Monday, October 8, 2012

Ugh

Feminism, right? Sometimes, I think, we can get sick of talking about feminism, and hearing about feminism. Sometimes it's just exhausting, isn't it? Boring. We wish sexism and misogyny and patriarchy didn't keep getting raised. We'd like a break.

I feel this, I really do. I bet a lot of the people who spend a lot of time talking about feminism get sick of it sometimes too. Unfortunately, as much as we'd all like a break, it is difficult for feminists to take a break when every day some idiot goes and illustrates perfectly why they have to keep hammering away, because there is just so many more concrete-thick skulls to penetrate.

I was watching Q&A last night, and this really hit me with monstrous force, as I watched Kate Ellis MP attempt to answer questions and address issues in the face of some truly mind-boggling rudeness and disrespect from a sniggering bipartisan triumvirate of Lindsay Tanner, Christopher Pyne and Piers Akerman.

Now, in my opinion, in the area of feminism and gender relations, there are very many areas on which room for disagreement exists. I think reasonable people can differ on many issues without anyone being assumed to be stupid or bigoted. And you can disagree on all sorts of things. You can disagree with me, or anyone else, on women's portrayal in the media, or on women's dress, on affirmative action, on pornography or sexual freedom or sexism in the workplace. I would not necessarily think you a fool for taking a different position to mine on any of these issues.

But if you try to tell me that feminism's job is done here, that we are not still living in a society that is positively drenched in sexism, then I will laugh you right out of that cosy little cocoon you're snuggling up inside. Because if you're living in this world, and you think everything is cool, men-and-women-wise, you're pushing a line so obviously and directly at odds with the evidence in front of your face that you might as well be telling me that you just rode into town on a flying sheep.

Q&A seems such a minor, petty thing to focus on - and it is. It's a tiny drop in the sexism ocean, and there are sure bigger problems out there. But last night's episode crystallised so exquisitely for anyone watching the heart of the matter - the disrespect, the sneering condescension, and the hostility towards women from which so much inequality and injustice springs.

This wasn't a rowdy debate where everyone was talking over one another. This wasn't someone feeling so passionately about a subject he just had to break in to be heard. And this was not a case of one or two interruptions. This was interrupting, cutting off, and shouting down Kate Ellis pretty much every time she dared open her mouth, in a manner that couldn't have been more efficient and systematic if Tanner, Pyne and Akerman had got together beforehand and plotted the course of the evening out on a spreadsheet. This was Akerman preventing Ellis getting her point out simply by repeating the word "shadecloths" four or five times, as if that was a counter-argument that would shoot her down; or later on, breaking in to an answer she was giving on education in order to kindly tell her to go and talk to Margie Abbott. This was Ellis attempting to answer an audience member's question but being drowned out by Pyne and Tanner starting up a conversation about Downton Abbey as if she wasn't even there. And this was Pyne in particular (and this is pretty much his lifelong form line) talking over the top of the minister every single time she looked like getting near speaking her piece. It was a horrible display by three men who, according to all reports, claim to be grown adults of fully-functioning intellectual faculties. But in the presence of a federal minister whose views on a range of issues are actually quite important to the country, but who happened to be a woman, they could not find it within themselves to grow the hell up and act like decent human beings. And, what's more, host Tony Jones seemed quite happy to let them stomp all over the discussion like a pack of St Bernards tracking mud over a carpet.

Of course the other guest, US playwright Nilaja Sun, barely got to talk at all, although some of that could be put down to  most of the discussion being very Aus-centric: but when you have five guests, two of whom are women, of which one is barely allowed to talk, and the other has every statement swamped by the bellows of the swaggering Ox Chorus surrounding her, it paints a stark picture of how women are treated 'round these parts.

Bear in mind, again, this is a minister. Not just a woman who wandered in off the streets, but an accomplished, elected representative, in a position of considerable responsibility with significant influence on our government. Patronised and shut down like a schoolgirl answering back to the principal. It was, to put quite mildly, revolting.

And why did they do this? Because they knew they could. They knew that if you shout down a woman, you get away with it. Let's not pretend they would have acted that way if Bill Shorten had been in that seat - nobody's default setting is "disrupt" when a man is talking. What's more, they knew that Shorten would have fired back, and they knew that Kate Ellis couldn't without being painted as shrill and hysterical. Ellis knew that too - she knew the minute she rose to the bait, told someone to shut up, demanded to be given due respect, she'd be tagged a harridan, which is why she put in a performance of superhuman restraint and class, and emerged looking a more worthy person than those three men put together.

And this is not a Labor vs Liberal thing - Akerman and Pyne were repellent, but Tanner joined in the shut-up-girlie game with gusto. The Liberal Party seems to be captive at the moment to a particularly nauseating cabal of misogynists, but this cuts across the left-right divide. It's not even man vs woman - rest assured there are women who would have watched that show urging the men on to shut the mouthy bitch up.

I've said it before: the battle is between pricks and non-pricks. You're sick of hearing about feminism? Fine: let's not mention feminism. Let's drop the battle of the sexes schtick. How about we just talk about human decency? How about we talk about the ability to treat another person like a person, that ability that is sorely lacking in men like Akerman, Tanner, Pyne, Alan Jones, Tony Abbott...and on, and on, and on. How about we talk about looking at someone and not deciding, based on what they've got in their pants, that you're perfectly justified in treating them like a cross between an irritating insect and a disobedient toddler? How about we talk about, if this isn't too much of a stretch, a public discussion where how seriously you get taken doesn't depend on whether you're packing a penis?

Last night, we saw that the men who believe they have a right to power over all of us have zero tolerance for any woman trying to muscle in on their turf. We saw the clear, shining face of sexism. And those of us with a scrap of decency should be under no illusions: we're in a war here.

104 comments:

mcgisht said...

Ben Pobjie, thank you. I am relieved that it was not just me -a woman, good grief - who was aghast at last night's 'performances' on #QandA, but that someone packing different equipment is also unimpressed. Most weeks I am finding it too difficult to sit through, with the one or two women on the panel ( unless you are Germaine) experiencing similar treatment. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This. This x 1000. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Pobjie. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was revolted as I watched the disrespect shown to Kate Ellis from the men on the panel of QandA last night. My sixteen year old daughter also observed the program. She is a bright, articulate and politically active young woman. She was shocked at the insulting, sexist behaviour exhibited by these 'mature' men in a public forum. She was encouraged by the strength and composure of Kate Ellis in the face of such hostility and ridicule. Decent men and women all over Australia need to really take a good hard look at the sexist power imbalance still so evident in our public sphere. Our children deserve better... much better!

hyperdermik said...

I didn't watch because QandA bores me silly. It's lost whatever lustre it once had. I'll take your word for whatever passed as entertainment, but I pose this - why don't women stand up and become more assertive in situations like those portrayed? As one commenter stated, Germaine Greer does it, why couldn't Kate Ellis? The claim of appearing shrill doesn't stand up. Women need to force their male counterparts to recognise equality. They'll never achieve that position by simply shutting up.

Barossa Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Is it a gender issue or just one of rudeness and disrespect? I find the same interrupting and talking over people every time Kelly O'Dwyer is on the panel, and Germaine, and a few others. I agree that often the rudeness falls along gender lines, but does categorizing it as a gender issue distract from the key point? I just feel it gives a license to people to find an exception and deny that it's an issue at all.

AnneBB said...

Thanks Ben - you've mirrored my sentiment far more eloquently and without the passion (or disgust) I would have expressed. I actually had a moment where the long quietened radical feminist wanted to swing into a rant - but I like you're positioning far more!
Does make me wonder - where to from here? Why are these attitudes still present in our society?
We've clearly got work to do!

ultrahedonist said...

hyperdermik, some people, some personality types, prefer to remain calm, to diffuse tension, to encourage dignified, respectful debate by their example rather than by telling others off, etc. Such people have a legitimate place in the public sphere. There are many intelligent people with intelligent ideas but not the disposition of a Greer or a Deveney. If men of this more dignified kind can have a place in public life and still be respected and listened to (and they can), alongside their more combative, assertive brothers, but only women of the latter type are able to be heard.... well, women will remain disproportionately scarce since a whole bunch of them are filtered out. Moreover, they'll appear disproportionately shrill since only the shrill are participating and noticed.
And it's naive to suggest that 'the claim of appearing shrill' doesn't stand up. In fact there is a *wealth* of research demonstrating that when men and women both use precisely the same assertive behaviour x, women tend to be judged far more negatively for it than male counterparts. This phenomenon is obviously of huge relevance for any female politician who hopes to be re-elected.

Fran said...

Well said Ben. That's certainly how it appeared to me.

Brad Sprigg said...

Great post Ben, I couldn't agree more. I sometimes get fired up watching Q&A but last night was the first time I've been truly livid. I was shouting at the TV (and on Twitter) for the rude pricks to let her finish, but they were having none of it.

Pyne's behaviour in particular was especially galling, he'd listen to what Ellis was saying, turn to Tanner and give this openly mocking expression like he was thinking "What the fuck is this crazy broad on about?"

Of course this all gets buried under the news of another prominent misogynist, whose only apparent sin is that he's no longer with the Liberal party and under their protection.

Korana D said...

It is sad that I feel, in this day and age, grateful for having an eloquent response written by a man about an issue that I have to deal with every day.

Nevertheless I, for what is worth, thank you.

Jen said...

I didn't watch it but read about it on Twitter as it unfolded. I wonder why Tony Jones didn't step in, or am I being idealistic that he would?

Ben said...

Thanks Ben,

I appreciate most of what you're saying here, but with a slightly different take.

Feminism's job is certainly not done, in the sense that women are still recipients of bigotry, both overt and more underhanded. However, feminism and misogyny seem to be continually oversimplified as rhetorical concepts when raised in public discourse, particularly the kind of immediate outrage that was generated over last night's Q&A.

As you rightly say, "in the area of feminism and gender relations, there are very many areas on which room for disagreement exists. I think reasonable people can differ on many issues without anyone being assumed to be stupid or bigoted." But in the kind of rhetoric we hear all too often, I don't think it gets said or acknowledged enough.

In my thoughts on the matter (can be read at backpagesblog.wordpress.com) I raise the issue of how difficult it is to prove that misogyny has motivated behaviour, as opposed to being a directly expressed element of it. WHile treatment of Kate Ellis may indeed have been motivated by elements of misogyny, it's also true that similar levels of smarmy rudeness were displayed by Kelly O'Dwyer towards Tanya Plibersek only two weeks ago on the same program.

I take the point that perhaps women generally are more likely to be interrupted acceptably than men, but there are many other factors at play - conservative panellists are, I think, also generally more likely to shut down complex arguments from men or women, along with shallow Labor rhetoric, because conservative ideology tends (TENDS) to be more simplistic.

As you also say, "the battle is between pricks and non-pricks. You're sick of hearing about feminism? Fine: let's not mention feminism. Let's drop the battle of the sexes schtick. How about we just talk about human decency?"

Exactly. We should talk about feminism and misogyny when its clear that gender oriented bigotry is what's motivating behaviour. When it's not clear, I think we should be more precise, careful and restrained in our discussions, to avoid undermining the concepts through rhetorical misuse.

Unknown said...

After seeing "Pyne" and "Akerman" on the guest list, I didn't watch it, but I'm very sad to hear that Tanner, whose analysis I generally respect, was equally misogynist.

Margaret said...

Exactly, Ben. Thank you so much for saying this.

Daryl... said...

THis is appalling.

She was out-numbered and out-classed.

She is a federal minister and doesn't need a nameless person like you to defend her.

WHen it happens to Sophie Mirabella people like you cheer.

You need to stop thinking women are so fragile they need protection from you, and you need to stop making excuses for them when they don't come off as winners.

They do not need you and you wouldn't say the same for Bishop, Mirabella, Vandstone or any of the rest.

Spagman said...

I don't watch Q&A but I love reading your stuff Ben. This further highlights the reasons why I won't watch it, the first reason being that Tony Jones is a completely useless arse hat wanker.

Bill said...

Very well said, Ben.
Q & A is quite obviously going for cheap entertainment and given up any pretence letting the people put their own questions to those who might be able to explain things of make a difference.

As you pointed out, Kate Ellis was the only government minister on the panel. I've never been one for respecting people just because they hold a certain office, but when the rest of the panel is padded out with a shadow minister who hardly ever mentions his portfolio, a former minister who could still have been if he'd wanted to, and someone who has never contributed to policy other than to whinge or cheer (depending on the party) in the papers, then they do NOT deserve to be treated as equals. There ought to be a bit of "Shut up, THE MINISTER is talking."

MM said...

Daryl- you are a everything that is wrong about everything! And you clearly were not watching the same show. And you clearly missed the point of the blog. Even if "She" (Kate) was out-classed (Which she wasn't)THAT IS NOT BE THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS DISCUSSION! You must have missed the part of the blog that said “How about we just talk about human decency? How about we talk about the ability to treat another person like a person"

Anonymous said...

Great Article Ben. And I thank you for recognising that this was happening to a woman who has a powerful position, was in front of a live audience, being televised to hundered of thousands while event was being simultaneously tweeted and being moderated by an experienced moderator. Now move to a team meeting in my work place where woman are routinely spoken over, ideas ignored and later re-presented as their own ideas by men, when i am routinely interrupted when i do assert myself and speak (timed it once and average was 17secs before any woman was interrupted) and when female colleagues spoke over the men "can we just hear X out". I recall one meeting last year when I presented some information which a male satff member disagreed with and he countered my opening comment with "No,no, no, no no, no, we looked into this, no no no you are wrong"... I had also looked into this matter and was indeed correct (although that is not the point) before i could even make the point and pass out the document. This makes it certainly difficult to next voice a proposal, an idea, a different point of view when accurate information is greeted with 9 cries of "no". Oh and I work in an inner city hospital/university unit not some back water. We once timed the meeting into speaking time for woman and men and found that before women were even invited to speak (we each had to report our areas) we were asked "to be brief" " in one or two sentences" and men spoke for 80% of the time and they held 30% of the management positions. Each of these men would offer the Tony Abbott defence.. I am not anti-woman "i am married to a strong woman/have daughters/have female co-managers" etc etc but their behaviour in each and every encounter is far more telling.

Andrew Marshall said...

I just want to slap them when they behave like that. Grown men bullying a woman to stop her getting her point across and they don't get that they are being bullies.

Chris Johnson said...

Kate Ellis was the punching bag and Nilaja Sun superfluous to the entire program. Whether their gender had much to do with it really doesn't matter. Three guys simply rocked up to QandA for a boys night out which is why I turned it off. For lack of control by Tony Jones I guess the program's production team is now working on how to prevent another episode fail.

Jenny said...

Excellent post, Ben. It is uncomfortable and annoying to watch a speaker being rudely shouted down and disrespected, as occurred to Kate Ellis last night. The audience usually turns on the perpetrators, which is why Catherine Deveny also annoyed both male and female viewers for the exact same rude behaviour a few weeks ago on Q&A. Piers Akerman's performance on Q&A reminded me of her own behaviour on the panel. Inappropriate rudeness and arrogance is not exclusively the weapon of choice of misogynists. Shouting anyone down in a debate is a great way to immediately inspire sympathy for an opponent's views and have your own message dismissed so you wonder why people behave this way.

Interestingly, Tony Jones did intervene when Deveny was ruining the debate but curiously let the three blokes proceed with their interruptions last night.

Anonymous said...

Peter Garrett should write a protest song about it!

Kathy said...

Thank you - excellent post. Christoper Pyne was also quite rude to a female audience member and got away with it. However Kate Ellis did get quite loud applause when she managed to make a point at the end. I think that the audience was with her.
Pity we couldn't have heard more from Alaja Sun - Richard Fidler had a full hour with her on Conversations - she is inspiring and very entertaining.

Ben said...

MM, you say that Daryl is "everything that is wrong about everything" and suggest Ellis (Kate's a little personal, isn't it?) being outclassed "IS NOT BE THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS DISCUSSION!"

You then reference Ben's point about general human decency. But that is conflating two things. Yes human decency and civility are important, but the discussion generated by the alleged rudeness of male panel members has NOT focused on the need for decency in public discourse generally, it has focused explicitly on the allegedly misogynistic nature of their behaviour.

Daryl is merely touching on the issue of how we distinguish the everyday rough-and-tumble rudeness of politics (whether we agree with it or not) from similar behaviour that is motivated by misogyny. I suggest it's extremely hard to do so and that many who called misogyny on this occasion, have not provided very convincing arguments for it.

Anonymous said...

we refuse to watch that show any more

bring MR obrien back

Gigs said...

Still can't get the image and sound of Christopher Pyne's "laugh in her face" act out of my mind. Thanks for articulating what hopefully most think, Ben.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more. I haven't seen such disgraceful behaviour for a long long while.

Harry Hercock said...

Thanks Ben

Harry Hercock said...

Thank you Ben

Anonymous said...

well said

Daryl... said...

Remember when Graeme Campbell said, in Federal parliament "The best thing the PM (Keating) can give Australia is a state funeral"

Remember when Keating called Oakes a bullfrog?

This is a modern war for the future of the nation, not a pillow fight.

She doesn't need your defence, and she herself would never use her gender as an excuse.

Lentern said...

I absolutely reject the premise that Ellis, because she is a woman, was therefore unable to tell someone else to be quiet. What a load of paternalistic, patronizing rubbish.

Jenny said...

It wasn't up to Ellis to defend herself by shouting even louder or telling the three men to shut up. That was the role of Tony Jones, and his failing last night.

Anonymous said...

When lefties are losing the argument that break out the -isms... sexism, racism, ageism, etc etc.

Lefties are good at dishing it out but don't like being on the receiving end

metaboleus said...

I do not usually watch QandA, and last night I turned TV off after Media Watch, and put on a DVD of an old Dr Who (The Romans)
Even before the show started I was turned off by the idea of Pyne & Piers together.
Thanks for your insightful review who confirmed my foreboding about this episode.

JimRHoughton said...

Agree with you Ben in almost all respects. Disgusting display from Pine, Ackerman and Tanner.

My only difference of opinion is about Tony Jones. I might be imagining it, but I reckon I saw him twice considering whether to intervene, and he chose not to.

For him it was a choice. Be seen to be protecting Kate (which itself could be seen as being paternalistic) and defusing the display, or to let it run in all its 'glory' to leave nobody in doubt about what was going on, and highlight Kate's class and poise in ignoring it.

Anonymous said...

Ben,
Thank you.
Many don't understand the day to day subtle sexism women put up with.
I'm senior in my profession, yet I often get talked over by men who just see it as 'expressing their opinion'. If I do it, it's seen as rude. Then, when such a board room debate is over - the men (junior, senior) leave & expect the women in the room to clean up. Small examples but it is indicative of a wider & subconscious issue.

JimRHoughton said...

'Lefties are good at dishing it out but don't like being on the receiving end'

Unlike Alan jones?

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for writing this.

Alex said...

White male by any chance?

There are a lot of subconscious behaviors that go on in the way we treat women.

Kate was nothing but articulate & was making some excellent points in a calm & rational manner.

Angela said...

Excellent post. I have to admit I didn't even watch Q&A last night. I live in Hanoi and with a 4 hour time difference, by the time I was on my way home from work and catching up on twitter, I knew that I didn't want to - despite it being on later on Australia Network. I think the key point is this just isn't about men v women. This is treating people decenting and respecting our elected representatives - even if you don't agree with them.

Anonymous said...

Kate Ellis wasn't losing the argument. In fact, she made the most sense out of all of them .

Nic said...

Powerful words, fantastic sentiment! Thank you Ben

Tara said...

This. Forever. Thank you for writing.

Chrys Stevenson said...

The point - already made several times in these comments but obviously not sinking in - is that Ellis was between a rock and a hard place *because* she is a woman.

She could have said (as I would), "If the boys' club over there would just shut up a minute and let me talk ..." Then she would have been branded rude, arrogant, loud-mouthed and all the other vile words that were hurled at Catherine Deveny for speaking half has much as Peter Jensen and interrupting the same number of times as he did.

Or, she could be *nice* and let them talk over her and look weak and ineffective.

Neither is a good outcome and the Catch 22 is created entirely by the fact that Ellis is a woman and that Pyne, Tanner and Ackerman took full advantage of the fact she would be forced into choosing the latter strategy.

Women simply have to stop falling for this. We have to stop being victims to the cause of appearing *nice*. Ellis had a right to be heard and she should have asserted that right. Although I understand, entirely, why she didn't. If enough women take on 'the boys' at their own game, women holding their own will cease to be an issue. But some brave women (like Deveny) are going to have to be cannon fodder for a while. That's how wars are won.

Anonymous said...

Great piece Ben. To the posters who think the author of this article is being paternalistic and protective, I think he is merely highlighting the bitter contradiction displayed on q&a last night. Pyne's attempt to condone Abbot's attitude towards women while simultaneously displaying that same attitude he was seeking to defend by engaging in a joke with Tanner while Ellis spoke showed me, as a voter, that these men don't even understand the misogyny that is obviously rife in men like Pyke, Abbot and Tanner.

Anonymous said...

Great Post, Ben. Regards comparisons of the difference in 'interrupting' or 'ruining the debate', this article is extremely telling:

http://thatsmyphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/defending-deveny/

Scroll about three screens down, where Chrys Stevenson actually did a word-count on the transcript of Q&A where Catherine Deveney appeared recently(and was widely accused of agressive and interrupting behaviour). Her finding:
*Women guests outnumbered men 3:2 but spoke only 45% of the time (not including host)
* Deveney herself spoke 14% of the total words of all participants (including host). This was Less than Tony Jones (21%) , Peter Jensen (28%) and Chris Evans (17%).

I take a professional interest in data that explains communications, and I was even mildly agog at this one. Recommended reading!

Conclusion seems to be that even those women that do 'fire up', 'talk back' etc,(e.g. use any method to stand up for themselves) still get less opportunity to say their piece.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Pyne and Piers Akerman are just obnoxious through and through - Pyne seems ready at pin drop to discredit anything said by any non-liberal with a pretence of being personally offended and Piers just sound slike he does no research at all - he seems more bigoted, smug and wormy than Alan Jones

Carolyn Cordon said...

Two of the guests on the show indicated the greatness this show COULD achieve. I'll leave it to you all to pick which two guests I mean.

ps - a clue - Pyne and Ackermann on the same show, sheesh, too, too much!

Ben Pobjie said...

Goodness comments can mount up fast. Thanks to all who've commented. A couple of posters have perhaps missed the point here - no, Kate Ellis certainly doesn't need my "protection", and if she did I'd be sorely ill-equipped to provide any, being basically nobody.

But how stupid would it be to say "I better not write what I think in case people think I think Kate Ellis needs my protection?" I'm not trying to protect anyone, I'm calling out behaviour that I found appalling. It's not about Kate Ellis's ability to handle herself, which from all available evidence is quite impressive, it's about calling sexist behaviour what it is. And in this case, that behaviour not only does damage by perpetuating anti-woman attitudes, it actually robs us of the opportunity to properly hear and understand what a member of our government has to say. Which is important no matter what you think of her - all the more important, in fact, if you're opposed to this government.

As for whether she could have lashed out, yes she could have, and she would have been absolutely in the right, and her opponents would have leaped on it with glee. She did very well, she didn't allow herself to be cowed, she kept on trying to get her point across, while also staying in control and not playing into their hands by ripping in. The point is, those men knew they had licence to behave any way they liked, because they know how easy it is to paint a woman as the bad guy if she gets aggressive.

StephenB said...

Spot on Ben, and very well put.

I'm dead sick of seeing this sort of obnoxious behavior, but its hardly surprising when we have a Leader of the Opposition who turns his back on women speaking, or whispers sweet nasties under his breath at them. Lindsay Tanner shows us it's not all on one side, but if he was still an MP, I bet he'd get a dressing down about last nights behaviour.

Chrys Stevenson said...

Ben said: "As for whether she could have lashed out, yes she could have, and she would have been absolutely in the right, and her opponents would have leaped on it with glee. She did very well, she didn't allow herself to be cowed, she kept on trying to get her point across, while also staying in control and not playing into their hands by ripping in."

This is what concerns me, Ben; the idea that Kate 'did well' because she 'did nothing'. Is that really doing well? Is that what women should do in the face of this kind of belligerence? Why shouldn't we call them out for their bad behaviour? Why is that not called 'doing well'?

Yes, the ideal would be for bully boys like Pyne, Tanner and Ackerman to behave like decent human beings. But absent that possibility, I think it's entirely acceptable for a woman to call attention to their behaviour and demand her right to speak. And, if she gets vilified for that, so be it. I think that's an entirely preferable course to being a damned wallflower/victim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You've put into words exactly how I felt watching.

Dan Cass said...

Good piece, Ben.

So glad I didn't bother watching Q&A last night.

Terrence Mohr said...

I wouldn't class rudeness as a gender issue. Catherine Deveny appeared on the show a few weeks back and absolutely humiliated a man she didn't agree with. No one picked her up on it and in fact, many cheered her on. I did not agree with the man's views either. I actually agreed with Deveny's views, but I was appalled at her rudeness. Shortly after, an article appeared somewhere attacking the man in question for "gas-lighting", but still no mention of Deveny's rudeness. Akerman and Pyne were simply rude and Tanner allowed himself to be drawn into a conversation with Pyne whilst Ellis was talking. Tony Jones appeared to lose control of his panel. Before we play the "gender" card, let's bear in mind that I've seen plenty of blokes cop it from both men AND women on this show for having opinions others don't agree with and no one batted an eyelid.

Ian Milliss said...

Stopped watching Q&A a long time ago, in fact I've never managed to watch an entire episode, and this article explains one of the many reasons why. But I would like to say that John Howard brought racism back into play as a viable political tactic and since the last election it has become increasingly obvious that Abbott and his pack have done the same with open aggressive sexism. The only solution is to fight back and refuse to put up with it, just as Destroy The Joint has.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article Ben. I was furious as I watched the show last night. Can't say I really expected much better from Pyne or Ackerman, but shame on you Lindsay Tanner! And Tony Jones - usually concerned to make sure panellists and audience members are treated with respect - didn't even pretend to try to stop the bully-boy behaviour on last night's show. In fact it was partly the total lack of acknowledgement that there was anything wrong with the picture that left me so frustrated. So thank you, again.

bikiechic said...

Last night's show was another example of the uphill battle that women experience in politics, or any male-dominated environment, for that matter. Thanks, Ben, for probing deeper into the reactions women still encounter and quickly dismiss as "normal" or "not worth opposing" in Australian society. It's good to know that these social transactions are not just all "in our imagination".

Jenny said...

Chrys, obnoxious behaviour is irritating to the audience and destroys the message, whether delivered by three misogynistic men or Deveny. You can't condemn the behaviour in men and then cheer for it in women on the basis that women are excused as they must do it to be heard. It's either wrong for all or none. Verbal bullying is what it is.

Shouting down an opponent by talking over them is not a means of communication; it's an aggressive means of preventing others from communicating, which is why it annoys the audience regardless of gender. To claim it's all right for the likes of Deveny and other women to do this because they are victims smacks a bit of an Alan Jones-style defence!

Your argument that "bully boys" in these debates should be met by the same tactics from women seems odd. By this reasoning, should women fight physical violence from men by becoming even more physically aggressive than them?

I think Ellis handled a bad situation admirably, which is why she won the audience's support and the three men received condemnation.

Alvin said...

Really impressive piece Ben. I'm off to watch Q&A now.

It's interesting that Kate Ellis' other half is a former Daily Telegraph editor (unless that has all changed and I missed the gossip columns).

I would be curious to see how he viewed it and what he might do if he has the opportunity to meet these "gentleman" for an interview or provide a commentary piece on them in the future.

Chrys Stevenson said...

Jenny, if Kate Ellis had repeatedly interrupted Pyne and Tanner, and conducted a side conversation while someone was trying to answer a question, I would absolutely support them calling her out on it - whether they were male or female.

Asserting her right to speak *in the face of* this kind of behaviour is not responding to bullying with bullying. It is calling out bullying for what it is and refusing to be a quiet little victim.

I am not blaming Ellis for her decision. She took what is currently the most socially acceptable path. What I am saying is that the most socially acceptable path is one that empowers the bullies and does not address the problem.

Ben Pobjie said...

Incidentally, worth pointing out we're not talking about two people arguing with *each other* and shouting over the top of each other: Ellis was interrupted and drowned out when trying to address the audience, and not with substantive points, but with side-conversations and meaningless interjections.

JimRHoughton said...

Whether Kate Ellis should have responded more forcefully brings us back to the concept of Gaslighting which was being discussed on Twitter a couple of weeks back after Catherine Deveney appeared: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Susanne Ech said...

Thank you Ben. I was actually in the audience and might I say it took a lot of energy to restrain. Currently applying feminist and gender analysis in my thesis and it's so true that it is just everywhere. While I do get sick of talking about it and sometimes question whether I'm making something out of nothing, it really is a huge element in our society and everything that constitutes it.

Chrys Stevenson said...

The #gaslighting blog by Jane Douglas is here: http://puttingheroarin.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/an-open-letter-to-catherine-deveny/

M. Lamont said...

Yes Yes Yes!!!!! This Feminism word as Ani Difranco says: "is not about women, its about consciousness". So sooooooooooooo great to read your words Ben! THANK YOU!

Unknown said...

FBagesHaven't waded through the 68 comments (so far) so if I'm repeating - sorry. Everything you say about the performance of the men on the panel is true. I would have switched off but I was mesmerised by their appalling, schoolboy, bullying behaviour. And - yes - they did it because they could. Not just that men such as Pyne and Akerman (Tanner where was your brain?) do it habitually, but possibly more importantly - TONY JONES DIDN'T STOP THEM! That Kate Ellis held her own and refused to be browbeaten just emphasised how dreadful all the men on the panel were - including Tony Jones. Would love to know what Nilaja Sun really thought of it.

Anonymous said...

Ben you gem, you've nailed it again. Thank you.

Velcrose said...

Methinks too much protest. Kate is an experienced politician and is armed to handle such ignorant behaviour. She didn't and we shouldn't be compensating for her inadequacy because she is a woman.
Pyne showed his true colours on national TV; Tanner was exposed as not quite the voice of reason he claims to be.
Nilaja Sun held the floor for an extended period while Piers Akerman could be justified in claiming he had little air time, thankfully for me nevertheless.
Why play the feminist card so often? It's whiny and over the top and diminishes its essence.

Velcrose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bushfaery said...

Well said, Ben.

Interestingly, as Q&A finished last night, I left a polite but critical (in a mildly sarcastic manner) comment on Chris Pyne's Facebook page. Five minutes later, the comment was deleted (it was not abusive and language was intentionally polite) and the page had removed the ability for the public to leave comments. Nice one!

Harriet WM said...

Thank you so much for this! Watching qanda last night made me so so angry and it's great to see that it wasn't just me and my friends who were shocked and disgusted. As much as this time in Australian politics (and society, be real) has been pretty fraught with misogyny, it's been very heartening to find so many people finally speaking out about it. I feel like as the bastards get more revolting, decent Australians' tolerance is wearing pretty thin.

Anonymous said...

Good on you Ben, reflected my frustration after watching QandA last night. But does Tony Jones think impartiality prevents him from calling out panelists when they're being rude and obnoxious? If so, he's wrong!

Marg G said...

Thanks for this excellent post Ben. I just hope the disrepectful males in question read it - but like 'bushfaery', my comments on Mr Pyne's facebook page were also taken down. Suspect he is not interested in changing his behaviour!

Liz Egan said...

Thank you Ben, a balanced reasonable argument....wish we'd seen a discussion of the sane ilk last night!

Anonymous said...

An excellent article. If we can't expect a civilized and respectful discussion - no matter your opinion -then Tony Jones is not doing his job as moderator.

Anonymous said...

mnThat is exactly the way I saw Q&A last night, but think Tony Jones must take a large share of the responsibility because he is the ring master and he lets this happen time and again. He should should have a bank of 5 microphone switches and simply silence panelists who behave so rudely if he can't control them otherwise. He was also guilty of cutting Kate Ellis short and it is not the first time he has cut off a succinct, relevant, interesting response.

Julie McNeill said...

I think this is a good conversation to have, especially for the younger generation who don't seem to have had much critical discussion on 'feminism' and feminist her/story to inform them in the multi-faceted and overwhelming sexisms in media.
For another take on misogyny and politics do have a read of my post:
http://woman-in-labor-politics.blogspot.com.au

Lou Pardi said...

Great piece Ben.

For those asking 'why play the feminist card' just because Kate Ellis happens to be a women bullied by three men enabled by another man...

- if she'd been a man, she wouldn't have been being bullied by three men enabled by another man
- if she'd been a man, the way in which the other men interacted with her (belittling, smirking, talking down, having side-conversations) probably wouldn't have happened. And if it had, it would have been curbed.

Yes it's a human common decency issue. But the fact remains if she was a man - we wouldn't be having this conversation.

And why didn't she shout them down?

- because they'd love that.
- because she'd lose the audience.
- because it's not effective communication in that scenario.
- because regardless of if they were intentionally gaslighting or not, the outcome is the same.
- because by handling herself the way she did, and continuing to speak - despite interruptions, she got her message across.
- because fighting fire with fire isn't the only way.

love,
also basically nobody

The Babel Fish said...

Excellent piece, and having ploughed through the comments now, I'll just touch on a couple of things. First, Tony Jones. Had a dog of a game. Normally a reliable player, needs to sit down and watch the video and see where he went wrong. I'm sure he's more than capable of grasping the issues raised here and seeing the error of his ways.

Second, we are indeed losing our hold on civility and politeness in political discourse and I can't help but feel it might be my generation's (x) fault. Tony, if you want to see how it's done, have a look at some old tapes of the late Robin Day chairing Question Time, on which your show is based. He would never have stood for such indiscipline, he was the master at keeping a panel of pushy, opinionated pollies in line. Yoda to your Luke.

Third, nobody has mentioned this, but the side conversation between Tanner and Pyne (and Lydsay, mate, you are another who needs to take a long, hard look at yourself) was dealt with, if not by Jones. Ellis stopped talking, and the director, clearly a person (male or female, I know not) of some intuition, immediately cut to a shot of Tanner and Pyne. This is known as the 'schoolteacher method' of shutting down a side conversation. The teacher stops talking, until the offenders realise everyone is watching them and subside into self-conscious silence, which they did.

Lastly, you need to understand that it's mostly unconscious. That's the thing about sexism. Just as racism used to be, it's so deeply ingrained we don't even notice it most of the time. Well, obviously some of us do, because we've done the background reading, we've been trained to notice it. Some respondents on this thread obviously don't get it though. Some of them are women. The boorish, bullying tactics used on Kate Ellis are used primarily, but not exclusively, against women. The same can be said of the 'gaslighting' tactics used against Deveney, but the two are otherwise completely different, so comparisons are spurious. If you don't know what gaslighting is, see the blog referenced by Chrys above for an excellent explanation. It is also used primaril;y, but not exclusively, agaist women, and primarily, but not exclusively, by the religious (for another good example of it, see the Dawkins/Pell episode of Q&A). Feminism has managed, since the 70s, to put a small number of wealthier, better-educated women into high-powered jobs. Having achieved this, perhaps 1% of its original agenda, it appeared to declare victory and retire from the field. Many people were persuaded that the war was over. Very much like the class war, which our ruling class continue to fight with gusto, but condemn as ridiculously old-fashioned if ever the working class should look like fighting back. The likes of Alan Jones, and Tony Abbott, have perhaps done us a real service, in that the positions they take are so extreme, and the distance by which they fall short of normal standards of human decency so great, that it's impossible not to notice. However, don't let their extreme misogyny blind you to the more mundane, subtle, everyday misogyny we saw on Q&A last night.

Fiona Lake said...

It's fabulous to read discussion on this from blokes, and all too rare.
I don't know how sexism can be reduced. There is a myriad of things that are being overlooked. For example, motherhood is no longer respected (especially not by many 'career women'). Raising the next generation of human beings? Farm them out to underpaid, under-trained daycare staff & head off to a 'real job' - the paid workforce - once your youngest turns 8 (or a few months old, if you want to). The enraging thing about this is that these laws are made by people who mostly were raised with at-home mothers. So they could wind down & have free time after school & during holidays, rather than remain in the dog-eat-dog daycare system, or wander around getting up to unsupervised mischief when teenagers.
I find qanda absolutely detestable but did see a bit of this episode. Ultimately, Tony Jones is supposed to be the moderator so that's where the massive fail was. He was paid to stuff it up, basically!
However I am also tired of the victim mentality so very many women adopt, albeit sometimes subtly. Why didn't Kate Ellis simply pin those blokes down and take them to task for their rudeness? You can't fix sexism by being a victim or martyr or sitting batting your eyelids. It is essential to do a good job, use your head, and expect civility.

Laura Norda said...

Great piece and great discussion. Respect to Kate Ellis for her composure and restraint while I sat shouting at the television. I have no idea how she managed to sit there next to Piers Ackerman after his appalling piece on the 'handbag hitsquad', think I would've become a 'hysterical' woman and thrown my glass of water in his face.

Polly said...

Heard Pyne and Arkerman were gooing to be on QandA and could not watch it but caught the last part by accident.
Thank you for this piece Ben. I was wild and despairing with the thought that this behaviour by Pyne was 'acceptable' not just to a Minister of the Australian Government but to a woman AND on National Television. I too, like many, was yelling at the television frustrated at not being able to hear a Minister I had not heard very often and I was interested in her answers to some important questions.
How to deal with this as a woman. You cannot sit still, you cannot be quiet, you cannot yell back, you cannot 'put them in their place', you cannot raise your voice, demand to be heard, beg for respect...etc etc. You can do none of this because you will pay for it...damned if you do damned if you don't. But Ellis' behaviour was class and determination. She was NOT calm, she was (in the end) hell bent on just to keep on talking. I think THIS may be the way forward. When bullies/misogynists/rude people etc talk over you, just hold your nerve and keep on going and hopefully the microphone ( or others listening) will turn to your firm and strong voice and hear you.
So glad there are men like you and my husband in the world Ben..men who recognise, and demand equality for women in all spheres of life. The battlements still need to be manned/womanned and this old 70's feminist (full time mum and now carer) are still out here fighting the good fight with support from such people as your good self.

Robyn said...

Brilliant work, Ben. You and I have disagreed in the past, but we can also agree! :)

Thunderballs said...

To the anti-deveners I point you to this post, which is the post that pointed me to this article. You will find that deveny acted with decency and respect and that you have been outwitted by your own latent brainwashing. Greer and Deveny are great, and they cop it because they do speak up a bit more. Thanks for a great article ben, irrelevant of your penis. http://thatsmyphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/defending-deveny/

Anonymous said...

Spoken so well can you be our Prime Minister?
Im a women & I vote, you'd have mine :)

Anonymous said...

Didn't know where else to post this, guess I'm stupid. Anyway just in regards to.your depression/anxiety article maybe you need to realise that your thought patterns lead to your feelings. Understand deeply: thoughts first, feelings second. Not your fault or.your.choice you just have an active intelligent mind which has gone astray. Look into this concept. I haven't read it yet but maybe the book hand.book to.higher consciousness by Keyes.will help you.

Anonymous said...

Didn't know where else to post this, guess I'm stupid. Anyway just in regards to.your depression/anxiety article maybe you need to realise that your thought patterns lead to your feelings. Understand deeply: thoughts first, feelings second. Not your fault or.your.choice you just have an active intelligent mind which has gone astray. Look into this concept. I haven't read it yet but maybe the book hand.book to.higher consciousness by Keyes.will help you.

Anonymous said...

I was totally offended by the behaviour of Tanner and Pyne. Utterly disrespectful. Unfortunately, so predictable.

Thank you for you blog-piece.

DanDare said...

The worst thing about all this incivility and stupidity is that nobody gets to hear a discussion.

How can we have a deliberative democracy when dickheads are shouting everyone down all the time?

Its worse when the bullies think they are pinning someone between a rock and a hard place to make them shut up. Terry Jones rarely seems to manage the buggers although he does no worse than whoever gets to be speaker of the house.

Anonymous said...

I bet that even after that slobbering beta male display you still can't get get any pussy. you are one ugly cunt, that's for sure

Anonymous said...

I bet that even after that slobbering beta male display you still can't get get any pussy. you are one ugly cunt, that's for sure

Anonymous said...

Beta?

Seeking validation from hipster feminists who would never fuck you with a face like that is pretty omega.

Anonymous said...

Ben POOJABBER.

What a funny name.

Anonymous said...

PUT YOUR MANNERS BaCK IN

Anonymous said...

you are getting your betas and omegas mixed up. Poojab is beta all the way, not with Stephanie K

Tracy said...

I find the same interrupting and talking over people every time Kelly O'Dwyer is on the panel, and Germaine,they use http://www.convertpoundstokilos.com/

Anonymous said...

Ben, the feminazi sisterhood must love you! Try working in a school 83percent female teachers and you're male!...Try working: bank one of few hetro males amongst feminists, esp the boss.You male, go 5 mins, over on your tea break + cop a serve! Female staffers,same bank , 40 mins, over--not a word! Be a bloke in stores, libraries etc where the 'sisterhood' talks over, gangs up, gossips, expects special help/treatment. JUST because they're females! You preach your bovine fertilizer to the 'converted': feminazis + social engineering 'disciples.' Blokes in the real world, doing real work know women [not all] are basically a spoilt, pandered to whining + complaining bunch!

Bill said...

Anon, 80% of my colleagues are women. I have no problems with that at all. Maybe it's because I'm not a dick.
Get a lot of dates, do you?

Anonymous said...

I only just came accros this, but it's amazing. Thank you. I'm the youngest female in a male-dominated household and just recently got into a screaming match about this and feminism - to which my brother pulled the "feminists are misandrists!" line, then my father told me not to get "so emotional" about rape culture, despite my emotional brother screaming at me.

This is so, so wonderful and unfortunately very true. Thanks Mr Pobjie.

MYOB Bookkeepers Sunshine Coast said...

I was not happy by the attitude of of Tanner and Pyne. Its not nice and very disrespectful. Change that behaviour..!