“The new misogyny” is a term that refers to a post-feminist push-back against successful women. There has been an increasing pattern of vicious attacks against high achieving women in Australian social and political discourse since the rise of Julia Gillard as our first female Prime Minister. These attacks tie in closely with that other rising phenomenon of internet trolling and bullying, which obviously targets both sexes but is often used to anonymously target women in a particularly sexist way.
In the past few weeks alone, we’ve had the culmination of Larry Pickering’s malicious and sexist campaign against the PM, the online harrassment of TV personality Charlotte Dawson, and Leigh Sales being called a cow by Grahame Morris on talkback radio. Last year, there was the case of a Sarah Hanson-Young skit on Radio 2UE that emulated her having an orgasm in response to the carbon price, and the online sexist attacks against Anna Rose over her Q&A appearance, both of which were discussed by her in a blog post.
Now, clearly there’s no problem in disagreeing with Sarah Hanson-Young’s policies, or thinking that Leah Sales was very tough in her interview with Tony Abbott (although personally I found it refreshing for the media to finally be holding him to account for his baseless scare-mongering and negativity). And politics does get nasty. Is there a difference between picking on John Howard’s eyebrows and drawing Julia Gillard with a strap-on? Was it sexist or homophobic for Julia Gillard to refer to Christopher Pyne as a “mincing poodle”? All difficult questions; perhaps the lesson here, on a day when Charlotte Dawson ended up in hospital, is simply that we all need to calm down, be respectful, call out the trolls for the cowards they are, and argue our points with respect.
Taking the argy-bargy of politics out of the equation here, I still believe there is a breed of new misogynists, jealous and distrustful of women in positions of power, hiding behind their internet pseudonyms and spewing hate.
Unfortunately, the “old misogyny” isn’t dead yet either. This is also a week where we’ve had the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney defending the churches proposed new sexist wedding vows, in which women submit to their husband. The church was quick to deny any sexism in this, responding that it had to be seen in the context of the new testament. However, the words of Archbishop Peter Jensen on the 7:30 Report speak for themselves:
I think in the last three or four decades a certain egalitarianism has crept into society and the way people think and I understand that’s the reigning philosophy. I just happen to think it’s wrong, unhelpful, and in the end we will find it’s better to recognise that men and women are different, that we have at certain points different responsibilities and men will be better men if we acknowledge that.
At least we know where he stands; and we can hope that this drives the majority of people who do appreciate and benefit from “the reigning philosophy” to leave the church.