Julia Gillard and s-xism:

John Richardson writes: Re. “What do we mean by ‘s-xist’ when we refer to criticisms of Gillard?” (yesterday, item 18). Robin Cameron suggests that society’s treatment and expectations of Julia Gillard are s-xist. Cameron implies that Gillard is being treated unfairly, suggesting that we are guilty of applying a double standard by accepting that it’s OK for Hawke, Keating and many other male leaders to knife each other in the back, but that it’s not OK for Gillard to do the same.

I think Cameron is right about the double standard but wrong in her contention that this is a reflection of s-xist attitudes.

What Cameron and many other commentators fail to understand is that many in our society actually expect higher standards of behaviour from women in public office or business than men, so when those women try and behave like men or demand to be treated like men, we are more than a little disappointed. There is ample evidence to suggest that women make better political and business leaders than men and that they are more inspirational and ethical.

There is ample research available that demonstrates that strong market growth among European companies is most likely to occur where there is a higher proportion of women in senior management teams and that businesses with more women on their boards outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return on sales; 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity. Other research has found that teams that involve women are more intelligent than teams made up of men alone.

In my view, Gillard’s leadership failure is not a function of her performance when measured against the behavioural standards of men, but rather against a higher level of capability that she never had.

Niall Clugston writes: Regarding Robin Cameron’s comments on the attacks on Julia Gillard, I think the issue of s-xism cuts both ways. Being overprotective of women is as s-xist as denigrating them, and equally unhelpful.

While snipers are clearly focusing on Gillard’s femininity, and stories proliferate about her stereotypical feminine attributes, or lack of them, the fact is that calling Tony Abbott the “Mad Monk” or referring to his Speedos clearly focuses on his masculinity. And perhaps John Howard didn’t like people deriding his eyebrows or his stature.

I’d suggest that everyone tries to play the ball instead of the woman or man.

Peter Slipper:

David Hardie writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Peter Slipper is no mug. In his decision to revert to the speaker’s robe, etc, he has sent (and forgive the cliché ) a clear message about the respect that should be afforded to the speakers of the house.

You see it in teachers who normally dress in a more casual fashion than the students on free-dress day. It is a very short step from being their “mate” (ethically dubious at the best of times) to being their “mat”.

For Slipper, he will probably be never be trusted again by either side, so building a culture of respect  for the an independent Speaker is all he has left.

Now to show he is serious on the floor of the house. Watch this space.

Cyclists:

Andrew Cunningham writes: Re. Ava Hubble (yesterday, comments). Cyclists, myself included, do sometimes use the footpath. If the road were a safer place this would not be so. Shared areas are of particular frustration because pedestrians, in my experience, treat the space as their own. There is no sharing. Cyclists are treated as intruding.

There are no enforceable speed limits on push bikes. They do not need a speedometer to be roadworthy. I believe this has been tested in court.

Approaching this issue it is apparently near impossible to empathise. We all talk of how we are wronged on our roads, our footpaths.

Perhaps we should all grow up. Some cyclists are d-ckheads, as are some motorists, etc. I suppose, that since being the overtly racist and bigoted people that white Australians once were, is not as acceptable as it once was, perhaps we just need an outlet. A group that we’re allowed to hate.

Is that all we’ve got? I hope not.

Glen Fergus writes: Cycling lobbyists are regularly accused of road rule pedantry, but in my experience there is nothing more hostile — or dangerous — than that mad motorist or pedestrian who spends their days self-righteously trying to enforce some cycling rule they think exists because they read or heard it on some damn media outlet. Please don’t compound the problem.

Ava Hubble is right about no footpath cycling in NSW, but a national e-newsletter could have taken the trouble to point out that’s not the rule in at least two other states. And as for a general 10 km/hr rule on shared paths, with feeling, that would be “absolute crap”.

So, fellow Crikey readers, think you know your cycling rules? Take this little test:

  1. Cycling up the left of line of cars stopped at the lights is illegal, true or false?
  2. Riding two abreast is illegal in urban areas unless there’s marked lanes, true or false?
  3. Cyclists must always signal before turning or diverging left, true or false?
  4. Where there’s no signs, cyclists are still obliged to ride in a lane marked on the road for their use, true or false?
  5. If they want to, pedestrians are entitled to stand or walk any way they like on a shared path, true or false?

Score any trues there guys? Dunce cap for you then.

[NSW sources (others mostly similar): 1. (part 2, note conjunction “and”); 2. (read carefully now…); 3. (part 5); 4. (part 4 for definition of “bicycle lane”, then see rule 247); 5. (parts 1 and 2, note “driver” is defined to include cyclists)]

Peter Fray

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