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Jan 25, 2011

'So what if she doesn't have a male handbag?': female ex-MPs fight back

Crikey asked three female former politicians for their take on women in politics and whether anything has changed.

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Lara Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier yesterday, after her predecessor David Bartlett resigned to spend more time with his family. When Giddings was first elected at just 23-years-old, she became the youngest female ever elected to parliament in Australia. In 2008, she was elected deputy-premier, only the second woman ever to hold the position. When announcing his departure, Bartlett declared that as far as he was concerned, “Lara has always been heir apparent.”

Yet The Australian greeted readers this morning with this front-page story, proclaiming “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr Right.”:

leftistlara

Not that The Australian was alone, much of the mainstream media focused on Giddings being a single female. Is this really how it is for women in politics?

Crikey asked former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja, former Liberal MP Fran Bailey and former Democrats leader turned former ALP MP Cheryl Kernot for their take on women in politics and whether anything has changed at all.

What do you think of the treatment of Giddings? Are you surprised?

Bailey: Part of me is, because here we are in 2011 and people still have these sort of attitudes. But then, there seems to be such a superficial focus on women, either talking about their dress, hair or their marital status. It’s very disappointing.

Stott Despoja: I’m a little surprised, I was hoping that the coverage would focus more on her political challenges less than her so-called personal challenges.

Kernot: It surprised me that it still happening in 2011. How far have we come from Joan Kirner and the polka dot dress when the first thing they want to talk about is that she’s looking for Mr Right? Have we asked any men that recently? I don’t think so.

It’s a backhanded article [in The Australian], talking about her long experience and her capacity, so why doesn’t that get the headline? That should be the headline — ‘Capacity to Lead’.

So what if she doesn’t have a male handbag, do you think it’s affected her brain? And there’s the implication, that if she doesn’t have Mr Right, or has an empty fruit bowl, then she’s less of a person and not a good leader. It’s insidiously malignant.

Instead, it panders to that gossipy side of women’s lives, which happens to women who occupy positions of influence, but particularly in politics. Do we see much about [CEO of Westpac] Gail Kelly’s life, comment on her clothing? No we don’t, we accept her capacity to run a bank. It’s just so out of date and it’s frustrating.

Were you overly aware of the press asking  you different questions or framing articles about you around looks, personal issues and relationships because you were female?

Bailey: I can’t say that relationships ever came in to it, but often attention was made, comment was made about your dress etc, and to be quite honest I think most female MPs take it in their stride. I spent over 18 years in politics and I thought it had got better. But then you hear this response [to Giddings] and I just shook my head and just thought ‘Men. How pathetic.’

Stott Despoja: I think in the history of women in public and political life there has been at times a disproportionate focus on personal lives, including martial lives and parental status, as well as appearances, but I had hoped that some of us had borne the brunt of that already. There were other trail blazers, like Joan Kirner and Cheryl Kernot.

It’s improving, but to highlight ‘the search for Mr Right’ is pretty out there.

Kernot: I wrestled with challenging it. I got reduced to a red boa.

Once, I dyed my hair a bright pinky red, the colour was called ‘Titian’. I did it deliberately, I was coming back from being ill and I knew there was going to be a beat up and I wanted to see who would cover it. And only the men did, Laurie Oakes rang up Greg Turnbull in Kim Beazley’s office and asked ‘Why did she dye it?’

Is politics really a boys club?

Bailey: Of course it’s a boy club, it always has been. Until you have a critical mass of women in parliaments around the country and they are there for a long period of time, it will remain like it is.

It’s the same in regard to female CEOs, yes we have some outstanding, highly qualified women in some of the most senior positions around the country, but I don’t think these attitudes by some sections of the media will change until we have that critical mass.

Stott Despoja: Look, it’s a male dominated profession and I’m a staunch believer that critical mass makes a difference. The more women in representative institutions, the less of a novelty it becomes to have a woman in a position of power. I am enthused by things that have taken place, I do believe that life in politics is now easier because of other women who have paved the way, and that’s how it should be.

I really believe the public is more conscious of this and the public is sick of tired of ridiculous portrayals and stereotypes and there is some old mainstream media that are perhaps a little slow on the mark but this will change. Overall, I’m positive that things have changed and Lara Giddings represents a new milestone and sometimes mainstream media are not sure with how to deal with that kind of novelty. Now she’s there, focus on her politics, policies and the difficult circumstances she’s dealing with.

Kernot: I think it’s changing. But the fact of the matter is, it can’t change significantly while all the major newspaper editors are male, all the major political commentators are male, while all the faction leaders are male and all the leading party apparatchik are male. The only one that gives women political commentators an equal go is Insiders, where women commentators feature prominently. The rest of the political media, it’s been Laurie Oakes, Kerry O’Brien, even Chris Uhlmann will be doing The 7:30 Report interviews.

Affirmative action’s helped. But it makes you wonder if we’ve made any progress when this can be the front page of the newspaper. Because the subtext is that there’s something wrong with her. That men are allowed to devote themselves to a political career and be a full time politician without any comment but women can’t.

Does this kind of attention discourage women from entering politics?

Bailey: Entering politics is a very hard decision for women to make, because you do have to give up a lot. There’s a lot of travel, time away from your family, those are the issues that do affect decisions by women that enter the federal parliament, that overrides the media issue.

We need to make it much clearer to the public the role that women can play in making such a difference as law makers. I would favour emphasising all the positive things that female MPs can achieve, rather than the negatives. Women bring a different perspective to politics; a keen sense of public service, the attention to detail. Women ask far more questions than men. A lot of people won’t ask questions because they don’t want to make a fool of themselves, while women will always ask the probing questions.

Stott Despoja: I’d like to think the standard of media treatment of newer female MPs and leaders has improved. MPs like Kate Ellis, Nicola Roxon, they don’t suffer the same ridiculous stereotypes some of us did on occasion.

I am a passionate advocate for diversity in our representative bodies. Whether that be women or different backgrounds, ages, indigenous and non-indigenous, diversity is what matters to me. But a lot of women are certainly put off by the added double standards and scrutiny.

What advice would you give to Giddings?

Bailey: What I’m sure what she will do is get on and do the best job that she can.

Stott Despoja: Don’t lose focus, don’t let them distract you. My advice for the media: get over it. The days of double standards of reporting of women in public life are surely over soon. We have women in the top political positions, it’s time to move on and not be so surprised.

Kernot: Just continue being herself. Hasn’t let her down yet has it? Continue being herself, pursuing the priorities that she thinks are important, trusting her judgment and challenging them when they insist on asking these questions.

When Julia was asked personal questions — like the one about the earlobes — she should have confronted that and collectively we have to keep confronting it. But there’s a funny subtext: women don’t confront and challenge, they whinge. I can’t tell you the times I was accused of whinging rather than raising a point of interest to me.

But she’s a competent women, appropriate for the job, and that ought to be what we are celebrating.

Amber Jamieson —

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

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39 thoughts on “‘So what if she doesn’t have a male handbag?’: female ex-MPs fight back

  1. Daemon

    I sincerely hope that the so called journalists from the Oz et al, read Crikey if for no other reason than to get a bit of an understanding of what/how at least some media consumers think of their work.

    I have never been a mad fan of the Oz, particularly because in general they have no concept of what we as media consumers are prepared to put up with, and appear to be completely untroubled by what they are pleased to present as “journalism”, but which we see really as them spouting the accepted line of their owner, which in and of itself is a sad indictment on them as “news presenters”, as opposed to “news deciders”. As a social force, the Oz is little more than a newsletter for its owner, and his political bedmates, (masters) on the right side of the house.

    As we sit here reading Crikey, we are actually making a statement to the Oz, about how much we are prepared to pay for news which is not only delivered in such a way as to not generate a view that the journalist is trying to decide what we should hear, but also has the added benefit, if you will, of the rest of us sitting here discussing day after day, how the news actually affects us, not only in Psycho-economic terms, but also in terms of its effect on us and our daily living.

    The one thing that is clearly missing from the Oz, is the capacity for us to openly discuss with the “journalists”, why they take the view they have, and whether the view is personal or dictated to them by their boss. My view in general, is that the Oz print nothing without approval from above, and that then leads us down the slippery slope of having our views not only guided, but also tainted, if we are to accept without question that which the Oz is happy to present as “news”, rather, than as “opinion”.

    One can only hope that as things develop in the world of print media that the Oz and its owners, will come to realise that not all media consumers are blind or stupid.

    In terms of the new Premier of Tasmania, it appears to be only the media that are carrying on about her handbag or lack thereof, whilst the rest of us are making congratulatory noises hoping that the men of the Labor Party have not once again conspired to use a woman as the “fall guy”.

  2. Captain Planet

    “Leftist Lara Still looking for Mr. Right”???
    Oh, how SAD. The best and most succint commentary by far on this is from Cheryl Kernot:
    Insidiously malignant.
    Fran Bailey, on the other hand, misses the point entirely in her entrenched oppositional stance:
    “Men. How pathetic.”
    Fran, men are not the problem. People are the problem, male and female. Check out the opinion polls – it is women who are most uncomfortable with other women being in charge.
    There is a great truism about women’s liberation: You cannot liberate only one half of society. By this I mean that it is not only women who need to be liberated from the stifling gender stereotypes of yesteryear, but men also. It is intrinsic to women’s liberation that men must also be freed from stereotyping based on lifestyle and appearance, and also that men and women must be freed from the prisons of their own preconceptions about what is appropriate or possible.
    The gutter nonsense of the Australian, pandering to the lowest common denominator as always, are actually only a distraction from the real issue here. It is contemptible that the Oz considers such demeaning tripe to be journalism, and heartbreaking that the Oz is spot on in its carefully considered belief that this crap will be lapped up by the small minded bigots who make up such an unfortunately large proportion of our society. But all of this is secondary to the real problem, which very few commentators have yet touched upon.
    The true tragedy here is that women in politics and elsewhere in professional life, are still faced with very difficult choices. Single and childless women are over represented amongst the successful politicians and businesspeople of today, by comparison with their male counterparts. It is considered perfectly normal for a man to have a wife and children (of any age) and have the most demanding career possible. Should a woman try to have a partner and children as well as a high profile career of this nature, she will be vilified and castigated mercilessly.
    And it is not just a matter of public opinion or the manipulation thereof by our media, holding up a mirror to the uglier conservative elements of our society: The reality is that it’s somewhere between impossible and inhuman for a woman to simultaneously, and adequately, meet the needs of a family and a high powered career in our modern world.
    The solution is not more access to child care, educating men to adopt full time caring roles, or reeducating the media to accept and promote women as multitasking superhumans.
    The solution is to acknowledge that combining an extremely demanding career and the demands of committing to a family, in the form promoted in modern western society, is NOT REALLY POSSIBLE. It’s not possible for men either. Any man who works more than 50 hours a week or spends long stretches of time away from his partner and children when his family is young, is not doing the right thing by his family, either. The difference is that society accepts – nay, DEMANDS – this wilfull neglect from men, and demands that women do not participate in it. This leaves two options for women – have a high powered career, or have a family. There is a third option for men – try to have both, and fail miserably at one or the other.
    Like I said, we cannot liberate only half of society. We must liberate all of society, or nobody is liberated at all.

  3. Norman Hanscombe

    1. TOM, although [because of circumstances arising from my associations in other spheres at that time with the brain-dead (non-parliamentary) clots who bungled Lowe’s dismissal] I couldn’t speak out against it at the time, I always saw Doug as extremely personable, and although it’s not acknowledged to this day, he did more to limit N.C.C. influence within the Tasmanian A.L.P. at that time than did any other SENIOR A.L.P. figure, something for which we owe him a considerable debt of gratitude.

    Doug, through his actions, did bring much of it on himself. His stand on the electricity issue, (while applauded by many on the mainland) lacked the support of the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians, and it became the excuse for the non-parliamentarians who moved against him, but Doug had also acted unilaterally in other areas, and this made it easier for the plotters to win over parliamentarians who might otherwise have supported Lowe.

    Those Premiers who followed him, however, aren’t well-described by your generic term of ‘rednecks’.

    2. David, since I suspect you’d deem most Australians to be “unAustralian, creeps”, I don’t imagine the media moguls will be too alarmed should they learn what your position is.

    3. Liz45, is it a core promise on your part when you say, “One day, this sexist crap might cease! (sigh)”. Wouldn’t you miss it if you had to give it up and write balanced comments?

    4. FriendlySavage, you REALLY believe the “grammatical and spelling errors in this article” were so major you “just cannot read it all”? Wow!!

    Why has no one mentioned that male politicians have felt they had to be married if they were to be accepted by voters? Oh that’s right, it’s unimportant because they were mere males, and societal expectations on them are the norm.

  4. Elan

    34 seconds to login-28 seconds to get here.

    And it’s been happening for weeks. Crikey and AdelaideNow. Strange bedfellows but both as slow as a snail with cramp!
    ________________________________

    (Abandon hope hope my little chickadees, we are up for the long haul;-Ceecil C.e.e.c.i.l has arrived!!!!!)
    _________________________

    MIKEC: I was a bit confucius about how I missed your post, but I realised you said naughty wicked words and it was held up for modding!!

    Are you referring to Julian’s post of yesterday 2.20 pm? I thought it fair to read it again- I might have misunderstood.

    I didn’t. I agree with it.

    The last line of my previous post says: “We DO buy into this. It is time we stopped”

    Women. I meant women. And we do.

    I retained all the stuff I like when I went to work,-the lippy; the massacre!-all the girly stuff. I happened to like me’ grooming. In other words I did not need ‘b.alls’ (OK automod?), in order to make it clear to my colleagues that I would not tolerate ANYTHING from them that related to other than my work.

    They knew it. They knew it from day one. We worked as equals. Because we were.

    I did not need to turn into a…what???…a hairy Sheila to do that.

    Premier Giddings cannot be vulnerable, and be Premier. She won’t be able to do her job if she does.

    Should such questions be asked? Well of course not!! But women have to learn that they need not countenance such questions. You will very likely get peeved journalistic hacks writing articles then about a prickly female politician.

    So what? They -the hack- will get over it.

    It doesn’t help when these daft bints start dressing up for women’s mags-and have a photo shoot in a tight dress and 7″ heels!

    Why not? Do you want to be taken seriously as a politician? THAT’S why not!!

    (I’m happy to embrace it when we see some male poncy git of a politician mincing around in an Armani suit or whatever. They don’t. OK there was Downer and his fishnets…….but it wasn’t a fashion shoot, it was only wee Alex behaving like the banker (sp?) he is).

    It was a nice fantasy. Just for a nanosecend I wanted to be a politician. I wanted to be the Premier of Tasmania,-just so that I could strafe any hackjourno who asked daft questions.

    And yes! I’d take the negative publicity until they cut the c.rap!

  5. Liz45

    @NORMAN – I shall continue to treat your remarks with the contempt they deserve – silence!

    @CAPTAIN PLANET – The reality is that it’s somewhere between impossible and inhuman for a woman to simultaneously, and adequately, meet the needs of a family and a high powered career in our modern world.

    Indeed, particularly when the most recent survey re house work and majority of child raising clearly showed, that women still undertake at least 80% of these responsibilities. Working class women have always had to work, and they also did most of the work at home. In fact, in my case, that was the dictate of he who believed he had the right to be obeyed! The recent survey also indicated, that women also take on the responsibilities of sick family members including aged parents – of both partners in many cases.

    Yes, there are stereotypical attitudes that are discriminatory to men, such as work hours and expected out of work hours commitments, but these will change if men get off their bums and start working towards change – there’s no group out there that I have detected.

    All sorts of ‘slinging off’ at women over the years, but that’s how you achieve things – it takes organising, commitment and determination. Take the imminent Equal Pay case that will commence in the next weeks – women at the helm – doing the hard yakka and hopefully getting a just result!

    Australian men could start with getting rid of the suit and tie – no wonder the greatest threat to men’s health is heart attacks – trussed up in the summer heat like a turkey! No wonder we need air conditioning in hot and stuffy buildings – they’d die off otherwise! Damned stupid!

    Then there’s the women who are threatened with the sack if they don’t have an abortion, or the male dominated workplaces that have a golden rule – don’t get pregnant or else. Of couse there’s the Anti-Discimination Legislation, but like the crimes of rape and domestic violence, women are often too fearful to take action – not weak, fearful – there’s a huge difference!

    Imagine the response if she’d given this idiot/s a mouthful – even a curt reply or a ‘Julie Bishop stare’?

  6. Norman Hanscombe

    11. Julian, it’s not restricted to feminists or any other group. To quote Twain [although his comment related to another group, not feminists, “They are members of the human race. I can say no worse of any man.” Mind you, some feminists would claim his use of “man” simply ‘proved’ he was genderist.

    1. Julian, it’s not restricted to feminists or any other group. To quote Twain [although his comment referred to another group, not feminists, “They are members of the human race. I can say no worse of any man.” Mind you, some feminists would claim his use of “man” simply ‘proved’ he was genderist?

    2. Anonymous David, although I can’t expect you to adopt my personal standard of not engaging in cowardly anonymous attacks the way you do, is it too much to ask that IF you act in this way, you at least have the intellectual integrity to explain what your perceived problem is, before you anonymously attack those who have asked, “Please explain?” Think of it as “A small step for mankind, but an enormous leap for one anonymous man”, and it might help with your self-confidence?

    Still, on the positive side, your whinge did help me realise your most egregious cowardice is hiding behind the flimsy veil of attacking anyone who asks you a question you’d rather put into your personal ‘too hard basket’. As for my alleged sin of the heinous crime of “unacceptable trolling”, all I can say is what a pathetically cowardly cop-out on your part that excuse is.

    I’m appalled you sneered at my status as a “poor defenceless old age pensioner.” I don’t recall saying I was poor, but while it’s true that I am impecunious, it wasn’t very kind of you to rub it in. We can’t all be affluent. As for your rather unkind injunction that I, “Get help”, fortunately I don’t have an obsession with material goods, so it’s not relevant to me, but since you didn’t know that, I’m amazed that you’d make such a potentially cruel remark.

    However, despite all you’ve said, anonymous David, should you ever build up sufficient confidence to decide [while remaining in your anonymous closet, of course] to actually spell out what you intended to say, I’ll be there waiting to help you. In the meantime, although I shan’t engage in trolling (sic) I shall still be dropping the occasional burley into the water — and some of it might even be for you?
    Have I wished you a happy new year yet?

  7. Captain Planet

    @LIZ45,

    “Australian men could start with getting rid of the suit and tie – no wonder the greatest threat to men’s health is heart attacks – trussed up in the summer heat like a turkey! No wonder we need air conditioning in hot and stuffy buildings – they’d die off otherwise! Damned stupid!”

    Hello again Liz. You have certainly touched on a matter of interest to me… though I think you are misplacing the blame. You imply that Australian men are stupid and wasteful of energy because we choose to wear suits and ties…. don’t blame the victim.

    Australian men could try doing away with the suit and tie I suppose (I for one would be glad to see them go) but we will not be taken seriously in the international business community if we show up in shorts and thongs, I promise you that.

    Australian dress codes are woefully out of step with the climate here – for men.

    It is an interesting experience as a man, to attend any kind of formal or semi formal function, in a hot climate in the modern world. In order to be considered civilly dressed, a man must wear closed shoes and socks, long trousers and a shirt with sleeves and a collar, as a mimimum – and that’s just to be allowed entry to the local pub or restaurant. Anything less is “indecent” or “slovenly” and actually results in being refused entry. If it’s a proper formal function you will be required to wear a jacket and tie as well.

    It’s a great feeling being refused entry to a cafe because you are wearing any one of thongs, a singlet or shorts, while women in “flip flops” or sandals walk straight in, wearing sleeveless summer dresses with their legs bare from thigh to toe, feeling delightfully cool in the summer breeze. It’s an even better feeling standing in line to get into licensed premises, in 40 degree heat, in jeans, shoes and a shirt, with sweat trickling off every square inch of your body, knowing that you must meet a Victorian standard of “decency” which long ago ceased to be a societal expectation of the fairer sex.

    I agree that the unequal dress codes for men and women in Australia are “stupid” – but I promise it’s not because we as men have all decided that we want it that way.

    Having said that, there is enormous pressure on women to dress perfectly for a whole range of different occasions, when they are in a position of authority – and considerable criticism of their dress and personal appearance, which is seldom directed at men in similar positions. This needs to be addressed. Underlying this unhealthy focus on the appearance of women in power is a deep seated depiction of women as decorative and superficial, valued more for their appearance than their capabilities. This is certainly denigrating to women and we all need to work on it.

    Underlying the draconian and downright uncomfortable discrimination against men in the field of climate – appropriate clothing, is a presupposition that all men are, at their core, brutish, uncouth and violent. It is as though only men who are willing to endure a Victorian era prudishness and concealment of the limbs can truly be trusted to not disgrace themselves in a public place. Any man relaxed enough to want to get some airflow around his calves, wriggle his toes in the cooling air, or (heaven forbid!) subject the public to the disgusting sight of his uncovered shoulders or upper arms, is instinctively considered to be inadequately self controlled to be allowed in civilised society. This is just as denigrating to men, and we should all be working on this, too.

    Like I said – you can’t liberate only half of society. Unless all are free, none are free.

  8. Norman Hanscombe

    Captain Planet, there are MANY disadvantages faced by males, but we tend to make less fuss about them. Make a mild, accurate comment about a female, and it can result in an outraged scream worthy of a stuck pig, as the gentlest of males is condemned for being a male chauvinist pig. On the other hand, if a genuinely chauvinist female sow attacks a gentle male, it’s deemed all right.

    Then there’s the unbalanced approach to cancer. All the hype re breast cancer, but little by comparison is said about the slightly more deadly prostate cancer. I know it’s the males’ fault this happens, because we don’t run off to the doctor as often as we should. In any case, isn’t everything the males’ fault? It would still be a change however, just once, for a tad more balance in discussing these issues.

    Perhaps the greatest imbalance of all is the question of the ‘glass ceiling’. Whenever there aren’t ‘enough’ females at the top, it’s claimed that the difference is all about society’s unfair treatment of women. We’re told it couldn’t possibly be affected by innate biological differences between men and women. Fair enough I guess, even if there’s never been any scientific basis for this claim. Still, if we’re to be consistent re our claim that all differences between men and women result from society’s differential treatment, we have a problem. How do we explain the fact that most non-readers and extremely poor readers are boys? Why do the poorest performing boys perform markedly less well than the poorest performing girls?

    But (as John Cleese would say if this was an episode in Fawlty Towers)
    “Don’t Talk About the Facts!!!!!

  9. Liz45

    @Hi Elan!

    [moderator: this comment has been edited. No personal attacks on another commentators are allowed]

    @CAPTAIN PLANET – Nobody is suggesting shorts and thongs! There’s a perfectly appropriate ‘in between’? I’ve noticed the increase in the use of cotton, good quality cotton too, in T-shirts, trousers etc. We grow it here! Wool too!There’s no reason why casual trousers can’t be made from a natural fibre, even fine wool which is cool and doesn’t crease easily etc. Why all the mixes of synthetic fabrics that don’t breathe and make men feel even hotter. Ties are made from synthetics too, which just aggravates the whole comfort of men – how they work beats me? Just having a restriction around your neck can’t be healthy – there’s major arteries in your neck?

    You may be surprised to know, that when it comes to ‘suitable male attire’ in order to enter clubs etc, I have been championing your cause(all men) for years and years. As you so clearly state, a woman can get away with only covering intimate areas really, while all else can be barely or not covered at all? Men are trussed up like turkeys – look at the really formal affairs, such as the annual awards for cricketers or the Logies etc?Graphic examples of discrimination! But it’s up to men to start championing your cause! Just campaign for smart casual clothes that are appropriate to our weather, which is only going to get warmer?

    Those who complain of the focus on breast cancer v/s prostate cancer need to realise the truth. Once again, it was the women involved in Women’s Health Centres, female politicians with the information from the medical profession that started the educational awareness program, which is growing every year. Men need to start some awareness support groups of their own, instead of whining about women getting all the attention. Like rape crisis centres and domestic violence refuges – they came about after much hard work; writing submissions; meetings with politicians; media campaigns; rallies, and hours and hours of meetings! In short, hard bloody work! I know, I’ve been involved in them for over 30 years now! For instance, the Women’s Health Centre that I’m involved with have recently been successful in receiving funding to educate the community about women’s health as it relates to heart disease and strokes(which kill more women each year than all the cancers combined) and diabetes, diet etc.Hard work and commitment, that’s the key!

    There are now ads on TV re prostate cancer, of which I welcome and applaud. But, the fact is, that men are slack re their health, and are far too precious about THE intimate exam re diagnosis or check up re this awful cancer. Just as well women aren’t so precious about internal exams, many of you wouldn’t have entered the world safely if that were so! No women likes this invasion, but like mammograms, we just do it, and get on with it! Maybe the idea of leaving our kids is stronger than mens’, otherwise they’d just get on with it too!

  10. Captain Planet

    Hi Liz,

    We are in agreement. Men need to take the reins on their own health, our health outcomes aren’t going to improve while we are doing nothing to help ourselves.

    I agree with you about the prostate cancer awareness and funding thing, too.
    It’s morally wrong that prostate cancer research and services are underfunded by comparison with the more high profile breast cancer. There is a gender bias here. However the only way to correct injustices is activism – and now that you mention it, men’s groups advocating increased funding or awareness of prostate cancer are a bit thin on the ground.

    I’d like to think there is a third way which would have been open to Lara Giddings with respect to answering the idiot journalist who asked her about whether she was concerned that she might be giving up the opportunity to have a family, in order to be premier.
    Most posters on this thread have suggested that the only two effective options would have been to refuse to answer the question, or dish out a mouthful of abuse.
    I suggest that a far more effective approach would have been for Lara to politely and gently point out,
    1. That the question is not in the public interest,
    2. That she likes to keep her private life private and it’s really not the sort of information which is of value to the voters of Tasmania, and
    3. That she would be happy to answer any questions about policy directions of the government under her leadership, or challenges the government is likely to face going forward.

    Oh and Amber, although the Australian is undoubtedly institutionally sexist and obnoxious, it is not the entire media, or even the entire mainstream media, which behaves in this manner. Witness your own article published in Crikey, and this one in the Melbourne Age:-

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/hairstyles-the-least-of-leaders-worries-20110127-1a5n8.html

    The question was loaded and Lara knew it. If she ignored it or blew up, she would be painted as defensive or aggressive: She obviously felt her only option was to be honest and open and try to engage people productively about what is, after all, a true challenge and sometime barrier to career success for women. Unfortunately this gave the Oz and others the ammunition they needed to judge her only by her marital status and parental ambitions or lack thereof. What she SHOULD have done – what we all should do, whenever prejudice rears its ugly head – is confront the inappropriate behaviour, politely but firmly point out the injustice of the insinuation or implication, and then redirect the discussion in a productive direction.

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