… Because it’s clear that there is a vast chunk of Australia’s population who fundamentally do not understand what sexism is. There are swathes of people (at least in internet comment sections) who cannot understand why calling a male politician a “fat man” is not considered sexist (just impolite), while commenting on the Prime Minister’s cleavage or the use of words like ‘bitch’ and ‘witch’ is sexist.
Just in case it’s necessary to elaborate: ‘fat’ is not a word that is limited by the person’s gender. Both men and women can be ‘fat’. So while using it is still potentially an insult (and problematic for other reasons I won’t go into here), it’s not a gendered insult. Perhaps what confuses some people is the use of the word ‘man’, but how can there be anything inherently insulting about calling a man a man? Calling Julia Gillard a woman is not an insult or sexist. Calling her a bitch or a cow is (dehumanising her by using terms for female animals), as is commenting on the shape of her ass and thighs.
“But men have thighs and asses too!” I can hear the indignant babble rising from the netherworlds of the internet already. The trick is remembering the context. The context is that women have been treated more or less as sexual objects for hundreds and hundreds of years up until a comparatively recent point in time, so really, this shouldn’t be that hard to remember. If you are struggling, try harder.
There are people who seem to think that even talking about feminism is a kind of reverse-sex-discrimination in itself, that the act of criticising men for being sexist is a sexist act. You have to wonder if these same people, a few generations ago, would be telling off black people for complaining about slavery (“What do you mean, white people and black people are equal?! That’s racist! How dare you!”), or criticising the gay rights movement for having the gall to say that being gay shouldn’t be a criminal offence (“How can you suggest that you’re being oppressed?! Stop being such meanies to the nice straight people!”).
Some examples of comments I have actually read, with my own commentary:
- “The only reason Julia Gillard was Prime Minister was because she was a woman.” – Yes, because it is a well-known fact that thousands of years of patriarchy never happened, and women have always been socially advantaged when it comes to positions of power.
- “Julia Gillard is way more sexist than the Opposition!” – Gillard is more sexist by herself than the whole of the Opposition combined! SHE IS THE GODZILLA OF SEXISM.
- “The fact is: Julia Gillard has made gender an offensive topic, not Tony Abbott. She has set the tone and subject of debate.” – Damn womenz, actually talking about prejudice instead of doing the honourable thing and ignoring it like the rest of us!
- “I must be a real incompetent twat [sexist insults should always be used when trying to prove how un-sexist you are] cos even though I am a guy, lots of women (oh geez I said the “w” word) at my work place gets paid more than me. [Perhaps it’s because of their superior ability to construct a grammatically correct sentence? I hear basic literacy goes down really well in the modern workplace.] Let me tell you, people get paid what they deserve and what they bring to the place they work for. [So back when slavery was still around, slaves didn’t get paid for their work because they didn’t ‘deserve’ it? Good to know that prejudice doesn’t exist cuz Some Guy On The Internet sez so.] Also, one gender over another has the privilege to bear a child. This is not a chore nor an obligation, it’s a natural privilege.” [Oh, hurray! I can’t wait to squeeze a squalling infant out of my uterus! LUCKY ME.]
This was the point at which I did a ragequit on the comments section. I never seem to learn.
* Quotes are plumbed from the reeking depths of the comments section on this article (although they’re fairly standard – pick any article about Julia Gillard and gender and you’ll get the same stuff). That’s right, folks, I read the comments so you don’t have to.