Football to politics, blokes only open their mouths to change feet


Not our lucky, lucky Prime Minister though, who on Tuesday voiced some  concerns about sexism in politics and was instantly rewarded by blokes from  seemingly every walk of life in Australia choosing this week to act like utter  berks.

Sport went first, rather predictably, with Socceroos coach Holger Osieck  remarking during a post-match briefing that ”women should shut up in  public”.

His defence was that he was simply translating a Latin expression, ”mulieres  taceres in ecclesia”, which Osieck is apparently fond of throwing around in his  own home.

Google Translator tells me that the Latin for ”football experts should stick  to football” is ”ornare eu peritorum adherebit”, an aphorism that might be  worth sending to Mrs Osieck, who must nevertheless have been deeply touched by  her husband’s further attempt at reparation: ”I have a lot of respect to women.  I’ve been married for a number of years and I’m pretty happy with my wife.” And  you, sir, sound like a real catch.

Next cab off the rank was the restaurateur in Brisbane who designed the  Liberal fund-raiser menu offering Julia Gillard-themed quail with the hilarious  remarks about breasts, thighs and red box.

Gillard, whose sole point of identification with Holger Osieck may be that  she knows an open goal when she sees one, was quick to issue a prime ministerial  ”I told you so”, which immediately unleashed a horde of gumshoe detectives  seeking to establish that the PM’s office had either invented the whole thing or  planted the story after her sexism speech in order to corroborate her point.

By the end of the week, there were some who felt that the offence to the men  who attended the dinner and were the subjects of the prime minister’s outrage  was somehow greater than the original offence to the prime minister herself.

Which is right about the point at which, I think, Australian politics might  have officially disappeared up its own fundament.

Imagine if we had a black prime minister, and the menu concerned had made  some hilarious joking reference to, I don’t know, Coon cheese or something.  Would anyone be hunkering down over the chain of events and working out whether  the whole thing had been massaged for political advantage?

Here are the conclusions that can be drawn from this week’s events.

In Australia, there are people who still think that ”jokes” about women’s  lady-bits are funny, whether they are composed with reference to the prime  minister herself, or circulated by army perves calling themselves ”The Jedi  Council”.

There are journalists who think it’s OK to ask the prime minister, live to  air, if she is in fact a gay man’s beard.

(And no, Howard Sattler, the problem is not the question or where it came  from. The problem is that you thought it appropriate to ask.)

The explanation in these instances is always the same. ”I didn’t mean  anything by it.” ”It was just a light-hearted joke.” ”It wasn’t me who said  it first.” And the popular favourite of non-apologists everywhere: ”If anyone  was offended, I’m sorry.”

With respect to the prime minister, there is an eerie and additional line of  argument to the effect that Gillard herself has through incompetence or  mendacity devalued the standing of her office, and must therefore not be  surprised when children throw sandwiches at her.

Which is pretty much the prime ministerial equivalent of: ”Dressed like  that, she was asking for it.”

Our democratic system already has a beautifully eloquent way of punishing  politicians for incompetence and mendacity. It comes around every three years,  and everyone gets a go.

If you think the lady unworthy of office, then respect for the office itself  becomes a matter more urgent, not less.

There are two separate issues here, essentially. One is: Is Julia Gillard a  good prime minister? The other is: Is it excusable for criticism of her to be  framed amusingly by reference to her breasts, or her hairdresser boyfriend?

It is perfectly feasible to answer ”no” to both questions.

Annabel Crabb writes for ABC Online, and is the host of ABC1’s Kitchen Cabinet. @annabelcrabb

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