Scott Morrison and Grace Tame (Image: AAP /Mick Tsikas)

Was there ever a side-eye that divided a nation quite like the side-eye that former Australian of the Year Grace Tame threw at Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week? Except, let’s be honest, it didn’t really divide a nation — it divided those who still believe women owe men smiles with those who don’t. 

Here’s what happened. At a morning tea to meet the 2022 Australian of the Year finalists in Canberra, Tame was enthusiastically called over for a photo op by Morrison (perhaps he was looking for a new costume: yesterday his daggy-dad hat or a hi-vis vest, today a strident advocate — we know how much he likes to play dress-ups). 

Tame obliged, if somewhat reluctantly. She and fiance Max Heerey shook hands with Morrison, posed for a photo, and didn’t respond to his question (“How are you going? Congratulations on the engagement”). She also threw the PM an exceptional side-eye during the photos, and did not crack a smile (neither did fiance Heerey, by the way), before exiting stage right.

Cue the outrage. 

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It came in from all the usual suspects, but most notably political academic and journalist Peter van Onselen, who wrote that Tame was “ungracious, rude and childish”, and that if her disdain for Morrison was so great she shouldn’t have gone. Yes, because that would have played out really well. Later that day, van Onselen was co-hosting The Project with Carrie Bickmore and was blasted by Bickmore and guest commentator Amy Remeikis, Guardian Australia’s political reporter.

Since the side-eye sitch, Twitter has been flooded with comparison’s to Tame’s actions, more noticeably Justice Kenneth Hayne’s refusal to play nice with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in 2019, and Morrison’s forced handshake with a Black Summer bushfire victim, a situation he then went on to lie about (that’s lie number 39, folks).

The irony of the whole thing is that conservatives have been trying to silence Grace Tame all year. Now she’s finally given them silence and they can’t shut up about it.

This article was updated at 13:25, 28/01/2022.