Jul 23, 2014

Rundle: like a Lambie to the slaughter as dick jokes uncover the Right’s elitism

Accusing Jacqui Lambie of sexism is unfair, and ignores the spectres of prejudice caused by class and gender.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Last week Senator Jacqui Lambie rose to her feet in the red chamber and asked her first set of questions without notice. She was as wobbly as the wooden bike she would later be riding around the forecourt of Parliament, laughing just a little too much -- but she wasn't a disgrace, either, and there's no reason she won't get the hang of it. Yet she is rapidly proving to be the most visibly eccentric of the new crossbench senators, as her two PUP companions, Glenn Lazarus and Dio Wang, are relatively straightforward types, the staged victory hug at the carbon tax repeal notwithstanding. Now she's in hot water again for playing along with a Hobart breakfast DJ crew -- isn't that just about the most depressing phrase you've ever heard? -- and telling them and their several listeners that her ideal man was one who was well-endowed financially and well endowe- oh for god's sake, who had a big dick. After which, chaos erupted. For days it had become increasingly irritating that two stories -- MH17 and Gaza -- were crowding out all others. That this became the only item worthy of adding to the roster, suggested that news selection had officially become insane. Lambie was slated for being a goose, for offending the dignity of blah blah, and -- well, it wasn't completely clear what the objection was.  Then inevitably, this being Australia, Sweden of the south, comment took a gender equalitarian turn, and Lambie was slammed for saying something that a man couldn't say in the equivalent manner, and was it sexist to say this about a man, and was it encouraging sexism against women to say this about a man, and etc, etc. Every awful aspect of Australian cultural politics -- the endless invitation to joyless self-censorship -- was on display. The obvious answer to the conundrum was this: cultural power is not symmetrical, and a man saying he was on the lookout for a wife with an outstanding front bench fnarr fnarr, wouldn't get away with it because women's bodies are pre-objectified in our culture. It's a little more complicated than that, since it's about the straight gaze -- I suspect Penny Wong could get away with some incorrect on-air musings if she were that type of person (which, of course, she isn't).
"Cultural power is not symmetrical, and a man saying he was on the lookout for a wife with an outstanding front bench fnarr fnarr wouldn't get away with it because women's bodies are pre-objectified in our culture."
But the main objection to Lambie, implicit though it was, was that she didn't play the role of the politician in these situations, which is to be flustered. The breakfast FM appearance is a time-honoured enactment of the elite-popular split in Oz politics -- having resigned ourselves to being ruled by a self-selecting caste, the mass of the population gets a taste of reverse power, of sorts, when pollies are embarrassed in pop culture situations. Lambie didn't play that game, because she's not from the political caste -- she gave the answer a lot of listeners were probably giving back, jokingly, listening along in the car. The horror is not at the crudity of the remarks, the horror is that she didn't see her role as being a stooge representative of Parliament, to the people it rules. For added giggles, the issue centred on a dick joke, and the phallus, as the locus of power, must be veiled at all times. Indeed the half-buried Parliament house is a veiled phallus. For $500, you can buy this topic for your cultural studies MA. What it also shows is the way in which the arrival of the PUP senators and Ricky Muir has thrown the whole "elites" bullshit of the Right into sharp focus. For years, party and media members of the political caste have presented themselves as representatives of the masses against the elite, this line reaching its absurd heights with Nick Cater's The Lucky Culture. The masses, we were told, were right-wing,  free-market, piously conservative and religious. And were happy to be represented by the likes of Miranda Devine. Well, surprise. A few of the masses made it into Parliament, and they are nothing like the straw dogs that the Right had established. Their politics cleave to no simplistic Left or Right split, their manner is far from the petit-bourgeois fantasy of the Caters et al, and they don't seem to be in a mood to conform to a deadened Australian political culture. So one cheer for them, however they got there, and whatever might happen. Anyone who really thinks that a senator giving a zoo crew as good as she gets hasn't realised the degree to which they've internalised Australian political ideology.

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41 thoughts on “Rundle: like a Lambie to the slaughter as dick jokes uncover the Right’s elitism

  1. pritu

    We need more Lambie and Muir and much much less Erica Betz & ilk.

  2. zut alors

    ‘…a Hobart breakfast DJ crew — isn’t that just about the most depressing phrase you’ve ever heard?’

    Haha, Guy, it’s a definite contender.

    I did reflect on whether Lambie’s 24 year-old son was mortified – or perhaps chuffed – with his mother’s revelations on his own physique.

  3. Pamela

    Thanks Guy
    We would be lost without your erudite observations.
    One hopes that this Lamb, caught in the tractor blades of the machine that is the political commentariat, develops sharp survival skills before she is mown down.

  4. Andybob

    I was so outraged I didnt know whether to wring my hands or clutch my pearls.

  5. Katie

    Why is no one pointing out the real sexism at play here is the fact she was asked the question in the first place. How many single men are in parliament and how many of them have been asked about their ideal woman? Institutionally it remains acceptable to ask professional women these things and focussing on the answer she gave misses the real issue. Her answers disclose her to be shallow, and possessing questionable judgement, and perhaps as having a robust sense of humour. The fact she was asked the question in the first place, and that no one is calling those who questioned her for what it is, is the far more revealing issue.

  6. mikeb

    ‘…a Hobart breakfast DJ crew — isn’t that just about the most depressing phrase you’ve ever heard?’
    Well no. It’s far more depressing to pad this article with such a snide and snobbish aside which wasn’t even particularly funny. Fail GR.
    That being said Lambie was led to slaughter by the nose, and the worrying thing is that she didn’t see it for what it was. Heart FM are still pushing it as far as they can for the publicity. The silly woman was on there again this morning whilst they replayed the juicy bits over & over. She may well have said what many women think but really, an elected representative of the nation on a pretty good pay packet should know better.

  7. David Coady

    Nice piece Guy, except for the nasty dig at Hobart.

  8. johnd

    As a slightly-out-of-Hobart resident, I can assure you that this “Hobart breakfast DJ crew” is hardly held in high esteem. They are only slightly better than giving Cletus the Slackjawed Yokel a slot on community radio.

  9. Pamela

    for “Cletus the Slackjawed Yokel”
    such lovely words

    Hobart should not lament alone- all of us in cities across the nation have our unfortunate share of “Cletusses” delivering a distressing diatribe of drivel daily.

  10. Emoticom

    So Lambie was a bit wink-wink nudge-nudge naughty. It’s a bit of schoolyard humour from a rather fierce, boganesque representative of a large section of the populace. There is no place for deep intellectual analysis of a light-hearted off the cuff remark. Lordy, how po faced we have become. Personally I am delighted to have Lambie in parliament, though I disagree with much of her politics to date. A bit more honesty and a bit less grandstanding, manipulation and spin will add colour and life to a near moribund institution.

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