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I used to think the argument that Prime Minister Gillard has been excessively targeted for abuse was a pretty dubious proposition. I used to think that although there was clearly some elements of sexism amongst some of the criticism and abuse, you could easily find equivalents in, say, the casually anti-catholic nature of some of the criticism of Tony Abbott. I used to think the Prime Minister was using whatever sexism towards her existed as a weapon against her opponents, rather than as a weapon to fight sexism itself.
I used to think all of that. But it’s pretty hard to think that anymore.
My first post to AusVotes2013 made it pretty clear that I am no friend of the Labor party and no fan of Prime Minister Gillard. I remain quite convinced that she has been a pretty incompetent Prime Minister – probably not the worst ever, but certainly not a good one. I don’t think the events of the last few days retroactively change any of that. I am cautiously optimistic about what an Abbott Prime Ministership will be and I think there’s no way the Prime Minister deserves to be re-elected.
But enough is enough. The utterly disrespectful and demeaning questions about the Prime Minister’s partner by Howard Sattler on Perth Radio made me certain that it’s time for those of us on the conservative side of politics to say that this needs to stop. The Prime Minister of our nation needs to be treated better. She needs to be treated better because she’s the Prime Minister, because she’s a woman, and because she’s a human being.
It doesn’t matter that we disagree with her politically. She deserves better.
It doesn’t mean we can’t debate some of these gender issues. I still believe there are occasions when the Prime Minister has used the very real problem of sexism and misogyny as a partisan political tool (see the “blue ties” speech) and I think many high profile feminist figures have too easily chosen to score points against the Coalition rather than advance key feminist issues. Indeed, when examined closely, the “Labor is the party for women” line that gets run doesn’t hold up all that well (see for example the gutting of welfare payments for single mothers for the policy and the faceless “men”, who are indeed all men, who dictate things in the ALP for the politics).
That said, it is time to stop using these contradictions as an excuse to downplay the obvious sexist, misogynistic and unfair treatment of the Prime Minister. The ALP might be hypocritical and selective about when and what they choose to get outraged about when it comes to sexism, but so what? If there was no sexism in the first place, there would be no fuel for the outrage. It’s time for us, the conservatives, to speak out and take the higher ground.
I firmly believe that the best way to honour the Prime Minister’s femininity and show her respect is to debate her ideas and policies and call her out when we believe she is wrong. We need to find a way to do that while emphatically rejecting and condemning any jokes or comments that belittle the Prime Minister as a woman and as a person.
We are almost certainly going to win in September. Tony Abbott is almost certainly going to be Prime Minister. If the ALP want to play dirty, let them play dirty. We have a chance to raise the quality of debate. Let’s draw a line under all the unpleasantness of this week and start right now.
As a conservative, I say to the Prime Minister that I am sorry that you have been subjected to such awful sexism. I am sorry that you’ve had to endure disrespectful questions and name-calling. We may disagree politically but I hope that from now on our common humanity will be the foundation of our disagreements and not an afterthought. I wish I didn’t have to write all of this, but such is the way of the world. I’m going to try to make it better.
Sam was a member of the Liberal Party but let his membership lapse because he left the renewal form in a pile of other stuff. In any case, he only went to the meetings when they offered free drinks. He recently coughed up $30 and joined again, but he still hasn’t gone to a meeting. He can be found on twitter at @SamuelMullins or at his blog.