Australia’s living treasure has definitely. lost. the plot.
Where to start? As I’ve said before on the Balcony, Leunig has a problem with women. His Little Battler is always a man. Women are only portrayed in relation to the Little Battler. Although some of them are sympathetic, the threatening slut/whore/nag is never far away. (The irresistible slutbag stripper, the woman with the wolf vagina, the absent mother in the Baby in Child care Centre cartoon.)
What do you get when you allow someone whose skills are in cartooning and the production of coffee-table compendiums of cartoons and Beautiful Thoughts to write prose at length in the opinion pages? It’ll be a lottery. Kaz Cooke, for instance, because her books are more than just coffee-table, and because she is a good critical and rational thinker, comes up with good stuff. Leunig comes up with stream-of-consciousness, which, because it’s obviously not informed by any feminist reading or serious thought on the subject, is just a regurgitation of the patriarchal cliches he’s learned at his mum and dad’s knee – and he contradicts himself, as well as facts and logic, at every turn. And half-truths and life damaging memes are nurtured and spread.
Now, I know I’ve posted before on the positive need for raving ratbags as a kind of cultural yeast, if you will. (And, weirdly enough, I’m in agreement with him there.) But let’s be clear that our Greatest National Treasure is one of them. Let’s not take any of his ravings as a serious prescription for future social reform.
If you think raving is too harsh a word, read the first few paragraphs on the dreaming sea-turtle – which might, at a pinch, make it into the cute-and-lovable category- then this:
At some stage well into the journey you may notice a deluge of advertisements for drugs that help men to get erections, and you may find the city adorned with photographs of naked and semi-naked young women on billboards and magazines, and on the television you may see music clips featuring a continuous throbbing smorgasbord of models and dancing girls thrusting their oiled breasts and wet lips and glistening bottoms at you and groaning and clawing and stroking frantically between their legs – the place where babies are born from – and all around you will notice images of attractive, willing, hot, horny, pre-orgasmic, aching-for-penetration women gasping into the camera for you, urging you to realise how plain, frigid and dull your wife or partner is – and still the erection drug advertisements roll in on your email device along with promises of penis enlargement and you think “what the hell is going on out there?” – and you read stories of drink spiking in nightclubs, and the glamour of raunch culture and the swinging, gang-banging footballers, the sexual abuse of children, the raping, the date raping, the digital raping, and you will see the drunken, gobbling tongue kissing of the masses in the street at night and the men’s sex clubs, peeping booths, pussy parlours and brothels popping up like toadstools galore in the city where your mother and grandmother walked you in the sunshine and fresh air in your lovely little bonnet and bunny rug.
If you feel like a turtle far from the sea and conclude that your society seems to have some sort of deepening hypermanic sex madness that makes you sad and amounts to yet another vital ecosystem in trouble and decline, it is at this point that you may be finally achieving some measure of sexual maturity. Thus you are disqualified from forward-looking, positive-thinking, aspirational Australia and you become another negative, lost soul who worries that your children are growing up in a nation that is in deep psychological trouble and you will be told that it is YOU who has the sex problem.
And it just goes downhill from there, as the basic premise (once we’ve waded past the great oceangoing turtle) is that Sheik Hilaly is just speaking commonsense, and using “earthy” language to say it- yeah, thanks Michael, do you have a cat? Shall I just step into its bowl now, or later?…and society, including women, are all complicit in it. And because the majority of us criticise Hilaly harshly for it, as we think is his due, Michael calls that fascism or Gleichschaltung— actually, just Pee Cee Gorn mad again.
I call it freedom of speech working tolerably well. But what would I know? Let’s face it, we’re all sluts.
Sometimes a religious figure, such as a mufti, makes a sermon about human nature, rape and the general sexual madness – a bit like parents do to their children in private: “Look after yourself, take responsibility – there are some dark forces and crazy people out there who will destroy you if you’re not careful.” But the mufti uses ripe, rustic language, earthy metaphors and unpleasant ideas. He is set up and set upon by a national newspaper and told to shut up and resign. The Prime Minister chimes in. The mufti is denounced.
Now, I know I am going to fall into the trap of letting my whitehot rage take over, so that the Leunigs of this world can intone, “oh but those feminists, they’re all so angry!” But it’s impossible not to be a bit, arrh-hmm, annoyed at reading once again this unconcious patriarchal soup. Who is responsible? Is it impossible for him to conceive of a world where men might take responsibility for their own actions? I guess not. And is Michael so unaware of the fact that feminists (as well as many socially conservative women) have no love, no love at all for these stupid billboards and fashions that rob our kids of their innocence and serve us up like, well, plates of cat’s meat. Who is responsible for those? You want to go after the advertising industry, or would that conflict with your need to sell graphic art?
And there’s this. Which I didn’t have time to blog, but Gary Sauer-Thompson did.
All women are familiar with the commando-like instructions they have received over the years from well meaning friends and family; Don’t go there, don’t go there alone, don’t go there after dark, dress this way, don’t dress that way, do this and this and that if you’re locking / unlocking your car, where to park…
We’re weary of it. It is not our responsibility to bear alone. We can’t make the trains safe, but we can instigate a national conversation with our boys: Girls and women, like you, have the right to mobility. Both men and women can be attacked, but women do not have a special responsibility to spend their lives like some kind of ninja commando in order not to be attacked.
Is Michael even aware of the facts on rape? that most rape victims are raped by people known to them? that rapes occur against people in modest clothing, women over 80, people in their homes, or in nursing homes? We can stunt our lives to appease the Hilalies and Leunigs of this world until we’re cowering in our rooms, and we still will not be a hundred percent safe. I know most of you already know this. This information has been out there for years. To continue to push the She Was Asking For It line indicates a deep ignorance and lack of reading on the topic.
And there’s this second strand in the stream of consciousness, that us progressives and wimminists are imposing a bland, fascist, conformist ideal on everyone by denouncing people like Hilaly, who are the steenky Camembert in the great feast of life! We’re the ones who are actually ruining multiculturalism!
(I’m confused! According to the usual SheeBoltStrocchiVines, we’re all too pee cee to stand up against unsavoury Muftis because we’re too hamstrung by our love of multiculturalism, but Leunig reckons we’re ruining it!)
Personally, I like my swamis, muftis and bishops to use rip-roaring colourful language, to be full-flavoured, overproof and offensive – crucifiably so…
…And I must say it (offensive and patronising as it may be) but I like my immigrants with a lot of terroir, as they say in winegrowing circles, and displaying the idiosyncratic flavours and characteristics of where they have grown up. I remember when an Italian who smelled of garlic was regarded as deeply offensive. I want my new Australians to be abundantly or even outrageously where they’re from – the full bottle. How else should they be if not themselves? Imitation Anglo-Celts? Should they be like Sandy Stone and John Howard? No, no, no! A thousand times no.
Yeah, and I like my “immigrants” with a sprig of parsley.
Colourful, perhaps offensive, traits are so much more interesting in a sideshow.
This is a health issue. We need all the variety and bold and mysterious flavours we can get, surely – the organic diversity of ideas, herbs, recipes, natural yeasts, strange music, strange words. We need that, don’t we?
What’s that banging noise? Oh, it’s the heads on the desks of all the progressives and feminists who have copped flak from the rightwing opinionistas for years because of their commitment to diversity. The same progressives and feminists who Leunig so despises. The same ones who have battled the Howard-right assimilationist rhetoric.
The famous politician, culture warrior and pre-emptive war person Adolf Hitler had an eye for enchanting language and interesting words. He cleverly adapted the technical word “gleichschaltung” to describe an ideal state of personal, cultural, political and economic alignment…
Fascism is the stronger word but gleichshaltung seems more appropriate to describe the thing we have come to know as the globalised, homogenised, new Australian value system.
Now that’s an interesting thought, Michael. We have had quite a few actual fascists move here after WWII. Most of them are dead or dying now, but just as a thought experiment, could you try and imagine what it might have been like if, like ripe Camembert cheeses, the fleeing Nazis had been encouraged to give full rein to their fascist stinkiness? and would you object so strongly if we called them on it?
It’s like trying to do a demolition job on Gormenghast, trying to craft a tight and logical riposte to that article. By Golly, I’d love to see Kaz have a go.
Update 13/11: The conversation continues over at LP.