While I know this is being written a little bit after the event, I still think the accusation of misogyny against Tony Abbott is still worth exploring. What is bothering me the most is that males keep wanting to define ‘misogyny’ as the attitude of someone who hates women.
Many otherwise respectable interviewers have bought into this debate. Tony Jones on Lateline kept asking Wayne Swan whether he agreed Tony Abbott was a women-hater. Many less respectable journalists have done the same thing - Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Paul Sheehan all ranted and raved about it. And whenever I raise it (in context) on Facebook, people – men – want to correct me, direct me to dictionaries and sneeringly tell me I do not know what the word means.
As it happens, I do know what misogyny means. I also know that language evolves, something that my erstwhile male friends apparently do not.
Mike Secombe, in Word of the day (12 October 2012 http://www.theglobalmail.org/blog/word-of-the-day/421/) points out that the word has changed its etymology. He quotes the Oxford English dictionary, and New York Times writer on language, the late William Safire. Safire says: “The word misogyny has since its earliest recording in 1656 meant “hate or contempt for women.” The etymology of misogyny is straightforward: In Greek, miso means “hatred,” and gune means “woman.” A misogynist is a woman-hater. When I looked up the word … in the Oxford English Dictionary online, however, I noted that the meaning of misogynist had changed, slightly but significantly. In 1989, the definition was “hatred of women”; in the 2002 revision, the definition was broadened to “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”
Julia Gillard correctly labeled Abbott a misogynist. He has clearly displayed prejudice against women when he said, on various occasions, gems such as: “if men have more power generally than women, is that a bad thing?”
Or that men might be “by physiology and temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.”
Abbott also challenged the “assumption” that women’s under-representation in positions of public power was “a bad thing”.
Secombe asks whether we should call this evidence of prejudice against women. I certainly think it is, so Abbott is, by definition of the Oxford English Dictionary and William Safire, a misogynist.
So why do otherwise rational men wish to leap to Tony Abbott’s defence?
I have discovered the answer to this. They all must have been reading the opinion of that unlamented and aging zealot of left wing politics, Bob Ellis.
In Sydney University’s newspaper Honi Soit, one Michael Koziol (October 17, 2012) interviewed this poor excuse of a man on how he viewed the world, the universe, the past and women. It was eye opening. Like Mary in the gospel of Luke, Michael Koziel waited breathlessly at the feet of the master or pearls of wisdom to be dispensed like manna from heaven.
For my part, I have to say Bob Ellis actually gives misogyny a really bad name. Misogyny would do well to disassociate itself from Bob Ellis. Misogyny is a pleasant state of being compared to the raging pot of bitter cynicism that is Bob Ellis. But I digress. Let us examine the article, which you can find at http://www.honisoit.com/2012/10/and-so-it-goes/#comment-2942
Bob Ellis is introduced as a writer. He may have been one once, even a good one. Apparently he even blessed the hallowed pages of Honi Soit, becoming editor in 1963.
Bob deplores the change in university life. What, no alcohol in the Union after 7? This is tantamount to the death of civilization. This alone guarantees the death knell of all creativity.
But this is not what weighs most heavily on his mind. Instead, it is the events in Canberra, including the now famous Gillard speech against Abbott, that has colonized his brain.
Ellis argues that forcing Slipper from the Speaker’s position sets ‘a scary and dangerous precedent'.
I now quote from the article:
The implication of his persecution, Ellis says, means that “two billion males who have derided the female part and are still living must be removed from their jobs”. The hysteria and the overreaction stem from what Ellis calls “wowser feminism”, and it incurs a wrath he might have once reserved for old enemies like John Howard.
“It’s a threat to everything. It has thus far destroyed the world by impinging on the electoral chances of Al Gore through the unhidden scandal of the blowjobs of Bill Clinton. Gore would not let Clinton, as he begged, campaign in Arkansas, which was then lost.
“The Gore presidency would have saved the world from global warming [but] wowser feminism destroyed the Gore presidency. And it may do worse. It’s horrible.”
So there you have it, fellow females. Those of us who are feminists are to blame not only for the miserable Slipper’s demise, but also for the fact that global warming continues checked.
In case you think this is not enough to be blamed for, Ellis goes on to blame ‘wowser feminism’ for the destruction of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the European Union. The woman he coerced into sex was obviously a fascist plant. Ellis sums it up:
“So wowser feminism has firstly destroyed the world, secondly the world economy, and now it’s coming after Australian freedom of speech.”
Ellis also doesn’t think Tony Abbott is a sexist. Mmmmmm. Apparently it is OK to stand in front of signs that say ‘ditch the witch’ and Gillard is ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’ and not be seen as encouraging sexist behavior.
Gillard, of course, has asked for this. After all, says Bob, “she’s never been to a play, she’s rarely been to a film with subtitles, she hasn’t read a novel since she was 18”. Says it all really. How much unfit can she be?
And there is that other dreadful woman of power across the sea, Hillary Clinton. Ellis describes the Clinton of 2008 as being of “towering frigidity”, describing her as “a stranger to consistency, sincerity and (at a guess) oral sex”. And Bob would know, wouldn’t he? Never mind about Hillary’s husband’s infidelity, Hillary was “frigid”.
Apparently Bob has also questioned how serious the allegations of sexual harassment are in those hallowed halls of the Australian Defence Force Academy.
“Women, it seems, are tough enough for service on any battlefront but not tough enough to be peeked at in the shower,” he wrote.
Of course, Bob knows about this as well. His polite and respectful descriptions of women in public have earned him the right to make such remarks. What would we women do without Bob to tell us we deserve to be peeked at in the shower? These remarks have really contributed to the debate about sexism. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just get back to my kitchen and start knitting those saucepans once more (see earlier blog).
The gallant author of the piece thinks that Ellis’ critics are wrong to see him as a misogynist. “This is a serious charge that demands serious evidence”, says young Michael. “How fair is it also for a younger generation to condemn an elder for not subscribing to the absolutist feminism of today?” he continues.
I would say absolutely fair. Bob Ellis’ views are appalling. Does he seriously believe that women, who he has blamed for destroying the world via global warming, the world economy, and Australia’s freedom of speech, will take him seriously and not see him as a misogynist?
Well, just in case you missed the point, Bob, let me tell you. I completely reject the notion put forward by yourself that “wowser” feminism is “destroying the world”. I totally reject responsibility for the economic problems of the European Union. And all feminism’s fault there is global warming? Oh, please. Let’s not talk about the companies with fossil fuels interests, and the politicians who support them. Let us blame all those nasty feminists, who through their wanting to reject sexism, and abuse of power, violence against women, and who are demanding a decent and civil society, are clearly destroying the very fabric of our world as we know it. Bob Ellis, you give even misogyny a bad name.
To come back to where I started. You go, Julia Gillard. You articulated what many women have experienced and felt, and were not able to respond to. You touched a nerve in our collective psyche, about bullying, sexism and creepy men like Bob Ellis who think because they are men they can get away with their offensive and misogynistic remarks.
I really don’t care about Peter Slipper’s sleazy schoolboy texts. But I do care about women being seen as equals. Despite the criticism she copped from the press, I felt Julia Gillard did defend women and their right to be heard, to hold positions of power, to be themselves. Now if only her male colleagues could follow suit.