Updated 17 September 2013
So, Tony Abbott, Australia’s greatest misogynist, is now Prime Minister of Australia, and he has only one woman on his Front Bench. Two less than Afghanistan’s!
While The Lodge is being refurbished, PM Tony Abbott is living in the ADF Barracks. With the sex scandals and misogyny alive and well in Australian Defence Force, is this a good move?
Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was vilified in Murdoch’s Press and by the Opposition led by Tony Abbott. His leadership of LNP focused on the fact that PM Julia Gillard was an atheist, unmarried and childless. And yet she proved to be an exceptional leader and Prime Minister.
“To be roused by a man means acknowledging oneself as conquered”. – Wilhelm Stekel, from ‘The Sexual Dynamics of History’.
Mr Stekel, in the early 20th Century, made it clear that he saw heterosexual sex, and specifically sexual intercourse, as a necessary and appropriate regulatory mechanism in the maintenance of male dominance and female submission.
Perhaps the above statement is the secret mantra of the Australian Defence Force? I wonder how these young men, and indeed, all the men that graduate from the ADF Academy treat the women they come into contact with on overseas missions.
The latest scandal to come out of the ADF is a reflection of, not only the culture within the Force, but also society as a whole. One just has to read the latest news regarding the sexual misconduct of AFL players and those of other male sporting codes. A young woman is fair game sexually, and once ‘acquired’ is discarded and branded a ‘slut’, a ‘bitch’, or much worse.
The young ADF student, named ‘Kate’ in the media, was filmed having sex with a young man, also an ADF Academy student, without her knowledge or consent. She believed it to be a private act, while he, on the other hand, had set up a web camera in the bedroom where the incident took place, and arranged for six of his mates to view the scene from another room. The film was then passed around the internet. Mobile phone still shots were also taken by the men and passed around.
The whole incident came to light when ADF commanders were informed of it by another student. One of the Academy rules states that students are not permitted to fraternise with each other at the Institution. During a meeting with the investigators, Kate, by now feeling ill and embarrassed, told them that she knew nothing about the filming. All the males, from students to top commanders, had all the power and none of the victimisation. What an unequal forum; you would expect at least that the young woman would be allowed the presence of a female officer. However, the commanders considered that she was at fault for engaging in sexual activity with another student. When Kate discovered that nothing was going to be done about the matter, she contacted the media. Since then she has been told to apologise to the young men and has been vilified and harassed by other students. She has not been offered any counselling for the trauma we can only imagine she has gone through. She has told the media that when she read the statements by the seven young men involved, she had to run from the room, and was physically sick.
Kate is an 18-year-old student and was not doing anything that any other student wouldn’t do, as part of growing up, in any university or academy in the western world. She was away from home, in a new and challenging environment, and therefore was a vulnerable target. The same cannot be said of male students at the academy; it is after all a male dominated one. The whole incident amounts to one of planned abuse. The young man in whom Kate placed her trust, violated that trust, and systematically planned, along with his classmates, to sexually humiliate her. (The young men involved have since been convicted).
During research for my book, ‘Whatever Happened to Ishtar?‘ I came across many stories of deliberate sexual humiliation and sexual abuse of women and girls. My family tree has many such stories, not least that of my mother, a vulnerable and lost woman who was preyed upon by three male members of one family. The result was that she, the victim, was demonised, while the men lived on within the family without any recrimination whatsoever. These stories didn’t come from inside institutions; they came from inside families, inside homes. In other words, from inside our own society. Recently, Tony Abbott, leader of the Australian Federal Opposition, stood in front of clearly misogynist signs at a political rally to vilify the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, about some of her policies. However, instead of attacking the PM’s policies, he made derogatory remarks about her, and the placards behind him, in full view of television cameras, gave him full support. Standing beside Tony Abbott are two female members of his Opposition one of whom, Bronwyn Bishop, (front left in the photo below), he has made Speaker in his newly elected government.
Oh, there was plenty of debate after the event, about Mr Abbott’s behaviour. But at the time not one person in the crowd protested the wording on the placards or Mr Abbott’s treatment of Australia’s first woman prime minister. How can we expect young men to respect women if this is the way politicians behave? I have yet to see these types of sexist statements used against male PMs. The use and abuse of females has been going on for centuries, and appears to be ingrained in our culture. Kate is very brave to speak out, and by doing this, changes can be effected, albeit slowly and painfully.
It is estimated that reported sexual abuse is just the tip of the iceberg. The embarrassment and shame women and girls feel about letting anyone else know what has happened to them, prevents them from going to the police. I think that most of us can understand that stance. However, nothing will change in our society unless this abuse and societal malaise is dealt with openly. Nothing will change if we continue to ignore the voice of women and elect men such as Tony Abbott and his all-male-but-one Front Bench to govern our country.