Blow whistle on harassment – Hobart Mercury

More intelligent, more accomplished women – and probably men – have been saying this stuff for decades. But Bec Fitzgibbon gets it published in a small-town newspaper and suddenly everyone is all ears?

It’s no wonder that I get my news from Tumblr rather than my local rag.

That said: yes, it’s an important message and a good article. But it shouldn’t take something like this to make people realise that this is how life works.

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She’s not perfect, but I’m still proud of our Prime Minister

After her incredible Question Time speech in Parliament on October 9th – the news and YouTube video of which have apparently gone viral – Prime Minister Gillard is receiving, well, even more attention than usual. Many people, men and women alike, are praising the Prime Minister’s courage, as well as her oratory skills, in calling out Tony Abbott and others on ridiculous statements they have made in the past.

It’s true that those whose watched the entirety of the day unfold, and not just the Prime Minister’s speech, have a somewhat different (and more cynical) view of the whole affair. But nothing even comes close to the bile that Peter Hartcher today expressed in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald. I beg you, please read the whole article, but just in case you’re lazy (like me) I’m going to extract a few key quotes.

“If there was one thing that should have been different about Gillard’s prime ministership, it should have been that Australia’s first female prime minister should have been a flag bearer for women.”

In the next paragraph he goes on to say: “She started on her long trajectory of electoral disillusionment when, bit by bit, she revealed herself to be just another politician.”

And then: “If Gillard will not defend respect for women, what will she defend? Just another politician indeed.”

I have three points to make here.
1. Hartcher seems to be implying that Julia Gillard should have been a certain kind – a different kind – of prime minister simply by virtue of her gender. I would argue that every politician is ‘just another politician’. Prime Minister Gillard doesn’t have an obligation to act any certain way simply because she is a woman. Yes, it is inspiring to know that we as a country and a society have advanced enough that we can elect  a woman to our highest office. But Julia Gillard is a human being just like any other, and she is constrained by the workings of her party and the wider political arena just like any other prime minister would be. Much like those who label women ‘shrill’, ‘hysterical’ and ‘aggressive’ when they act just like men, Hartcher seems to be implying that by virtue of her gender Ms Gillard ought to somehow be better, more principled, less jaded than the men who have preceded her. I was alive for less than two months of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister of Britain, but I’m sure if anyone told her she should have ruled the country differently because she was a woman she would have had a cow.

2. Julia Gillard is a flag-bearer for women. Did you somehow miss her entire speech? Fifteen solid minutes of calling out the sexist, misogynist pigs that Ms Gillard and every other woman in the country has to deal with on a daily basis. Trying to tell me that my prime minister is somehow not sticking up for my rights the day after this speech really just makes me think you’re an imbecile.

3. Ms Gillard wasn’t defending Peter Slipper. In fact, she quite explicitly called out Tony Abbott for his continuing close friendship with Mr Slipper, which all went down the drain – probably for political point-scoring – when this whole text messaging scandal emerged. The Prime Minister, in no uncertain terms, condemned Mr Slipper’s actions in sending those text messages.

I’ll leave you with this delighful snapshot of another wonderful human being – a commenter on Hartcher’s article – who seems to think that femaleness is a reason to be a whole different kind of Prime Minister.

The only other thing I have to say right now is go and read this article because it is utterly fantastic, more comprehensive and eloquent than anything I could ever manage.

Day 20: Home

I am home now. This is a great relief and means that I no longer have to type with an awful iPad keyboard and can take a shower in my own home and straighten my hair! I haven’t slept for about two days now, but it’s not even 7pm here yet and I still need to go to the supermarket before I can go to bed. So that I have something to eat when I wake up tomorrow morning/afternoon.

I spent about 12 hours in the Hong Kong airport yesterday, during which time I wrote an epic tumblr post about the last few days but which was inexplicably lost forever in the interwebs because of shitty free-internet computers and awful error screens.

I really liked Valencia; I got to splash my feet in the Mediterranean (the water was very warm, and there were hundreds upon hundreds of people at the beach, and many of the ladies weren’t wearing tops) and we went to a very cool aquarium (‘oceanografic’). When I’ve had some sleep and gone through all my photos, I might post some someplace on the internet for you all to see. .

In Barcelona, there were many many people and it was very hot. The train from Valencia to Barcelona was meant to take three hours but it ended up taking five, because we stopped due to technical trouble of some kind. It was all in Spanish so we really have no idea. On the Metro, some woman tried to steal things from my mum. That wasn’t so pleasant.

On the way home I consumed many milligrams of Valium, and everything was okay. Now I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard, so I must go. Maybe I will post more things later.

Day 8: London

things I like about London
– cute boys
– cute boys
– cute boys

Ha no I’m joking. Things I actually really like about London:
– people here speak my language
– the weather is great (no I’m not joking – its been like Hobart in summer, warm and clear but not debilitatingly hot)
– accents
– cute boys
– delicious food
– people don’t look at me judgementally when I wear sneakers and short shorts out and about
– people generally seem much more friendly and relaxed (except on the tube – see below)
– parks
– finding the TARDIS

things I don’t like about London
– the ‘tube’ is expensive, crowded, smelly, stuffy, confusing and generally fucking awful. Especially after coming straight from the Paris metro system, which is wonderful.

I think I’ve been to more churches on this trip than in the previous twenty-one years of my life combined. I am not religious, but I really like churches; sometimes they make me feel quite emotional. We went to Westminster Abbey, Westminster cathedral, and St Paul’s today. They were all lovely. The history of Westminster abbey is just amazing.
We went to a place called Gourmet Burger Kitchen for dinner, that was very delicious and I had an Oreo milkshake with my veggie burger. One of the waiters was very cute and probably from Spain, although I think perhaps I only liked him as much as I did because he reminded me of a boy I love back home.

My feet still hurt like a fucking bitch but being in London has definitely made me more cheerful.

Oh, and I went to the Parliamentary Bookshop today and bought some wonderful tea mugs……

Day 5: Paris

Today:

  • lots of beautiful, beautiful hipsters
  • wanting to kill myself because I am just so ugly and fat compared to all the chic Parisians
  • spending more money than I can afford
  • finding a truly amazing second-hand clothes store – as a consequence of trying to go to the Pablo Picasso museum and discovering that it’s actually closed for renovations at the moment – and buying the best dress I’ve ever seen for ten euros
  • still getting funny looks from people on the street and on the Metro
  • learning that the Metro will always smell like urine. Some other places will too.
  • art – even the really famous shit – is near-impossible to appreciate without some sort of context.
  • I really should buy better quality shoes.
  • waiting for an hour and a half to get into the Eiffel Tower only to be informed that the summit platform is closed for the day will make you angry. You will go to the second platform and be impressed anyway.
  • the charming experience of some dude at a market literally yelling out to me
  • apparently it’s not okay to show any skin AT ALL in this country
  • making eye contact with men here, rather than being a dare/test of character the way it is at home (if someone maintains eye contact with me they go up in my esteem), seems to essentially be an invitation for them to come and sleazily hit on me
  • at this stage I’m just using dot points for fun

I’m really hungry and thus going to go demand we go out for dinner now.
Bon soir!

Day 3: Paris

Okay. Things I have learned so far this trip:

  • French keyboards have their letters and punctuation in different spots. This post is going to take a fucking long time.
  • I have exceptional good luck at sitting next to friendly, attractive men on planes (when I don’t have the window seat, anyway).
  • A valium tablet and a glass of wine make flying bearable.
  • So does having the window seat.
  • It is impossible to escape tourists, and touristy shit, in Paris.
  • The French build really fucking nice churches.
  • Hobart is ridiculously full of white people. I’ve seen so many hipster people of colour in this city it makes me wonder what the hell we are doing wrong.
  • You will get hit on everywhere you go; regardless of how you look. People will approach you on the street for no reason, and strangers will declare their love for you. Possibly in three languages.
  • The building of the Louvre is possibly more interesting than 90% of the exhibits inside. Also the Mona Lisa is as small and underwhelming as everyone says, the Venus De Milo looks the same as all the other marble statues, and the entire museum is painfully Euro-centric.
  • You will get creeped on by an old guy on the Metro, and have to make the difficult decision as to whether to tolerate getting felt up by someone’s elbow, or stand in what is basically a sweaty sardine tin.
  • When your airline tells you that the bags that were meant to come with you from London to Paris didn’t quite make the transfer in time, but they’ll deliver them to your hotel by the end of the day, they may not be telling the truth.
  • It doesn’t matter how many times you shower, wearing the same clothes you’ve been in for the past three days solid will still feel nauseatingly disgusting.
  • Everyone in Paris is unfairly attractive, and the ones who aren’t make up for it by being super-stylish.
  • I should have studied a language in high school/college/uni.
  • You will see a woman being chased around a Metro station by a guy clearly trying to beat her up, and no one will really do anything about it. You might then cry yourself to sleep because of how awful human beings are.
  • It’s totally okay to depict penises in marble (a.k.a. on statues) but it’s apparently not okay to paint them. Also, breasts are fine to paint, but they often would only paint it so one breast was uncovered and the other was clothed (any ideas?). Oh, and apparently pubic hair didn’t exist between 1400-1800 either.
  • Cows, Jesus, and babies were all popular subjects for classical European artwork.
  • My feet are so battered from all this walking that they literally bled on a number of occasions today.
  • I really need to travel – or at least sightsee – on my own. Fuck what other people want.
  • Leaving the country is a great way to deal with one’s problems.
  • Things about me:

    My name is Mel, I'm a final year law student from Australia. I'm interested in politics, feminism, sociology and science, among other things. You can find my Twitter account below; I am more active there than here.

    Feel free to share my posts anywhere you like, provided appropriate attribution and link-backs are given. Respectful comments always welcome. I like discussion.

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