Nina Funnell and Bettina Arndt (Images: Twitter/Facebook)

Ladies, we need to talk. There’s another war between women going on and this time it’s pointless.

I remember one of the early schisms in the feminist movement, the “mummy wars” of the 1980s, where all post-pubescent women were drafted into pitched battles between “working” women and “stay-at-home” mothers.

Later there was intersectional feminism which looked at how women of colour, disabled women and others were doubly discriminated against.

Now we have reached yet another skirmish. And it’s all over 70-year-old “sexpert” Bettina Arndt.

At this point, I’d like to remind all my fellow women that disunity is death and that we have a common cause: eliminating all mediocre men in positions of power and taking their place.

Anything else is a distraction.

The latest outrage began on January 26, when Bettina was nominated for a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours list.

Two days later, New Matilda’s Nina Funnell and Chris Graham published a 5000 word piece on Arndt, which basically claimed she’d held herself out as a “clinical psychologist” when in fact she only had a psychology degree and a masters.

The piece, which was well-researched, said she hadn’t done the extra training and accreditation needed to earn that title.

Arndt hit back at Funnell, using what Funnell calls “media opportunities to level personal attacks”, including in a piece in The Spectator. Meanwhile, a campaign has been growing to rescind Arndt’s gong based on her comments about domestic violence. The push has now gained bipartisan support in the Senate.

The problem is that Arndt’s whole business model — earning speaking fees preaching to the converted about “men’s rights” — is based on raising her public profile.

This month, delighted by all the extra attention, she has done several media interviews and milked it for all it was worth. For someone like Bettina, that’s money in the bank.

I’m all for free speech, even for those people with whom I fundamentally disagree — which includes Arndt, those horrible misogynists in the Australian Christian Lobby and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts.

But there’s a difference between allowing people to publish unsavoury opinions and actually amplifying them. Idiotic views can easily be ignored.

But now Funnell has done what no journalist should ever do: take legal action against another journalist for defamation.

(C’mon people — if we dish it out, we should be able to take it. Being a journalist means you have to take a few body blows and move on.)

Funnell’s legal action over remarks from Arndt triggered a “grovelling” apology from The Spectator (readership 500 people, most of whom have cataracts) and succeeded in removing several more comments elsewhere.

Yesterday, New Matilda posted a statement about it.

But each step along this chain has triggered a lot of comment, all of which, while apparently criticising Arndt, actually helps her cause.

The two journalist-activists have a history, having crossed swords for years over the issue of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses.

Funnell is an advocate for End Rape on Campus, one of the bodies giving evidence to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on the topic, Change the Course.

The report was criticised at the time — by Arndt amongst others — for having terms of reference that were drawn too widely. It included all incidents occurring on public transport to and from the university (not sure what the universities can do about that) and also included “staring” in the definition of sexual harassment.

You can slice and dice the figures in the report a million ways, but a large group of people — including me (and unfortunately, Arndt) — believe that the study indicated a level of sexual harassment and assault no higher than that in the broader community.

So here at Phase XIV of the Wars Between Women we have two opposing activists using social media and the battering ram of defamation laws to cause a fight which only benefits one of them.

In the meantime, the rest of us are trying to get more women into parliament to address issues like the gender pay gap and increasing female homelessness.

Ladies, please focus.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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