He is a cock head.

    • Apologies kimsonof, no offence intended.

    • I actually googled McDonkey thinking I had missed some obscure parliamentarian and an incident involving a tourettes slur until I realised you meant the comment above. It flew completely below my radar.
      And yes you are right it is a shitty thing say and it is offensive.

      (Plus thank you for the clarification. I was not aware of the swearing part. I did think that the involuntary speaking of a word- swear word or not- was in fact a part of tourettes.)

      Though I will say I don’t think either incident, meowing at a woman(sexism) or using ableist language out trumps the other. BOTH are issues that need to be addressed and resolved.

  15. The reference/allusion(?) I was trying to make was that my swearing is sometimes rapid and involuntary. Didn’t come across as intended.
    Please refer above for apology 🙂

    • I know. And I didn’t pick up on it either, which is all part of my education in ableist language. Your original point is a good one though – that even though you say cunt, you don’t say it at work. Bushby should also have known that meowing at someone is not appropriate work behaviour.

    • yes, what Nips said.

      I hope my comment to kimsonof didn’t read as me taking you to task, as the comment was about taking myself to task for not noticing the language choices, especially since my replies have all been about language choices.

      • Ha, no worries. Donkey’s have thick skin 🙂 Plus I was in the wrong.
        It is an interesting conversation though; what is deemed ok and what isn’t.
        We are basically all saying that referring to tourettes is bad/ablist (which is a fair point) in comments where we proudly admit to saying cunt. Both are derogatory in some way, and both are things that people can’t change about themselves.
        Weird.
        Sorry for the tangenty derail prettynewslady.

        • Don’t apologise. I love it when the comments become a whole new discussion. As for the cunt issue, I say it because I have one. But I only say it around friends who also say it, and would never call someone one to their face unless they really, really, really, really deserved it. Obviously, I’d also never say it at work. Which is what started this tangent – knowing what work-appropriate language is. And, like saying cunt, meowing is not work-appropriate.

  16. ‘There are very few workplaces where it is acceptable to meow at a colleague, and Parliament is not one of them’.

    Anyone who can write a line that makes me laugh as much I did reading that gets my interest. I am so adding you to my blogroll!

  17. Rhiannon Saxon

    Don’t know whether you watched Q and A (Or perhaps it should be called ‘Arguments and Interruptions’) but last night Chris Pyne joined the usual Lib sexism 1001 course and called Nicola Roxon a ‘Scold’ twice.
    Typical derogatory, gendered language calculated to make people dismissive of her opinions or presence.
    Somewhat pot-calling-kettle, given that he was the one that was interrupting and cutting people off. (Well, him and Austen Tayshus with their usual brand of ‘But look over THERE!” ‘discussion’ technique.)

    • I’ve actually stopped watching it because it makes me too angry before bed. But that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s like people who say “you need to meet me halfway” but they really mean “you need to do all of what I want and none of what you want”.

      • Rhiannon Saxon

        Why yes it is indeed.
        I normally don’t watch it either (as I am supposed to go to bed at a reasonable hour) because it has turned into a ratings-chaser and deliberately stacked with the usual suspects of opinion hacks and politicians (especially ChrisBloodyPyne who must be the most-frequent panelist EVER) instead of you know, experts on policy or in their field, but Lee Rhiannon was on and I was intrigued to see the slant put on the inevitable BDS questions. Especially given the presence of Austen Tayshus. (Whose real name I have embarrassedly forgotten and can’t be bothered looking up.)

      • I don’t watch it before bed for that very reason. I have it series linked on the iQ and watch it the next day with the kids. (We call it politics, but really it’s just the four of us foaming at the mouth and throwing cushions at the TV in frustration.) Of course, it’s means my Tuesdays are habitually stabby and make Pirra full of woe and wrath.

  18. Oh dear, it’s happened again.
    Good to hear that the PM insisted that the idiot apologise.
    Also this –
    http://www.defamer.com.au/2011/07/australians-politicians-really-like-meowing-at-each-other/

    • I can’t believe any politician would be that stupid. No, really.

      • You would think – after it happened LAST time, that someone who had made it to the Federal parliament would not be so damn stupid as to give the opposition more ammunition. Mind you, at least Gillard has shown how a party leader should act in those circumstances.

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