Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Unconscious Sexism

It's not that surprising that cricketer Chris Gayle would demean Mel McLaughlin - he's done it to other female interviewers before, both in Australia and in the Caribbean. On his Twitter account he basically plays the role of Jamaican Hugh Hefner, but with much less literacy.

I can't relate to doing your job and having your work completely ignored so you can be propositioned, then when clearly uncomfortable at the advance, being called "baby" and having the initial comment repeated. Then to have work colleagues sniggering in the background and your employer initially play it for laughs before going into damage control much later. Then to have the person punished by his employer, who then excuses the behaviour as a cultural misunderstanding "said in jest".

I can't relate to that, because I'm a man.

I can't relate to it, but I can recognise it is wrong.

Judging by the flow of online public opinion I've observed, most people can't even get that far.

How can we deny a problem when it smacks us in the face on live television?

A few recent and related personal observations and reflections...

At a hotel a few weeks ago my wife tries to reverse a double-wide pram out of a narrow lift door, and a bag hanging from the handle but out of her line-of-sight gets caught at the door, impeding the prams progress. A middle-aged man waiting to get in the lift grins and says "lady driver!".

Is the inference in the statement something people actually believe? Is it funny?

I cringed but said nothing.

Should I say something, and how without diminishing my wife's voice?

A federal minister, Jamie Briggs, does something inappropriate involving a female public servant and is forced to resign from the ministry. His resignation statement also comes laden with bizarre qualifiers, such as that they were having drinks at a "popular, and as it transpired, very crowded bar."

Why add this trivial detail other than to undermine the victim in the public court of opinion?

He also said he would respect her privacy. Then sent a photo of her around to colleagues. It ended up in The Australian newspaper, pixellated, but with enough information included about the victim to make it clear that Australia's biggest media company knows who she is.

Another federal minister, Peter Dutton, calls a female journalist "a mad fucking witch", and sends the text to her by mistake.

How many male journalists has he called mad? How many male journalists has he insulted with negative gendered terms like witch?

The other day, my wife mentioned to me that she'd heard about a dads group on Facebook.  She was in a similar group for mums and had found it useful in providing advice, support and ideas. I thought I'd join out of curiosity. My first observation was that very few of the posts were actually relevant to being a dad. There were lots of posts about being a man - "does anyone know a good tradie?", "how do I fix this?", etc. The posts about being a dad were almost entirely about the fun stuff - "does anyone know where is good to ride bikes?", "is my four-year-old old enough to see Star Wars?", etc.

Is it that males are unwilling to share their meaningful experiences about caring, or simply aren't doing their share of caring?

Two days after I joined, by member vote the groups cover picture was changed to a woman dressed in Santa lingerie for the month of January. Other than being one week after Christmas and therefore not even topical, it seemed in very poor taste and completely irrelevant. There were a few dissenters, but they were shouted down. I asked when there would be the half naked male for the gay dads out there, and following some more witless banter, left the group.

Why would a closed group about raising children, where presumably about 50% of those children are female, put an image objectifying women from and centre of their page?

Most of us don't think there is anything wrong with what Chris Gayle did.

Is it really that surprising?

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