It’s not the women that are broken, it’s the system – a counterargument

It’s not often I take the time to read opinion articles before 8:00 am. I’m typically bleary eyed, in need of caffeine, and not predisposed to be incredibly open-minded. This morning was an exception, and boy, do I regret that decision.

Over my morning bowl of cereal, I commenced reading the article entitled ‘Handbag Hit Squad hypocrisy damages merit based success’, by Nicolle Flint, a Ph.D student at Flinders University. Within three minutes, I was making muffled noises of outrage around my mouthfuls of cereal, and my boyfriend was slowly edging further and further away from me across the breakfast table.

In the first instance, the very headline itself is problematic. The term “handbag hit squad” is unnecessary, and prejudicious; as is Flint claiming  that Monica Dux recently ‘bemoaned’ women being written out of a literary world. She did not ‘bemoan’ this issue, and nor did any of these female Labor politicians hit anyone with their handbag (metaphorically or literally). What they have both done is highlighted a long-standing trend, both within and outside of, the literary world. Quite simply, they discussed inbuilt, institutionalised sexism.

The claim by Flint that Tony Abbott is not sexist is, quite frankly, laughable. Simply because he “does extensive charity work” and “employs a female chief of staff” does not immediately equate him to a champion for equality. Allow me to refresh everyone on some of Tony’s Abbott’s more pernicious comments:

“The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.”

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”

“I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand. I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak”

Now, this is just a small selection of quotes – I have plenty more where they came from. What these quotes do demonstrate is an underlying concept of Abbott’s that women just aren’t as inclined to dominate ‘certain areas’, and their bodies are not necessarily always their own when it comes to marital sex.

What else would you call these quotes, but sexism? They’re certainly not humanist. They’re not supporting the idea of equality. In every quote mentioned above, the idea is about controlling women. Controlling their reproductive rights, controlling how and when they have sex, and even attempting to control their ‘aptitudes, abilities and interests’ – because of ‘physiological reasons’, of course. And no matter how many episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ Tony watches, it will not change the fact that he still believes these things.

Moving on, and Flint proceeds to discuss the “inconvenient truth” related to women and work – namely, a growing body of anecdotal research from the literary and theatrical spheres that suggest that women bear a large degree of responsibility for their alleged, and statistically questionable, under-representation in both fields. She then makes the somewhat unrelated claim that women are “less likely to pitch” for work with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (this is ‘journalism’, and is not heavily related to ‘literature’, and the Miles Franklin Award).

Putting aside the fact that evidence is anecdotal (as a fellow Ph.D student, I quite frankly expected her to have better research), there are facts in this piece that ring true. For example, Flint presents a study that found that of male and female professional artists in Australia, only 48% of men felt that their children had restricted their work, whilst a whopping 81% on women felt the same way. Another study found that there was a lack of women in playwright and directing roles within Australia, and that women in theatre are much more likely to have a ‘flexible’ career path, and work part-time to support their partner’s career.

However, Flint’s conclusion to this evidence is to simply suggest that “if women are not applying or pitching for work… and are assuming moe responsibility for their domestic life and their partner with the resultant career ramifications, claims of industry sexism and prejudice and tenuous indeed”.

(This was the point where I spat out my cereal).

Again, this suggestion is both at best laughable, and at worst, insulting. Did it not occur to Flint that perhaps it is the system that is broken, not the women? That workplaces need to do more to accommodate women’s careers, and their families?

It’s incredibly telling that 81% of women in the theatre industry felt that having children restricted their work, as opposed to only 48% of men. Is this simply because the women actually do more with their children than the men (not to mention the oft-cited ‘second shift’, whereby women also do the majority of domestic labour)?

Finally, Flint’s suggestion that women “need their own special award to be recognised” is insulting to the previous winners of the Stella Prize. Again – it’s not the women that are broken here, it’s the system. I don’t intend to remove agency from women here, because up to a point, it is their own choice about children, ‘flexible’ careers, et al. However, the system does not always work in their favour, and will not support their choices (see: every single interview of a woman aged between 25-35, and the interviewers trying to scope if she intends to have children any time soon).

If women cannot always *fix* the system, then they can damn well create an alternate. This goes for literature, for theatre, for workplaces that have paid parental leave, , and for any other situation in which women simply try to even the playing field. I would suggest that Flint go away, and examine the multitude of articles discussing sexism in the workplace, and how it is not simply a case of saying that it is entirely a woman’s fault that she is left holding the mop, broom and children.

Dear Goddess Greer

Dear Goddess Greer,

I am writing to discuss with you your recent column, published in the Good Weekend section of The Age. I am one of your many unworthy minions, out there every day supporting and defending feminism against the crazy imbeciles who have next to no idea about what feminism actually is. In short, I am unworthy – but please take pity upon me for a moment, because we need to talk.

Specifically, we need to talk about your opinions on this other strong, independent woman:

Good ol’ J- Gillard. J-to-the-nizzle. Joo-lee-ah. Jooooles. Aka, our current Prime Minister.  One who is, albeit, struggling in a wee bit the polls, but who nonetheless deserves a bit of respect for simply obtaining the Prime Ministership in the first damn place. *insert feminist cheer and high-five here*

Germaine. Ms. Greer. Your Professorship. I am not here to tell you what to do (mostly because I am afraid you will destroy me with a single, withering glance). Rather, I am here to express my disappointment about the aforementioned article you wrote last Saturday.

Shall we begin?

“Few issues can be less important than what the Prime Minister wears. As long as prime ministers are male that is. Nobody knows how many suits a male prime minister might have, and nobody cares. An appearance before the public in a brown suit might cause a frisson, and blue isn’t seen all that often, but as long as the general impression is subfusc, he will pass muster. The issue of collar and tie has been resolved in even the torridest parts of Australia in favour of that combination.”

I cannot agree more. And yet, how hideous is it that this is the case – that a woman is still judged more on what she wears, rather than what she does? Why don’t we all stop this hoo-hah right now?

“For women heads of government the issue of what they wear is crucial. No matter how heavy her workload the female prime minister must appear ”groomed”, that is, with not a hair out of place, uncreased and uncrumpled. She must smile…..A female politician is expected to look serene and unruffled; if she looks as if she has any appreciation of the momentousness of what she may be called upon to say or do, she will be described as looking grim or worried. Julia Gillard wears her face like a china mask; even when she is sneering bitterly at an opponent, her face is smooth, her expression of the blandest. Her smile may not be dazzling but it is ready.”

Again, I agree that what women wear is crucial – and yet, I try to place as little emphasis on it as possible. I instead try to focus on what they do. Given, if Julia turned up to work in a bikini and board shorts (or, Lord forbid, some budgie smugglers) I might have a little trouble focusing on what she’s saying – but all this crying and pearl clutching over her jackets? No.

I am also in agreeance that Julia “wears her face like a china mask” – in that yes, she does sometimes appear to be a bit impassive. She’s probably wondering about what she’s going to have for dinner. If I had Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott bleating at me from across the floor in the House of Reps, I too, might tire of this after a while. And if I were her, my solution would be to get a bit more angry occasionally. But then again, I am not a political advisor, and nor am I Julia (because if I was, I would have marched across the House of Representatives to stick a well placed heel up Abbott’s arse. But I digress.)

My point here is this: by simply adding to the continuing commentary and criticism of Julia Gillard’s appearance and expressions, you are not doing anyone an ounce of good. Attack her politics, by all means. Attack her carbon tax, or her stance on gay marriage, or any other form of policy that has seriously pissed you and got on your goat in the last few years. But please, please, PLEASE do not attack her appearance. Because by doing this, you just add to the overloaded pile of shitty, snarky comments about What Women Wear and Why They Are Wearing It Wrong. And no one needs to hear that.

“Julia Gillard isn’t a clothes horse. She’s a hard-working professional politician, but she isn’t allowed to look like one. Hence the dreaded jackets. Underneath are her workclothes, the same black pants and black top she once would have worn under her gown for court appearances. The jackets are intended to brighten up her image, each one fresh out of the box. Instead she looks as if she’s wearing clothes that don’t belong to her, like an organ-grinder’s monkey.”

I am a little confused about this paragraph. Are you critiquing the system in which Julia is not allowed to look like a politician? Are you simply saying that she should dress more like a hard-working politician?

If it is the first one, by all means – carry on. If it’s the second, well, I am still confused. Because surely we can tell that she is a hard-working politician without consulting her wardrobe?

“There must be decent dressmakers left somewhere in Australia but Julia’s wardrobe-meisters haven’t found them. A jacket that rides up and creases between the shoulder blades is worse than no jacket at all. If Labour is not to be annihilated in the next election, something has to give. The Prime Minister’s stage-managed image is less interesting and engaging than the real person we used to know. I think Australians are big enough to cope with the sight of their female Prime Minister in shirt-sleeves.”

Okay. I see. In this part, you are critiquing the stage-managed image of Julia Gillard here.

If you were one of my university students (please, dear God, make this happen. But give me sufficient time to gird my loins beforehand), this would be the point at which I add a little comment saying, “You need to make this part clearer. Move this point up a few lines, and emphasise that you are critiquing the stage management of Julia Gillard, not the woman herself. Otherwise, it appears that you simply have a deep-seated hatred for Julia’s jackets.”

Make it clear, Goddess Greer. Make it clear. Because otherwise, you appear to simply be joining the uninformed masses in criticising a woman’s image, and not her actions.

Look, Germaine: you stand for a lot. You are everything I want to be when I grow up. You deal out snarky, cranky opinions on every single topic that pisses you off. You attract equal amounts of love and hate wherever you go, and you made a dent the size of an asteroid in the field of feminism. And for that, I adore you.

But it makes me immensely sad to see one woman critiquing another’s appearance. I understand that it happens, and that everyone does it to some extent. But your voice is so wonderful for feminism, and so loud, and so well-known that I can do nothing but beg you to please use it more wisely. Can we please not turn this into a Fashion 101 session for women, and instead focus on Julia’s politics?

Yours in true servitude and awe,


Miranda Devine: Please, step right up

Hi, Miranda! I’d like to extend a personal welcome to you- you’re new hear at YADTW. In honour of your first mention, I bought you this cupcake. I thought it might settle you down.

What? You don’t want a cupcake? Are you insane?

Okay, no need to be all serious. It’s okay, we’re alone. And no, I haven’t hidden any of those spawn-of-Satan lefties in the cupboard. Don’t worry, they’re off campaigning for more hospital beds, or some other silly issue.

Now, we need to have a chat, Miranda. About this. Yes, I know, you’ve “got to be polarising” with your columns.You can’t just “sit on the fence”. But, really, love? I mean, you’re jumping from Abbott to DJ’s to Alannah Hill so quickly I got a little dizzy. But let’s break this down, okay?

You said:

“Karen Willis of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre was outraged: ”This sort of phrase isn’t a joke, it’s really a very clear statement about people’s rights to say no to sexual advances and sexual activity when that’s what they choose.”

Now Abbott is no better than a rapist. What an insult to a family man who is anything but anti-women.”

Uh, Miranda? I missed the bit where someone called Abbott ‘no better than a racist’. If I was your mother, I would have told you that you’re jumping to a few conclusions here. Seeing as I’m NOT mother, I’m going to go ahead and say “WTF, BRO?”

Ahem. Right. Moving along.

You said:

“It is just this kind of hysterical overreach that is behind the $37 million sexual harassment lawsuit launched against David Jones by its former publicist, Kristy Fraser-Kirk, 27. By claiming that absurd amount, she has lost credibility. The sympathy and respect she earned from her initial dignified and private handling of the case flew out the window. She is no longer seen as a victim but as another litigious, gold-digging, high umbrage woman egged on by lawyers using feminism to advance a personal cause.”

Miranda. What have I said about you, and conclusions, and all this jumping you’re making? Who’s seeing Kristy Fraser-Kirk as a ‘litigious, gold-digging, high umbrage woman’? I’m not. I’ve seen very few people in the media say this.

Oh, what? You do? Oh, so because YOU see her as this, it’s okay to print it? Opinion article? YOUR opinion?

Well, Miranda, maybe you need clarify it a little. You could just say “I no longer see her as a victim, but instead as a gold-digging beeatch”. Then we could all just roll our eyes, shrug, and get on with our day.

Right. Next one.

You said:

“Why the need for a $37 million lawsuit, even if Fraser-Kirk plans to give any punitive damages to charity? Enormous lawsuits are the bane of our lives, feathering the slick corporate nests of the burgeoning law firms in this city, increasing costs of insurance, ruining community activities.”

Gosh, you are SO RIGHT. I am just SO SICK of these enormous lawsuits. They ARE just such a bane of my life. God, Kristy, stop your bitching and moaning already, because we, the Australian Public, are just, like, SO OVER these enormous lawsuits.

You’re just spot on there, Miranda. Totally right. She shouldn’t sue them, because that involves a big, ginormous lawsuit, and then there’ll be ATTENTION on sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Unpleasant, affronting, and unforgivable though McInnes’s alleged behaviour was, this is the worst of her complaints. Is it worth $37 million?”

Um. Yes. Yes it is. Especially because Kristy’s donating it to charity. Miranda, you mentioned in your article the word ‘punitive’, but I’m not sure if you actually got some minion to go look it up for you. Luckily, I am HERE TO HELP!

Punitive damages or exemplary damages are damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in conduct similar to that which formed the basis of the lawsuit.” (Cheers, Wikipedia)

Miranda. Darling. See that? ‘Reform or deter’. That’s right. She’s seeking that much money because she doesn’t WANT THIS TO HAPPEN AGAIN. She’s going after a big-arse company- clearly, it would be different if she was working at the local milk bar.

“In any case, comments by the designer, Alannah Hill, making light of Fraser-Kirk’s lawsuit, tell you how complicated sexual politics can be today, with some women evidently welcoming McInnes’s passes”

But. You didn’t actually mention the fact that Alannah Hill is a world-class, first degree idiot. Honestly. Using her quotes in your article to assist you making a point only makes you look that much more of a moron. Sexual politics aren’t that complicated. When Kristy made it clear to McInnes that his affections weren’t welcome, he should have stopped. EASY. BUT HE DIDN’T. Probably because idiots like Alannah Hill are still out there, shooting their mouths off.

“Hysterical legal hyperbole does not help women of any age. Greedy lawsuits only damage women in the workplace by making male colleagues resentful and wary. In the real world, this is a severe handicap for women making their way on their own merits.”

How does a lawsuit that is seeking punitive damages hurt women in the workplace? It makes it clear to men that this behaviour is unacceptable. And you know what? I don’t give a flying fuck how resentful or wary the men in my workplace are. I would prefer them resentful and wary as opposed to slipping their hands on my arse, up my back and on my breasts. Go and think about that one, Miranda.

Andrew Bolt vs Andrew Bolt

In case you’ve been living under a rock today, Andrew Bolt is having a bit of a tanty. All because someone stole his identity.

Oh, Andy, when will you learn? You annoy people for long enough and they’re bound to find a way to annoy you back. Your reaction only adds fuel to the fire (but please, keep piling it on- as I’ve said before, your extreme ignorance is entertaining).

But I thought I’d do a bit of a comparison just to see how far apart these two Andrew Bolts are. The results…well, they’re disturbing.


Real Andrew: “The question is: is Kevin Rudd’s softening of rules against illegal boat people luring more to take to the sea?”

Twitter Andrew:” I’m not saying @kochie_online is an illegal immigrant, but how else could he have such treasonous views?

Conclusion: Boys, boys, boys. They’re NOT illegal. Boat people are NOT ILLEGAL. Deep breathes, Andrews…I know it’s hard to believe….but if people are threatened with torture, murder, or other heinous crimes…they are ALLOWED TO FLEE.

(As a side note, that little article by Kochie is a bit of a pleasant surprise from a man that asked whether “Australia was ready for a female PM”).


Real Andrew: “The propagandists who invented the “stolen generations” myth have blood on their hands.”

Twitter Andrew:”Mal Brown is wrong, Aboriginies weren’t cannibals, they were savages.”

Conclusion: Real Andy still seems to believe that the stolen generations were a particularly nasty bedtime story made up by those evil left wing feminists…while Twitter Andy is just blatantly racist. Which do I prefer? At least Twitter Andy says what he’s really thinking, as opposed to simply denying that the whole thing ever happened.


Real Andrew: …you need to go read his column. No, really, clickity click, please

Twitter Andrew:…strangely silent. No comments of Marieke that I have witnessed. I suspect it’s only a matter of time.


Real Andrew:  “If Tony Abbott doesn’t have women around him, his critics are free to claim he’s got a “women problem”.

But when his normally too-shy wife stands next to him, Abbott’s critics change tack. Now he’s got a problem with single women.”

Twitter Andrew: “Abbott didnt take his shirt off during the debate, but he did make sure to point at this his mother was almost certainly a woman”

Conclusion: Pretty much the same. Real Andy’s up in arms about the fact that someone’s criticizing Tony’s ways with the lay-dees, while Twitter Andy heads vaguely in the same direction…but in a much more Lefty fashion.

I have one final thought for our respective Bolts:

Twitter Andy: Kick on, good sir! Keep proving that Real Andy is more prone to tantrums than a 3 year old! You are doing a fine job at showing Andy that the more he gives out, the more he’ll get back. Additionally- you’re much more entertaining. I don’t suppose you’re following this ‘Bolt Bingo’ image to write your tweets?

Real Andrew Bolt: The thought didn’t cross your mind that those evil, conniving left wing sons-of-bitches might try and impersonate your good self online? The Internet really is the source of all evil, is it not? It produces the devil’s spawn, like that Marieke Hardy child. You need to show these young up-starts who is boss, and sue their left wings pants right off them. Go on, Andy, do it….then we can all laugh at you.