Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Abbotts wrong on daughter - feminism link

Margie Abbott, the wife of Australia’s Leader of the Opposition came out recently to remind us of Tony’s feminist credentials as the result of having daughters.

Mrs Abbott wanted to remind us that because he has three daughters and her Husband, Australia’s alternative Prime Minister, is a feminist and “gets Women”.

But I am not convinced about Margie’s promotion of Tony as feminist.

Choosing to watch Downton Abbey over the footie does not show that you “get women”

Having three daughters or sisters does not does not make you a feminist.

People operate within a belief system/culture, which in Tony Abbott’s case, is Catholicism and he has continued to show that his patriarchal catholic values influences everything he does.      

But if you don’t follow Australian domestic politics, ultra–conservative Tony Abbott regularly shares his rather traditional worldview regarding women.

For example, in 2010, he said that having a baby is “at the heart of the real life of Australian Women”. So if you don’t have children for whatever reason, you are not a complete individual.

In 2006 he said that he wouldn’t be rushing out to vaccinate his daughters against Cervical Cancer because it “promotes sexual promiscuity”.

He is also on the record in March 2004 as seeing Abortion as the “easy way out”.

2002 saw Tony declare that paid maternity leave will “happen over his dead body”.

He also reminded Australian women that they are the ones doing the ironing.

More recently during the protest against the carbon tax, Mr Abbott had no problems with addressing a crowed that had signs reading “ditch the witch” and referring to Julia Gillard (Australia’s first female Prime Minister) as being a “man’s bitch”.   

It is comments like these that Australian politics does not need. We live in the 21st century where women have contributed to the progress made in this country and will continue to do so in the future.

Feminism is not about hating or belittling men, it is fundamentally about gaining gender equality.

In the past, we have seen women campaign about the right to vote, the right to be financially and socially independent (for example not having to resign once you get married or needing your husband’s permission to get a passport) as well as the right to have control over your body.

Currently, more flexible working conditions, better support from their partners in managing domestic and child rearing responsibilities, gender pay differences and issues surrounding maternity leave and job security are some of the issues facing women.

As you can see, these issues would fundamentally clash with Abbott’s values.

Apart from having control over your body and life, gender equality also means being able to contribute to public life without ridicule.

Maybe the challenge for the feminist movement in the future (among many others) is to eradicate the behaviour see from Tony Abbott.

Until Mr Abbott learns not to make sexist remarks out loud, he will continue to be the target of the “handbag hit squad” and any women who are sick of his misogynistic discourse.

I’ll leave you with the amazing speech given by Australia’s first female PM. It both reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.  

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