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.

70 responses to “What the fuck, Australia?

  1. I’ve been thinking about how I can deal with media outlets who do the wrong thing. My new game? Just stop reading.

    It helps that I’m interested in the macro picture, more than worrying about Christopher Pyne’s latest nugget of wisdom.

    I recommend reading BBC, New York Times and Al Jazeera for global news. BoingBoing for quirky/libertarian news and ABC for your fix of local outrage.

    Don’t give in to clickbaiters. ^_^

    • I think my anger levels would like that, but how will news organisations know why I’ve stopped reading? And if they don’t know why readers abandon them, nothing will change.

      A few Fairfax journalists have changed the way they report violence against women. I can’t take the credit for it, but I like to think my shouting has contributed in some small way.

      Thing is, I love the news. I just hate what journalists are doing to it.

      BattleTram, welcome to the News with Nipples.

      • Thanks for having me. (Aside: that boil looks a bit like a gross neck-nipple.)

        One thing I’ve learned working in big businesses, stats matter. They won’t notice + or – one, but they will notice when there’s a general movement of people not falling for their bullshit. I guess telling people my philosophy and standing by it is the best I can do! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. Thank you for this article I totally agree…. Advance Australia fair should be a call to action not a bloody mean nothing anthem. We as a nation are just so backward on social issues. It’s more than frightening its just so bloody sad

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I agree. Was talking about this with an English guy on Friday – the public conversation about racism and sexism in Australia is about a decade behind the UK. There does seem to be a bit of a shift, though. Instead of THAT’S RACIST, the conversation is now THAT’S RACIST BECAUSE… Hopefully this means we’re getting there.

      Lyn Oconnor, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  3. So true! Also, if that were me in the pic, I would have been lanced-and-hot-poulticed a loooong time before that.

    A few news sites published descriptions rather than images which is probably better – I would find it difficult to do a casual websearch, on say, my own kitchen products and how they are travelling, and keep having to see pictures of my own husband assaulting me.
    That would be really tough.

    • Yep. And when their kids get online too. Images will be there for years.

    • Oh for crying out loud. I have found I have to clarify this post because some helpful person has taken it upon themselves to message my ex saying that I am publicly accusing him of being violent towards me.
      Ok, here, in simple words – I. Was. Saying. That. If. I. Were. Nigella. And. Was. Searching. For. My. Own.Kitchen. Products. Etc.
      I would have thought that all the ‘woulds’ and the references to kitchen products might have made this clear, but plainly not.
      I suppose I will have to go on and say – I am not accusing and will never accuse my ex of being violent towards me, he never was, and it would totally out of his character.
      *enormous eyeroll to people who feel they have to wilfully misinterpret blog comments to stir up trouble*

  4. I’m going into politics. Not right now, but very soon. My husband and I have separated and I’m about to move in with my parents, unemployed with a 4 & 2 yo. I’ve fucking had enough too. All round.

    • Good for you. Huge respect. I haven’t got the ovaries for something like that. They’d probably kick me out for rolling my eyes and saying “for fuck’s sake” too much.

      (I hope the separation is a positive thing.)

      • I spent most of my state campaign swearing, and I still managed to get (credited privately for helping get) an attorney-general fired. A lot of people love it when people running for office don’t fuck around with obfuscated arseholery and just say what they mean.

        Money: good luck, it’s exhausting, but my stint in the political ring isn’t something I’d give up for the world.

    • Good luck mate, it can be a very positive thing to do in both long and short term.

  5. Ahhhh, I HAVE been waiting for you on this. What an absolutely fuckawful few weeks, no? I just don’t get why no one is demanding the abuser stand up and say something, yet everyone demands Lawson does.

    This is the same thing I wrote about today – we saw the same demands on Rhianna when she stayed talking to Brown, and it 100% annoys the hell out of me. NO ONE can be made to be a poster girl for a campaign, no matter how badly someone else wants it. It’s simply not her job.

    The rest of the week simply enraged and baffled me, and I have nothing for it!

    • If you’re not going to plug your post, then I will: http://krjourno.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/no-one-needs-to-be-a-poster-girl/

      Great post krjourno. You are so right about Dunleavy’s attitude and about how no one has the right to pressure someone into being a poster girl, particularly with the threat of financial punishment. I just don’t understand how Dunleavy can be so blind to what she’s saying.

      As for why I’ve been so quiet, I’m just so tired of writing the same posts over and over again because change is too slow. It’ll pass and I’ll be blogging regularly again.

      • The follow up statement she issued just made it worse. And the “I knew someone once in a DV situation” screams “I’m not racists, some of my best friends….”

        (Tah for the plug, I’m still getting used to netiquette around promoting me!)

  6. Yes. I was a bit shocked by the blatent misogyny and racism in Australia when we lived there. Mind you, we do our own special line in these things here in NZ, but it’s usually not quite as openly expressed as it is in Australia. But then again, one of our top sportsmen engaged in some casual homophobia the other day…

    Also on the positive side, in recent days you’ve had at least one very senior Australian stand up and say that he simply won’t tolerate misogyny in his organisation. “Then get out” and “The standard you walk by is the standard you accept” are being heard all around the world.

  7. Your post today mirrored what I have thought about the dickheads that live among us. Unfortunately they are generally more ignorant if they only listen to the likes of Alan Jones, read Piers Akerman and think Tony Abbott is great for Australia. Trust me a small country town has made GODS out of the above men (or are they). God help all of us at this time in Australia’s history.

  8. I don’t really have anything else to say about the content of the post besides that I agree.

    But phwoar that boil is AMAZING.

  9. I give you a hearty “A – friggin’ – men!!!”

    I’ve been outraged all week. Seems there’s just no end to it!

  10. This. All of this. Thankfully I am abroad right now and avoiding bullshit news as much as I can but I’ll be home soon and honestly don’t know how I’ll cope with being in such close proximity to Today Tonight etc without exploding. I don’t understand how we can live where we so with what liberties and opportunities we have yet still produce so many backwards thinkers. If being overseas has taught me two things, it’s that our economy is fine and Australia is amazing but full of whingers and/or idiots. Holy shit, yay for returning to all that soon. Sorry for the rant!

    • Rose, this is one place where you can rant without apologising. Hell, my whole post was just one big rant. I know what you mean about Australians having nothing to complain about, yet complain more than anyone else. The rest of the world must be looking at us thinking, “great economy, great lifestyle, low unemployment, good healthcare and social security, peaceful life, yet they’re a bunch of arseholes”.

      Welcome to the News with Nipples.

  11. I was beyond happy to watch that army video. But it made me sad too to think that it’s just so rare for powerful people to be so unequivocal in their views. It’s like we’re too scared to be properly outraged! I’ll be voting for Gillard because I’m just so ashamed and appalled at her treatment. And then there’s Joe Hockey who counterclaimed that he’d been called ‘fat’ in parliament. I’m gobsmacked at the scope of the ‘I don’t get it’ brigade.

    • Eurgh, I know. In the Sydney Morning Herald today was letter after letter by male writers saying there’s no sexism problem and the criticism of the Prime Minister has nothing to do with gender.

  12. I was pretty shocked by the suicide reporting – particularly the totally unnecessary level of detail they went into. It seems to get worse each time there’s a high-profile case.

    I know the guidelines on suicide reporting are just that – guidelines – but fucksakes. These guys can’t claim ignorance on the reasons why those guidelines exist. So they’re either incredibly irresponsible or callous or both to publish this salacious shite knowing that there’s a high likelihood of a spike in suicide numbers.

    I’ve never heard of a journo or publication being pulled up for breaching suicide reporting guidelines even though it happens all the time … seems pretty off to me.

    • From my experience in an online newsroom, journos tend to think in terms of stories, not the people in the stories. The child of a celebrity is in hospital? Quick, re-write this story from that gossip website, put the key words in the headline and standfirst, put in an image, and publish. Because they are so far removed from the person in the story, they forget they’re writing about real people. And, in this case, a child.

      That’s my theory anyway. I don’t think all journos are arseholes – not all of them, but I’ve definitiely worked with some – so that’s how I’m explaining it.

  13. When I was at Aunty (lo, these many years ago), it was drilled into us that suicide stories had to be treated with respect and restraint.

    I don’t know if journos have changed or if they just don’t have the time to think about the effects of what they’re writing.

    • I think it’s a bit of both. Plus, no one else is doing it. When I was a journalist, no one told me about the guidelines around reporting suicide. It was something I found out about from bloggers, and I shared that info with colleagues. Likewise, reporting guidelines around the deaths of Indigenous people. Newrooms training starts and ends with media law – aka, don’t get us sued.

  14. I’m faced with feeling as if I’m losing my mind at my workplace because the people there don’t question the media outlets they work with.
    I ask for a piece on a product I can tweet (I’m in social for a living) and I’m given one from News Limited to which I say no, I’m not using it. “But why?” Because I object to their reporting in other spheres and I want to exercise my small power to choose another outlet.
    Maybe that’s another thing we can do, it’s small but I like to think I’m just one less click.
    I’ve also become quite vocal and terrifying (in their eyes) as I’ve never seen such ingrained and un-challenged, low-level sexism and racism perpetuated by a group of women. The thing that infuriates me is they all have the power to make a difference and they don’t use it! I’m yet to work out what I can do to change this but I’m trying. People like you help me find my voice.

    • Aw, thanks Miss Shiny. And good on you for trying to change their attitudes. I think this is where we can make progress. We’re never going to change a misogynist’s mind. Never. But there’s hope for people with the low-level racist/sexist attitudes because – in my experience anyway – they usually haven’t thought too much about their attitudes and when you start talking about it they tend to say ‘oh shit, you’re right’. Like Dunleavy. I believe her when she says she wasn’t calling for a boycott because in her mind, she wasn’t. Doesn’t change the fact that she was calling for a boycott, and hopefully she’s realised that now. Same with people who ask if a woman had been drinking before she was assaulted. They think victim blaming is blatantly saying ‘it’s her fault she was attacked’, rather than all the small stuff. (I typed smuff, instead of small stuff, which I will now use in regular conversation.)

  15. I think fear makes people blame victims,,,sorta along the lines of “something that bad couldn’t just happen…could it?
    Of course it can, and that scares the shit out of people so then they try to control their fear. Blame is usually the first thing they reach for to enable themselves feel better. Unfair but understandable I guess as fear does make your brain freeze! Maybe Dunleavy has lost the art of taking a moment to consider her response in this fast digital age?
    My grandpa always used to say “write with a cool pen”
    If I was Nigella your blog post would have made me feel less alone I think 🙂

    • It’s always a tricky balance when blogging about how bad the MSM coverage is, to make sure I’m not doing the same thing they are. I hope I get it right – and if I don’t, that people will tell me.

      I think you’re right about it being about fear, particularly when it comes to violence against women. She was wearing really high heels? Well ok then, if I don’t wear really high heels I’ll be safe. There was a great blog post or MSM opinion piece a few months ago about how all of the things we’re told to do to protect ourselves from being attacked are not about stopping it, but about making sure it happens to someone else.

      I don’t think Dunleavy had thought too much about what she was threatening Lawson with. If she had thought about it, perhaps Saatchi would have been the target of her demands.

      Kate King, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  16. I don’t know what to say. I’m so tired of being angry (perhaps that’s their game plan?). I live in Abbott’s electorate, just to convey the extent of my despair and invite your pity. Thanks for your post.

    • Oh, you poor thing. But you do have the power to make him lose his seat. Wouldn’t that be delicious?

      (I once lived in Joe Hockey’s electorate. I used to return his junk mail to him with texta scrawled all over it, pointing out his factual errors. I’m sure my efforts went straight in the bin.)

      I think it’s less about wearing us out and more about dickheads being confident that they won’t get into any trouble. And they don’t. Sure, Sattler got sacked, but that’s all that’s happened and he’ll probably turn up again on a different station very soon. Probably in NSW where our shockjocks can say the most appalling things and still have the backing of their employer. Mal Brough is still the Coalition’s endorsed candidate – despite the menu and his involvement in the James Ashby/Peter Slipper stuff. The police told Charles Saatchi he was naughty but that’s the end of that. Piers Akerman will be back on the ABC and all across News Ltd.

      Virginia, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  17. I just haven’t been able to deal with the news at all for the last couple of weeks. I. Just. Can’t.

  18. I tell you what…just keep on speaking up.
    The swearing made its mark; the statements made their mark.
    I don’t follow most of the stuff, so it hasn’t affected me, but at least I understand your point of view! And, I agree with it.

  19. One of the bizarre things about the Howard Sattler thing is that I have been involved in discussions in which people have argued that any question is reasonable and that the PM is tough enough to handle it, and who gets to decide what is relevant and not…etc…
    But she wasn’t (except obliquely and passive-aggressively) being asked about her OWN sexuality, she was being impertinently asked to basically gossip about SOMEONE ELSE’S sexuality.
    Ya know, ask Mr. Mathieson if it’s that important to the electorate (?!), rather than using it as nasty way of discomfiting the PM.

    DISCLAIMER: When talking about Howard Sattler, the Prime Minister, or Tim Mathieson, I do not intend any resemblance to anyone I personally know.

    • Ha, nice disclaimer. You’re right, as always. She was being asked to gossip about someone else’s private life. But more than that, she was being asked that question because whatever answer she gave would be used against her. There are plenty of fuckwits who’ll be saying that because she didn’t answer the question – and good on her for not dignifying it with a response – then he must be gay and therefore she’s dishonest and Juliar etc etc. She can’t win.

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  21. Then, when men said they wouldn’t be voting Labor because a female leader doesn’t represent them, no-one argued. The statement was left sitting there like a truth.
    We’ve got such a long way to go…

    • I KNOW, RIGHT? “Men don’t want to vote for a woman” then “Oh, ok. Fair enough”, as though this has nothing to do with what we’ve all been talking about. There was lots of swearing and eye rolling when I saw that on the front page.

  22. I was just girding up my loins for another round of having to point out that Gillard is perfectly justified in slapping that gender card down on every available surface, when The Menu appeared and I didn’t need to anymore – all the proof in the world that sexism is a real thing in our society. Thank you misogynists. If you could all shut up now and get off the Internet, we’d all be be grateful.
    I was deeply depressed by the “let’s racially abuse an indigenous person” at the very first game of “let’s stop racially abusing indigenous people” football week: nothing like raising a new generation of racists to make patriotism swell in one’s heart.
    The rest is down to journalists having to choose money over ethics: so I’m pretty firmly in the mire of dreary bitter cynicism edging on despair on those.
    Definitely not a good week.
    And that boil is not helping.

    • Sorry about the boil.

      On the one hand, it’s great to have such public evidence of all the shit that still goes on, but on the other hand it bites arse that it all still goes on.

      • I was somewhat heartened by the AFL’s response: they clearly said Goodes was right to be upset, and that such behaviour is wrong and will be addressed. If people know that when they use racist language they’ll be escorted out of the stadium, that’s going to cut down on racist language. Hooray?
        I forgive you for the boil. I am feeling the boil over Stephen Milne.
        I’m going to post at Larvatus Prodeo for the first time now: there are people over there who THINK IT’S OK for The Age to post an article calling for Gillard to step down and I need to discuss media bias with them. Into the valley of death I ride…
        (Look! I have been able to trick WordPress into accepting my username as ‘eilish’! Apparently, I can change my profile to anything I like. Can anyone else see the problem inherent in that?)

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  24. I would just like to say that this is a fundamentally racist nation, the colonisation of which was based on the patriarchal lie that no real people were living here because the people living here were not White people.

    It is grossly unfair to attribute this vast system of patriarchal racism to a child, or to in any way link that child (who was escorted from the field by male thugs) to the system that, through patriarchal hegemony, was forced to absorb racist ideology.

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