Hell Hath no Fury Like a Woman Overlooked for Promotion


I was never certain about the genesis of Janet Albrechtsen. Initially, I believed her to be the innovative handiwork of leftist PR. "This, surely, is a cunning satire set to spell out ham-handed bias!" I thought, as I guffawed through a piece that may have concerned itself chiefly with the Terrible Smell of the Poor.

And then, about 30 years into Prime Minister Howard’s rule, I began to suspect that she was – to employ the parlance of the young and connected – Fo’ Real. In this era, as you’ll recall, wit was every bit as subtle as a blindside hit by a hate-powered Mack. Albrechtsen was not, after all, understated parody as writ by a French and equable Artaud type. She was, in fact, someone actually offended by the Terrible Smell of the Poor. And their smelly Welfare Babies.

Even so, I reasoned that this deliciously brutal hottie remained an invention of spin. I imagine an elite backroom filled with ultraconservative Horny Dads. Failing to engage either Gretel Killeen or Known Marxist Sonia Kruger as a shill, they created a Robo-Babe stamped with Milton Friedman’s hallmark.

Some might regard my review of Janet’s beginnings as sexist. A woman, after all, is every bit as capable of myopic individualism as a man. But tell me you haven’t suspected some Stepford intervention? Pneumatic, hard-bodied blonde in porno-geek-chic spectacles. Spurts grammatical brevity and conceptual spanking. These, surely, are the specs from some late-night Promethean design meeting.

Even if I am being sexist, it shouldn’t really matter thanks to (a) the helpful designation of "satire" to which my every column is appended and (b) Janet’s latest.

If you can’t be bothered reading it, here’s a crib: while it is possible that workplace sexual harassment did occur at some juncture, much of the time alleged casualties of this ill are telling porkies as wily, girlish recompense for not being any good at their jobs.

"Don’t shoot the messenger here," says Janet. (Enviably and confidently using a trope I could never hope to borrow.) But, "some would prefer to blame career problems on sexual discrimination rather than on some other cause closer to home."

When one’s, "career does not progress as they had hoped, they may then turn around and use it as grounds for discrimination."

Like most dames, I have experienced mild to extreme forms of sexual harassment. Once, I had a boss who opined in an utterly non-ironic and pervy thin-moustache way, "You’d look great with implants." And then, to underscore his point, he touched my offending organ.

Neither this act nor my subsequent refusal to follow its surgical gist resulted in career damage. In fact, as I recall, I wrote a column about it. But it did piss me off and make me long for a world wherein slavering men did not feel entitled to touch my B-cup knockers during daylight hours.

Speaking as one who can uphold only the threadbare miscellany of a career, I will say: my low income is my own fault as I’m lazy and mediocre. And, because I like a laugh, I laugh (for the most part) at sexual harassment directed my way.

But today I’m having a hard time laughing along with Janet and the elaborate (though typically punchy) rationale she makes for allegations of sexual harassment. Viz. they’re often a load of cod’s wallop emitted by underachievers, tolerated by namby-pamby bleeding hearts and finally endorsed by (a) greedy solicitors or (b) an emasculated judiciary.

Her wit may not be entirely fictional. The world, of course, is full with under-achievers, bleeding hearts, greedy solicitors et al. And, I’m prepared to entertain the thought that a teeny club of five deactivated Robo-Babes meet regularly to brag about their enormous and entirely unwarranted lovely lady lump sums.

But I’m not prepared to accept that sham allegations are the norm. I mean, Hell Hath no Fury Like a Woman Overlooked for Promotion and all that. But taking Janet’s cue and speaking entirely from my own experience, sexual harassment seems something rather real to me. And seriously, I’m no lefty wuss. There’s a lot of ribald stuff I let slide as Good Clean Manly Fun on account of being (a) quite vulgar and (b) legitimately terrified that I, as one of John Howard’s self-employed battlers, would lose all chance of work in a second if I ever named names or indicated tweaked tits.

But, Janet and I reside in different spheres. I’d always suspected as much.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.