How familiar are you with Australian politics? No worries if the answer is "not very!" Because really, the basic understanding you need to follow this story is pretty straightforward. Simply put, in Australia, they have a Prime Minister named Tony Abbott. As far as leaders of major, otherwise progressive countries go, Tony Abbott has a habit of saying some pretty sexist things about women. And — you guessed it — he stayed in form during an interview Sunday. Tony Abbott said helping women with their household budgets has been his biggest accomplishment for them throughout his tenure as PM.
And, as if that weren't oozing enough sexist assumptions for you already, the policy he was actually crediting with helping women do this? Repealing the country's carbon tax, one of the most assertive ways governments have devised to combat climate change.
To put it another way, you could simply say "oof." This isn't a new thing for Abbott, as he's been condemned and excoriated for his attitudes towards women before, especially throughout the tenure of Australia's last prime minister, Julia Gilliard. In fact, Australia's first-ever female Prime Minister was herself a particular target of sexist slurs from Abbott — he once suggested that he wanted the childless, unmarried Gilliard to "make an honest woman of herself," a clearly sexist barb, and according to The Telegraph once claimed women were "physiologically unsuited to leadership." Speaking to Nine Network Sunday, he decided to add a little more fuel to that fire.
Well, you know, it is very important to do the right thing by families and households. As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget.
This dire history of Abbott's hasn't gone overlooked by his contemporaries in Australian politics. In fact, his track record so infuriated Gilliard that it spurred her to deliver an impassioned speech on the floor of the Australian parliament in 2012, which quickly went viral, drawing plaudits, attention, and of course some criticism too, from all around the world. It's now known simply as Gilliard's "misogyny speech," in which she defiantly said she "will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not." If you've got the time, you should check it out — it's quite an epic speech, and it represents probably the most dramatic and memorable moment of Gilliard's trailblazing stint as PM.
This is the man from whom we're supposed to take lectures about sexism. And then, of course, it goes on. I was very offended personally when [Tony Abbott], as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out.” I was very personally offended by those comments. You said that in March 2004, I suggest you check the records. I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of this carbon pricing campaign, [Tony Abbott] said “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” Thank you for that painting of women's roles in modern Australia.
So, basically, it's absolutely no surprise to hear Abbott bragging about how his negligence on climate change is actually helping women's home budgets, since they're all sitting at home pouring over calculators, of course. At this juncture, the more surprising or remarkable event would be if he managed to speak about women's issues without offending anyone. In particular, he was chastised for his remarks by Senator Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens party.
He might as well have said that by abolishing the carbon price he’s been able to give women more money to buy a new iron and stay at home and do the ironing more often. Women in society is what it’s all about, not just women in the household.
Image: Getty Images