Page 808 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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fortunes have been no less notable. Despite the absence of a specifically women’s faction, Labor has treated its female politicians with the full respect and dignity they deserve: Ros “we have a whiteboard in our office” Kelly and Carmen “I’m sorry I can’t remember that” Lawrence, Joan Kirner and another forgettable Cheryl. The list, doubtlessly, goes on.

The ACT party, of course, is even more progressive than its counterparts elsewhere. It was, for example, truly admirable yesterday to see Mr Gentleman living up to his name by making the first government statement in this place on this year’s International Women’s Day. Like every other female in Canberra, I was distinctly moved by his admonition to celebrate the achievements of all women and continue the struggle for social equity—a sentiment I thoroughly endorse.

Indeed, the only other thing I would add to Mr Gentleman’s remarks is that perhaps he should explain the concept of social equity to his colleague, Ms Porter. I say this on the basis of her performance in this place yesterday. Ms Porter appears to adhere to the non-feminist—or should I say non-Gentleman—view that in matters of social etiquette there is one standard for men and another for women. Ms Porter claimed that directing what she termed a four-letter profanity at a member of an ANU student community is inappropriate behaviour for a female politician.

In the first place, Ms Porter, who was present, took this incident completely out of context. The student in question, a member of the ALP, had been yelling nothing but four-letter obscenities straight at me for a considerable period of time and I merely replied in the only vocabulary an ALP activist seems to have mastered. But, more importantly, Ms Porter yesterday gloriously demonstrated the double standard of male and female roles intrinsic in the ALP in general and the Stanhope government in particular. When a male politician swears, he is only using the vernacular and being a bit of a larrikin. Read any account of life in the higher echelons of the ALP—especially one written by Mungo McCallum—and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were reading an account of the extracurricular life of the AFL. But this is totally understandable, and it is totally acceptable because boys will be boys. And the biggest boys club in the country is the ALP.

A member, who had been sitting in the gallery for some time during the debate today, pointed out to me just how boyish the behaviour is in this place. However, when a Liberal MLA responds to a drunken, abusive member of the ALP in this very language—the only language they seem to understand—her behaviour, according to Ms Porter, is inappropriate. Ms Porter is just like the mother who sees nothing wrong with her son’s behaviour—no matter how gross it may become—but who maintains much higher standards for her daughter. But that is the way women are expected to behave in the ALP, and Ms Porter exemplifies it. She knows her place, and the boys in the ALP like to have a mother hen.

The truth is that, in every faction of the ALP, with very few exceptions, women are only there for decoration. Whenever they aim for real power, or for whatever reason become a liability, they are discarded with extreme prejudice. The truth is that feminism in the ALP is only, at best, an eleventh-hour ideological facelift.

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