Aug 6, 2012

‘Unproductive old cow’, say one-dimensional old men

The latest example of misogynist abuse of the Prime Minister illustrates how she angers a certain type of male.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

David Farley, CEO of Australian Agriculture Company, is only the latest middle-aged white male to have a problem with Julia Gillard. He’s the one who called the Prime Minister "an unproductive old cow" last week while discussing new techniques for animal slaughter. Farley, evidently the real victim here, complained he was "taken out of context", although what "context" would perform the rhetorical alchemy of transforming his misogynist remarks into something anodyne isn’t clear. Then again, "taken out of context" has become one of those all-purpose excuses when someone has been caught out. Next, Farley will "apologise to anyone who was offended". AACo isn’t exactly a reflection of modern Australian society. There are no women on its board. There are no women senior executives. Its annual report notes that women are 36% of the company’s employees. Farley evidently doesn’t see too many women when he’s at work, except at EAs’ desks. But Farley isn’t unusual in that regard. When it comes to misogynist abuse of Julia Gillard, he fits a pattern. Take two of the Prime Minister’s parliamentary critics. Bill Heffernan famously called her "deliberately barren". George Brandis "SC", as he likes to be called, also complained that "she has chosen not to be a parent … she is very much a one-dimensional person". Brandis is from the Queensland Bar, where currently five out of 126 senior counsel are women (though, under Campbell Newman’s Back To The Moonlight State policy, they’ll soon be called Queen’s Counsel again). And in the Liberal Party room where Heffernan and Brandis sit, just over one-fifth of their colleagues are women. Then there are her media abusers. Ray Hadley and Alan Jones are two of her most vituperative critics, who level contumely at her entirely different in nature to the rhetoric they direct at male politicians and, particularly, Tony Abbott. Jones whined to the Prime Minister that she was late to an interview and called for her and Bob Brown to be drowned, the sort of comments that lead to Secret Service investigations if uttered about the president in the US. Hadley and Jones are both from football backgrounds -- Hadley was and still is a footy commentator, Jones was a rugby and league coach. Hadley is nearly 60 and Jones is in his 70s. Then there’s Garry Linnell, 48, now at Fairfax but the editor of The Daily Telegraph when, for no readily explained reason, it ran a cover during the 2010 election campaign portraying Gillard as an old woman. Linnell’s a former sports journalist. I’m not including Grahame Morris’ "kicking her to death" comment -- that was surely just poor choice of words rather than any ill-intent. But to be complete, you might add the climate denialists responsible for the misogynist placards at anti-carbon tax rallies last year, invariably angry old white people. Are we seeing a pattern here? This is nothing to do with intelligence or education. But middle-aged or old Anglo men, particularly from blokey environments, appear to be over-represented among those dishing out gender-based abuse of the PM. It’s not the whole pattern, to be sure. A number of women have engaged in gender-based abuse of the PM. Sometimes it’s over her appearance. Kate Legge joined in what was an election campaign barrage of misogyny from News Ltd with a piece, which will surely adorn her CV for decades to come, on the Prime Minister’s earlobes. Germaine Greer reflected on the Prime Minister’s "enormous arse" (a comment that Tony Abbott explicitly endorsed). And Sophie Mirabella and the unfortunate Janet Albrechtsen are, like some men, hung up about the prime ministerial failure to breed. And perhaps the most offensive piece of writing about the PM since she became Prime Minister came from News Ltd’s Patrick Carlyon, who’s only 40. He managed to both infantilise and mock the PM about her gender when he opined about Barack Obama’s Australia visit that the she was "a high school girl who has, finally, after much bedroom plotting, captured the gaze of the football captain". Although, interestingly, Carlyon, who boasts a book about Gallipoli to his name, writes extensively on sport. The abuse of the PM goes well beyond the usual double standard that every female politician, regardless of party, has to endure, with the focus on their appearance and family circumstances and the suggestion that they are somehow intellectually weaker and more easily influenced than men. She seems to push the buttons of older white men who aren’t used to dealing with women professionally, as if their long years in all-male environments have rendered them unable to process the idea of a woman who isn’t a subordinate or in a domestic role. Interestingly, watch this interview with David Farley about Christine Milne and see how he’s at pains to emphasise that Milne is a mother, who accordingly will have natural empathy for people in the bush. So, perhaps, having a vagina isn't an automatic disqualification for office, but failing to use it for producing children may well be. The subtext -- although it's rarely particularly sub -- is that Gillard, with her apparent lack of interest in such allegedly feminine pursuits as marriage and children (men of course never want to get married or have kids), is thus both unattractive and unnatural. Hence the violent language from older men, in which Gillard is an animal, to be slaughtered or drowned, a crone, or that ultimate symbol of aberrant, transgressive womanhood, a witch. Some of the language of climate denialist protesters in fact sought to frame Gillard in what they evidently thought was a more natural role for her, as s-xually subordinate to a male partner in Bob Brown, in order to explain her carbon price policy. All of which raises the question of whether it's the Prime Minister who, to use George Brandis' phrase, is "one-dimensional", or whether that more aptly describes older men who can’t cope with women who refuse to conform to gender stereotypes forged in male working environments.

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80 thoughts on “‘Unproductive old cow’, say one-dimensional old men

  1. klewso

    And haven’t “Murdoch’s women” done their part in institutionalising this misogeny – and if women can do it, and get away with it, to “one of theirs”, why can’t men? Seems logical enough?

    [They used their vast resources and facilites for vilification for bagging Sandilands (for bad-mouthing a fellow/female journo) but not for turning on their own for their treatment of Gillard, or Leisel Jones? Why is “some misogyny more tasteless than others”? Because they’re “Journo’s – The best arbiters of Right and wrong”?]

  2. Karen

    @ Patriot – my post at 8.18am in response to your post has come out of moderation – learn.

  3. Karen

    @ Dogs Breakfast – I understand what you mean – fire in the belly is an attractive quality because it shows passion, but it tends to sit better on people with that sort of temperament, like Hawke, or even Keating (although scathing was more his style).

    JG doesn’t have that personality – she’s intellectual, measured, controlled, even clipped in a hostile environment which, I agree, attracts the “wooden” tag or, alternatively, the “soft” /”not leadership material” tag, when she’s she shows her warmth in a friendly environment.

    On the other hand, if she starts throwing out clangers in front of journalists, like she can do in parliament – “mincing poodle” being one of them – she runs the risk of Jones/Hadley et al slapping the “neurotic/nasty woman, “nutter”, “can’t cope with pressure” tag on her.

    Perhaps, she can allow herself to get away with a few “off the cuff’ comments (say what’s on her mind, then and there) but time and place will be everything.

    Either way, the hate media won’t let her win.

  4. David of Falcon

    Cmon that’s pathetic ! I wont bother counting how often the word “misogynist” is used. Nor the continual attack on middle aged white anglo saxon men (“mawasm” whom happened to be the most racial abused group in Australia) on television in media by other cultural groups it’s a joke.

    In Australia its ok to stereotype, denigrate, discriminate against, make fun of etc “mawasm” as heck they should just take it as men !!

    If any woman has a go at a male politician whom she doesn’t like and/or disagrees with should she be labelled a “Male Hater” as well. Shit no, theres double standards all over this country due to the politically correct, brain dead hypocrites hell bent on screwing this country up!! And its already started.

    Gee that Gillard is picked on WHOOPEE DOO! OH MY GOD there isn’t any women on a certain board “SO FRIGGING WHAT”! most likely way more men have worked towards gaining those jobs, whereas women in the past have taken years and years off raising kids working part-time etc and mostly have not been interested in managerial roles. (A fact shown in primary schools with many female teachers not wanting to have to deal with parents as the Principle).

    Female models earn bazzillions compared to males but is there an industry of men yelling out how hard done by they are? No of course not ! Facts are most people want to see female models including women so they sell, its economics and its accepted. However with sport people want to watch the best hence, male sportsman are mostly paid more than women, however you often hear whinges about how this female team is discriminated against because they don’t get paid the same as the men etc…. its just no-one wants to watch them its economics too not discrimination.

    Have a look at the social pages of any magazine, newspaper etc mmmm whats the % of men in the photos?? Now no-one whinges about it but heck if it was the other way around that bastion of hypocrisy and the one eyed, drug f…ed hypocrite brigade would be up in arms…

    What I am pointing out above is known and agreed I believe by most men and women in this country, unfortunately a lot of idiots with absurd social agendas appear to push into politics and we currently have tax funded agencies trying to promote at all costs their groups interests while trying to paint mawasm as evil and nasty. Not many are, unfortunately I have to say Abbot is but he may get in due to Labors patheticness..

  5. Patriot


    There was nothing worth learning in that incoherent leftist rant of yours. This piece by Bernard is nothing but age discrimination and Anglophobia from a self-hating, middle-aged white man.

  6. Captain Planet

    @ Karen,

    You fed the Troll.

  7. Karen

    @ Patriot – just the sort of comment that I would expect from an intellectual pi gmy who has clearly never stepped inside the gates of a university. I was giving you a lesson in criminology concerning why aboriginal people are overrepresented in the prison population and why muslim extremists strap explosives to their chest. A crystalclear, distilled message.
    Attend any black letter law school and sit in on a similar subject and you’ll get a similar lecture. Hardly, a left wing rant. And in case you’re wondering, law schools like economics departments are not known for their left wing biases.

    Sorry, Captain Planet, I couldn’t help the rejoinder – this man is so lacking in insight, he doesn’t realise he’s sinking deeper into his own pit every time he opens his mouth on the subject.

  8. PW1969

    You forgot about Piers Akerman (although he is easy very forgettable). But in his article today, he referred to the Prime Minister as a ‘ganster’s moll.’

  9. Hamis Hill

    @ DAVID OF FALCON, as in there are knuckle dragging cave men but he very concept of a cave woman is beyond contemplation.
    But the major problem in a sport like politics is that that man a mano verbal confrontations are always backed up by the threat of physical confrontation “outside”. Tends to reduce the level of vitriol.
    Remember the Age of duelling?
    When a man makes a verbal attack on a woman there is always the perception that it is being taken cowarldly on the understanding that the woman will not be taking the man out the back to punch his lights out by way of resolving the problem.
    So many of the attacks on Gillard are cowardly by obvious cowards.
    Even if Gillard had a “Champion” to defend her honour, outside now!, can you imagine how a real man would be revolted at dusting up the cowardly, simpering, fop eunuchs responsible.
    (No need for names, they are obvious, might be sued for defamation.)

  10. Karen

    @PW1969 – yeah, goes to prove my point about the ‘hate media’ whose job it is not to ‘let up’ on her. Ackerman is cringeing shocker.

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