Archives: February 2012

Daniel Flitton’s “analysis” of the Leadership Thing in the AGE today was disgusting. In the last few days there’s been a lot of denial of the sexist cliches which follow Julia Gillard around; lots of “nothing to see here, move along!” But Flitton, writing for the front page of a national newspaper – one of the few remaining places in the media where we might expect people to write intelligently about these political stoushes – chooses to present the narrative of the Labor leadership spill exclusively in terms of sex, romance and relationships.

How a fine romance ended in a messy divorce. In Flitton’s narrative, there was an “awkward” “first date“, when Kevin met Julia (a reference to a romantic comedy, for the few people who might not be aware of that), a courtship rather than a romance, a proposition and a get-away (with a creepy suggestion of a threesome). and that’s just in the first paragraph! It goes on… and on. Rudd saw Gillard as a potential partner for life but it was a marriage of convenience ending in divorce and breakup which, in the manner of so many heterosexual breakups, was forcing people to take sides. (Oh, great FSM, how will they plan the dinner parties?)

This gendered trivialisation of Australia’s first female PM hurts all women. I often find Twisty Faster’s concept of women as “the sex class” useful to parse weird statements like this, and it’s spot on here. Flitton can only explain a prominent woman in terms of her membership of the sex class, with Mills and Boon and chick-flicks as essential props for her irredeemably female character. Also, a female person working with a male person must be subject to Unresolved Sexual Tension, by virtue of her female sexual force-field of which Bettina Arndt has so kindly reminded us. If that means that women can be excluded from positions of power or authority because they must distract the blokes, well, that’s just too bad; it’s just the way things are.

And bugger me, here’s Tony Wright channelling Angela Carter on another page (same day), comparing Kevin Rudd to St Kevin of the Wicklow Mountains. More light-hearted tosh than an attempt at analysis, it nevertheless manages to heap more gendered insults on a thinly-veiled version of Gillard:

St Kevin’s greatest distraction, legend has it, was a woman who was determined to relieve him of the leadership his virtue. St Kevin threw himself into a bed of nettles to avoid being seduced and set fire to a handful of burning weeds to fend off his pursuer.
…St Kevin ”Hurl(ed) the maiden from the rock into the black lake shrieking”. But that, surely, was merely ghastly myth.

Maiden? Shrieking? Greatest distraction? Of course, this article has complete plausible deniability. That doesn’t mean Gillard. AT ALL.

It’s just a ghastly myth.

Nothing to see here, of course. Just robust debate. Of course Flitton and Wright would use precisely the same language and imagery for any incumbent PM. Wouldn’t they?

21 Feb 2012, Comments (8)

Another poke at the steaming pile

Author: Helen

…Or steaming bile, as Jo Tamar accurately called it.

Yes, not content with reading Bettina Arndt’s latest so you don’t have to, I went back to the steaming pile of bile and poked it with a stick to examine some suspicious-looking critters I’d seen lurking in there. I have to say some of these spokescreatures were quite creepy and crawly. Others simply failed to impress me with their compelling evidence for her, ahem, thesis.

Most of the people quoted in the first few paragraphs are the latter type – mostly harmless but annoying retailers of Arndt’s straw-woman theories – but Catherine Deveny has already done a good job on them. I’d like to pick up where Deveny left off. First, though, I’d like to mention one of Agony’s “real life stories”, the scuttlebutt about somebody’s workplace. If this anecdote isn’t invented, it’s a notable example of unprofessional conduct – on the part of the storyteller, that is.

A mid-40s woman tells me about a naive 22-year-old work colleague who recently had a breast enlargement.
”She is a tiny thing, quite pretty but socially inept and ready to settle for anything that comes along….”

Could anything be so unprofessional? This is Arndt’s scholarly evidence, her peer-reviewed source. This nasty piece of gossip has no value at all except to flag to the CEO of that company that they need to counsel their staff about acceptable workplace behaviour. Personal boundary violations and verbal bullying, I mean, not bra cup size. This isn’t evidence, it’s abuse.

After a “men’s advocate” from Perth, about whom the internet has nothing much to say, we’re treated to the thoughts of a thing called Giovanni Dannato writing on the group blog In Mala Fide. He’s the “assault on men” dude. I’m not linking to this blog, and if you decide to google it, here’s a prior warning for racism, antisemitism, white supremacist ideology and of course, bottomless misogyny sung from the whole sorry MRA/MGTOW/paleocon songbook. Some article headings: “How to stop masturbating”, “Modern Rape laws protect Harems”, “To be anti-Jewish is not to be racist”. The tagline: “The blog that shouted love at the heart of the world.” They’re joking, obviously. This is where I start saying HEY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING BETTINA.

How did Arndt come to include a quotation from this guy, on this blog? What wiki-walk or recommendation drew her to it? Is it a regular read? There’s a link to a neo-nazi bookshop, purveyors of young Eastern European women (or pictures of, anyway), and as well as the misogyny there are numerous references to “Race and IQ”, whites-as-a-disposessed-minority, and approving references to Steve Sailer, Roissy, John Derbyshire and many other slimy creatures who I recognise as belonging to the far right-o-sphere.

In case you think this is an aberration and that Arndt is just a naive and undiscerning web surfer, next up is F. Roger Devlin, who she describes as “a political philosopher who writes challenging material on gender issues for The Occidental Quarterly”. If your finely-tuned bullshit meter is hearing “challenging” as a word from the same playbook as “refreshingly un-PC!” and “heresy”, you’d be right.

This challenging material is… Oh, dear god. (Peers through fingers). No link for the Occidental Quarterly, either. TOQ is the mouthpiece of the Charles Martel Society, which Sourcewatch links to William Regnery (a US “White Nationalist”) and other white supremacist individuals and organisations such as Stormfront. Yes, that Stormfront. This stuff isn’t conservative. It’s white supremacist and male supremacist wingnuttery, to the extreme. Devlin also writes for VDARE, another anti-immigration, white supremacist website. He’s the author of such wholesome titles as “Sexual liberation and Racial Suicide”.

My recommendation: Back away, slowly. Disinfect computer after reading.

*Dishonourable mention: The Dad from Family Guy. You do, er, realise he’s a fictitious character, don’t you, Bettina? And

*Hugo Schwyzer. No comment.

Poking into the steaming heap of an Arndt article is not only unspeakably depressing, it shows the very, very dubious provenance of her antifeminist thinkpieces. Bettina Arndt comes across as the voice of reason, the dimple-cheeked smiling disarmer of male interviewers and defender against “extreme feminists”. In fact, I think she is somewhat extreme herself.

Today it was reported that police are searching near Cann River for the body of a teenage girl who was abducted in 1992. One of the “persons of interest” in that case is Craig Minogue, one of the nasties responsible for the Russell St Bombing.

Months before the bombing, one of the key planners, Craig Minogue, warned that if anyone spoke to the police he would kill them and their families, pointedly telling Hetzel’s de facto wife, Julie: ”It would be a shame if anything happened to your sweet little Prue, wouldn’t it?”
The girl was eight at the time.
Police say Minogue made a similar threat on at least one other occasion.

In 1988 Minogue was sentenced to life with a minimum of 27 years for the murder of Angela Taylor [the policewoman killed in the bomb attack]. And…

OK, are you sitting down? You’d better swallow that coffee before you read any further:

…he is now completing his PhD in applied ethics and moral philosophy inside prison.

I’m sorry about your keyboard, but I did warn you.

Now I don’t mean to come all Heraldsuntele on your arse, complaining about people furthering their education in prison and implying that they should be picking oakum for most of the time they aren’t being flogged on triangles, but there is a point at which an occupation and the person engaged in it appear to be, let’s say, an unlikely fit.

I’m fascinated to know what his thesis topic might be. “Abduction: a Comparison of Satisfaction levels from Ransom Collection versus Just Killing ’em”? “Persuasion: the Efficacy of large Explosions in protesting the Failure of the Justice system”. “Shame: What the F**’s that?”

Perhaps some people need to complete a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy before they’re able to make basic ethical decisions of the kind most of us master in kindergarten. Not killing people, for instance.

And recent online discussions suggest that some people might think the completion of a PhD is punishment enough.

13 Feb 2012, Comments (14)

Agony Arndt At it Again

Author: Helen

Weapons, baby!

“Who let Bettina Arndt out again?” complained someone on Twitter. Yes, someone at Fairfax editorial has enabled this abuser of women, again, to peddle her hatred of “liberated women” in the opinion section.

And just as an aside, haven’t the merry punsters of the subediting profession had a field day with this one. It’s largely (snerk! snerk!) about breasts, you see. So the AGE had “Booby Trap” for the title of Arnd’s outpourings, the SMH had “Busted”: the politics of cleavage”, WA Today had “Tit for Tat”… Hilarious and so original!

Arndt pretty much takes Sheikh Hilaly’s Uncovered Meat and reheats it with a serve of pseudoscience sauce. The issue: women wearing clothing that shows skin, particularly where breast cleavage is involved.

“Increasingly, women feel they are entitled to dress however they like,” she begins. The cheek! It’s time they were slapped down, and Arndt is the woman to do the slapping.

Women “dress provocatively but bristle if the wrong man shows he enjoys the display.” They have their “goodies on display”. (Commodification 101, yes?). They’re “half naked and pandering to the male gaze”, and “proudly proclaiming their right to dress as they wish” (Again! this must be stopped!). They “dress sluttishly just to make themselves feel good”, but they are just “flaunting women’s sexual power” and “making “an “UP YOURS” gesture of the most provocative kind”. They’re “advertising (their) wares to the world” (there’s that commodification problem again, Bettina.) Their way of dressing is “sexual arrogance”, like “like schoolchildren who bring something tasty to class that they are not prepared to share”, but at the same time “an act of aggression in which they use the power of their sex as a weapon”, subjecting men to “constant just-out-of-reach titillation”. Yet they have the temerity to “hate men’s ogling” and “protest (their) caveman shenanigans”.

But what about the men, because you know in the Arndt world of today it’s always What About the Men!

Men are “biologically programmed to scan for life-giving breasts for (their) future offspring” (she’s keen on tabloid-level EvPsych Mars-Venus factoids). But they’re in a “total state of confusion”, due to the womens’ terrible weaponized bazonkas. The “Alpha males” are fine, but For the “Beta Males”, “the whole thing is a tease. They know it and resent it,” They’re “angry”, and most likely to “behave badly”. Serve those teasing women right for making people angry with their agressive breasts, right? Then the “sensitive males” are “wary, not knowing where to look. Afraid of causing offence.” (I don’t know where they stand in Bettina’s alphabet soup. Perhaps being “sensitive” makes you too unmanly to even rate a letter.) They describe cleavage as “a form of biological sexual harassment” and an “assault against men”. Behaviour such as catcalling is only “a defence mechanism used by low-status men against women flaunting themselves publicly”. They find “the constant just-out-of-reach titillation men now face confusing, irritating and even insulting.” Another dude thinks that low-cut garments in the workplace are a deliberate ploy to throw their concentration.

And we know this is all true, because she quotes at least three reliable witnesses, including…Peter Griffin, The Dad in Family Guy.

Oh give us a break.

And if you detect a whiff of threat and rape apology in the above, you’re not alone, although Arndt tries to evade it with the classicly formed “Of course, there’s never an excuse for sexual violence…But…”

I must inhabit a different universe, because in my world, women often wear singlet tops and the like purely for reasons of comfort. And every warm day, we encounter topless males, from loungers at the beach or sporting facilities to builders’ labourers. Out walking the dog in my aggressively harassing tank top and sports bra, I’ll see old guys watering the lawn in their shorts and thongs and nothing else. I envy their freedom to experience the soft breeze on their skin. The closest we get to it is a singlet top, but apparently that’s too weapony. Heaven forbid we ever do something that’s just for us.

And where the motivation is pride in your physique, well, I haven’t notice the more toned topless males and buffed singlet-wearers hold back with their flaunting. Maybe we should make them cover up, too? Ha, ha, joking – women don’t have the uncontrollable, animal libido that makes being visibly female such a risk!

It’s surprising and sad, as a fifty-plus woman, to think back to the 1970s where Arndt was a self-described “sexologist”, which sounded slightly ridiculous then, and still does, and writing alongside libertarians like Greer and Humprhries in Forum magazine, encouraging women and men alike to embrace their sexuality and throw off the old shackles. Now she reads more like a member of Family First. It’s hard to see any merit in this article, but of course, we know what it is: linkbait. And I’ve fallen for it.

More fool me. But there’s more I want to say about this steaming pile, er, article, so there will be a part two of this post.

More from The Sarah Monologues, Jane Caro and others.

Three of us bundled into the black Mitsu-bashi, leaving the dads with the kids, work and house. We drove East into Gippsland again, past Tinytown, to an even tinier dot on the map in the swampland country on the way to Wilson’s Prom.

I was googling lyrics, and had stumbled on the amazing information that Joe Pug and Henry Wagons would be performing with Jordie Lane at the Meeniyan Town Hall on a November friday night. Did a double-take and googled some more. Yes, this is what they do in Meeniyan (“they” being the Lyrebird Arts council). They’ve had Gillian Welch there and other people of a similar calibre (Steve Earle coming up soon, but don’t bother, it’s sold out already.) It’s a musical phenomenon. Of course, we went.

Meeniyan gigs are run like a cross between a cabaret and a school trivia night; you sit at tables and are expected to bring a picnic dinner as well as BYO alcohol. We managed to get perhaps the last room going at the motel, which is nearly next door; close enough to make it carrying platters of food and eskies of booze, and to stagger back without doing an ankle afterwards.

What an unmitigated blast. And the performers had a blast, too.

The footage above isn’t from that night, but it’s from the same tour and set list. Via Flop eared Mule, who has more vids.

Henry Wagons looked out over the hall, shading his eyes, and remarked how lovely it was to see us all getting slowly, warmly, comfortably shitfaced.

Here’s another account from blogger Mikesaid, with photographs.

And here’s an absolute charmer of a video of Henry Wagons interviewing Joe Pug over a game of pool. I especially like his (Pug’s) comments from around 2:30 about how Melbourne Rules, OK. “People are just into the music. I suppose every town’s different, but this one’s special.” And that should include South Gippsland as well.

Here are a couple more things you need to know about Meeniyan:

In between sellout concerts with first-rate Australian and international musicians, there might be the occasional hiatus with not enough to do. In that case, you need to call Maria.

Industrial bin in a rural setting with "Call Maria" and a phone number on it.

Meeniyan is on the Great Southern Rail Trail, if you feel like a walk, or if you’ve brought your bicycle or horse. If you’re on your bike and you have a dog, you’re encouraged to carry the dog in the bike basket.

Sign on the Great Southern Rail Trail at Meeniyan showing a silouhette image of a person on a bike with a dog in the baskegt.