Thursday, October 11, 2012

Misogyny with a side of hypocrisy

About a year ago, you would have never had heard the word 'misogyny' garner so many utterances in the Australian media.

Just like Ms. Gillard's mispronunciation of 'hyperbole' in an interview sometime ago ('hyper-bowl'), this current fetishistic interest in the grammatical gleamings of 'misogyny' is an interesting one.

The media from time to time likes to indulge in wordy soups.

A dominant theme in the political discussion this year has been the sexist attitudes towards Ms. Gillard from certain elements of the media, with the two obvious perpetrators being broadcaster Alan Jones and cartoonist Larry Pickering.

I probably don't need to define the word given its context. It's a nice little technical word for sexism, but it makes it sound more naughty, and it puts an intellectual spin on the discussion.

So, from here on out, I will no longer use it.

Monday this week with Parliament returning to sitting, a big blue over former Speaker Peter Slipper was brewing.

The Opposition tried to vote him out after sexist (misogynist?!) text messages to his former staffer-cum-accuser James Ashby about the female genitalia. 

The Liberals had reached the logical conclusion that Mr. Slipper's position as Speaker was no longer tenable, especially given the fact that he stilled enjoyed the pay and perks of the position, despite that he wasn't actually doing the job.

This provoked Ms. Gillard into launching an attack on Mr. Abbott, who had outlined why Mr. Slipper wasn't fit for the position. That speech from Ms. Gillard made international headlines, and reinvigorated somewhat the feminist movement in political circles, and in general.

As outlined in my previous post however, that same Monday a group representing single mothers was protesting on the lawns of Parliament about the government's proposed plan to cut single parenting payments and move them over to the Newstart, our unemployment payment.

A Labor backbencher that same morning had made her view known that, yes, it maybe isn't such a good idea, and maybe it was also time to bring to light to the fact that the Newstart payment would plunge single mothers further into poverty.

The argument could also be made that employers aren't exactly looking for people that haven't worked in 8 years (the payment is to be stopped once their youngest child turns 8), and that it might be increasingly difficult for them to find suitable work.

And maybe it's not such a bad idea, right; being that the days of the house wife are over, that the feminist sisters have liberated each other from the chains of housework, and that to be at home with child is now burdensome on society.

The fruits of thine womb are secondary considerations, and just should think themselves lucky they're even here at all and weren't flushed down a toilet.

So one may ask the question - is that why Ms Gillard's impassioned speech on sexism in politics (I'm sorry, misogyny) gained a million times more the attention than the single mother issue? 

Is it more of a sexy, headline-grabbing issue than single mothers?

All signs of course point to yes. And if feminists in the media were truly concerned with women and not their own agenda, they would have given the single parent issue at least some air and print time, or at least an inkling of acknowledgement.

But as always in Canberra, theatrics overtook the issue of policy in the form of Peter Slipper's comparison of vaginas to shelled mussels - and I'm not kidding - that's what the text messages were about, you cannot make this preposterous nonsense up.

We even had the live cross to Parliament at 9PM on ABC News 24, just to show us the predictability of it all.

Given that Julia Gillard's government policy is to get tough on single mothers (and don't we all love a good welfare-bashing now and then), there was really no room to question her on it after her bluster in Parliament. 

I don't even think one member of Labor had to face the media directly in the form of live questioning on the issue, because the Slipper affair completely creamed the agenda. There may have been some superficial soundbites about single parents being in employment being a good thing, but nothing of substance in the form of questions, or alternative police positions.

And given that the Liberals will most likely back it in the Senate, there's no public two-and-fro debate possible as there was on the boat people legislation, which of course ended in Labor forgetting their principles and siding with the Liberals and re-starting offshore processing.

The Greens may oppose it, but they too were carried away on the anti-sexism express.

And so the end of the week has come to pass, and we are all mourning the Bali Bombings, with Gillard and Abbott both flying out on jet planes.

The agenda will conveniently be reset for Monday.

The issue of governing the country and giving attention to the lesser beings of society will be all too much tedium for the media and its audience, and so we'll again have some theatrics to distract us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Parliament Slips Out of Reality

Today has seen a remarkable display in the Australian Parliament.

No good was done, no deed was debated, no policy was made, nothing tangible came out of it, except the appointment of a new Speaker.

Peter Slipper, the now former Speaker, has been battling a very public sexual harassment case against a former staffer, James Ashby, who has accused Mr Slipper of sexual misgivings and approaches.

He hasn't been fulfilling duties anyway, but still collecting a Speaker's payments and benefits.

Despite Ashby allegedly instigating the messages them himself, and being coached by members of the Coalition on how to execute the theatre we now see, this whole affair has escalated to claim the scalp of Slipper.

The government has subsequently paid Mr Ashby $50,000 in hush money to settle the case, and to make it go away, and presumably to silence the hoopla surrounding the case, and to give the government some fresh air.

Well that has sordidly collapsed.

Instead today we were treated with fantastical outbursts from Ms Gillard and Tony Abbott on sexual identity politics.

And it's all made for a great popular show among feminists.

Still, no one has paid any attention to the fact that Parliament today was supposedly debating on heavily cutting single parent payments - which are overwhelmingly afforded to single mothers.

Did the mainstream media pick up on that? No. Of course not, how could they resist a flamboyant display of 'political' theatrics to a real issue?

I would not expect them to.

And with all the recent biffo with Alan Jones and his remarks against he Prime Minister and the response in social media, no one could expect any less of our blessed political reporters and commentators.

Single mothers, what of them anyway, huh?

The pathetic Newstart allowance (which yours truly is a recipient of after graduating with a university degree as part of the 'Education Revolution') would have been the payment that single mothers would be shunted on to.

Assuming that it passes, and is has the support of the Coalition, which means it would pass as easily as a bran through grandma; so with some coaxing, but it would pass.

An uproar ensued, and protests were being held on the lawns of Parliament by representatives of various social equity groups.

And the issue did indeed get some air time, at least on ABC News, but I'm not sure if it did, if any, on commercial stations.

Obviously the ramifications affect far more people in the real world than the appointment of a new Speaker.

All in all, this shows how utterly out of touch the Australian Parliament as a whole has become completely disconnected from mainstream Australia. It really was a display to behold in Parliament, and it was almost as if it were the proceedings in another country, or even another planet, because I'm sure most other countries would not concern themselves with such a pilfering matter as text messages.

It really is truly pathetic.

And now it is being lauded that Mr Slipper's resignation is a 'surprise' - really? After a sexual harassment case has been dragged into a federal court, and lewd text messages revealed, that somehow comes as a surprise to you all?

Never mind even middle Australia being left behind by this Parliament, all of Australia is, and the poor will suffer most as the projected surplus by the government does not come to pass as iron ore prices fall.

That's what our whole future has been hedged against - the prices of finite natural resources.

But I digress. Perhaps I'm pontificating.

You may as well watch two seagulls fighting over a chip, because that is as relevant as the Australian Parliament now is to its citizens.

I'd urge anyone to pay it no attention.