[Thunderdome] »« My day

Are the Australians passing us by?

It’s a big problem. Americans have to be #1 in everything, yet there those Australians go, fighting back hard against sexism after the shock of the Gilliard speech a short while back. I insist, you must read this letter from a woman television newsreader—it’s excellent. Read all the way through to the conclusion — it’s very Australian.

I may have gotten some odd looks from other people hanging out at the airport gate when I snorted out a laugh.

Comments

  1. says

    You’re not very familiar with Australian culture if you think they are less misogynistic than Americans. It’s about 20 years behind North America in terms of equality for women and how women are generally perceived/treated.

  2. demonhauntedworld says

    Have to agree with Mark. There’s a pretty nasty undercurrent of misogyny (and racism) in Australia that I haven’t experienced in either the United States or Canada. I’m not sure if it’s quantifiable, but it’s definitely visceral.

  3. Ichthyic says

    You’re not very familiar with Australian culture if you think they are less misogynistic than Americans.

    I have to second that, based on my experiences and those of my brother even 20 years earlier.

    the level of misogyny in OZ was VERY high in almost all rural areas when he was there, and it doesn’t appear to have much changed in the intervening decades.

    It’s one of the reasons in fact, I decided on Hobbitton instead of OZ, even though the economy was (and is) much better in OZ.

    I really do hope that having Gillard as PM will at least in some small way begin to erode that though.

  4. Ichthyic says

    So Australia is #1 in misogyny too, you’re saying?

    no, I gotta give that one to Saudi Arabia.

  5. demonhauntedworld says

    Follow-up: Just read the first comment on the article and you’ll see what I mean.

  6. Ichthyic says

    Read all the way through to the conclusion — it’s very Australian.

    …then read the comments. Also very Australian.

    *sigh*

  7. ststeel says

    Tracy Spicer was a newsreader for one of the major Australian networks for 14 years, before she was fired by email after returning from maternity leave with a 2 month old child.

    She sued them for breaches of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act and the Trade Practices Act, and eventually settled for $250,000. She quit the network and had a new job 4 days later with a cable network.

    This made her a few enemies, because how dare she actually use the laws that exist for the reasons they were introduced.

  8. says

    I guess I agree with the other commenters that there’s a fair bit of sexism in Australia.

    (not 100% on top of the sexism/misogyny distinction and why some people are making such an issue of it, but let’s call it sexism)

    The exciting thing, though, is that the tide is turning!

    The Prime Minister’s speech, the ‘Destroy The Joint’ movement that has massively reduced the influence of Alan Jones, and now this letter. There’s a real sea change going on.

    Is there a long way to go? Sure. Have we slid backward, in all sorts of ways, since 2000? Yep.

    But the changes are exciting! How tedious to focus on ‘there are still problems’ instead of ‘things are happening!’

  9. Ichthyic says

    But the changes are exciting! How tedious to focus on ‘there are still problems’ instead of ‘things are happening!’

    if you forget WHY things are happening, you get the exact slide-back you mention after 2000.

    clear enough?

    civil rights is a CONSTANT struggle, and without historical perspective, you end up losing, period.

    example:

    the end of affirmative rights in the States, because so many white folks that lived with white privilege for generations “couldn’t see the racism” and so saw no reason to maintain affirmative action.

    this blindness to causes and history causes damage. this is exactly why focusing on the problems is anything BUT tedious.

  10. mandrellian says

    Sorry, David at #9, are we boring you?

    The entire reason there is this “sea change” you talk about is because people are being “tedious” and identifying problems.

    The “things” you speak of that are happening are exactly the kinds of things you apparently find tedious – people getting sick of answering to entrenched privilege and saying “This far – but no further.” Unless of course I’ve misread you and these “things” are happening in a vaccuum, and the problems are simply solving themselves without anyone highlighting them, discussing them or trying to fix them.

  11. mandrellian says

    Anyway. Kudos to Tracey Spicer for that fantastic and long-overdue ringbarking; never a truer word was said to a more deserving pack of arseholes.

    Would that anyone who’s suffered at the hands of the old boys who run the joint for their own fun would stand up and launch a few choicely-worded volleys. People like Alan “Put ‘er in a sack” Jones and the bosses at Channel Ten are just the tip of the iceberg in this country; who knows how many others in media and workplaces generally have been treated like crap and perhaps treated like even more crap after taking no more crap and suing the crap out of the crap-barons for their stupid sexist crap.

    I’m hoping bad-ass women like Ms Spicer and PM Gillard and that awesome bucket of buckshot Jane Caro will provide inspiration and strength to even more. Not only is this broadside from Ms Spicer long overdue, the entire conversation is long overdue. There’s a feeling that “Women’s Lib” was a 70s fashion that died in the 90s, but clearly there’s still a lot of ground to make up. Male chauvinism didn’t die, it just went underground. But not for very long.

  12. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    Note to self:
    Really must read anything PZ recommends reading.

    Tracey’s letter was awesome.
    I wonder if it will ever reach all the people it needs to…

  13. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    PZ:

    So Australia is #1 in misogyny too, you’re saying?

    Heaven’s to Betsy, no!
    Here in the U.S. you would never see a woman write something like *that*. Our women know their place here.

    /ick, that was hard to type

  14. Lofty says

    I wonder if it will ever reach all the people it needs to…

    Unlikely, the comments say it all. There are still plenty of sexist pigs in Australia and absolutely nothing will sway them from their viewpoint short of death.

  15. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    second note to self:
    “awesome bucket of buckshot” is a theft worthy phrase…

  16. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    Yes indeed, let’s all focus on the stuff that has happened – like me being able to vote as an Aussie woman, instead of the everyday bullshit I have to put up with like having my arse groped in supermarkets! (Hell, I’m not even one of the attractive ones that are ‘asking for it’, so I should take it as a compliment, right?)

    Forget also the difficulty being believed when you report an incident of sexual harrassment, because the police know we’ve moved on as a society so this stuff doesn’t happen anymore! I -must- be lying.
    Men just don’t have the sort of power and privilege they used to, gosh darn it!

    *seethe*

  17. mildlymagnificent says

    Yeah. I sometimes feel that all the shit we took in the 70s for promoting women’s rights was not worth it. But we do have more equal pay, we do have not-quite-enough women’s refuges, we do have contract, leasing and banking rights, we do have some redress for the relentless bullying otherwise known as sexual harassment.

    But I feel that my daughters are going to have to keep on fighting. The sort of treatment that was handed out to us pinko-commie-man-hating loudmouths was just the example of what was in store for any woman anywhere who upset any man’s applecart.

  18. Ysanne says

    Sophia,
    where in Oz are you? Haven’t noticed groping etc here in Brisbane. Only the constant enforcement of damaging gender stereotypes, and many people’s total inability to disagree with a woman in a civil way instead of attacking her (usually on the basis of her looks) as soon as she says something they don’t like.

  19. Ichthyic says

    best line:

    Suddenly, all the lights went on. And it was so bright – it made your light look like a limp insipid flicker.

    heh.

  20. Kylie Sturgess says

    [Oh, big thanks to the commentator on my blogpost who said that women shouldn’t be making videos like that one… by the Hamster Wheel team.]

  21. allencdexter says

    Thank you. I don’t know how you came to find that excellent article, but thank you for putting it in here. I, too, had to burst out laughing.

    Even when I was embroiled in cultic christianity, I chafed at the way women were treated and regarded. As one of our candidates here in Arizona points out, his mother told him as a child that the world will be a far better place when women have an equal seat at the table. Frankly, many of the people running this society could use the help of a qualified female but they’d never accept it in their sexist haughtiness.

    I’ve always respected and sought out women who were intelligent and capable and my little wife is every bit on or even sometimes above my level of intelligence and ability. I like it that way. I profit from it.

  22. Tigger_the_Wing says

    davidgeelan

    (not 100% on top of the sexism/misogyny distinction and why some people are making such an issue of it, but let’s call it sexism)

    Sexism can cut both ways; misogyny is specifically targetted at those perceived to be female or acting in what are considered feminine ways. Got it?

    allencdexter

    my little wife

    Really?! Actually, your whole post reeked of self-satisfied misogyny; that was just the dogpoo icing on the bullpoo cake.

  23. says

    [Oh, big thanks to the commentator on my blogpost who said that women shouldn’t be making videos like that one… by the Hamster Wheel team.]

    *facepalm*

    Someone doesn’t know their Oz kulcha, I see! Incidentally, who was the commentator who made that faux pas, Kylie? Do we know them at all?

  24. says

    Unfortunately these are a few high profile examples that probably don’t accurately reflect the whole nation. I don’t think we’re behind the US or UK in but I wouldn’t say we were that far ahead either – especially not in rural areas.

    Even more worrying is it seems extremely likely that we’ll be seeing the Catholic, conservative, misogynist Tony Abbot who was the target of Julia Gillard’s speech in power in the next year unless the polls shift by a not inconsiderable margin.

    If you had to pick a good indicator of how much progress Australia has made you can just look at the amount of hatred that has been directed at Julia since she’s been in office.

  25. erichovind says

    Hey guys, I will have a group of students that want to engage in a good (and if possible, clean) conversation with you guys tomorrow. Hope that is ok.

  26. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    @Ysanne

    West Aussie, though I doubt it has much to do with it really.
    I suspect most groping, “brushing past” breasts or bums and “friendly jokey” touching stuff flies under the radar for most of us if we’re not actively looking for it.

    Ask friends if they’ve ever experienced it but don’t use the words sexual harrassment or groping and you’ll probably be shocked how many have actually been harrassed and shrugged it off as normal.

    I could be wrong, my meters are very sensitive right now, but I doubt it. I’d love to be wrong :P

  27. says

    Seriously, I don’t think Australia is so terribly much more sexist than anywhere else. We have the smallest pay differential of any English speaking country; we had the vote and equal pay before most others (NZ beat us with the national vote, but not all states). I’ve never felt more judged and pressured over my appearance than in the US; and never felt more judged and pressured over non-“ladylike” behaviour than in the UK.

    I suspect it’s largely a case of cultural differences. You notice the stuff you don’t normally swim in.

  28. says

    @ erichovind

    Hey guys, I will have a group of students that want to engage in a good (and if possible, clean) conversation with you guys tomorrow. Hope that is ok.

    We have an unmoderated thread specifically for discussion on contentious issues: TZT.

    I may be speaking out of turn, but there is not principally any reason that you should not be welcome to set your (or your students’) ideas out there. We have had some interesting religious debates recently. Perhaps, while you are about it, you can add to the topic of whether religion has historically made positive contributions to the sciences (either directly or in a supportive role)?

  29. says

    I obviously wasn’t as clear as I’d have hoped.

    I didn’t, at all, mean to deny that there are huge problems still to overcome.

    All I meant, was that it is possible both to acknowledge that there are problems and challenges and to celebrate positives. We don’t have to make a forced choice.

    I wasn’t ‘bored’ by post 9, I was offering a counterpoint… not incidentally in the same spirit as PZ’s post.

    Of course there’s heaps more to do, and huge problems. But there are new green shoots, and sometimes they’re worth celebrating, amidst all the trash.

  30. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    theophontes:
    re: TZT vs Thunderdome

    In this specific case, I think the slip up-though unintentional-was quite warranted.

  31. says

    I really do hope that having Gillard as PM will at least in some small way begin to erode that though.

    Makes it worse tbh.

  32. wolja says

    It’s good to see a start to fighting misogyny from high profile women in Australia. It was good to see that the letter had a reasonably high profile spot on the on-line version of the paper it was in.

    I’m sure the crusted on conservatives will fight back with a new wave of hate, creative creation of facts and misogyny soon but hopefully more people can speak out about the waste of space misogyny is.

  33. says

    Read the article earlier today, it was good read.

    I see Kylie Sturgess beat me to linking to the recent Chaser bit on women in the media.

  34. Ichthyic says

    Hovind’s students in the Thunderdome?

    Hovind HAS students?

    …or are these Kidnapees?

  35. Ichthyic says

    I’m sure the crusted on conservatives will fight back with a new wave of hate

    all you have to do is read the comments on the OP.

    more than half are sexist asswipes telling her she’s dumb for mentioning that being pretty is what got her a job.

  36. Muz says

    As others have kinda mentioned, if you scratch the surface of -any- major industry or institution in Australia you will find a beer-bellied boys club of ‘larrikins’, happy to tell the sheilas they need to relax and stop complaining at any opportunity (and bring us another beer would ya darlin’?). Government and politics, the Police, Mining, Farming and especially the media. In a way Tracey is lined up to get the worst of it from all angles. But if you work somewhere a bit more hip you might be inclined to forget this is true, how tough some people have it and just what the core of power in this country is like.

    I’m honestly not sure where Abbott himself fits on the sexist scale, but I’m pretty sure the ‘traditional Aussie bloke’ has felt very emboldened by his presence. Intentionally so and starting with those in his own party. It’s in stark contrast to his much milder, nerdier predecessors and the general shift in tone is noticeable. Although maybe it was inevitable the moment we got a female leader.

  37. Lachlan says

    Great letter. Not sure why she mentioned the size she imagines his penis is though. Relevance?

    And who the hell talks like that? (Referring to her douchebag boss.)

  38. mildlymagnificent says

    And who the hell talks like that?

    A lot of the blokes I used to work with for starters.

    “Is it cold in here or are you just glad to see me?” is always amusing when called across a space of 25+ feet in an office of dozens of people to a woman whose nipples showed through her clothing that day. Similar felicities were still being reported to me years after that incident when I was a volunteer sexual harassment contact person rather than just hearing the gossip.

    I tried to believe that it got better with time. I really did. But I think I’d insulated myself with friendships with nicer people rather than feeling forced to deal with anyone and everyone.

  39. gardengnome says

    The very fact that this letter was written in the first place shows Australia has a long way to go…

  40. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Well, some men seem to think that is true. They’re wrong of course.

    I don’t know whether it’s because I work in an academic environment, don’t go to pubs or suchlike or what, or whether I just have some sort of SEP like field but I don’t seem to get bothered or groped or suchlike. Of which I am glad, since I know that others do get all that, because their lifestyle/profession/etc, which is a perfectly valid, exposes them to more of the arseholes out there. And while I wish that they didn’t get that sort of thing, I can’t help be glad that my exposure is minimal.

    So, yes there are sexist Australians, like there are sexists everywhere. And it’s currently big in the news since those attitudes are currently being challenged. But I don’t know that it is worse here than other places overall.

  41. chrislawson says

    Australia is better in some ways and worse in others than the US or the UK. We were the second ever nation to allow women to vote. We have a female prime minister when the best the US has managed is the occasional failed party nominee/VP candidate. We have a gender pay gap slightly better than OECD average (the US is slightly worse than average and the UK is a little worse again).

    On the UN’s Gender Inequality Index, Australia is second best in the world, while the US is #4 and the UK #28. On the UN Gender Empowerment Measure, Australia is #8, the US #15, and the UK #14. According to Social Watch, Australia is #11 on their Gender Equity rankings, the UK #25, and the US #49. On the other hand, the World Economic Forum puts Australia at #25 on their Global Gender Gap Index, compared to #22 for the US and #18 for the UK despite claiming to use pretty much the same set of indicators that the others use.

    All of which is to say that comparing women’s empowerment is a difficult task, that by most measures Australia is a pretty good place to for women when compared to most other countries, but that there is still a lot of inequality and misogyny even here, even in one of the supposedly “good” countries.

  42. mandrellian says

    @ 17, Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze–

    second note to self:
    “awesome bucket of buckshot” is a theft worthy phrase…

    No need to steal – I’m an “open source with attribution” kind of guy…