TW: Discussions of rape culture and child sexual abuse
The 21st annual Ernie awards were held at NSW Parliament House last night, and for the first time I was there for the … festivities?
It’s a fun night, but also a little arduous. It’s fantastic to be in room with 400 (nearly all) women, to laugh and groan and boo together to take some of the sting out of the content of the evening. But listening to the nominations is also somewhat soul destroying. The disrespect, the stark reflections of rape culture, the dismissal and trivialising of half the population, is all so depressing.
If you’re not familiar with the Ernies, this is how it started:
Ernie Ecob was the secretary of the AWU, the old Shearers’ Union, and was famous for his comment that women only wanted to be shearers for the sex. Those of us involved in the trade union movement in NSW had battled with him on many occasions. So in May 1993 when he announced his resignation, Vicki Telfer from the CPSU suggested that we have a lunch to celebrate. And that’s how it all began. (from the Ernies website)
Go and check out the Ernies website for a description of how the whole thing works.
The winners were:
Media: Paul Sheehan for ’“The mask fell away” and Gillard came out “snarling, accusing Abbott of having a hatred of women, a man” he said – before his paper deleted it – “who unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters.”’
Industry: Students of Wesley College for their stubby holders saying “It’s not rape if it’s my birthday”
Political: Mal Brough for the menu listing for “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail”
Judicial: Professor Paul Wilson (criminologist) for this delightful gem of victim blaming - ‘‘child victims of adult sex offenders are generally willing or active participants, and that they not infrequently initiate the sexual relationship.’’
The Fred (celebrity): Alan Jones for the infamous “died of shame” comment (which was 3 days after last year’s Ernies, and therefore qualified)
The Warnie (sport): Nick Riewoldt, St Kilda captain for saying that his team mate should be able to continue to play while facing rape charges because he was the “heart and soul of football” and expressing his concern for the player’s family and friends.
All the categories were hotly contested, except for the Judicial Ernie. Tony Abbott received so many nominations in the political category, the crowd got bored of booing for them, and ended up sighing and eye rolling with fatigue. When we got to the Clinton (the Ernie for repeat offenders), a “Tony” chant was started before the nominations were read out. The only other nomination was for Alan Jones, but Abbott was a clear winner. He didn’t have a stand out quote of horrificness this year, but the exhausting list of nominations made the Clinton a guaranteed win for him.
The gold Ernie is chosen from the six silver winners, and there was a boo-off between Alan Jones, Wesley College and Paul Wilson, with Wesley College taking it out in a very close call.
The Elaine also had no shortage of worthy nominations, with the final decision coming down to a boo-off between Miranda Devine and Janet Albrechtsen (whodathunk it?). Albrechtsen won it with ”While lack of humour infects both sides of politics, the Labor girls in particular need to loosen their pigtails. In Canberra today, there are far too few Fred Dalys and far too many Tanya Pliberseks.” Unfortunately, I can’t actually remember which piece of Devine bile was the loser – the Elaines are awarded somewhat late in the night.
The Good Ernie went to Lt General David Morrison, for his “If you don’t like it, get out” speech. He was a clear winner.
I have a few grumbles with the results. As much as I understand the revulsion for Riewoldt’s comments, they were made about a person against whom charges had been laid, but had not yet been heard in court. The presumption of innocence, even with all the complications and problems with rape prosecutions, should be upheld. Having said that, presumption of innocence wasn’t the justification Riewoldt used, which is telling, but there were other, clearer nominations in my mind.
The Gold Ernie, I feel, went to the symptom, rather than the cause. Reports like the one written by Prof Paul Wilson institutionalise and legitimise rape culture and create an environment in which the students of Wesley College think those stubby holders are ok. Those students may go on to be the rape culture creators of the future, but right now, it’s the Paul Wilsons of this world who are seeking to embed it in our legal and social structures. It was interesting to see how many of the nominations related to rape culture, and I wonder if this is a recent development. (The recognition of it, not its existence.)
Of course, it’s a bunch of awards decided by booing and thumping on tables, so one shouldn’t take the finer details too seriously. The more important message is that there was so much to thump about I have a blister underneath my ring. There was barely enough time in the 3.5hr dinner to get through all the nominations. There is no risk of the awards becoming irrelevant any time soon.
I may need to take notes over the next 12 months to be able to make some nominations next year.