BFTP: Obligatory Tony Abbott Said What Now? Thread

It’s a Summer Slowdown repost (originally published in February 2010). Just reminding everybody, in the midst of all the ink being wasted over a Rudd challenge that simply will not happen, that Tony Abbott still regularly reveals a mind-boggling worldview via ill-judged attempts to be charming and/or witty.

I’ve been discussing Tony Abbott’s interview with the Women’s Weekly elsewhere and neglecting to write about it here.

After conducting a charm offensive over the summer break and rejecting suggestions his conservative social views were a turnoff to women, the Liberal leader has been subjected to a grilling in the next edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly about his views on sex, marriage and his own daughters’ virginity. (The Australian)

Some of you may have been reading along with the several threads discussingAbbott’s statements, Julia Gillard’s response, and George Brandis’ response to Gillard over at LP. (For those reading from overseas, Abbott is the leader of the Federal Opposition, Julia Gillard is the Deputy Prime Minister, George Brandis is a Senator for Queensland in the Federal Parliament, and the Liberal Party in Australia is fiscally and mostly socially conservative.)

Make no mistake. Having the nation start up a debate on premarital sexuality when it’s an issue that has hardly been on the political radar is no mean feat, and Abbott is aiming to shift the Overton Window on this and other social matters. He’s quietly signalled that contraception is also on his agenda, since he makes a point of emphasising how in his view it has liberated men as much or even more than women, meaning that women are “used” as a result.

Here’s a couple of quotes from MSM editorials:

SMH: Virginia Hausegger

Virginity is not a ”gift”. To suggest it is, as Tony Abbott has, is absurdly childish. It’s also ridiculously romantic. None of which would matter if the discussion stopped there. But it doesn’t.

Instead, the Leader of the Opposition has raised the very ugly spectre of female virtue as a tradable, marketable, sellable commodity. By telling his daughters their virginity is ”the greatest gift that you can give someone” and ”the ultimate gift”, he’s unwittingly reduced their myriad talents, strengths and capacity to love to mere crumbs, compared to the single act of deflowering. Abbott’s logic suggests a female’s most precious and important asset- above all else – is her sex. And that asset is most highly prized when it’s presented new and unused.

My biggest turnoff with Abbott though is not just his slut-shaming views on sexual morality; it is just how readily he uses his private life to grandstand on sexual morality, and how callously he casts aside his family’s privacy to do so. When a young adoptee who Abbott thought was his illegitimate son with a university girlfriend sought a paternity test so that he could know for sure, Abbott trumpeted it all over the media about how wonderful it was that the mother had chosen not to abort, all before the test results were in, putting his family through the resultant scandal entirely unnecessarily since it turned out that Abbott was not the biological father after all. Then he tells a story about how his daughter allegedly called him a “lame, gay, churchy loser” in the privacy of their own home when he tried to talk about a sexual morality matter, just for the rhetorical self-deprecatory effect in a press conference, with no concern for how it makes his daughter appear judgemental (ableist, homophobic etc) in the public eye.

The Drum: Marieke Hardy

Mere seconds after Tony Abbot thrilled virginal types nationwide by suggesting their chaste choices were the height of coolness and La Gillard bit accordingly (get a room, you two), Liberal MP George ‘stop me before I kill again’ Brandis cut to the core of the matter.

“Would someone please shut this barren heathen up before she drags us all down to her hideous amoral level?” he seethed, or words to that effect, adding that J. Gillard should immediately cease and desist passing comment on anything related to: a. parenting and b. children, as she simply does not get it.

“I think Julia Gillard who is – has chosen not to be a parent – and, you know, everybody respects her right, in the vehemence of her reaction, in fact, shows that she just doesn’t understand the way parents think about their children when they reach a particular age,” was one particular point made, along with the fact that Gillard is “very much a one-dimensional person”.

Too true, Brandis. You forgot to add “in my day, women knew their place” and “I SAW GOODY GILLARD WITH THE DEVIL”, but I’m sure those particular press releases can be attended to in time.

I love (i.e. hate) how Brandis just assumes that Gillard is childless by choice. None of us knows whether it is a choice or not, and none of us need to know, either. As for his ridiculous idea that only people who have direct experience of parenting should express an opinion on premarital sexuality (any of us who have actual experience in premarital sex have no opinion worth hearing, obviously), is it any better for being a general smear on a large proportion of the electorate, rather than just smearing Gillard personally? I doubt that it will go down with the voters all that well, especially with new voters.

My favourite bit of Marieke’s piece though is this, which starts on a pithier version of the same point raised by Virginia Hausegger above and then skewers Brandis’ position. Emphasis added:

I don’t regret a moment of [losing my virginity], nor do I feel in that submitting to a beautifully awkward and momentarily painful experience left me with nothing left to “give” a suitor (limping along with merely a personality and mind to offer potential husbands, the shame of it).Whether or not parents insist that their little ladies keep their virginities as a lovely gift-set to unveil before future grooms is something I’m sure they’re able to figure out for themselves, though it’s nice to know Tony Abbott cares enough to spout forth.

I can’t speak any further about the subject as I’m not a parent and as George Brandis sensibly points out, nobody should pass opinion on anything ever unless they have hands-on experience and can prove it via depositions and authorised certificates.

Accordingly I look forward to his maintaining a dignified silence when it comes to matters of Indigenous affairs, refugees, the legalisation of drugs, and absolutely anything to do with vaginas unless he’s got a secret hidden one he’s not telling us about.

Which means that political debates in future shall be between white, middle-class people who are mostly gentlemen representing the population and what they think about tax-payer funded junkets and the intricacies of Parliament House catering. And I hope you all enjoy my future columns devoted to the topic of 33-year-old women who write for The Drum. Stop me if I get too one-dimensional.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, parenting, Politics

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