I haven’t posted here about Tony Abbott’s comments yesterday yet, mainly because I was a bit lost for words.
I was lost for words, but I wasn’t surprised.
Is it a bad thing when you aren’t surprised that the Prime Minister of the country you are living in inadvertently says something demeaning about women again?
I think it probably is.
I’m so tired of reading about these regular faux pas that I haven’t even read any of the internet backlash yet. I suspect it is fierce.
So, let’s recap. As well as being the current Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is the self- appointed ‘Minister for Women’. Many an eyebrow was raised when he announced this appointment due to his chequered history of making somewhat careless remarks about women and their role in society (I could list these, but this web page sums it up pretty well).
Yesterday, Lisa Wilkinson, the very successful journalist and TV presenter, asked Tony Abbott what he had done for women in his first 100 days since becoming Minster for Women.
He got rid of the carbon tax, which was good for women, because, and I quote, “as many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget.”
Do we really have to go here again?
Look. We can see that Tony’s comment was off the cuff. He wasn’t expecting the question, and this was a particularly terrible answer to give. But the problem is he keeps saying this stuff. Over and over. And it is a bit offensive. I heard this latest comment, and my first thought was ‘Does he really think the family budget is the most important issue to women in Australia? He’s a f@*king idiot.’
I don’t want to think that the leader of the country where I am raising my children is a f@*king idiot.
And this is what annoys me about Tony Abbott. He’s NOT an idiot. He’s a Rhodes Scholar, for goodness sake. I am acquainted with a Rhodes Scholar who works for the United Nations. This guy is currently working on a border dispute in South America. SERIOUS INTELLECTUAL STUFF.
I also still hold out hope that Abbott, the father of two daughters, isn’t actually sexist (although you’re really not helping me here, Tony).
Part of Abbott’s problem is a wider issue with Australian politics–that politicians feel that they need to talk down to the public if they want to stand any chance of getting voted in. God forbid that they’d appear out of touch, so instead they go out of their way to relate every comment back to ‘ordinary Australians’.
Add to this that the news here is reported in such a manner that only one sentence from a political speech makes an edited bulletin, and politicians also become addicted to soundbites, trying to explain a complex policy in just three words so ‘ordinary Australians’ can understand it (‘Stop the boats’ anyone?). The assumption is that the bulk of the population is ignorant.
This is the way Abbott has learnt to speak as Prime Minister – by over generalising, soundbiting and stereotyping – so we can’t be surprised when he comes out and unintentionally says things that patronising. In fact, no one is surprised. I assume most people reading his comments thought, “Oh no, what’s he said this time?” (He’s a bit like the Australian version of Prince Phillip, only not as funny).
God, I wish he’d stop the sweeping statements and the overgeneralisations. Every time he tries to talk down to us average Joes, it’s embarrassing in a dad-dancing-at-a-wedding kind of way, because he’s obviously not very good at it. So please Tony, just stop it. You’d never hear Obama talking about ‘the housewives of America doing the ironing’, would you? If Obama can communicate his ideas clearly and eloquently, surely Tony’s media team and speechwriters could pick up a few tips?
However, I would argue that this lazy stereotyping isn’t even the most disappointing thing about this entire debacle.
For me, it that fact that Tony Abbott couldn’t think of another achievement that his government, and he, as Minister for Women, has achieved for the women of Australia. Doesn’t that, in itself, speak volumes?
And THAT’s the issue. THAT’s what women across Australia should be angry about. Frankly, we deserve better.
For the record, as a mum who, yes, manages the family budget, (yes! I am one of Tony’s dream demographic!) and I can tell you that I don’t give a stuff about the government getting rid of the carbon tax. I think most mothers would actually forfeit the extra $50 a month if it means their children and grandchildren could grow up in a world that isn’t choking to death on its own toxic atmosphere.
What I’d really like is the Minister for Women to be making a difference to issues that really affect women – the gender paygap; the woeful lack of convictions in rape cases; the oversexualisation of young women in the media; a generation of women who left the workforce to take on caring responsibilities who are now living in poverty in retirement; childcare options that allow women to return to work without having to sacrifice over half their salary (as I have to) to do so. And that’s just off the top of my head, Tony.
So Prime Minister – let’s be honest, you’ve got a country to run. I think it’s time to hand over the Minister for Women baton to someone who knows about women’s stuff and has the time and dedication to tackle issues that affect women every day.
Maybe, even, a woman, perhaps?