Monday, January 7, 2013

A Burney Misogeny?

Is Barry O'Farrell a misogynist?

I don't know. But I certainly was surprised to see this article flick through my timeline this morning:
Full story in the Tele
The comments complained of are further down the page:
Further down:
There were also complaints that O'Farrell had made derogatory comments about Kristina Keneally:
Whilst I don't for a second doubt that O'Farrell fully intended the alleged subtext, I don't have any intention of discussing whether they are in fact misogynistic.

No doubt others will have their say on that issue. But I can live without being flamed for "not doing feminism right". So I'll leave that for other blogs.

What I am interested in is whether this mud is going to stick.

There can be no doubt that the attacks that have been made on Tony Abbott for comments he has made about women have been incredibly effective.

Before the last federal election, GetUp launched this ad:

Whether it actually changed any votes is anyone's guess. It certainly wasn't the first attempt to label Abbott as a misogynist.

It wasn't really until Julia Gillard's speech in parliament late last year that the idea really gained traction in the popular media:

Whether you think her attack is fair or not, you cannot deny that it has fundamentally changed the public's perception of Abbott. It was a decisive speech that has (probably permanently) labelled Abbott as, at the very least, anti-women.

No doubt this is the kind of result that Burney would have been hoping for with the Telegraph article. No one else has picked the story up (as of late this afternoon, and as best I can tell) - but Burney may well have been hoping that bored NSW Political reporters might be keen to run with the issue.

If that is what she is hoping for, I think she is going to be disappointed.

There are many reasons that Gillard's speech resonated with the Australian public.

In part, it was a powerful woman sticking it to a powerful man in a way that we are unaccustomed to seeing, even today.

Moreover, it didn't overreach. She didn't need to look for offence, or trawl for comments and somehow twist them to suit her partisan goals.  Abbott's statements spoke for themselves.

Most of all, in my opinion, the reason her speech resonated was because it fitted generally with the latent opinion about Abbott.

Recently I read a comment the basically said that a political ad is most powerful when it accords with what the public already suspects about someone.

The public suspected that Romney was obscenely wealthy and didn't care about the disadvantaged. This is why the now-famous 47% video resonated so strongly:

Julia Gillard's knifing of Kevin Rudd and her immediate ascension to the Prime Ministership had an air of illegitimacy about it. So, when she promised not to introduced a Carbon Tax and then reneged on that promise, the cry of "Liar!" was always going to be damaging:

So, again: are these attacks on Barry O'Farrell and the insinuations that he is a misogynist going to stick?

I don't think so.

O'Farrell just doesn't have "the runs on the board' to make the allegation something that will fundamentally alter the community's perception of him in the same way.

That's certainly not to say that the comments in question were appropriate, or defensible. To give them some context, I've extracted them below.

First of all, the "hooker" comment:
Further on:
As for the "witch" comment:
The Kim Kardashian comments are a little more interesting. I recall them causing a fuss around the time that O'Farrell got into the habit of referring to Keneally in that way.

The first came on 8 November 2011, when Keneally was still sitting as the Member for Heffron:
Then, on the very next day:
And then, finally, on 14 February 2012, this happened:
All very unseemly.

When push comes to shove, I think this issue is going to disappear pretty quickly. Whilst Linda Burney is the acting Opposition Leader, Robertson will be back on deck soon, and the obvious opportunity afforded by her acting in the role will slip away.

What she will be hoping is that O'Farrell will keep making these kinds of comments, and that more articles on this topic get written. Unfortunately for her, I suspect that O'Farrell is a little too smart for that.

But you never know.

UPDATE: In fairness, thought I should include this exchange as O'Farrell has a response of sorts to what I have written above:
At the time of making this update, there had not been a reply to that last tweet.

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