All women are equal but some are more equal than others

By Perkin-Warbeck

I bet you didn’t know that there are WOMEN and then there are women.

I have this on the highest possible authority – Emily’s List, no less – which proclaims in the preamble on its website, “A woman candidate, to be satisfactory, must be a ‘feminist’ in the best sense of the word…she should believe absolutely in the equality of status, liberty and opportunity between a man and a woman. A woman candidate that is shaky on this matter, or not sufficiently imbued with its importance to be able to speak convincingly on the matter, will do the movement towards establishing women in Parliament far more harm than good.”

Emily’s List is the ALP affirmative action crowd, the official sisterhood, comprising Labor women who presumably pass the “satisfactory” test. Prime Minister Gillard is a proud member.

Given Gillard’s recent attempts to paint Tony Abbott as some sort of primitive throw-back and a gross misogynist, you might have imagined that Emily’s List would be in the front row of enthusiastic backers.

Yet, curiously, they have not issued one single statement praising their star member’s recent forays in her contrived gender war campaign. In fact, they haven’t issued any media statements since 30 January this year when they issued two – one paying tribute to dumped Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin and one congratulating Nova Paris on being Gillard’s “captain’s pick” candidate for Crossin’s Senate spot.

Just why these “satisfactory” women have remained silent for five months as Julia and her government sink deeper and deeper into a morass of their own making is a mystery.

I’m not surprised they said nothing following the death of former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher because although she was the pre-eminent female politician of the 20th century, she obviously wasn’t “satisfactory”. 

The utterly desperate stage of this government’s decline could not be better illustrated by the fact that not only are they trying to control their message but are even trying to control the way it is presented.

Last Sunday, Gillard staged a tea party for parents and children at Kirribilli House in Sydney to sell the Gonski school funding policy. Photographers and camera crews were admitted to take happy snaps but reporters with difficult questions were banned. On Tuesday when the PM spoke at the Women for Gillard launch, reporters with notebooks and pens only were admitted and photographers and camera crew locked out. Julia’s own office released the footage which, no doubt, was carefully edited.

Only a day or so ago, Fairfax journalist Jacqueline Maley wrote about Julia’s recent tactics. It was an assessment that “satisfactory” women would find unpalatable.

She wrote, “For the first two years of her prime ministership, Gillard was reluctant to identify as a ‘female’ prime minister. She said on the record this was how she thought about herself. She wanted to govern for all Australia.”

Noting that Gillard had “been responsible for moving thousands of single mothers off the single parenting benefit and onto the lesser Newstart (the dole), Maley continued, “Gillard refused to back the female candidate for Batman, despite the affirmative action arguments of Jenny Macklin and Penny Wong. She promised to call out sexism in public life, but stayed silent when Labor MP Steve Gibbons called Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop a ‘bimbo’.”

Noting Gillard’s outrageous assertion last Tuesday about how abortion rights would be under threat if Abbott was elected, Maley wrote, “She had no evidence for making the claim…She needs to scaremonger about Abbott’s true attitudes to women and women’s rights. She needs to paint Abbott as dangerously retrograde. She needs to because she is politically desperate.” 

It should also be noted that Gillard’s famous “misogyny” speech in Parliament last October that gave her a temporary boost, was in support of a Speaker whose own position was under threat because of his own blatantly sexists text messages. That Speaker, Peter Slipper, didn’t get any criticism at the time from Gillard because she needed him to help prop up her tottering regime.

Emily’s List as what could be politely described as a curious attitude to democracy.

Last March, when Anna Bligh’s Queensland Labor Government suffered an overwhelming defeat winning only seven seats in a Parliament of eighty-nine, Labor’s “satisfactory” women issued a statement bemoaning that, “Saturday was a sad day for the Labor Party in Queensland, but what has gone unreported is just how sad a day is was also for Queensland women.”

It was a “sad” day for Queensland woman, they alleged, and we all know whose fault this was because Emily’s List told us, “These disturbing figures were further evidence of the contempt the Liberal National Party held for women.” The voters had nothing to do with it presumably.

Seventeen Liberal National women MPs were elected in Queensland in that State election but, of course, they aren’t “satisfactory”.

Gina Rinehart and how self-styled “progressives” are keeping the boardroom male

Cross-posted from Major Karnage.

IN MY line of work, I get to spend quite a lot of time in high-level boardroom meetings with people who all sit on corporate boards. I also have a few relatives who have sat on various boards in their time and my extended networks include quite a number of others. This means that while am not on any corporate boards, I am not a stranger to them either.

I still remember the first time I was at one of said meetings and a female colleague muttered to me, “do you notice anything particularly… male about the room?” The truth was that I hadn’t. While I had definitely noticed that I was the youngest person in the room by at least a decade (two if you didn’t count her). Until she pointed it out to me, it did not occur to me that she was the only woman there.

That incident jolted me into awareness. Since then, I have been paying attention to the gender balance when I am in corporate settings and a lot of observations have struck me that anecdotally support the mountains of research showing that the boardroom is simply not a place for girls. Not once in the last couple of years have I ever seen anything that even comes close to gender balance. Several times, there have actually been no women present. I also find that the “higher-level” the meeting, the less women tend to be invited.

That said, there are other observations that I can make about people in boardrooms than merely their gender. They are generally very sure of themselves – often manifesting as arrogance, but always including a calm and confident demeanour. They are hard-working, ambitious and persistent to the point of obsession, they know what they want and they make it happen. They are uncompromising – they expect the best and will not accept anything less. They are often very blunt and straight-talking. They can be friendly and charming when they want to, but they can be aggressive and intimidating when they have to.

I note these things not as a criticism of the corporate world and certainly not as an affront to the people that I am writing about. I have a tremendous amount of respect for most of them, they work harder than anyone else I know and they do amazing and under-appreciated (if not under-paid) work, without which our society could not function.

I MENTIONED those character traits is because of a common thread running through them: they are generally “alpha male” traits, they are not things that women are “supposed” to be. Women are loving, conciliatory, family-oriented and selfless. Women are neurotic and emotional, they doubt themselves, they shut-down and cry when bad things happen and they panic when they are stressed. They are not confident, ambitious, persistent and aggressive. When shit hits the fan, they are the ones panicking and screaming, not the ones who take-charge – at least in most sitcoms.

Again, I am not trying to say that it is a bad thing for someone to put others first, display their emotion and focus more on relationships than outcomes. I am trying to say that doing this is unlikely to get you ahead in the corporate world (or in other areas of public life). If you doubt yourself, the person who believes in themself will get the pay-rise or the promotion. If you shut-down and cry or panic, someone else will take charge. If you compromise, someone else won’t and they will have the better result in the end. Potential alone can only get you so far, there is not a lot of room at the top and to get there requires hard work, sacrifices and, above all, wanting to be there more than everyone else.

The public image of most successful women in Australia does not fit the stereotype of a high-powered Director. I say “public image” because, from my experience, the women who get to these positions do have most of these traits in private, but are able to create a persona that comes across as more “feminine” when they want to.

I refuse to believe that the corporate exec described above is actually gender-related. I know plenty of men who do not act like that. That character is simply how a person needs to act in order to reach the top of the corporate ladder – possibly the most competitive position anyone can aspire to reach (except maybe professional athlete). Other high-profile positions (rockstar, politician etc) require a huge amount of luck as well as hard work, becoming a CEO or company chair is about nothing except ability, attitude and work ethic.

THERE IS one very notable exception: Gina Rinehart. Here is a woman who is overweight and unattractive, but clearly not too concerned about her appearance and uninterested in the world of glamour and fashion. She is abrasive, intimidating and even a bully. She is willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, without regard to the way it makes her look or the people she is offending. She is ambitious, single-minded and dedicated to the point where she supposedly goes without any of the frills that other billionaires afford themselves so that she can re-invest all her money into her company.

She is also not a “loving mother” figure by any stretch of the imagination. She isreportedly quiet and reserved in person and she keeps her personal affairs completely private. What did leak last year was that, having judged her children as inept for running her company, she offered them each $300mln a year in return for signing-away their shares. When they refused, she fought them all the way to the High Court – becoming estranged in the process.

Meanwhile, her achievements are incredible. She inherited a floundering, debt-ridden mining company that was making its money from a lucky break and transformed it into a hugely profitable, gigantic operation – becoming the world’s wealthiest woman in the process. She is now in the process of planning the biggest Australian-owned mining development in history and is funding it entirely on her own.  Yes, she was born into some wealth due to a lucky find by her father, but many people born into wealth spend their lives turning a large fortune into a small one. She turned a small fortune into a gargantuan one.

And yet she is being punished for this – not by the Andrew Bolts and Alan Jones’ of this world, but by the very people that would generally be the first to jump to her defence if she hadn’t made the unfortunate mistake of being a Conservative and one of the mining magnates vilified by Wayne Swan. Oh, as well as committing the awful sin of giving jobs to people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in Australia.

The best (but not the only) example was the abuse she received from David Marr and Miriam Margolyes on Q and A last month:

Note: I did not criticise the others as Barry Humphries was playing a character, Tony Jones was trying to defend her while still maintaining his “distance” as chair, Jacki Weaver seemed a little stunned and John Hewson later said he regretted not arguing but felt overwhelmed. Also, Marr and Margolyes were the two noted “feminists” on the panel.

THAT INCIDENT did receive fairly wide coverage – in News Ltd papers. It was all but ignored in the ABC, Fairfax (well, aside from the SMH’s balance columnist),New Matilda etc. Some good responses were written that I could find in more minor leftist publications, however it was generally her political allies that were jumping to her defence. More anecdotally, the people on my social networks who would normally be concerned about this kind of thing have been completely silent.

Why is this such a problem? Because it shows that this kind of abuse is acceptable for women that the left don’t like. It sends the message that the only reason anyone complains about comments aimed at Julia Gillard or Christine Milne is that they are on the left and not because this kind of discourse should be unacceptable. It reaffirms the idea that women shouldn’t act like CEOs, which discourages women from acting like CEOs, which in turn means women won’t become CEOs.

To some degree I think that it may be that people who hold corporate leaders in contempt yet think they want to see more women being corporate leaders were somehow expecting female corporate leaders to be more like “women” and less like “businessmen”. The issues inherent in that assumption should speak for themselves.

It’s all well and good to conduct research and then complain about the lack of women at the top, but unless there are a lot of ambitious and competitive young women willing to fight to get there, nothing will ever change.

Major Karnage is a Sydney-based blogger and can be followed on Twitter or Facebook. This article was originally posted on

Shostakovitch, Symphonies, and Sexism


Tim Andrews goes to the Symphony, and comes back with an important political lesson on affirmative action…

With all the discussion about feminism upon Menzies House today, I thought I would share a personal story.

A few weeks ago, I attended a performance of Shostakovitch's 5th Symphony, performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. To those of you who are unaware, Shostakovitch's 5th is a particularly interesting composition; written at a time when Shostakovitch was in fear for his life after the Stalinist regime had threatened that, if his musical style did not change and adapt to the dogmatic mantra of the communist state, he would disappear never to be heard from again. It is a masterpiece of musical irony; externally it follows the formula Stalin laid down to the letter, but it is now fairly unanimously conceded by critics that, at a deeper level, the 5th ironically parodies 'Soviet realism' to the point of grotesqueness.

Obviously, with such a subversive piece, the musical vision of the conductor is vital. Which is why I was so devastated by the desecration performed by Marin Alsop, the Musical Director of the BSO who conducted the performance I saw. It is difficult to know where to begin critiquing: her inability to rouse a technically highly proficient orchestra into creating good music, her inability to engage with the essence and transform it into something great, the fact that she seemed to do little more than dance around on stage with exaggerated gestures which were totally ignored by the orchestra, (which just did their own thing), or the fact that on the one or two occasions she actually tried to keep a beat she was noticeably out of sync with the orchestra (which was quite comic, really).

So, those of you who are still reading this post are now doubt asking yourselves: why on earth is Tim droning on about attending some symphony? This is a political blog, not one about musical criticism! Just what is he doing? And, after all, I certainly concede that, simply as an amateur music lover with little practical experience in the world of music outside of 15 odd years of piano lessons, and performing as a (not particularly good) second violin in my high school's Symphony Orchestra, I am hardly qualified to pontificate extensively about musical criticism. Yet I write this post not only because the travesty that occured was so obvious anyone and everyone could see it. Rather, the reason I am writing this here is simple: it's all about politics. And affirmitive action. 

See, such was my fury at the sacrilege against good taste that had occured, that I decided to google Marin Alsop to see just who she was. I mean, how could someone with far less musical ability than my old High School Symphony conductor (heck, my primary school condoctor even) conduct a major Symphony orchestra, one which, in the past at least, had an rather good international reputation? 

The answer? Feminist Politics. Of the crassest kind. Allow me to quote from the Washington Post from just before her appointment (emphasis mine):

A letter dated April 21 from Anthony S. Brandon, a board member who has been outspoken in his opposition to Alsop's appointment, to Philip English, the chairman of the BSO board, is specific. It was drafted with the help of other board members, with input from a number of musicians, and copies have circulated freely in circles close to the BSO….

"The overriding justification for eliminating Alsop is that 90 percent of the BSO musicians oppose her appointment, the letter states. In her appearances with the orchestra, the players say, Alsop has not produced inspired and nuanced performances of standard classical repertory. They cite "dull," even "substandard," performances of Brahms's Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn's music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2.

"They say that she either does not hear problems or — because her technical limitations prevent her from fixing them — that she ignores them. Her musical sense is inhibited by her own lack of depth as a musician and she becomes frustrated when what she hears in her head does not come out from the players. Upon finding something wanting in rehearsal, she responds with vagaries such as "I'm not feeling it" (Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream") or exhorts them with abstractions such as "make magic" (Brahms's Symphony No. 3).

"When an orchestra believes it is being pushed by unmusical ideas, tempos and phrasing and being told that the orchestra itself lacks imagination, musicians feel they are dealing with a conductor who lacks ideas, conviction and technical skill." 

Indeed, in something quite unprecedented, "the seven musicians who served on the search committee released a statement over the weekend asking the board to extend and broaden its search." So, all the actual musicians on the board opposed her, yet bureaucrats supported her. Hmm… Ok… 

So, what happened when she was appointed? How did the musicians react? The Washington Post says more:

The announcement was greeted with general silence, according to Ellen Orner, a violinist in the BSO who says she's an Alsop supporter. It was seriously taken. Musicians then filed out of the building, some of them smiling, some of them wistful, a few of them apparently fighting back tears. "We've been told not to talk" one woman whispered as she pushed through a group of reporters and photographers out into the steamy afternoon heat.

So, why on earth was someone with a clear lack of talent, a clear lack of musical ability, and a person opposed steadfastly by every musician she would have to work with – to the point they were in tears upon being told her her appointment - given the job?

The selection of Marin Alsop to be principal conductor of the Baltimore Symphony–the first woman to hold such a post with a major American orchestra–should be hailed as an occasion for music lovers and feminists everywhere to rejoice.

I see. The BSO Board wanted to have the first ever female conductor. I see.

Well, she is a "a feminist mover and shaker" after all, so I suppose that in this brave new world of ours, that more than makes up for her total, absolute, and utter lack of talent. And, I guess, that this is the world that politicians like Joe Hockey want us to move into – a world where merit is supressed, and gender stereotypes are promoted. A world where talent and competance is, apparently, nowere to be seen…

At least the French Horn solo was good. 

Tim Andrews is an amateur music lover, and Managing Editor of Menzies House. 

Hockey backs quota for women on boards

Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey says he would back enforced quotas that ensure 30 per cent of board positions are occupied by women.

He says corporate Australia has been given long enough to improve gender equality on the executive level after talking about it for more than a decade.

"If they don't meet a reasonable target within a period of time, then more punitive measures need to be taken by the parliament," he told ABC television on Monday.


You have got to be kidding me.