Like the Australian PM – but unlike most of the people holding forth on misogyny in Australia generally and this interview in particular – I have been interviewed by Howard Sattler. When he interviewed me, he was courteous, pleasant, and asked intelligent questions, despite the fact that some other media outlets had turned me into a hate figure.
In saying this, I do not wish to excuse his behaviour towards Julia Gillard. I think most of us can accept that this is a sacking offence, regardless of the respective positions of the interlocutors. I know what would happen to me if I asked something similar of a client; indeed, as Lt. General David Morrison (Australian Army) has pointed out this week, the number of workplaces that will tolerate this kind of sexist and homophobic crap is rapidly approaching nil.
However, I do wish to make a few observations on the fallout from Sattler’s sacking, and on the treatment of women in public life.
1. Many of the people rightly mortified at Gillard’s treatment by Sattler and others cheerfully posted (on Facebook and elsewhere) various ‘witch’ commentaries and accusations on the death of Margaret Thatcher. Some of them did so while having the singular gracelessness of purporting to be feminists at the same time. This means that they are aware of what such a label meant historically for women throughout the Christian and Islamic worlds. Yes, you know who you are. I think it is to my credit that I only unfriended one of you.
2. Conservative and libertarian women are routinely subjected to rank abuse: Ann Coulter, for example, is a frequent target for transphobic slurs. I am also old enough to remember what was meted out to Bronwyn Bishop and Pauline Hanson. Abuse of the latter was also infused with class-hatred of the vilest sort.
3. When it comes to invasive and biased media behaviour, my experience of left-leaning, middle-class media organisations was far worse than it was when it came to the tabloid right, both print and television. It was the ABC, for example, that obtained my parents’ telephone number by fraudulent means (I believe the kids these days refer to this as ‘phone hacking’). This is why I still want the ABC hacked into bleeding pieces, and hope Abbott proves to be a man of his word when he is elected PM. At least in Britain, I can refuse to own a television and thereby avoid the TV licence—the BBC is, in that sense, user-pays. In Australia, everyone who pays tax pays for a public broadcaster that—if it decides you are the enemy—behaves like the Sun.
4. If women are going to take their place in public life, then standards of civility and good manners need to apply to all women, of all political stripes. Playing the woman is as bad as playing the man, and if you wish to be taken seriously as a commentator, you may wish to think about that.
5. Poet Stevie Smith once asked why the word ‘pretty’ was so underrated. I have a similar question: why is the word ‘nice’ so underrated? Nice, it would seem, is damn difficult, something that takes a lifetime to achieve. And it isn’t even on lots of people’s radars.