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Oct 17, 2012

Heterosexism or homophobic bullying: Miranda decides

Miranda Devine accused of misrepresenting the very sources used in her front-page Daily Tele attack on a NSW schools anti-homophobia program.


Politicians, health researchers and gay rights activists have accused News Limited columnist Miranda Devine of misrepresenting evidence and downplaying the seriousness of homophobic bullying in a front-page news story and accompanying opinion piece published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today.

Devine’s news story, republished on the Herald Sun and Australian websites, claims NSW students “are being taught it is wrong and ‘heterosexist’ to regard heteros-xuality as the norm for human relationships”. In her full-page opinion piece, Devine says the Proud Schools anti-homophobia program — which is being trialled in 12 NSW schools — “appears designed more for indoctrination and propaganda than to eliminate bullying”. She argues there is “little evidence” that homophobia is a big problem in schools.

Senthorun Raj, who was a member of the Proud Schools steering committee, told Crikey: “Miranda Devine has chosen to write an entire article using evidence that shows exactly the opposite of what she argues. It’s quite concerning.”

In both articles, Devine refers to 2010 research from La Trobe University, based on a survey of 3000 school children, that was used to guide the Proud Schools program. Some of the report’s key findings, not mentioned by Devine, include: 61% of same-sex and questioning young people reported verbal abuse because of homophobia, 18% physical abuse and 26% other forms of abuse. The number of students reporting homophobic abuse had risen since 1998 and 2004. Eighty per cent of those who suffered homophobic bullying said it happened at school and over a third of respondents described their school as homophobic.

The La Trobe researchers also found an association between school anti-homophobia programs and students’ feelings about their sexuality: 87% of students who ranked their school as supportive felt good or great, compared to 75% at a school labelled homophobic by students.

Raj, a former policy officer at the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said he’s disappointed by the Tele‘s coverage given its recent “Stop the Trolls” campaign to stop cyber-bullying and harassment: “If they are really going to call out the trolls why would they publish inflammatory stories that are misrepresenting information and saying bullying isn’t a problem?”

Anne Mitchell, an associate professor in health sciences at La Trobe, and one of the authors of the 2010 study, said: “I take exception to this whole idea about being normal. Heterosexuality is more common, but heterosexuality and homosexuality are both normal. This is not about trying to recruit people, it’s about trying to take the heat out of an issue so young people who are questioning their sexuality know they’re OK.”

NSW Labor frontbencher Penny Sharpe said: “The article misses the point of what Proud Schools is about. It’s an anti-homophobia program that says school students are worthy of respect and should be free to be who they are. It’s about being inclusive of all people.”

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann described Devine’s take this morning as “fear mongering from an extreme minority”.

Devine told Crikey this morning: “The point we’re making is that this has gone beyond tackling homophobic bullying into the area of heterosexism … My article didn’t deny homophobic bullying is a problem.”

Devine says the idea heterosexist attitudes could lead to homophobia is “offensive”. The dictionary definition of heterosexism is: a prejudiced attitude or discriminatory practices against  homosexuals by heterosexuals.

Macquarie Street insiders told Crikey the Tele story appears to be driven by right-wing Liberals angry that Premier Barry O’Farrell handed the key education post to Adrian Piccoli, a moderate member of the National Party. According to Devine, “at least 10” Coalition MPs will complain to Piccoli this week about the Proud Schools program. There are 69 NSW Coalition MPs.

Piccoli came out strongly on ABC Local Radio this morning, saying he stood by the Proud Schools program. In a speech last month he praised his Labor predecessor Verity Firth for initiating the pilot program in Labor’s final term of government as “it is important for [the] cohesion of a harmonious, tolerant and inclusive school environment”.


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31 thoughts on “Heterosexism or homophobic bullying: Miranda decides

  1. Holden Back

    Why should it be surprising that a bully attacks an anti-bullying program?

  2. Mark from Melbourne


  3. klewso

    Limited News 101 :- “Start at a point wanted and work backwards.”

  4. Michaela Smith

    But her article did deny that homosexuals are bullied. The article said “there is no evidence that homophobic bullying is a big problem”…even though there is.
    I was absolutely disgusted when I read her article this morning.

  5. tinman_au

    Seems to me the argument is basically over the definition of “normal”.

    One side is using “normal” in the context of “Homosexuality naturally occurs with a small percentage of any species”.

    The other side is using it in the context of “Heterosexual relationships are the average”.

    Someone buy them a dictionary so they can have a laugh about it and get back to stopping homophobic bullying trolls.

  6. klewso

    Who “bullies homophobes”?

  7. klewso

    The only trolls they want to stop are the one’s that aren’t theirs.

  8. David Heslin

    News Limited really aren’t very subtle about these matters are they?

    The headline may as well have read: DAILY TELEGRAPH READERS: YOUR PREJUDICES ARE JUSTIFIED! Anyway, I’m sure they’ll squeeze an AFA rent-a-quote in there somewhere for some confected outrage.

    I feel sorry for anyone who reads this rubbish.

  9. David Heslin

    Actually reading the article now. This bit is great:

    “The contemporary view, according to the report is: ‘Spectrums of attraction and complex interactions with the social world influence sexual and gender identity.’

    Whatever. It’s not up to academics to dictate attitudes to society via indoctrination of captive children in classrooms, and it’s irresponsible of politicians to allow them to do so.”

    “Whatever”! Code for: “Educated people say blah blah blah, but don’t worry if you can’t understand that. Your prejudices are justifiiiiied!”

  10. Venise Alstergren

    DAVID HESLIN: “”I feel sorry for anyone who reads this rubbish.”” Don’t.

    Anyone who regularly purchases, or views, Rupert Murdoch’s media is either too stupid to think, or too set in concrete with their views. These are the people who end up as pensioners, whereas the media kings, and their ilk, never have to face reality at all. A fact which I find infinitely depressing.

  11. Blair Martin

    Bullies are never bullied, so they total deny or refuse to see bullying when it happens to others. If they themselves come under attack, it’s “not fair” and it’s “inappropriate” and then the real kicker, they suddenly get a Damascean conversion and acknowledge there is bullying – but only on them. To whit, Bolt, Jones, Abbott.

  12. Dogs breakfast

    Really Crikey, I can understand your news sense in wanting to highlight this article, but having put it out there the only possible result is that more people will click on those links, even if in disbelief.

    With Miranda gone to News Ltd I was able to imagine a world without her, and I have to say it was a much nicer world.

    But you have broken the golden rule, Crikey:


  13. dazza

    Sigh** Another example why we need a media inquiry, NOW!
    People might actually believe what she writes and that’s is not in the national interest.

  14. Steve777

    I couldn’t be bothered reading the article. Basically if something is given big billing in the Telegraph but does not appear in a more credible outlet like the ABC or the Sydney Morning Herald, I assume it’s crap, either made up or grossly distorted, as this article appears to be.

    Of course the Murdoch tabloids’ business model is similar to that of Alan Jones and the other shock jocks – feed the fears, prejudice and paranoia of their readers. Niggle them into a state of righteous anger. Tell them using huge headlines that they’re right. All of this both helps to sell more papers and also supports the proprietors’ agenda to bring about a more friendly commercial environment through regime change.

  15. Steve777

    Clarification – I just read what I wrote. By ‘the article’, I mean Miranda Devine’s original piece in the Telegraph, not this article by Matthew Knott in Crikey.

  16. heavylambs

    Maybe Miranda needs a program to address her faith-mediated comprehension inadequacy.

  17. AR

    DogBrekkie – a reasonable point about exposing more people to the toxicity though I agree with Steve777 that if something isn’t followed up elsewhere it is probably typical mudorc krap.
    It’s purpose is not to inform but to bolster bigotry, ignorance and prejudice towards a specific goal, defeating decency, justice and equity in favour of the status quo, to the benefit of the Big Arsed end of town.

  18. Christopher Nagle

    There is no doubt that kids identified as homosexuals have traditionally suffered at the hands of peers and tradition dies hard. Any program aimed at tolerant and respectful acceptance of difference is to be applauded.

    But, and it is a big but, that doesn’t mean we have subscribe to any sort of notion of sexual ‘equality’ Sexuality is just biological candy to get us to reproduce. Reproduction is the centrepiece of human society and the main reason why it exists. People who go off reproductive message in their sexual habits are living a mistake, albeit a tolerable one that should not affect any other part of their lives. Homosexual relationships are reproductively sterile and cannot provide the gender balanced parenting that children are entitled to if at all possible.

    So I say to homosexuals, this condition can happen in any family and should be treated with a protective and loving compassion. They are all some heterosexuals’ close family relative. But I am also saying that the push to equivalence homosexuality and heterosexuality is an unsustainable mistake In the end, trying to hack into straight society will end up being seen as predation and it will end very badly.

    When the ideologically very indulgent consumer society starts to eventually fall apart, you guys will be caught in the open as everyone scurries back to the basics of what lifes is really about; the basics of viable reproduction in what will be undoubtedly difficult circumstances that will test tolerant goodwill to the max.

    You can get away with little ideological wanks now, but I promise you that they won’t last long once the environmental and economic shit starts to hit the fan.

  19. marilyn smithy

    Oh, Mr Nagle. Thank you for providing us all with the apocalyptic evolutionary viewpoint. Now we return you to our regularly scheduled reality.

    Homosexuality is a natural and normal part of human interaction, and has been for centuries. It does not, of itself, prevent reproduction, as bisexuality is an even more common, historical norm.

    So we have moved beyond earlier civilisational norms, which tended to shut out the non-average thinkers, artists, and other contributors. That we embrace a society of all kinds is not a prelude to the collapse of our environment and economy.

    Now excuse me while I get back to fiddling while Rome burns.

  20. drsmithy

    People who go off reproductive message in their sexual habits are living a mistake, albeit a tolerable one that should not affect any other part of their lives. Homosexual relationships are reproductively sterile and cannot provide the gender balanced parenting that children are entitled to if at all possible.

    So you would argue those who use contraception, those who are sterile and women who have sex past menopause are “mistakes” ?

    In the end, trying to hack into straight society will end up being seen as predation and it will end very badly.

    Maybe you can elaborate a bit on how accepting homosexual relationships in some ways “hacks into” heterosexual relationships. You can follow up by explaining how liking strawberry icecream somehow prevents you from liking vanilla icecream as well.

  21. klewso

    “Different strokes”?
    I like horse racing much more than car racing – does that make me an inappropriate person?

  22. Holden Back

    Yeah, so watch out, and I’m telling you this for your own good, those bullies will be waiting for you when society crumbles!!!

  23. AsGrayAs

    I love Miranda. She’s so vacuous and incapable of having readability among her character traits. I love the fact that no-one takes her seriously. Because if they did, she might get in real trouble for the bullsh!t she peddles. I just wonder why she still has a job. She never responded to (or took on board) my free advice on how to write a factual article and be an actual journalist, so I’m not surprised she’s still making these blunders. You try to help someone, and…

  24. gloria bennett

    i’m so pleased crikey’s finally got past it’s inimitable censorship in it’s articles. but, will it last?

  25. Recalcitrant.Rick

    I think Christopher Nagle proves that a homophobe is a homophobe however well he intellectualizes.

  26. Student T

    Any chance you could link to the Proud Schools Consultation Report, so that we can have a look directly ourselves without the partisan interpretation of you or Miranda Devine?

  27. Harris Evan

    It is a credit to Crikey that it can field some News Limited sport. It is puzzling to me it took the poms so long to wake up to it. Stay with the game Crikey and you could be the world’s leading press. Could be.

  28. justin cotton

    It seems to me that Miranda can’t lie straight in bed (pardon the pun). When she cops flak, she vacillates, and claims her article didn’t suggest homophobic bullying isn’t a problem. But that’s not what the plain words of her scare mongering article say. The upshot is that no-one in their right mind can suggest from their comfortable sofas that such bullying is not a problem in schools, and the stats from actual gay people bear this out.

    Blaming ‘the gays’ for trying to help young people who may be same sex attracted, is as Keryn Phelps said, a bit like beating someone up and blaming them for carrying bruises.

  29. Student T

    So it looks like nobody has actually looked at the Proud Schools report and nobody can provide a link. It seems like the report is not released. I sure couldn’t find it. Doesn’t stop people having strong opinions though!

  30. justin cotton

    Well Miranda doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good gay bash. Like so many straights out there, unfortunately

  31. Student T

    So Matthew Knott. Are you going to provide the report or not. I assume you read it. You are a journalist right?

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