The extraordinary abuse copped by a pair of female politicians over the course of the Queensland election campaign could well represent a new low in political discourse.
Their seats sit on a knife-edge. Labor holds South Brisbane, with political powerhouse and former deputy premier Jackie Trad in the fight of her life with the Greens, who the LNP has decided to preference ahead of her.
The Greens already hold the seat of Maiwar, a hop, skip and jump away. But former TV journalist and new LNP star Lauren Day has had a big impact inside the party, and LNP chiefs expect to count that seat in their tally on October 31.
Trad and Day have nothing much in common. But this week, they have both become the subject of foul sexist slurs.
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Trad has been labelled a “slut” in big ugly letters across corflutes. Private property has also been vandalised, and police have now been called in to investigate.
“Honestly, this needs to stop,” Trad told her supporters on Facebook yesterday. “It’s not activism, it’s cowardice and it’s sexist.”
It sure is, even if Day won’t use that word. Yesterday, one of her volunteers was hosed down by an onlooker. The day before, Day was labeled “ScoMo’s whore” in graffiti attacks. Other signs had been defaced with drawings of male genitalia.
“It just shows the left is worried about losing the seat,” she told Crikey, “but my experience in journalism has prepared me well for this.” A former court reporter, Day’s grown a thick skin.
But isn’t it also sexist? Day didn’t want to be drawn into that debate. But it is.
Calling female politicians sluts and whores is a sad indictment on both the perpetrators and any community that tolerates it.
Hosing down volunteers, destroying property including fences, and abusing supporters of those running for public office diminishes our democracy.
Of course, the stakes for both Trad and Day are high. And they are two of the toughest politicians lining up at the ballot box. Neither is easily intimidated, but that should not provide the bar for what’s acceptable and what’s not.
“They are gutless pieces of crap,” one of Trad’s supporters wrote on her Facebook page. Another declared “grubs like this fit right into the Lib/Nat party so well … they are low rent nasty bum sniffers”.
The standard of debate, in the wake of abuse against Day, was no better. “Imagine the uproar from the left if (Annastacia) Palaszczuk’s sign made reference to her being Albo’s lady of ill-repute” one said. Others blamed the Greens, and even a Labor minister’s father for the abuse.
Social media — and the anonymity it offers — has made certain voices louder and more abusive. A pandemic that has decreased political door knocks, town hall meetings and mall greetings has also raised the political temperature.
Would someone really call Jackie Trad or Lauren Day a slut or a whore to their face? You’d hope not. But we should also hope that the politics of hate never trumps noisy stoushes where the debate is about ideas and visions.
Perhaps that’s a touch idealistic. But as the starter’s gun sounds on the Queensland election campaign — where we will get a female leader no matter what party gains power — there’s already a deplorable waft of sexism that needs to be called out by all sides.