Is Tony Abbott a misogynist?

Recently, Eva Cox and I both published articles on The Conversation responding to questions about whether Tony Abbott is a misogynist.

Here’s what Eva had to say:

When Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave her now famous speech attacking Tony Abbott, millions of women around the world cheered.Her denunciation echoed and fuelled their anger at being unfairly judged because they were women and missing out on what they believed was their dues…

So there were well publicised meetings with “mummy bloggers” (in itself a sexist term) as well as a flurry of digging for generally low cost, already underway, gender issues, such as the first tranche of funding for equal pay case.

There was already a wide grassroots feminist debate on how to ensure that Abbott would not be our next prime minister because of his retrograde attitude and actions on a range of fertility control issues. Led by Leslie Cannold and fed by Susan Mitchell’s 2011 book Tony Abbott A Man’s Man, there was already a vocal network who – in political terms – were playing the man and not the balls…

As possible PM, Abbott is not feminism’s worst enemy. He is a somewhat inconsistent, confused conservative with the attached sexist views on gender roles, which he seems to be trying hard to minimise. He is not in my terms a misogynist (emphasis added).

I know there are arguments that misogyny and sexism have overlapping meanings but I’m sticking here to the useful distinction between a view of gender as the basis for entrenched discriminatory differences, and those who have a pathological deep dislike of womenkind and an antipathy to what they may stand for.

Abbott fits the first, but not the second category, and seems to have a wide range of female friends. How he copes with women in power is not clear as he is boss of his office and presumably has some say in his family, and has good female friends, but not bosses.

You can read the full article here. 

I disagree with Eva. Speaking of Gillard’s misogyny speech, not long afterwards, Macquarie Dictionary decided to change the definition of the term misogyny, to include what used to be known as ‘just sexism’. Here’s what I had to say about whether Abbott fits the description:

I had been bothered by the dithering of commentators over the word misogyny, and in particular the debate over whether or not Tony Abbott deserved to be tarred with it. Julia Baird surprised me on the Drum by equivocating over whether he should be labelled as such…

I remain convinced that Tony Abbott, along with many others, is worthy of such a label. Why would I think so, when he clearly does love his wife and daughters, and likes many other women? The answer is that I do not think of hatred merely as a feeling, but as an act, a verb. Macquarie currently defines the word as a noun…

I was coming of age politically when the debate over RU486 exploded in Australia in 2005. Despite the AMA’s view that the drug provided a useful and safe alternative to surgical abortion, Abbott used his ministerial discretion as health minister to make the drug widely unavailable…

Abbott’s actions were hateful towards people who wanted to obtain a medical abortion. Women in Wagga Wagga, for example, are not able to have surgical abortions in their home town but must travel to Albury for what is often a traumatic procedure, adding time, cost and difficulty to the experience. Abbott’s actions directly prevented them from being able to obtain a medical abortion in their home town. This is a hateful action, and as a hateful action, constitutes misogyny.

The capacity to control one’s body is essential to feminism. Feminism cannot simply be about liking women. Frankly I don’t really care whether people like women, though I think they’re missing out if they don’t. What I do care about is whether people, politicians in particular, have an active acceptance of and support for another’s capacity to control her life and body, uterus included.

If being a feminist does not simply equate to liking women, misogyny is not a mere feeling of hatred towards them. It is an attempt to prevent women controlling their own lives, or an attempt to shame them out of participating in public life à la Alan Jones.

Full article is here.

What do you think? And does it matter?

Featured image is from Newtown Graffiti Flickr page, using Creative Commons License.

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