When laptops and notebook computers appeared in the land (and mobile phones started sprouting more features), a favourite advertising tactic was to portray young hipsters or rugged professionals sitting on a remote mountain peak, or resting their handsome calves in a deckchair (half-submerged in a sapphire sea) as they tapped away at their gadget of choice. Words like freedom and spontaneity were sloshed around. No more stuffy office!
It was perhaps about a nanosecond before people started to wake up to the ugly reverse side of this. Even at the top of that mountain peak, the office now followed you. We now have a situation, previously only known to slaves and indentured labourers, where there is no longer such a thing as time off. And if you can be “at the office” 24/7 with your gadgets, well, then soon perfect strangers might want to know what you do and where you go in your “free time”.
If you live outside the state of Victoria in Australia, you might not know that the ex-police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, has been roasted slowly over coals in court more than once in the last week for having the temerity to eat dinner (with no alcohol) on her day off. A “day off” during which she went to work.
As her detractors will point out, it was no more than her duty to go to work on a day of catastrophic bushfires, as she was a senior figure (not the senior figure, as they’d like you to believe) in the Emergency Services. But she did. I’m not the only person to find the hatefest engendered by her decision to break for dinner in a hotel!! (or, as one ABC commenter breathlessly said, a pub!) somewhat bizarre.
I don’t need to defend her, as Jeff Sparrow and Moira Rayner have done a great job here and here. Nixon attacked bullying and corruption when she was Police commissioner and made some powerful enemies. But let’s just think of it in terms of the 24/7 worker here. So she went for a meal at a pub with two friends (ZOMG the Roman decadence), on what would normally be her day off. I’m assuming here that a public figure like Nixon would have her phone on her all the time. If she wasn’t actually in the office, what did it actually matter? And what difference did it make that she was in “A Pub”!!1! The way the journos made it sound, you’d think we were back in Victorian times where it was unseemly for a Lady to set foot in Such a Place. You can imagine how differently it would have been spun by a male police honcho. “We repaired to the pub to refuel and made it our centre of operations for a couple of hours.”
As it was, as a rotund and middle-aged woman, she was pilloried with images of Food and Eating and everything Fatty-fat-fat, which is also, for women, code for lazy and sluttish. Of course, there are no fat men in the higher echelons of the Emergency services. It was instructive to see the equal and opposite reaction to the fainting Julia Gillard (and also, no-one in the armed forces faints on parade…right?) This time the link to the article is “Gillard must remember to eat!” But that’s different, because you see, she’s the society-approved shape!
Also, outsourcing your meal to the local, rather than spending more time buying ingredients and cooking, seems like an efficient thing to do on a day when you might well have more to do. But, you know, while people are all foaming about Responsibility, they’re really just after a really good performance. In the theatrical sense.
FX Holden summed it up perfectly.
She should have commissioned a khaki, Steve /Bindi Irwin outfit, complete with hat, rolled up the sleeves and had a TV camera follow her out to the Dandenongs where she should have handed out sandwiches,to CFA volunteers, shook a few hands, grabbed a hose and splashed a bit of water on a burnback, rubbed a bit of ash across her sweaty face and said to camera “Geez I’m too busy here fightn’ fires to talk to youse”
Then she’d be a hero.
Would have helped the effort not one bit and may have even caused resources to be diverted from real effort.
But she wouldn’t have been under fire at the RC from bloody lawyers, none of who have run anything more complicated than asking their PA to get their wife a birthday present.
Next time you read a “why aren’t there more women in the top positions” article (complete with comments mansplaining that feminism was all a mistake and where is the female Beethoven), remember that somewhere a woman might be weighing up a choice to apply for one of those positions. And she’ll know that she’ll be judged, not only on everything she does whether she’s at work that day or not, but on her appearance. But if she uses her day off to do anything about her appearance, or to eat, that’s wrong too, if all hell should break loose before she realises it. And if she’s not built to the required fuckability-template of the day, that’ll be fully taken in to account in our shallow and insecure society.