Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Is it time to ditch bewitched members of the commentariat?
The business of the commentariat is the business of throwing stones, and it doesn't much matter the kind of stone thrown, provided that there's a pleasing clunk when it hits, or better still, the tinkling of breaking glass.
Janet Albrechtsen loves to throw stones, but her latest outing is also a measure of the degree the commentariat became unnerved by Julia Gillard's speech about Tony Abbott (2.24 odd million viewers here, another 250k or so here) . Lordy lordy, what a lot of stone-throwing that's produced.
Indeed it so unnerved Tony Abbott that he's devoted endless time to strategies to counter-attack it, the latest including rolling out Peta Credlin to do a sob story about what a wonderful boss he is, so thoughtful and such a feminist (and which resulted in all kinds of lashings, from Peta Credlin over-eggs Tony Abbott to Crikey's more sedate Credlin a 'reluctant' but savvy star in Abbott's female strategy).
Janet Albrechtsen's not the sort who would stand idly by and pen a column denouncing Tony Abbott's feeble attempt to gain feminist credentials at this late stage in his Pellist game. After all, she hungers, perhaps even yearns for the arrival of Abbott ...
So the title for her latest stone-throwing bout says it all: PM's fake feminism is man made (behind the paywall so you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner without stone-throwing yourself).
The header says it all, it's insulting, offensive and provocative, and it makes much of the rest of the text completely redundant, but hey ho, on we go.
First up is a contrast between Gillard and Helen Garner:
One is an Australian author who, twenty years ago, offered up a considered, nuanced analysis of a messy, complicated story of sex and power to inform the perpetual debate about feminism. The other is an Australian prime minister who, 20 years later, offered up a barrage of confected outrage to launch a gender war for purely political reasons.
Now whatever you might think of Gillard - and on occasions the pond has thoughts that are unprintable - it is surely demeaning of Albrechtsen for her to use words like "confected" and say that Gillard's memorable speech was a gender war for "purely political reasons".
One of the reasons it had such impact was that there was a genuine personal seething and rage on view. She was as mad as hell and she wasn't going to take it any more - which naturally meant that other members of the commentariat abused her up hill and down dale for taking it all too personally, and for launching a vicious personal form of outrage for not entirely political reasons. Like any and every woman, she'd let the personal get in the road of the professional.
That's how it works with the commentariat; if they can't work out one way to hang you, then perforce they must find another.
Yes, instead of all the elaborate talk of 'fake' and 'confected' it would have been a lot more honest, a lot more simple and a lot more short if Albrechtsen had simply scribbled "oh I do so hate Julia Gillard and I do so yearn for the ascension of my overlord and master Tony Abbott".
Why a column could have become a sentence, and we would have been spared this sort of naked, pathetic thought process:
Regardless of her politics, many people, including me, were chuffed when a woman reached the Lodge. Julia Gillard had shown potential as a strong, capable woman.
Which of course is a nonsense. Albrechtsen has disliked Gillard from the get go, and has said so often and loudly. But she needs to peddle this nonsense so she can propose a fall from Albrechtsen's grace:
More than two years on, it is with a sense of genuine disappointment then, not political schadenfreude, that she has failed to measure up. By making deliberately empty allegations of misogyny against Tony Abbott, the gender-card-waving PM rates poorly as a feminist role model.
Genuine disappointment? Quick, is there a bag for barfing handy ...
Deliberately empty? Standing under signs saying "ditch the witch" and "Bob Brown's bitch" are signs of a modern feminist?
Can the pond enter the political debate by calling Albrechtsen a pathetic bitch of a witch?
Let's not go there, because we have more serious issues to address:
Real misogyny is a serious matter. Just ask the women in Saudi Arabia who still may not drive a car. Or ask the families of the thousands upon thousands of "missing women" in India who are routinely killed over disputes about dowries. Ask yet another young Indian woman travelling on a bus who was brutally raped for hours by a gang of six young men in their 20s.
Yes, it's a classic form of hysteria. The pond used to endure it when threatened at the family meal for not eating vegetables ... think of all the starving millions in Asia and think how selfish and inconsiderate you're being and now eat your vegetables because there are millions in Asia who'd love to be sitting at this table eating vile over-cooked spinach (though on any given day it might also be silver beet).
It really cheapens Albrechtsen, this sort of freighting in of issues outside Australia. Of course it's terrible women in Saudi Arabia can't drive. Of course Wahhabism is terrible, of course it's completely mysterious that conservatives cheerfully accept Saudi Arabia as a middle eastern ally, while cheering on the war in Iraq. Of course it's terrible that Albrechtsen lined up alongside the Wahhabists ...
Of course things can be terrible for women in India. But then they can also be terrible for women in Australia.
So what's the point? Well it's little more than that old refrain "oh I do so hate Julia Gillard and I do so yearn for the ascension of my overlord and master".
Here's how it runs when you take the basic tune and elaborate it into a whole movement, or at least a par:
Gillard's accusations against Abbott do not resemble anything so serious as a hatred of women. So he used the phrase "honest woman"? So he, like many Australians, believes that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. So Abbott looked at his watch while the PM was talking? Australia's first female prime minister has embarrassed herself and maligned many thousands of Australians who share Abbott's socially conservative views. Rather than debate gender intelligently, Gillard chose to cheapen the conversation.
Actually it's through such elisions, distortions, opaqueness and bloody-mindedness that Albrechtsen cheapens the conversation. It's as if she'd never watched Abbott in angry action.
The pond isn't inclined to feminism, and so can cheerfully contemplate the notion that Albrechtsen should be thrown into a chaff bag, taken miles out to sea, and drowned, like any irritating mewling kitten.
What? You have a problem with that?
Sorry, that's not a serious hatred of women, that's just Tony Abbott's best mate making a joke or three.
What's interesting of course is that Garner's book, which Albrechtsen celebrates mainly to denigrate Gillard, isn't about driving a car in Saudi Arabia or the plight of millions of Indian women. It's about a very specific case, and the ripples that arose from it.
Albrechtsen uses the case - involving claims made by two young female Melbourne University students about the master of Ormond College - to reduce Gillard to the level of what she proposes are a couple of thoughtless, intolerant, dishonest university students.
It's a shamelessly dishonest and intolerant metaphor itself, but then Albrechtsen has never been short of gall and hutzpah:
Born in 1942, Garner could have been a less thoughtful feminist. She could have been like so many of the women in her book, the 1960s feminist ideologues who are devoid of nuance and regarded it as treachery to even suggest that women enjoy a power of their own. Instead, Garner represents feminism at its most intelligent.
Born 20 years after Garner, Gillard should have been a more thoughtful feminist. She didn't have to burn bras to be heard. The big fights had been fought and won. Freedom was there for the taking. And Gillard rightly took it. Instead, as Garner's book draws to a close, there is a sinking feeling that Australia's first female PM represents an out-dated, less intelligent form of feminism.
Uh huh. Like an undergrad.
It's vicious and demeaning, but ironically and in the usual way, it's the stone thrower that gets demeaned.
To arrive at Albrechtsen's conclusion, first of all you have to let Abbott completely off the hook, and yet if you ask any woman about Abbott, they will provide an intuitive, usually ambivalent response in relation to Abbott's pugnacious testosterone-charged lust for power, mixed sometimes with an awareness of his long-enduring Pellist fellow travelling ways (fellow travelling from which recently he's back-pedalled in various ways, even indulging in assorted heresies, like questioning the sanctity of the confessional).
To Albrechtsen, all this is idle chatter, mere observation of reality and action and thoughts and deeds and expressions of attitude for which she has no need, because Abbott is entirely blameless and Gillard entirely guilty (it so helps to look at the world in black and white when a card-carrying member of the commentariat):
By using baseless allegations and seeking the solace of victimhood for ulterior motives, our Prime Minister has let Australian women down. In a headlong collision between politics and ethics, the politically ruthless PM chose to debase the one issue that seemed dear to her heart -- championing the cause of women. If a female PM recklessly and ruthlessly uses gender as a weapon, isn't that PM saying to other women: "Go girl, go ahead, make serious allegations, never mind the lack of evidence, so long as it furthers your agenda."
Which is pitiful when you think about it, since the reason that Gillard's speech so stung the commentariat, so stung Abbott, rang so true to so many, is that it wasn't baseless. It had been there to see for quite some time, and after it, Abbott pulled his head in, and a parade of women - amongst them Albrechtsen - have come out to testify about what a nice feminist lad he is.
Contemplating any of that history would have been too arduous and difficult for Albrechtsen. It's much simpler to diminish and demean Gillard, and her celebration of Abbott is truly pathetic:
Of course, this is just politics. Perhaps the brutal political realm is no place for nuanced debates about men and women. Presumably, that is how Gillard and her fellow gender warriors such as Tanya Plibersek and Nicola Roxon justify their almost daily determination to portray Abbott, the happily married man with three confident daughters, as a woman-hating ogre. But if we accept the premise that it is just politics, then don't we also need to accept the logical next step -- that these Labor women have chosen to balance a fraudulent feminist chip on their shoulder whenever it suits their political purpose?
If you're having a difficulty with the embedded code there, please allow the pond to translate.
Tony Abbott is a happily married man with three confident daughters; please remember that Julia Gillard is an unmarried atheist barren mother of none, shacked up with a comical hairdresser - he's a hairdresser d'oh - and a man-hating ogre to boot, carrying on like a selfish, indulged, spoiled, out-dated less intelligent feminist child of the 1960s.
Yep, it would have been a lot simpler for Albrechtsen to have said: "oh I do so hate Julia Gillard and I do so yearn for the ascension of my overlord and master".
Instead she yabbers on about confected outrage in a dishonourable gender war, thereby taking her place in a dishonourable gender war by expressing confected, contrived and fundamentally dishonest outrage.
It's a pitiful and yet at the same time a pitiless spectacle, and the only relief is that the final charge she makes is so comical:
Despite her eagerness to play the gender card, Australia's first female PM is a role model for nothing more than a politician who chases power at any price and will do whatever it takes to keep it.
Why then she's the perfect model for Tony Abbott, a politician who has spent these last few years chasing power at any price, and boring the world with his nattering naysaying nabob style of negativity, and no doubt once in power, he will do whatever it takes to keep it.
Question: have you learned anything useful or meaningful or insightful thus far? Explain in one hundred words or less how to make a stone skip across a pond to the delight of all.
Well the pond has learned one thing. Somehow the editors at the lizard Oz reckon this sort of polemical guff dressed up in learned tones and literary comparisons is the sort of stuff worthy of handing over a gold bar.
If that's the case, if we can borrow the lizard Oz's header, Albrechtsen's fake fraudulent column full of petty spiteful analysis is man written ...
There are of course better columns to be written and read about feminism, politics, Gillard, Abbott and the past few years of spite and biliousness. Just not by a member of the commentariat indulging in spite and biliousness ...
No doubt the newly found feminist in Albrechtsen is now lining up with Helen Garner to sign that open letter to Gillard regarding Julian Assange ... (here).
In your dreams.
Repeat three times "oh I do so hate Julia Gillard and I do so yearn for the ascension of my overlord and master", and maybe you can avoid eating your over-cooked socialist feminist vegies from the 1960s ...
Posted by dorothy parker at 1/23/2013 08:24:00 AM