Outspoken former Labor leader Mark Latham (Image via Starts at Sixty ‏/ @Startsatsixty)

Mark Latham's swipe at Michelle Payne over "etiquette" bespeaks the prejudice that still festers against women speaking their minds, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

GET STUFFED MARK LATHAM, your clit baiting is becoming tiresome. 

Last week on Channel Nine, the former Labor leader gave Michelle Payne a verbal whipping and sank in the spurs.

The Verdict's resident curmudgeon was foaming at the bit. He clearly enjoys a bit of rough sexism when it comes to leather saddlery, bondage and mounting fillies.

Presumably female jockeys should be kept horseshoeless and with foal in the stables, their lips bound with gaffe tape whilst in public but urged to keep their riding boots on in the hay and legs akimbo in the stirrups.

More so if you dare rewrite history in lipstick.

Michelle Payne is the first female jockey in 155 years to smash the gender class ceiling.

She did so wearing colours of suffragette purple and green-with-envy silk to snatch by half a length the coveted 2015 Emirates Melbourne Cup from an international field of testosterone dominated equines and humans whilst riding a gelding. Ouch!

GIRLIE ON THE GELDING BEAT BLOKES           

The girlie on the gelding beat the blokes. You don't need balls to win. The female and the eunuch proved that.

And it wasn't only the Sisterhood that cheered.

Flemington's famous roses never smelled so sweet nor the the perfume of victory so intoxicating.

Payne's longtime handsome co-star, the New Zealand bred Prince of Penzance, named for Cornwall's port town, pirated the Cup from his 23 rivals carrying 53 kilos, Michelle Payne and history writ large on his back.

Elizabeth Taylor, National Velvet

I know I'm not the only woman who flipped back to her childhood and my own yearning to ride in the Grand National whilst watching Michelle and her Prince, conjuring up scenes from Elizabeth Taylor's iconic National Velvet, like a kineograph by John Barnes Linnett.

You can see why. Apart from shared themes, there is also Michelle Payne's physical resemblance to Taylor.

The life journeys thus far of Michelle, her brother Stevie the strapper and Penzance himself, is the stuff of books and movies in their related poignancy and restored a home town authenticity to the Cup.

From a thoroughbred field of dreams, at least one came true.

The pair fulfilled a musing Michelle had the night before, defying dismissive odds of 101 to 1, a legion of experts and the annual forensic analyses and intense speculation of the likely winner of the A$3.6 million Cup.

After the win, an euphoric Michelle Payne called out some overdue home truths about that other race – the human race – specifically the sexism of those involved in the contentious and sometimes violent sport of horse racing. And not always on the racetrack either.

Remember that little more than a week before the Cup, several rounds of ammunition were indiscriminately fired into the Templestowe home of corruption fighter Terry Bailey, Racing Victoria's chief steward.

At the time of going to press, no-one has been charged over the shootings.

It will be a surprise if such a thing happens anytime soon.

Given the sordid underbelly that exists in some sections of the racing industry, it remains extremely courageous of Michelle Payne to break the code of silence so publicly and transparently.

In her moment of personal triumph, she generously thought of her sister jockeys and has shone a much needed light on the covert sexism and bigotry shown by some towards women in the lower ranks.

From Nine's website:

“It’s such a chauvinistic sport,” Payne said after her win.

“I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off… I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world.”

Minutes later, she was publicly punished for such honesty by the glaring sin of omission that indicated  the extent of such permeating and menacing chauvinism.

The subsequent failure of both the Governor-General and the Emirates representative in their speeches to mention that Payne is the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup was churlish and unforgiveable.

They looked and behaved like nervous and arrogant patronising fools.

Instead of being frightened by Michelle Payne and her impact on history, these adult males could have aligned themselves to it, seizing the moment and the day with the same enthusiasm as the crowd at Flemington and the millions of people watching the Race online and on television.

At first glance, we could be forgiven for blaming the ignoring of Payne's record busting win that put an end to the centuries old monopoly of male jockets winning the Cup on pre-written computer generated-type speeches and speechwriters who, unlike Payne, never dreamed that a female jockey might win the Cup.

It clearly suits the Governor General and the powerful vested interests if we think this.

Bollocks. I don't buy the nonsense that the poor darlings were just reading from the script. It is inconceivable they would be oblivious to the spectacular consequences of the first female jockey to win the Cup.

And did they think we all wouldn't notice this slight?

As far as I'm aware, none of the ungallant cads involved have been asked to account for why they spurned Payne.

So where were their media minders, spinmeisters, corporate communications consultants, when Payne crossed the finishing line?

Even if their masters were genuinely clueless to the international historical ramifications, I would have expected their aides de camp, et cetera, to have a quiet word.

Where was the Victoria Racing Club's communications team? There was ample time for minders to prompt VIP speakers to acknowledge the historical significance of Payne's win.

Indeed Payne's history making win and comments were a gift for any savvy media adviser, let alone to her sisters in the profession – and the wider community – or for anyone who has endured or is experiencing discrimination of any kind. 

Independent Australia has since been told the ommission was quite deliberate, so as not to court controversy or "buy into" Michelle's post race comments about industry sexism or to be seen to be causing damage to "the brand" of the Melbourne Cup, that has long been up for sale and purchased in later years by the ubiquitous Emirates.

I was told by someone close to the VRC executive that there was concern that Payne might "mouth off" even more at the "slightest encouragement".

It is shameful that, not only did certain people fail to acknowledge the record breaking moment, but their colluding silence also reflected the petty-minded begrudgery of same-sex horse racing, the power of this still burgeoning industry, a sometimes callous money-making force on so many levels.

It is one thing to be ignored by a megasponsor protective of its reputational turf, but it is an outrageous home-grown insult when your historic win is publicly ignored by the Queen's main man in Orstralia, General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the first and hopefully the last man standing who's been knighted in recent times. His speech mentioned nothing.

The whole scenario was pathetic. Cosgrove could even have made a joke about possibly being related to Michelle, given that Lynne, Lady Cosgrove's maiden name is Payne and they, too, have a son called Stevie.

And after all, Her Majesty, whose racing colours are naturally purple and scarlet, has had almost as many winners as diamonds in one of her larger tiaras.

It would have been so easy to "retrieve" the situation, to show leadership and honour Michelle's win on Penzance by either Emirates, the VRC or both, making a pledge to at least discuss if not announce there and then the inaugural "Michelle Payne Stakes" for next year's Cup Day.

Public sympathy remains overwhelmingly in support of Michelle Payne and her remarks.

Many of us not only appreciate her honesty but can empathise with her and this includes men.

Not among their number is the sad case of Mark Latham.

He has an history of trying to rein in straight-talking women, along with kindred politicians and the ruling mentalligensia class who still think women should be seen and not heard.

The poor sod is a wannabe version of Donald Trump this side of the new black stump; only Latham's got a combover lip. He's busy building a media profile based on what is clearly his fear and possible loathing of women; particularly confident and opinionated women. 

For last Thursday's The Verdict, Latham's habitual venting of malicious spleen was timely, given it was both Oaks and Guy Fawkes Day — both celebrations imbued with ambiguous biases.

MARK LATHAM THINKS MICHELLE IS A PAYNE IN THE ...

What got up Latham's sneering nose was, you guessed it, Michelle Payne's post-race interview, when she called out the endemic sexism.

Latham obviously thinks Michelle is a Payne in the arse.

He took umbrage at Michelle's audacity to speak truth to the powerful racing industry and the world at large, including the behemoth brand that is The Melbourne Cup, to say nothing of Penzance's connections.

She was prepared to bite the hands of some who feed her.  And dare I say of some she – and Penzance – feed in turn in winnings.

Latham told the panel:

I do not think they expected the jockey to make a big national issue of it.

The etiquette of the issue ... These things normally stay in-house.

It was an unusual move. In the excitement of winning the Melbourne Cup she's excused anything but it was certainly an unusual thing to talk about...

Well of course, it's unusual Marky. It's never happened before. And why wasn't it etiquette, bro?

What, not etiquette to tell the truth? How so?

It's not etiquette to lie to the world, I would have thought. Surely that would constitute a great betrayal especially to her fellow jockeys, both women and men alike.

LATHAM'S SILENCE CREDO DEAFENS VICTIMS' CRIES

Latham's ominous argument that “these things normally stay in-house” is the ugly subtext for the code of silence that so often deafens the cries of victims of sexism, domestic violence, bullying, sexual abuse, racism, gender, cultural and religious bigotry.

It takes extraordinary personal courage to stand up before some of those who demean, demonise and undervalue you and who collude against you behind deadlocked doors; who use their masculinity and the good ol' boys bad network to lock women out of that mansion of many rooms where egality, fraternity and opportunity dwell.

It takes extraordinary personal largesse and ethical integrity in the midst of the champion's euphoria to not only admit one's own struggle but also to acknowledge the struggle and calibre of your peers.

It takes extradordinary personal honesty to do so without any hint of guile or contrivance.

MICHELLE PAYNE DEVIL ON HORSEBACK

You would think, by Latham's comments, that Michelle Payne was a devil on horseback.

Latham's fear and loathing of women has long been bleeding obvious and railed against, but it is irritating that he uses his misogyny to cultivate notoriety and artificially inseminate his staged controversy as documented in his Wikipedia entry, possibly written by himself, given his propensity for self-ghostwriting.

This section will give you an idea of how often he stands on the shoulders of giant killers:

In August 2015, Latham resigned from his regular column after spending eight years with the Australian Financial Review.[43] His resignation was linked to a series of "provocative" articles including columns critical of Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and transgender woman Group Captain Catherine McGregor.[43] Tweets from the Twitter account @RealMarkLatham which is linked to Latham's email address[44] made personal criticisms of women, such as Mia Freedman, Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales, Tara Moss, Anne Summers, Lisa Wilkinson and Lisa Pryor.[45] Feminist activists and websites have campaigned against Latham's columns by complaining both to the Financial Review and Westpac, which presents the Women of Influence Awards in conjunction with the Financial Review.[46] When questioned by audience members at the 2015 Melbourne writer's festival, he refused to confirm the authorship of the @RealMarkLatham account and suggested that he was incapable of doing so due to a commercial media commitment.[47]

Latham's mouth, like the Michelle Payne Cup incident, runneth over into our daily lives. 

It speaks of the prejudice that still festers against women speaking their mind and telling it like it is.

We haven't come a long way baby. We've only come some of the way.

For so many girls and women, the Cup remains half empty.

Disclaimer: Tess Lawrence still abhors jumps racing and is against the use of the whip and will continue to campaign against both.

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