So you want context to Julia Gillard's speech last week? Well, I’ll give you contexts – plural – says Joan Evatt.
So the media wants a context. How about contexts — plural? There is never a single context in politics. The contexts are always a complex recipe of sub-texts and alternative agendas. I can walk, talk and chew gum simultaneously. It would appear that the mainstream media can’t ― or won’t.
How about a media now so involved in a 24 hour, or less, story time-zone that they no longer look at bigger pictures. Why? Such analyses either don’t fit in with the desired agenda and direction of the media organisation for whom they work; or many media workers are now suffering from a kind of media driven attention deficit disorder; or, in any story, it’s too difficult and time-consuming to explain the combination of contexts that drive any narrative.
The mainstream media had their ‘Alan Jones moment’ last week. They still appear to be in some state of shock. Haven’t we all been alternatively amused and outraged at the apparent discomfiture of the mainstream media as we see them scramble about to try and justify why their supposed analysis of the Prime Minister’s speech was so off the mark? Why was it that ordinary people have stated how wrong the media is? How is it that her speech has resonated not only in Australia, but around the world? How is it that her speech is now ranked among the great defining speeches of an Australian political leader ― one that will be remembered long after we say Peter who? How is it that her speech has become a viral on-line must-see? How did we get it so wrong?
To digress for just a little moment. The week’s highlight for me was seeing the Friday evening’s Contrarians on SkyNews (Australia’s answer to Fox News) where a panel of blokes – not a woman within cooee – sat there and very seriously pontificated about sexism and the PM’s speech. They were, because they just don’t get it, totally wrong in their quaint but erroneous conclusions. I know they must have felt smug as they restored their view of the world by the end of the programme. It is nice to think that their mothers still love them anyway.
If I hear one more time that the only way to assess the PM’s speech was in the sole CONTEXT of defending Peter Slipper, I’ll bitch slap the nearest member of the media.
Does anybody honestly think for a nanosecond that, after her condemnation of text messages from and to Peter Slipper, and after expressing her concern for turning Parliament into a kangaroo court, she gave a moment’s thought to Slipper for the remainder of her speech — some 12 minutes out of 15? Honestly?! If they do, then they do live on a different planet. Is the mainstream media so blinkered in their interpretation of what occurs politically that they can only see it coming from the narrow parliamentary political construct in which they sit in a gallery? Is it any wonder then that their self-censoring bias can be so easily manipulated. The problem for the media is that this bias can then be so easily seen in circumstances such as occurred last week.
The Peter Slipper motion of the Leader of the Opposition was more of a catalyst than a context. It was an attempt by Tony Abbott to gain traction for being ‘woman friendly’; an attempt that came hard on the heels of his wife’s saying what a nice man he is, Really! Truly!
How about these for contexts in common? The first, Abbott lecturing in defence of women, using words that a little more than a week before Alan Jones had used in a such a deliberately painful and contemptuous way.
How about the context of a woman still deeply grieving for a beloved father that she could not do anything but react to the venom and vitriol of the past fortnight, especially when confronted repeatedly by the very selective language used by Tony Abbott.
What Abbott and the media were not prepared for was the Prime Minister’s ENOUGH IS ENOUGH moment.
In addition to the context of the PM’s treatment over the past two to three weeks since her father’s death, how about the context of the PM’s treatment over the past two years since the last election by both the Opposition and the mainstream media.
For two years, the PM has had to endure a level of abuse from the Opposition benches. Those in the mainstream media have been complicit. They have been only too happy to follow the Opposition’s lead by their silence on the obvious sexism or worse, contributing to it.
The prevailing view, I believe, was that:
'She won’t complain because if She objects and plays the ‘gender card’, we’ll hammer her.'
The problem is, as with all examples of bullying discrimination, whether it’s racism, sexism or plain old fashioned religious bigotry, if it is not exposed early on it only gets worse both in the language used or in the acts of violence that are a natural repercussion. No one in the media has raised the issue of sexism displayed against the PM in any on-going or meaningful way ― that is, until fairly recently, and then only as a result of on-line opinion pieces. The media’s treatment of her has emboldened the Opposition forces to be not only relentless in their sexism, but also increasingly more extreme in their language used.
How about another context, one with wider applications? How about the context of how women are treated in Australian society generally ― the professions including politics and the law, the work place generally, the role of women as defined by the advertising and entertainment industries, as well as the inadequate voice given to women in the media?
How about a context where no-one in the media challenges Mr Abbott? What about his history of the treatment of women in power at Sydney Uni, his bullying methods used to keep control within his own political party and, by extension, the coalition, his negotiations with Tony Windsor, and his demand that the political party of the conscience vote be no longer the political party of the conscience vote when Abbott disagrees with the issue.
So how many contexts is that now? So many I’ve lost count.
Come on members of the media – wake up and smell what you are standing in, knee deep!
(This piece was originally published on Joan Evatt's blog boeufblogginon.wordpress.com and has been republished with permission.)