On Gillard’s Misogyny Furore

by on 26 May, 2013

When Julia Gillard called Tony Abbott a misogynist in federal parliament
in October last year, it did a severe disservice to women everywhere, writes Jack Baker.

Attempting to bring Abbott to the lowest of the low for a political
stunt downplayed and minimised the seriousness of men who are actual
misogynists.

A misogynist is by definition a “person who hates women”. Gillard
has been read this definition several times in interviews. She has
had the opportunity to clarify her remarks and explain that she
didn’t actually believe Abbott hates women. Yet she has repeatedly
said that she stands by her claims. As a former lawyer, Gillard knows
that words are powerful. Yet she has shown a constant willingness to
mislead for attempted political advantage.
 

Men who perpetrate violence, hatred and sexual violence against women and
girls are the real misogynists. Abbott is clearly not one of them.
The fact that this needs to be said shows how out-of-touch Gillard’s
speech was.

Abbott has been married for over thirty years. His wife Margie runs a
community-based childcare centre, a demanding job as any childcare
worker knows. The couple have three daughters who unabashedly adore
their father, and whom he clearly loves and respects. Abbott’s
sister, who publicly disagrees with him on a number of political
issues, as happens within many families, describes how supportive and
respectful her brother is to her and her lifestyle choices.

Professionally, Abbott surrounds himself with highly competent and influential women,
whose opinions he values, and who respect him in turn. For the past
fifteen years, he has always had a female in charge of his office.
His current chief of staff is Peta Credlin, who has spoken about
Abbott’s compassionate support for her fertility treatments. His
deputy leader is the devastatingly effective Julie Bishop.

Naval Lieutenant Commander and Barrister Sophie York has known Abbott since
1999. She describes him as “a very genuine, kind, and refreshingly
forthright person. He pays you the compliment of fully jousting
political issues and doesn’t pull back because you are a woman,
which would simply be insulting”. She further notes that “he is a
remarkable listener and not ego driven”.

Now contrast these attributes and the way Abbott treats the plethora of
women in his life with the men who oppress women and girls around the
world and in Australia. Women and girls contend with a litany of
abuses every day. Offences include domestic violence, rape, honour
killings, and the abhorrent crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Placing Abbott on the same level as the men who perpetrate these
crimes downplays them in a horribly cavalier way. Calling him a
misogynist lowers the common denominator of what this term actually
entails, resulting in the above crimes seeming less important in
comparison.

The fact that Abbott has recently been polled as having higher approval
ratings among both women and men then Gillard shows that the
Australian population didn’t buy it. Nor should they! As
Julie Bishop said, it was a “vile charge” and “an utter and
absolute lie and the prime minister knows it”.
Let’s look at examples of actual misogyny.


Misogyny is when girls have Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) performed on them, which involves the barbaric practise of cutting away part of or the entire clitoris. 

The pain and subsequent medical conditions this
practise results in are horrific. Any backing down in relation to
this abhorrent practice and supporting a ‘ritual nick’ so that
this is done under controlled conditions, is tolerating and
encouraging those who practise this form of misogyny. It should be
opposed vigorously everywhere, in all forms.

Misogyny
is also where women are forced to completely cover their faces, concealing
their identities. This is what feminist Mona Eltahawy calls “the
erasure of women” and depriving “a woman of identity”.

Misogyny is when women and girls face physical abuse from intimate partners.
Misogyny is also evident in the rapes committed against thousands of
females in Australia every year.

Putting Tony Abbott or any other good, decent man on the same level as
the perpetrators of these crimes, is appalling. It is completely
false, and does a disservice to women and girls who are abused by
men. The Prime Minister should be ashamed of so brazenly misusing
such language.

Abbott is in fact an excellent example of how men should treat women and
girls. Australia would do well to have more men like him.

Jack Baker is a pseudonym

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