There’s no gutter the shock jocks won’t plunder

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
June 14, 2013 /

Click here to view original /

In a culture where it’s apparently perfectly okay to talk about our PM’s “box” in polite company, it’s hardly surprising that shock jock wannabes will plunder ever new pits of depravity to insult a woman.

Howard Sattler is not the first simpleton to dream up the male-plus-hairdresser-equals-homosexual equation. Sattler and conservative commentators of his ilk are hardly renowned for being abreast of issues such as diversity, sexuality and the pitfalls – and grotesque pitifulness – of stereotypes.

Of course, Sattler’s comment wasn’t really about Tim Mathieson at all. Sure Tim’s the “First Bloke”, sure his profession sets him up as very low hanging fruit for lazy radio mouths, but the attack was never about him.

Male hairdressers can in fact sleep perfectly well tonight knowing that no-one is really demanding proof of their manliness.

Au contraire.

Asking the PM about the sexuality of her partner is in fact a question about the PM’s sex life. It’s a question about her sexuality, about her femininity. Sattler was asking whether she – in all her unmarried, childless, atheist glory – is in fact a woman according to the meaningless definitions of womanhood proffered by the Right.

If our PM was shacked up with a homosexual, what possible inferences can be drawn? What dark damage could such a revelation reek? What hideous new ways can we conjure to hate Gillard as a person rather than her as a politician?

If anything constructive can be reaped from menugate, it’s the sharp reminder that women are treated very differently than men. Sure, both sexes might be subjected to insults and vitriol and accusations of all kinds of treachery and treason, but women get the personal attacks.

Women get dealt the breast-and-thigh jokes, women get dealt the suit-jacket-cut criticisms, the hair-cut and colour slurs, and it’s women who get asked about whether they’re having sex with their partner.

How on earth is it fair game to ask a prime minister about her sex life? How is it fair game to discuss the sexual predilections of any public figure, let alone their spouse? How is it – in any stretch of the imagination – in the public interest to have such a conversation over an open mic?

Ahh, but it’s fair because women are judged and criticised and condemned on very different grounds than men. Women enter the public sphere daily knowing that how they look matters more than any sentence that ever leaves their lips. Women know that in public life they get subjected to all kinds of personal and intimate attacks. That this is par for the course.

Because this is how we treat women.

Because this is the new low that our media has sunken to.

Because this is the disrespect we show our politicians.

Sattler’s punishment no doubt will be a few days of paid vacation, the solidification of his esteemed status amongst his far-right audience of and his name becoming household.

And women are treated to yet another reminder that if they dare disrupt the status quo and enter political life then they better damn well be prepared to be objectified and sexualised and stripped down in a way we’d never do to a man.

Because this is how we treat women.

© Lauren Rosewarne