When is anger allowed?

It seems not only that you can’t keep everyone happy all the time, some people you can’t keep happy at all. Especially if they are white male columnists in major newspapers. I won’t link to them all again, but there have been a lot of blokes (oops is that sexist?) upset with Gillard giving it with both barrels to Abbott over his history of misogyny and sexism. As HaT author Orlando said “About Bloody Time”. Fortunately there are many others: bloggers, tweeters, and non-MSM columnists, male and female, applauding Gillard finally unleashing her anger. It must have felt good.

But there are also others angry with Gillard for other reasons. Their anger is from a few different sources; the two main ones I have seen are the change in single parent payments and same sex marriage. Where was Gillard’s righteous anger when the same sex marriage debate was on and where was her defense of women [and male single parents] when the changes to the single parent pension were voted on?

I’m ashamed to admit my first response was ‘can’t you just be happy that she did this?’. Then the snide* little voice that lives in my head said ‘yes why can’t they wait their turn’ and I was suddenly thinking of Obama telling LGQBTI people in the US to wait, their time was coming they just need to be patient a little longer. I think it was the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation that was the issue at the time. That legislation was finally repealed but still the lesson remained – why does someone always have to wait until a better time to raise the issue, a time that never comes?

If you raise these issues when Gillard is riding high, you are accused of trying to bring her down. If you raise the issue when Gillard is trailing in the polls you are accused of trying to destroy her chances. If you raise these issues when everything is going smoothly then you are accused of rocking the boat. But it is 2012. Single parents are set to lose their pension and be put onto Newstart allowance when their youngest child reaches 8 and that’s a difference in payment of up to $140 per week. That is a large slice of your income when you are supporting yourself and at least one child. Same sex marriage has been on the agenda for years but still nothing. The Intervention has been going on for years but I don’t see that many changes coming out of the NT.

I realised that this was the best time. Gillard had just given one of the best speeches of her PM’ship and those people raising those other questions were proud of her, but also disappointed that she had failed them in other ways. I get that now. Gillard is not just PM for white, cis, het women who liked her speech she is PM of Australia and every Australian has the right to give voice to their needs and wants. Now is the time to remind the PM of that, to tell her how proud we are and how we want and need her to continue in this vein. Don’t give up on single parents, don’t take crap from old white men – including the ones running the Unions, don’t treat our First Australians like second class citizens, and make some serious changes. You did it with putting a price on carbon despite the cost to you politically, do it with same sex marriage and supporting Aboriginal rights and single parents too. Be written in the history books as not only Australia’s first female PM, but an outstanding PM in your own right. Now is the time. Please.


* that f’ing little voice could give lessons in snide, seriously.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, Politics, work and family

Tags: , , , ,

28 replies

  1. Thanks for writing this, Mindy. I’ve been having very similar thoughts swirling around, especially since reading Ariane’s excellent piece yesterday.
    As you advise:

    Don’t give up on single parents, don’t take crap from old white men – including the ones running the Unions, don’t treat our First Australians like second class citizens, and make some serious changes. You did it with putting a price on carbon despite the cost to you politically, do it with same sex marriage and supporting Aboriginal rights and single parents too. Be written in the history books as not only Australia’s first female PM, but an outstanding PM in your own right. Now is the time. Please.

    Yes, please. Gillard gets her strongest support from Australians when she allows her passion to shine through and aims it at deserving targets.
    Prime Minister, Australians want a leader who stands for something! Don’t allow the reactionaries to frame all the policy debates and FFS stop listening to Sussex Street (talking about reactionaries) – stand up for those who are getting the short end of the stick and don’t let the “experts” talk you out of using your passion and anger constructively and visibly.

  2. The point at which my heart literally broke was when they did the fendangling with Slipper to get the numbers to avoid doing the proper pokies reform.

    I feel I need to point out it was Julia, as deputy leader, who was one of the voices that convinced Rudd to put the carbon tax on the back burner. She sure has copped a lot of heat for pushing it through now.

    There are so many real issues that the current Labor government can be attacked on, that to bring the level of discourse down to the level of attacks based on anything to do with gender, it is not only degrading, misogynist, and inappropriate, it also misses the flipping point and is completely incompetent.

  3. Clinton, if you feel compelled to mention Gillard’s role in the delay of the CPRS, I feel compelled to point out that her role in that matter has been consistently over-played. The story is more complex, as I outlined here. There were at least a dozen people in the room.
    Rudd decided to do it his way, but then didn’t explain it well. Gillard’s stress on the need for bipartisanship was defensible and one of her better moments when Rudd ruled out the double dissolution option. Rudd needs to take the responsibility for the decision.
    Not many leaders please us all the time. The proposal to put single mothers on Newstart is appalling Labor policy but wouldn’t have been passed if the LNP had opposed it. It’s been on the books for a long time, a budget saving dressed up as encouraging mothers into the workplace, which is universally deemed to be better for them. Not sure where it came from but it wouldn’t be there if either Swan or Gillard had opposed it.
    Part of the issue with Abbott’s motion on Slipper was that it was a motion without notice, which put it in the category of a political stunt. Gillard had every right to treat it with contempt and unload about his hypocrisy in the way she did. But we need to be angry about Labor’s single mother policy and the LNP’s failure to oppose it.

  4. First Dog on the Moon at Crikey has a similar analysis to Mindy, but with pictures.

  5. Clinton: yes, for sure, discussing sexism is never appropriate. Especially when there are “real problems.” Being insulted your whole life, being shortchanged your whole life, being under threat of physical attack your whole life, those should, of course, not be mentioned. It’s not the right time for it, I suppose.

  6. I think everyone has said or done something sexist in their lives, so almost everyone is a hypocrite in that respect. Abbott is a hypocrite, and so is Gillard. The fact that there is an element of hypocrisy there doesn’t somehow disqualify you from calling out sexism of others of course.
    If you subscribe to an intersectional understanding of feminism, then of course it is going to be in part hypocritical for Gillard to start grilling into someone about their sexism, given her stance on ‘marriage equality’, asulym seekers, and, inter alia, what is happening with single parents and Newstart allowance.
    There was no voice in my head responding to this criticism of Gillard by saying ‘oh can’t they just wait’ etc. The speech was good, though I didn’t feel any sense of jubilation like many people did. That is because I know her government has been willing to leave a lot of people behind, and I don’t think that is a very feministic thing to do.

  7. *asylum

  8. There was a pretty obvious pattern to those people calling Julia Gillard a hypocrite because she doesn’t support same-sex marriage (at least on my and my friends’ facebook and twitter) over the last few days: almost every single person making that specific point was a gay identified man. And most of them, when pressed, ended up spending a significant amount of time explaining why it was perfectly legitimate for them to use the words “bitch” and “cunt” to describe women, or, in some cases, started bringing out some variation on the JuLiar meme.
    I don’t think that’s an issue of ‘wait your turn’. That’s an issue of many gay men insisting that every discussion that happens has to be supplanted by a discussion of marriage equality, and frankly as a queer man who takes sexism seriously it’s not a pattern I’m willing to tolerate. If Julia Gillard can’t talk about sexism because of her position on marriage equality then gay men are hereby banned from complaining about it until they stop using sexist slurs, making jokes about how disgusting women’s bodies are, throwing around the word ‘trannie’ as if they have some kind of right to it or engaging in any other of the nasty misogynist habits ubiquitous to the community and for which Peter Slipper has been rightfully excoriated.
    To borrow a phrase, I will not be lectured on hipocrisy by these men.

  9. On my Twitter feed, it was largely activist queer feminist women who were being cautious about Gillard’s speech in the context of her politics, so the theme Li identifies in (partial) opposition was not universal.

  10. For the record, I’m not talking about raising Gillard’s general policies here or even the Newstart change, which has definitely come from activist queer women I interact with. I definitely think there’s room to be pretty suspicious of Gillard’s version of feminism. What I’m talking about is specifically when marriage equality and marriage equality alone is raised as evidence of her hipocrisy and is used as a reason to dismiss what she says about the sexism in Australian political culture. “Let’s not forget that Julia Gillard’s government has introduced a number of policies that actively harm the most vulnerable members of society” is a different statement to “She’s a hypocrite. What about same-sex marriage?”. One’s completely on the money, one is becoming a really persistent canard among gay men looking for a reason to call Julia Gillard a bitch.

  11. tl;dr: Criticism of Gillard’s feminist bona fides is legit, and comes from a number of directions, the specific criticism that Gillard is a “insert slur here” for opposing marriage equality and therefore was a total hypocrite for calling Abbott on his sexism has in my experience been pretty heavily gendered in who it has been coming from.

  12. I enjoyed Gillard’s speech and thought it was an amazing thing to hear her say in parliament. But, and not taking away from what she said, I did think it was curious that both the Liberals in raising the issue and Gillard in response chose to characterise the problem with Slipper’s text as misogyny and not homophobic bullying. Now, of course they were misogynist, but that constant stream of horrible descriptions about women’s genitalia directed at a gay man were clearly taunts of a homophobic nature. It’s interesting that they decided that this wasn’t an issue they were going to acknowledge in this debate.

  13. Mindy, everything you say here is true, and I will write the kind of letter you describe, but I instinctively came this issue from the opposite direction. I spend so much time being angry and disappointed with Gillard and this supposedly Labor government for all the things you state above, plus shafting Wilkie on pokies reform, continuing with detention for asylum seekers, and allowing what was once a world-class tertiary education system to disintegrate. So much time. So can’t I please have this one moment, a day, maybe even a couple of days to feel thrilled and proud and hopeful? Can’t we give ourselves even that much of a break?

  14. I read the texts as really awkward flirting. And by flirting, I mean sexual harassment. Though that’s probably just evidence that some people’s idea of flirting is indistinguishable from bullying anyway.

  15. Here is the document tendered to the Federal Court. Peter Slipper’s texts are highlighted in yellow.

    • Li, thanks for the link to the texts transcript. I agree the texts come across as awkwardly flirtatious, and although the sexism is undeniably there it’s of the everyday sort rather than the systematic sort. That doesn’t make it right, or anything that should be ignored, but it does make it far less offensive than Abbott’s public record of sexist statements/policies.
      angharad, I loved this wrap-up from The Hairpin:

      Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia, who is not, like, perfect, or anything, still managed to deliver a tirade of such eloquent, withering rhetoric as to be ideal for a scene in a movie in which a character has Been Pushed Too Far, and we have been watching it ping around the blogosphere like a video of cats snuggling dancing babies ever since. Why is it proving so popular?

  16. There’s a couple of interesting articles on the Drum about the difference in the response to the speech between the mainstream media and the online world. Let’s see if I can find them…
    <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4305220.htmlhttp://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4305220.html</a&gt;
    <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-11/holmes-press-gallery-vs-twitter/4307674http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-11/holmes-press-gallery-vs-twitter/4307674</a&gt;
    I think it’s quite possible to acknowledge that someone you disagree with has said/done something awesome (although admittedly the closer that thing is to the point(s) of disagreement the harder it is to believe).

  17. Thanks Orlando, I hadn’t thought of it from that direction, obviously. On Wilkie, I’m a lot more cynical about him than Gillard.

  18. Herald columnist Michelle Grattan has very strange priorities. If I am faced with a man who thinks my vulva looks like a shell-less mussel (am I the only one surprised that he didn’t go with ‘bearded’?) and a man who thinks I am not physiologically suited to the exercising of authority, I sure know who I think is the bigger threat to my chances of living my life unfettered by discrimination.

  19. Sorry, forgot to add the link.

  20. I think that it’s possible for it to be both homophobic and an attempt at flirting and sexist at the same time. If Glee has taught us anything, it is that inside many a homophobic bully is a repressed homosexual! 😉
    More seriously, especially in his early texts, where he suggests that he could get him a date with a woman to change his ways, his discussion of ‘mussels’, and his constant, constant, constant questions about his sex life, all read as homophobic, intrusive and bullying. That he was doing it as a form of flirtation doesn’t really detract from that, and I do acknowledge that sexually harrassing a woman wouldn’t look that much different. In fact, you could even read this as a fairly classic sexual harrassment strategy- demean, force into awkward conversations about sex, exploit in a weak moment.

  21. “The point at which my heart literally broke was when they did the fendangling with Slipper to get the numbers to avoid doing the proper pokies reform.”
    What absolute rubbish. They didn’t have the numbers to pass “proper” pokies reform with or without Slipper.
    Also, it may be news to you, but sexism IS a “real” issue.

  22. So fucking sick of this ‘she’s a politician it was all for show’ bullshit. So you don’t like Gillard, good for you but when did she stop being fucking human?

  23. ‘the sexism is undeniably there it’s of the everyday sort rather than the systematic sort’
    I take on board Orlando’s comment that follows this, but seriously? Systematic and everyday sexism don’t exist as some sort of dichotomy. You only have to look at examples such as The Microaggressions Project and The Everyday Sexism Project to realise this.
    Sysematic and everyday sexism feed off each other and are inseparable. You can’t tear them apart so to speak in order to create a hierarchy of one over the other, it doesn’t work like that.

  24. I agree there’s no dichotomy, but it would sometimes be handy to have a bit more vocab for different kinds of sexism. I do find “everyday sexism” (wolf-whistling, shops/services that assumes my ladybrain can’t know anything about eg computers) different from “challenge” sexism (that I don’t deserve the job I am fully qualified for, that Gillard can’t be prime minister – i.e. you’ve actually already proven what is being challenged); there’s also “private” sexism vs “public” sexism, particularly the stuff with undercurrents of “if anyone else sticks their head up, this is how we’ll hammer you down” (Bishop seems to be taking that job on ATM).

  25. Beautifully said, Mindy. I saw her speech as a step in the right direction. I celebrated it, enjoyed it, felt wonderful about it, but acknowledged that, as a queer woman, there is still a long way to go.

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