Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Speech and the Australian MSM

For quite a while now I’ve been trying not to get too swept up in the growing wave of people who are completely dismissing the relevance and quality of Australia’s political media. Of course I’ve been critical, but I’ve tried not to let cynicism take over. I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The nearly universal reaction of the political MSM in Australia to Gillard’s speech has been a turning point for me. I really don’t have any time for those jokers anymore.

To say that she was playing the victim or ‘the gender card’ is so completely incorrect and inherently sexist that it blows my mind.

To echo the LNP’s talking points that because Abbott has female relatives, even loves his female relatives, he cannot be a mysogynist is so wilfully ignorant and illogical that it makes me see red. Why don’t you just look up the bloody definition in the OED? Misogyny includes being prejudiced against women. How on earth can loving individual women inoculate someone against prejudice? (If only!) How can you possibly interpret his past statements on women (such as his musings that they are psychologically less suited to leadership) as anything other than prejudice?

And, finally, to pretend that the only relevant context to Gillard’s speech was the fact that the government was trying to protect the Speaker is either dishonest or frighteningly myopic.

The context also included Alan Jones’ speech at a Liberal function and the hateful comments he made about Julia Gillard’s father.

The context included Abbott’s deliberate echoing of those very same insulting words in the chamber just before Gillard’s speech, ostensibly in challenging the govt for misogyny, but really displaying his own well-documented pattern of sexist attacks on the PM and on the rights of Australian women generally.

The context included the ground-swell of public reaction to Alan Jones’ history of misogynist comments. A reaction that similarly had to be understood in a broader context of a growing public disgust with the misogyny of Alan Jones and the way that it is poisoning our public debate. His most recent attack, on air, of a UN initiative to support women’s leadership in the Pacific as being problematic because women in leadership are ‘Destroying the Joint’ had already become a tipping point.

This broader context - the one in which our national debate was finally beginning to seriously tackle the misogyny and sexism that permeates our culture, and to highlight the ways in which they poison our culture and prevent women from participating in politics and in speaking out on more substantive concerns - this broader context was far more significant that the Speaker’s job (which has been so clearly tenuous for ages that its loss was already a foregone conclusion).

So my question is:
1. Were the majority of our political journalists actually completely ignorant of this broader context;
2. Did they just not care (because it concerned ‘women’s issues’ or didn’t resonate with the mythical swing voter in marginal seats); or
3. Are they actively threatened by this new focus on misogyny and sexism?

Whatever it is, I’ve had a gut full of their myopic, ignorant and largely sexist reporting this week and I’d like to see some changes.

(Note: there have been a few notable exceptions such as the ever-excellent Julia Baird. I'll link when I'm not on my mobile breastfeeding a sleeping toddler.)

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