The Satchel Review - Saturday October 13

The view from Katoomba - snowfall in spring.
Skivvies? In spring? Now, that's groundbreaking!

As winter wardrobes prematurely filed away were resurrected from the archives to meet the wintry snap head on, an icy delivery of speech was heard in Canberra causing men doing the dishes across the country to ponder, 'Am I a misogynist?'. 

As far as news rules go, this week was a corker, presenting us not only with wintry weather in the middle of spring, but a parliamentary speech that made the international press pay attention to our underacknowledged island-continent. 

The nation's south was swept up in a chilly south-east snow storm mid-spring that froze toes like a Wintour gaze at a fashion show. What a wonder! What a treat! Look at the sleet on the street!

But as Anti-Poverty Week commenced, we were given reason to contemplate how those one million Australians surviving on the bare minimum of resources were able to meet the need of the sudden freeze. 

Have you watched the Four Corners report 'Growing Up Poor' on the ABC? If that does not elicit sympathy for the plight of our fellow neighbour (in Clayborne, NSW), I don't know what will. Those kids are legends in my books. But poverty on our doorsteps? This is not good at all. 

Just so you know, this same week, the Government put in place its legislation to force more than 140,000 sole parents off the Single Parent Payment onto a lower Newstart Allowance. Most of these sole parents (90 per cent, according to the Australian Council for Social Service) are female, and they include the mum in 'Growing Up Poor' whose daughter has no light in her room

This action will save the Government $700 million.

Yes, back in February an historic wage rise for workers in the community sector – dominated by women – was celebrated. It had been found by Fair Work Australia that "gender was an important influence" in why workers in community jobs were short-changed.

So, it followed that approximately 120,000 female workers were set to receive increases of up to $24,000 a year – average salaries in the sector rose from $42,000 to $56,000. A big gain!

But the words and actions are not adding up. Balancing a budget is no easy feat, but getting your social policies right should be a standard for any decent nation – we look after the disadvantaged, marginalised and downtrodden, don't we? 

As the story goes, Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the opportunity in parliament to point to the Opposition leader's peddling of double standards following the resignation of the Speaker, Peter Slipper.  

"I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man," said a defiant Gillard. "If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror."

The New Yorker called Gillard's performance "political theatre", though we might recall the Shakespearean tragedy that was the unceremonious axing of Kevin Rudd when examining the mixed reactions to her feminist monologue: a play for political power or girl power?

Either way, she sparked a contemporary discussion of sexism as the word "misogyny" echoed around the globe from the antipodes to New York City.  

Gillard's impassioned speech was peppered with examples of Abbott's offensive opinions, including his past inferences that abortion is the easy way out, that women are physiologically ill equipped for positions of leadership, and that the housewives of Australia do the ironing as they think about issues such as the carbon tax, which was seen to be a bad thing (personally, I do all my good thinking while performing such menial tasks as vacuuming and hanging the washing).

We must admit, there is a repugnant, lingering misogyny (like racism and any ism that isn't very nice) that undergirds more macho elements of Australian society, practised by uncles of a certain Boomer generation at the Christmas table (awkward!), demonstrated by a bunch of boofheads on Mad Monday and taken up by the two misguided university students who created a page of young girls posing provocatively.

Before it closed, the aforementioned site ('Controversial Humour 12 year old slut memes') had attracted 216,000 'likes', which says something worrying in itself. Additionally the comment, "As long as there are sluts, we will put them in their place. Keep the submissions coming guys. We're not going anywhere", did not go down too well.

Least of all with their mothers, we are told.

There is no accounting for bad taste, let alone profiteering (whether financially or in page "likes") from borderline child pornography at worst and teen girls' vulnerability at best. These boys clearly have something to learn about negative cultural conditioning and right and wrong.

What do they teach that at university (would you like some morals with your Economics 101)? Is it a tertiary responsibility? No, says QUT (my casual employer), who wants nothing to do with it at all. I feel sympathy for the boys' parents who have been accosted by the media – sometimes bad parenting is not the explanation; kidults do stupid things.

But what is breeding the idea that this line of work might be okay? Perhaps it is shows on the television that border on pornography and the internet and its seedy, slimey, Gollum-esque underbelly? It is a different world today.

"What a sad state of affairs it is when students sitting the HSC feel they need to resort to a cocktail of Ritalin and caffeine to give them an advantage (''ADHD pills become latest study aid'',, October 14)," wrote Peter Miniutti to SMH (to which I say, "indeed!").

"While this is not a new practice, it is certainly one fraught with danger. My advice to those sitting the HSC is to prepare thoroughly, get a good night's sleep and do the best you can – no one could ask for more."

Except... world peace! The Nobel Peace Prize was this week awarded to the European Union for six decades of post-WWII union "to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe". It was a contentious choice as Spain riots and Greece teeters on the edge of economic oblivion.

"We have almost exhausted our endurance. We must think of measures that will bring hope, particularly growth measures," Greece's president Karolos Papoulias is reported to have said. Not an enviable leadership position by any stretch.

And to think that in December the Pakistani government awarded Malala Yousafzai a National Peace Award for her bravery in exposing the difficulties of being a girl-child in the Swat district and her home town Mingora. Girls are still being bartered for marriage over there – if not shot at point-blank.

Malala, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school for championing female education in her country, was heralded as a hero as she was airlifted to hospital. The second teen girl to be persecuted for her beliefs in Pakistan in recent months, Malala has literally risked life and limb for a cause she believes in.

"I will serve my people, I will speak up for my right of education and I speak for the girls," she once said. "If I lost my life in speaking up for the rights of girls, it is not a big deal for me."

That was a good thing for girls to hear, though they too might live in fear of the Taliban – the most misogynist group of them all. The best thing in Australian politics this week? Julia Gillard praising John Howard's leadership during the Bali bombings of 2002 at the memorial service. It is a topsy-turvy world we live in.

*GWAS has been working hard behind the scenes on non-GWAS things. Apologies for delays in editorial updates. Thank you for your patience.

Girl With a Satchel