After making international headlines …

After making international headlines for confusing his  suppository with his elbow, Coalition Leader Tony Abbott has burbled his way  into yet more press-witnessed controversy

  • But while it would be easy to characterise Abbott’s latest attempts to  objectify women as yet more evidence of the chauvinism that exists within him,  focusing solely on his retrosexist ideology ignores a  more pertinent fact, and  one that  his supporters should take heed of. For all the  scorn levelled at the  so-called ”gender card” by political players (as if the  sexism experienced  during her political career was  something Julia Gillard made up  to muddy her  opponent’s good name), Gillard’s prime  ministership and that speech unleashed a  torrent of rage  in Australian women that shows no signs of being quelled.

    Women are no longer content to accept ”exuberance” as an excuse for the  kind of antique humour that finds itself at home in 1973. They don’t want to be  used as glittering props, their talents reduced to their sexy  youth and how  tingly they make constituents feel  downstairs. Most importantly, they don’t  want to feel like their protestations are being minimised or ignored  as the  hysterical whining of a niche group belligerently refusing to get the joke.  Abbott claims to be able to deliver better ”leadership” to Australia. But what  does it say about him that he thinks sex appeal and ”feistiness” are relevant  qualifications for a young woman to be able to fill a position of leadership?  Abbott hasn’t just committed another gaffe; he’s reinforced the view that women  must offer something in exchange for being given a place at the table.

    As a political aspirant to the highest office of governance in the country,  Abbott needs to respect the fact that it impacts on his leadership prospects.  That he refuses to or simply can’t isn’t just a sign that he’s unwilling to  listen to the voices of Australian women, it means he lacks the  pragmatism to  be a  prime minister.

    And when you pair such obtuseness with a demonstrated track record of foolish  errors and verbal mishaps, you have all the makings of a political farce … but  none of the laughs.

    Clementine Ford is a writer and speaker.

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