The media has been whipped into a fury over the ‘inappropriate’ comments of Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie. Oh the moral outrage! While her crass comments were undeniably in poor taste, insultingly based on gender stereotypes and not at all politically savvy, the fact is that they were not sexist. Can’t be. Because there is no such thing as Reverse Sexism.
The liberal feminist Facebook page Destroy The Joint yesterday shared a meme calling for Ms Lambie to be treated in the same manner as male politicians for her ‘sexist’ views. Apparently according to this page with over 45,000 likes that claims to represent feminism in Australia, reverse sexism is indeed a thing. Here is the meme (complete with horrible condescending and snide accompanying text) and the screenshot:
From a sociological perspective, there can be no such thing as reverse oppression. Racism, sexism and economic discrimination exist due to imbalanced power relations that are perpetuated socially, culturally, politically, legally and in the structure of our society. It is not possible to reverse this by individual statements. For example, if a woman of colour criticises white men and lampoons them, this does not hold the same power as if a white man belittles a women of colour. The white man already has the privilege, he is not going to lose any of it because a woman of colour criticises him. White men as a class are still going to earn more, be given far more opportunities, and be listened to above women of colour. They will still represent the vast majority of seats in parliament and be overwhelmingly in power positions as CEOs and company directors.
Aside from the actual false equivalence of an individual insult or poor taste remark being compared to the enforcing by the privileged class of structural oppression, we also have a culture in Australia that is so patriarchal that any woman who expresses herself sexually in a way that men deem inappropriate is immediately viciously attacked. And if you have listened to the interview, we are talking about a woman who admits in the first sentence that she has not had a relationship for 11 years, after being ASKED by the male presenter about her relationship status. The reason given for not having a relationship by Ms Lambie is:
“I guess ‘cos I was physically and psychologically damaged, for so long, and I was, I guess between sharing the love there was only really enough between my two sons, and I was just depleted, I had nothing else left.”
So here is a woman who has been a victim of abuse, a single mother, who is asked inappropriate questions by the radio host, the like of which would never likely be asked of a male politician, who is now being vilified for what probably amounts to panicking under that pressure and attempting to make light of the situation. The ‘blokey’ world of the Army position Ms Lambie held for over 10 years, surely also had an impact. Is it such a stretch to consider that this might be a defence mechanism for her, one that she has learnt in order to deflect boundary violations by men? The defence being using inappropriate and crass humour to change the topic from one that is uncomfortable? I am simply hypothesising here, but what is a certain fact, is that the question was inappropriate.
Perusing the social media sites for responses on Jacqui Lambie’s “inappropriate” comments, I saw many comments from men that served to remind women as a class that we are subordinate.
This is distinctly different to the reaction to right wing men such as Tony Abbott when he behaves in a sexist manner. He is condemned for it, but at the same time, it is almost a case of ‘this is what we can expect from such a man, oh well what can we do about it’. There are no comments comparing Abbott to a ‘$2 whore’ or labelling him as a ‘slut’. In fact many are now seeking to vindicate Abbott under the ‘Women Do It Too’ clause. Even though Lambie has never made any political moves to undermine male supremacist culture, compared to Abbott who has introduced legislation that harms women, and has actively opposed women’s right to abortion and contraception during his political career.
There are, refreshingly, a few comments containing appropriate analysis and highlighting the fact that a woman discussing her sexual preferences as the subordinate sex caste is in fact challenging the status quo.
Yes, I liked that one. Sadly, most of the comments of this type were by men, because women, such as the women at Destroy the Joint and commentators there, seemed to mostly want to exhibit hostility towards Lambie for exhibiting ‘sexist behaviour that harms men’. Yes, because it’s not like women are being killed at the rate of 3 per fortnight by Intimate Male Violence or anything. Let’s worry about their hurt feelings. Let’s not look at the violence Jacqui Lambie has suffered and analyse that. No, let’s just worry that she insulted men apparently, although most do not seem too insulted, as evidenced in the commentary available online.
Destroy the Joint, once again have completely missed the mark on this one and fallen into the trap of fighting for ‘equality’ (in order to placate men?) , rather than looking at the facts of women’s oppression and doing something constructive. They should be massively ashamed. Their middle of the road stance is usually appalling but this is destructive and dangerous propaganda.
If we lived in a world where women were not constantly objectified, silenced about our sexuality or told to comply with male identified sexuality, beaten into submissiveness, where women are not going to be labeled as a ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ as the default when they make a comment that does not resonate well with listeners, where women are in fact treated as human, then sure, DTJ might have a point (even in spite of their terrible condescending approach to women).
But we do not live in such a world. Abbott is Prime Minister. What does that say about women’s rights in our country? A man who believes that women should be in the kitchen bare foot and pregnant, but only if they are ‘women of calibre’ who can contribute taxes for the state as well as children, or who have a husband of ‘calibre’ to support them.
Oh Goddess forbid that a woman should reverse such rhetoric and actually state honestly what she would want in a man (albeit stereotypical tripe). I strongly feel that the backlash against Lambie’s statement goes far deeper than being ‘offended’ on behalf of men. We live in a world where men are chomping at the bit to tell women how big their penis is, and doing so even on the threads about Lambie (as seen above). Men send unsolicited penis pictures or references and generally are open about this and seek to normalise it. See this blog: Straight White Boys Texting. And the Australian military have a reputation for enabling and allowing such abuse. So we shoot down a woman who goes along with this? How about looking at the porn/rape culture that got us here? Nah….lets just crucify the **** Go Destroyers! Kill her! Kill her! Kill the witch! Sexist witch! Yes, I think we are getting the picture.