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John Maycock discusses recent cries of "misogyny" by Senators Nash and Cash in response to Bill Shorten's comments about childcare.

PRIME MINISTER Malcolm Turnbull recently suggested that Bill Shorten and Labor are:

" … taking Australians for mugs."

To be fair, Turnbull was referring to fiscal issues with Labor’s policies. However some would say that all politicians take Australians for mugs — and these “muggings” don’t just take the shape of dodgy numbers in fiscal policy.

Indeed, the very next day, Turnbull was out there taking Australians for mugs when he assaulted/insulted us with this:

"The big risk in this election is that we would end up with an unstable, chaotic, Labor-Greens minority government as we've seen before."

This is simply not true, as pointed out by Thomas Mansfield on IA:

The notion that minority governments lead to instability and indecisiveness is at best misleading.

Gillard’s minority Government passed nearly 561 pieces of legislation during its term, as opposed to 100-200 annually by the majority Howard Governments … the figures show a minority-run parliament can operate smoothly and efficiently.

This “mugging” from Turnbull is a concise and simple lie. However, some can be far more sophisticated when “taking Australians for mugs”!

Consider Senator Fiona Nash’s recent attack on Bill Shorten. 

Shorten suggested:

"… men in Australia rely on the women in Australia to do the childcare and to organise childcare…. Where you've got mums working part-time or fulltime, it's the second job in the family, and frankly they're doing a lot of the unpaid work - they've got to try to work out the childcare bills."

Senator Nash, taking Australians for mugs, said:

"I think that Bill Shorten's disgraceful comments … saying that men were having to look to their little women to look after childcare were simply appalling ... That is pre-historic language and I'm extremely surprised that Tanya Plibersek and other Labor women haven't come out and condemned Bill Shorten for making those comments."

Firstly, is Shorten actually speaking a truth? Could it be such that women bear the greater responsibility when it comes to childcare?

Indeed, there are various reasons to believe this would be so. With families where both parents work, on average, the mother’s job is most often the “second job”. Also, I am sure that not too many people would propose that mothers are not doing a lot of "unpaid work", since this is a global fact.

Senator Penny Wong clarified Shorten’s words thus:

"What Bill is referencing is the reality that the disproportionate burden still falls on women."

What, then, of Nash’s polemic?

It is a “dog whistle”. Nash does not elaborate what is "disgraceful", "appalling" or "pre-historic" about Shorten’s words; nor explain why she is surprised that Labor women have not condemned Shorten. It is left up to the listener to fill in the gaps — though it was Nash who referred to “little women”.

So is Shorten being accused of misogyny? Is this a feminist argument invoking notions of the patriarchal society? Indeed, is Nash arguing from the position of political correctness?

But then, these notions are an anathema to the right wing of the Liberal National Coalition and their mainstream media “choir” — notions that, according to their perspective, impede freedom of speech. Yet here Nash appears to be appealing to these very notions in order to discredit a political opponent.

However, Lisa Wilkinson – from Nine's Today Show – was more forthcoming with her comments, when she railed against Shorten’s statements, calling them 'outdated' and suggesting they strengthening perceptions of women as 'second class citizens'.

She queried:

'Isn’t parenting about sharing responsibilities? And isn’t it confirming the outdated belief that women should always be in charge of the unpaid work and therefore giving any men who still do, permission to keep thinking that way … isn’t that like so last century?'

And, after noting that Shorten had once called Tony Abbott a dinosaur in regards to his behaviour toward women, and then suggesting Shorten should look in a mirror, Wilkinson invited her audience to decide:

‘…whether the “would-be PM” was a sexist or a realist.'

But then, it seems that Wilkinson made her statements prior to Nash. Wilkinson on the Today Show on the morning of the 6 June, Nash a bit later the same day. This suggests that Nash picked up Wilkinson’s rhetoric and “ran” with it – it also suggests that it was Wilkinson who “drove” the narrative. Nash’s “prehistoric” is Wilkinson’s “outdated/dinosaur”.

But hang on, on the day of Shorten’s so called “gaff” – the day before Wilkinson’s and Nash’s attacks on him – Senator Michaelia Cash posted a video clip of Shorten’s press conference on Facebook with this comment:

What outdated views from the man who wants to lead our country.'

Consider, Wilkinson said Shorten’s words were “outdated” and called him the “would-be PM” while Cash said his views were 'outdated' and called him 'the man who wants to lead our country'. It seems that Wilkinson’s and Cash’s rhetoric is in lockstep, while perhaps Nash just fell into line.

Indeed, when Wilkinson declared that:

‘…one statement from the press conference [had] not gone down well.

It seems it was Cash who it had not gone down well with – the timing suggests that not too many in the public would have heard of it at that time – or, at the least, it was Cash who first shed the crocodile tears.

And crocodile tears they are — with shades of Hansonian reverse racism. It was Shorten’s overly appealing to women voters that got the conservative gander up.

According to Wilkinson

‘ … Shorten repeatedly referred to mothers but not once suggested that some men do… organise childcare.'

Putting aside Wilkinson’s proposition that Shorten’s words entrench oppression of women and enable the perpetrators, two simple words clarify what was obvious in Shorten’s statement: “on average”. On average, men rely on, on average it's the second job, on average the unpaid work.

It is a long bow to draw between Shorten’s pointing out that in certain areas women bear a disproportionate burden — and entrenching stereotypical gender divides.

It follows then that it is men who have been “wronged”, men who do share in the “unpaid work” and have not been acknowledged. It could also be taken as an accusation that men are not pulling their weight. Indeed, if anyone, it is men who have been stereotyped by Shorten.

So, though couching her argument from a feminist, politically correct gender perspective and implying women have been betrayed, Nash (along with Cash) has actually come to the defence of men. Indeed, progressive social gender ideas are an anathema to the right wing of the Coalition and their mainstream media “choir”.

Like true bullies, they misconstrue the opposition narrative while superimposing themselves onto their opponent’s “moral high ground” —  a moral position that under other circumstances they would reject. 

And that is taking Australians for mugs.

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