Caroline Chisholm. Natasha Stott Despoja. Jackie Kelly. The list of great women who have shaped the course of this great nation is quite literally existent. Ever since the intrepid First Fleeters joyously streamed from their ships onto this fatal shore, eager to start a new life and shoot some black people, women have been an integral part of our history.
Just to take one example, the vast majority of births in Australia have traditionally been delivered of the female section of the population, who have selflessly offered their services in order to free up Australian men for important nation-building tasks such as wood-chipping and alcoholism. And there are many other examples of Australian women "doing their bit" for our land, which, as a modern enlightened man, I find adorable.
It’s with this proud history in mind that I write, with a tear in my eye, of what seems to be a depressing new trend in modern Australia, one I never thought I’d see: the trend of sexism.
I hesitate to use the word. I am no leftist ideologue. I enjoy using the phrase "political correctness gone mad" in letters to the Herald Sun as much as the next man.
But what other explanation can there be, besides naked bigotry, when a woman who has worked as hard, achieved as much, and contributed as mightily to Australia as Julie Bishop, is pilloried in the press, ridiculed in public, and — cruellest of all — mercilessly attacked by her own so-called "sisters" in Parliament? What other conclusion can we draw than that Australia now hates women?
Bishop, of course, is one of our finest parliamentarians. As Education Minister, she alerted us all to Mao Tse-tung’s infiltration of our school system, a brave stance that saved our children from the horrors of the then-impending cultural revolution. As Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues from 2006-07, she presided over the most rapid advancement of women’s rights in history, helping John Howard attain his well-known nickname, "Howard the Girlie-Man". And there have been myriad other political achievements, far too numerous and unknown to list here.
Has any woman given more of her self, heart and soul to the cause of good government? Has any woman sacrificed more, strived more, made more numerous shrill, vaguely effective attacks on opponents in the name of democracy and freedom, than Julie Bishop? Surely not.
But what do we get?
We get whispering campaigns. We get internal dissent. Oh, the Liberal hoi polloi are apparently "unhappy" with Bishop’s performance. They think she’s been "ineffective" as shadow treasurer. They believe she is not "cutting the mustard". They say she is "some kind of moron". I’d like to see some of these moaning Minnies do better. Do they realise how hard it is to be shadow treasurer? Do they know what a challenge it is to be pitted directly against Wayne Swan, one of the most scintillating political and economic minds of his generation?
It’s a bit like the whole hoo-ha over Bishop’s so-called "plagiarism", a vile accusation based on nothing more substantial than the fact that she uses other people’s material in speeches and books and claims it as her own.
Critics, those who enjoy tearing successful women down out of pure jealousy and misogynistic hatred, claim this is plagiarism when it’s merely a time-honoured political technique. Are the critics aware of how much "plagiarism" goes on every day in politics? Do they know, for example, that Kevin Rudd’s Stolen Generations apology was copied almost verbatim from Ben Chifley’s 1946 address to the Country Women’s Association? Do they realise that Paul Keating’s legendary Redfern speech was lifted entirely from Tim Winton’s Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo? It goes on every day, people. Julie Bishop’s only doing what millions have done before her. Of course, those millions didn’t have ovaries, and so weren’t subject to the fascistic slurs and foul obscenities hurled at Bishop every day.
And so we come to the most shameful episode of all — the brutal attacks in open parliament upon Bishop by Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister and self-proclaimed woman. Questioning Bishop’s intelligence, Julia? Casting aspersions on a woman who went to Harvard for a full six weeks? A woman who was a personal friend of Alexander Downer from an early age? Real classy. Real feminist.
I have had my suspicions about Julia Gillard for some time, and this only confirms them. Sure, she says she’s a supporter of women, but given that she is a) childless and b) living with a hairdresser, I think we can all draw our own conclusions about what kind of "female" she is.
And then, when Bishop responds in an elegant and refined manner with a simple cat’s claw gesture, she gets pounced on again! Honestly! As Bishop herself explained, the gesture was "a little thing that I do", and who among us can say that we don’t, in our own way, also have a little thing? Can’t a modern woman in this day and age even perform a simple animal impersonation in parliament without her judgment being questioned? So much for the sexual revolution. Nobody complained when John Curtin made his hands into bunny ears when calling Australian troops back from Singapore. Nobody criticised when Wilson Tuckey approximated a butterfly. But when a woman does it, suddenly it’s "bizarre".
It only makes it sadder that it was Gillard who led the fire, yet another example of women attacking women in public life. Enough! I never thought I would ever say these words, but it’s time to put an end to woman-on-woman violence. There seems to be a never-ending cycle of hate between our prominent women. Belinda Neal tells Sophie Mirabella her baby is a demon. Sophie Mirabella mocks Julia Gillard’s childlessness. Julia Gillard attacks Julie Bishop’s competence. Julie Bishop kneecaps Sarah Hanson-Young with a crowbar. And so the terrible feminist carnage rages on.
Can we ever break the cycle? Can we get our great ladies to support each other instead of tearing each other down?
As a radical feminist myself, I weep for our daughters if they cannot count on the backing of the sisterhood. Because when women attack each other, they’re just doing men’s jobs for them. And so the men sit back in their fine leather chairs, smoking their cigars and drinking their cognac and laughing throatily to themselves, disgusting flabby jowls flapping, as they see women caught up in feline infighting, leaving the men’s path clear to continue abusing minorities and raping the environment for their own repellent masculine ends. All because Julie and Julia just can’t get along.
Chicks, man. What can you do?
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