Oh please, give us some credit

Bettina Ardnt is trying to whip up a panic about our unmarried but partnered Prime Minister moving into the Lodge, after being elected, with her bloke. It could be a bad role model for young women she says.  

I say, complete crap, give people more credit than that. Women aren’t going to rush into defacto relationships just because the PM is in one. Ardnt says that children can suffer when defacto relationships break down. Yes, children can be disadvantaged when parents split, but that’s the case whether they are married or defacto or unable to marry under current laws, and it ain’t necessarily so.  Having a family that isn’t mum, dad and kids in the Lodge can only be a positive thing in my view. I think we are still a long way from having anyone other than a cis/het couple there, even a single person (most likely a man) would be unlikely at the moment.  It is a step in the right direction. As I’ve said elsewhere, after a couple of terms of Julia, I want Penny Wong as PM next.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, parenting, relationships

Tags: , , , , , , ,

31 replies

  1. It’s all part of the program to remind the alleged Married Majority that Gillard Is Not One Of Us. I wonder if Arndt realises how she’s being coopted?

  2. Not sure, but I think she’s a John Howard/nuclear het family/1950’s fan anyway. The comments on the SMH site when I last read them were overwhelmingly – get with the times, no one cares but you.

  3. This is my favourite quote:

    It’s fine for Gillard – a 48-year-old woman – to live with her bloke. Yet as a popular role model for women, her lifestyle choice may influence other women into making big mistakes about their lives.

    That’s right, not getting married is a big mistake, even if marriage means that you have to have sex you don’t want (I believe there is a word for that).
    And why is the onus on women to get married? Of course, its biology!

    Women’s tiny reproductive window means they pay a high price for wasting precious breeding time in such uncertain relationships.

    Because marriage isn’t about love, its about “breeding”. Like people are horses or something.
    The real question this article raises is who is giving her commissions to write for the SMH?

  4. Of course, if any of this were true, then centuries of married PMs, and PMs promoting (het) marriage, would mean the rate of marriage is going up and all the straightfolk want to get married, right?

  5. See as her role-modelness is so overwhelming powerful, I figuring that every woman in Australia is going to start dying her hair red.

  6. Oh my god that’s an offensive article! It offends on so many levels.

  7. Oh my god that’s an offensive article! It offends on so many levels. My only comfort is that about 76% have said Ms Gillard’s relationship does NOT set a bad example, AND the first few comments are outraged. Rare for the COMMENTS on an SMH opinion piece to bring comfort!

  8. And it actually makes me want to choose to NOT get married simply to give the finger to that sort of prejudice.

  9. Sigh. Having computer issues. Sorry for repetition above and for the lack of a proper link – my net was uber slow and HAT’s bandwidth had been exceeded apparently. Will go fix that now.

  10. A pretty bizarre article. Not even Miranda Devine could have come up with something so silly.
    The great positive that came from that though, is that there are 555 comments. I scrolled through them and couldn’t find a single one in support. .
    Gillard is a great role model for all young girls. An absolutely necessary role model for young girls. It is quite depressing how many young girls and women cannot see themselves as worthy without a male partner and when they do have one whether he’ll ‘commit’. Terrifying stuff.
    But then my 16 year old tells me that without a boyfriend it is taken you must be frigid. Fortunately she doesn’t give a stuff (I gave her Full Frontal Feminism by Valenti last year) And young collegues at my work stress over the fact that something must be ‘wrong’ with them if a man won’t ‘commit’. The desperation is hideous stuff. It’s probably that angst Arndt is attempting to tap into. It’s just not likely that the SMH is read by the demographic she aimed for. New Idea would have been better

  11. As I’ve said elsewhere, after a couple of terms of Julia, I want Penny Wong as PM next.
    Be still my beating heart! That would be something extraordinary.
    See as her role-modelness is so overwhelming powerful, I figuring that every woman in Australia is going to start dying her hair red.
    Being an automaton, unconsciously reproducing in miniature the grand life of my betters, I dyed my hair bright pink last week. Does that count?

  12. Tangent/Tech Note: @The Amazing Kim, I changed your “i” markup tags to “em” markup tags in the above comment so that I could see the text in italic as you intended. “i” tags do not render (on latest WordPress sites on my browser at least) as italic text any more.
    If you just use the handy dandy quicktag buttons above the comments box then you don’t even have to remember the HTML! (assuming you can see them in *your* browser?)

  13. I consider it a matter of pride that people like Bettina Arndt and Miranda Devine (Devine was saying something a month or two ago about how de facto relationships are ruining marriage) think women like me are bad role models for girls. I consider it a sure sign that I am DOIN IT RITE. (And so is Julia!)
    (Of course, because I’m NOT a bigot, I don’t think that people doing it differently from me are DOIN IT RONG either.)

  14. Dear Bettina Ardnt,
    As someone who grew up in an unhappy family kept together “for the sake of the children” (and being the first of the children whose existence quite literally kept the family together) can I point out that while yes, things can be bad if a defacto relationship breaks down, there are lots of other ways it can be equally bad, and just as traumatic for a kid growing up if one’s parents are legally and religiously wed and remain together. My nickname for the whole business is the Larkin Clause (after Phillip Larkin’s poem “This Be The Verse”).
    Then again, given Ms Gillard doesn’t appear to have any kids, what the bloody hells are you getting so upset about? If Ms Gillard’s relationship breaks up, there are no children to be affected anyway. Presumably Ms Gillard took Mr Larkin’s advice to “get out early while you can and don’t have any kids yourself” to heart, rather like I’ve done.
    Meg Thornton.

  15. Meg, she seemed to be saying that it’s fine and dandy for Julia to take these risks because she’s a deliberately barren freak, but most women, nice normal women, actually want babies and this is why she’s being so irresponsible in modelling such outrageous behaviour.

  16. Having just read Bluemilk’s tweet that she is happily living in sin made me think that even though I know she’s doing the same childrearing, partner/cleaning/housework wrangling as I am, calling it living in sin makes it sound so much more fun.

  17. Yes, cause of the sin!

  18. Hmmm… apparently one of Ms Arndt’s contentions is de-facto relationships are inherently less stable than marriages. I’ve been in a stable de-facto relationship for about 13 years now; my brother and his ex-wife didn’t last more than about three years together in a marriage. At least part of the problems they had were that he expected her to be acting like our mum, and she expected him to be acting like her dad; meanwhile he was expecting to be expected to act like our dad, and she was expecting to be expected to act like her step-mother. The various expectations tangled up in one another, and led to the collapse of the marriage in quick-smart time – they really did get along a lot better when they weren’t married to one another. Meanwhile, the one thing I’m absolutely and one hundred and ten percent certain of is that I’m not going to marry my partner – because I don’t want to stop being a partner and start being expected to be a wife.
    Call it one of the perils of being part of Generation X (remember us? The ones in the gap between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y?). I grew up in the aftermath of a lot of social decoherence, when new roles were being created and new opportunities were offered to all parties in the social contract. One of these was that women and men didn’t necessarily have to get married to each other if they wanted to have sex with each other, or if they wanted to raise children. Another was that women and men could decide whether or not they wanted to raise children, rather than having it taken for granted that they automatically would be. Not everyone has chosen either of these options – but enough people have done so that we’re starting to normalise the redefinitions of what “couple” status means, and what “parent” status means in things as stodgy and conservative as social security paperwork.
    Possibly Ms Arndt needs to put in a bit of time working for Centrelink, or the Family Assistance Office, and get an idea of what families in modern Australia actually look like these days.

    • A few people have described Arndt’s article as deliberate trollbait, and I’m starting to think they were right. Dozens of blog posts and hundreds (thousands?) of comments on her article and those blog posts – this is something she can point to as “proof” of her relevance for punditry gigs – she’s just doing it to boost her CV.

  19. tigtog: yeah, she can present herself as one of Australia’s leading trollumnists, for sure.

    …apparently one of Ms Arndt’s contentions is de-facto relationships are inherently less stable than marriages.

    If you include all de-facto relationships there’s probably going to be a persistent pattern of them being less stable, because of the subset of them that aren’t intended to be stable. In my circle, being de facto was a feature of pretty much every serious relationship people had under the age of 25, because it makes the rent cheaper (and because a lot of share houses get sick of stay-over partners and come up with rules like “if someone sleeps over more than once a week, they pay their share of the rent”). Being able to maintain separate residences while in a serious relationship is now a mark of having quite a good salary: I know more couples who live apart now than I did in my early twenties.
    So if you wanted to make a case that de facto relationships break up all the time, all you have to do is include those couples in your data, who do break up all the time, what with neither party really planning or intending otherwise and all.
    I’m guessing there probably are studies where they made sure to only compare relationships which had some kind of stated intention to be long term, but I’m betting there are many that just include everyone who has a sexual partner living in their house.

  20. Just FYI: there were supposed to be quote tags around apparently one of Ms Arndt’s contentions is de-facto relationships are inherently less stable than marriages. since I was quoting Meg Thornton.
    [Fixed. You have to use “blockquote” to get that to work now – just “q” no longer works. (Or just use the new quicktag buttons above the comments box?) ~tt]

  21. Which reminds me, not coincidentally (I suspect) to the huge number of couples who live together for rent sharing reasons without being or wanting to be otherwise financially interdependent, being de facto is used to stop student, unemployment and parenting welfare payments if your partner is above the (fairly low) thresholds where their income is judged adequate to support a partner.
    Which puts people in the position of either committing welfare fraud, or turning their “living together because our share houses wouldn’t put up with the over night guests” relationship into a “ze is putting me through uni/paying my rent/buying my kids food, on a household income from which my payments have been removed” relationship.

  22. A few people have described Arndt’s article as deliberate trollbait, and I’m starting to think they were right.
    I’ve also seen suggestions that the SMH published that opinion piece to test the waters in terms of what sort of slurs against Gillard will fly with the Australian public, and which ones won’t.

  23. I think more than a deliberate trolling exercise (in the innerwebs sense), Arndt is running her next book idea up the flagpole to see which publisher salutes. She writes books on her anecdata insights into “trends in womens sexuality” for a living. I predict she’ll wait for JG to win the next election and we’ll have the full length version at all good bookstores within the year.

  24. Mary @ 23: this is just the sort of situation I find myself in. I get some assistance from the government while I work and study in acknowledgment that I raise a special needs son alone – it’s enough to mean that added to my fairly small salary from 3 days work a week (so I can finish the law degree) I can survive living in Sydney and determine for myself what my son and I spend money on . I have thought for a long time I would like to try living with TBO, but I’ve never wanted to be financially dependent on him. So I have to either not move in; alter my life plans so I can move in with him, as in drop the study and go back to full time work; or I have to accept financial dependency on him, and to be honest that’s an awful lot of extra strain to put on a relationship when we want to move in and see how that goes. I have looked into whether they’d accept statutory declarations along with proof that our finances are wholly separate, but no bingo, in fact they told me they could stop my payments NOW regardless of the separation of finances if they found we were in a ‘marriage like relationship’ (sleeping together, dates, seeing each other’s family, being thought of as a couple by others etc). Stay celibate or get married and financially dependent is the very strong message coming from the government to single parents.

  25. This has always been their message. Since colonisation, public policy has been shaping women’s decision-making around living arrangements.

  26. Amanda@25: How do you get into this lurk? I’d love to work at home, dogs at my feet, trackie dacks on legs, just typing out my own thinky-thoughts and getting them published whether they’re any good or not. How do you GET these gigs?

  27. Paid, I mean – I know blogging on weekends fits that description 😀

  28. Lets examine this sentence: “Yes, First Female Australian Prime Minister, your life choices were terrible.”

  29. Alex, you win the internet today.

%d bloggers like this: