On Wednesday at the National Press Club, former long-serving Prime Minister of Australia John Howard (or as Paul Keating referred to him, that little desiccated coconut) opened up his rich, white, male coconut halves and shredded out some wisdom for us all.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
“I don’t believe in quotas, as you know, and you can talk about targets and aspirations and goals and I would like to see an natural process whereby there are more women…I’m not sure that you will ever have a 50/50 thing because it’s a fact of society that the caring role, whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are…women play a significantly greater part of filling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably will place some limits on their capacity…Some people may say: ‘What a terrible thing to say’. It’s not a terrible thing to say, it just happens to be the truth and occasionally, you’ve just got to recognise that and say it…The mainstream should not be too timid to say things occasionally.”
Allow me to say this:
So many conservative women with no merit whatsoever.
Let’s take this apart, shall we? Beginning with “I don’t believe in quotas”. The unspoken corollary is that he, and by extension, his acolytes, minions and disciples in the current Liberal Party, believe in merit. You can’t set quotas because parliamentarians have to get into parliament on merit alone. By logical extension, the merit argument means you believe our representative democracy is actually meant to represent rich, mostly white men by a proportion of two thirds. Because that’s who currently stalks the Coalition’s corridors of power. You know, the ones with merit. Fuck, there are so many conservative women not in parliament because they have no merit!
“The Coalition’s female representation in the house of representatives has fallen from 18 to 13, compared to 63 men, and eight women to 22 men in the senate” . Could that have anything to do with the fact that, according to Victorian politician Margaret Fitzherbert, the Liberal Party is rife with a deeply sexist culture that sees female candidates for pre-selection asked whether they’re planning a family? Asked who will be responsible for child-care if they are selected? Or whether they shouldn’t just wait till their children are grown before putting themselves forward? These are questions that would literally be illegal in any other recruitment process.
No to quotas, yes to “targets”.
This fish rots from it’s reactionary head. John Howard is perceived by the current Liberal Party to be the ne-plus-ultra of political success. Again and again he gives them all a blueprint for maintaining the status-quo. They know they need to fix their female representation problem. They have disavowed the quota system and decided to shoot for “targets”. But isn’t a quota just an enforceable target? Not in the minds of the Liberal power-brokers. No to quotas!
However, having used the utterly disproven merit argument again and again they’ve boxed themselves into a corner. They are losing the votes of women because of it. And in a system where female candidates are under-supported, in the absence of enough powerful female Liberal politicians pushing for more of them, it’s easier to just keep falling back to this out-dated merit argument. Which only serves to re-inforce white male privilege and leaves women (and minorities) woefully under-represented in their own Parliament. If women are the natural primary care-givers, better suited by their biology to stay at home and therefore be excluded from the tables where decisions are made, who benefits?
Facts, people, facts.
Moving onto this bit of nonsense from Johnny Coconut:
“It’s a fact of society that the caring role, whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are . . . women play a significantly greater part of filling the caring role in our communities…”.
Ahem. Just because a thing has always been a certain way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. It’s not an incontrovertible fact that women must always be the primary care-givers and therefore be of “limited capacity” to hold power. This might be the way things have always been. But the causes of this “fact” – exclusive white male access to power plus a system of “old boy” networks that police and maintain that access – to John Howard these are just “whatever”.
Blaming biology easier than actually legislating for change.
Does it really need to be said that men are just as capable of caring and parenting as women?
How about prioritising instead of discriminating against female candidates? Or pushing through legislative change that would bolster equal access and opportunity to parliamentary careers? Like better, more affordable child care. Paid parental leave. More paternity leave. Or, like, enforceable targets of representation, aka, QUOTAS?
Why can’t we work to dismantle the culture of toxic masculinity that denigrates and attempts to control anything perceived to be feminine, that defines itself in opposition to “female” qualities like nurturing and caring? You know, the culture that deprives men of the benefits of these qualities and keeps women out of the power structures that govern us. Well, that would involve working to make real change. Easier just to let things stay as they are and blame biology.
And then we get to my especial bug bear. Mr Howard gets a bit euphemistic here and employs the language of the suburbs…but I, and we, know what you’re trying to say, Coconut!! In reference to his sexist excuses for why the Coalition parliament is two thirds men, one third women he says:
“Some people may say: ‘What a terrible thing to say’. It’s not a terrible thing to say, it just happens to be the truth and occasionally, you’ve just got to recognise that and say it…The mainstream should not be too timid to say things occasionally.”
Cynical coconut. CYNICAL. Firstly, you just framed your sexist, harmful and out-dated attitudes as the truth. Secondly, you demand we all recognise it- plant that seed!
Thirdly, you infer that the mainstream agrees with you, so defining what is “mainstream” on your terms. Then…THEN you put the real bait out, you old reactionary fish. What tickles the inner rebel of “mainstream” Australia more than the inference that politically correct extremists are scaring them into silence?
The world has moved on.
In conclusion, he wasn’t diabolically successful for all those years for nothing! Nice bit of rhetorical spin; accomplishing all those ends with very succinct means. I’ve said it before, no-one is scaring the mainstream into “timid” silence, people just don’t think this shit is true anymore! These views are not the views of the mainstream because they work to exclude 50% of the mainstream from our representative democracy. They re-inforce a power structure that actually deprives us of the parliamentarians with the most merit! Especially relevant, these excluded, meritorious female candidates for parliament would also represent their constituents. Parliamentarians who look like you don’t represent all of us! What you’re saying isn’t “terrible”. It’s anachronistic, sexist and lazy. It’s OVER. And it makes me do this all day long: