Is anyone at all surprised by Nicolle Flint's speech on Wednesday, where she again revealed she'd been abused by men "of the left"?
Not me. In this powerful wave of the women's movement - thank you Brittany Higgins, thank you Grace Tame - we seem to have forgotten that this is not a war of left against right. It is a war between men and women. Progressive men - or men of the left, as Flint calls them - are just as likely to be invested in maintaining their power and prominence as men of the right.
Flint first wrote to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in July last year, and again in December last year, asking him to take specific action on hate speech against women. While I am confident these complaints are also being brought up again now because we have an election looming and the Morrison government stinks when it comes to women, it is also true there is a problem with men.
It's a waterfall of hate speech if you are a woman online, and Flint will come in for more than others right now because she is part of a government that is, according to the latest polling, on the nose. But it is one thing to despise the government and say so; it's quite another to conflate the many flaws of the Coalition with misogyny and sexism.
Sure, tell Flint the government's treatment of the Murugappan family from Biloela is beyond disgraceful, that the collapses in aged care are horrifying, that the Coalition has abandoned any pretence of caring about the environment, or that we could have avoided cancelling Christmas if there had been attention to vaccine and booster provision. None of that requires the comparison of Flint to a female dog, or the use of the many other epithets direction against women. There should be no suggestion Ms Flint be "grudge f---ed".
Our genitals are used against us. Our appearance is used against us. Threats of violence are made against us.
As UNSW Associate Professor Emma A. Jane, a career-long researcher on gender, says, toxic and anti-democratic hate speech directed at women and girls does not line up along simplistic party lines.
This is, entirely, about gender.
Jane says there is no way of knowing with absolute certainty whether (overall) men on the left of politics are less misogynist than men on the right - and she doesn't really think there's much to be gained from trying to find out.
"[But] there is a long and ugly history of sexism and misogyny within the left that is particularly creepy, because so often it's disavowed by on-brand virtue signalling," she says.
Her research into gendered hate speech online shows that socially or politically conservative women in public life endure cyber abuse that is all but indistinguishable from that directed at their more progressive counterparts. Almost identical online messages are received by women, regardless of what behaviour ostensibly "provokes" these attacks.
It's got nothing to do with what the women say or do, she says.
"In Australian politics, Nicolle Flint from the Coalition is told she should be brought into line via corrective rape, and so is Mehreen Faruqi from the Greens. In the broader online culture, scholarly bloggers are called diseased whores for venturing opinions on east Asian economic policy, and schoolgirl YouTubers are threatened with rape for posting videos about fishtail braiding."
Elections, of course, bring out the worst of the worst. It's a masculine game, run by privileged men, who have more to lose than any of the women involved. The way it is played is a demonstration of masculine behaviours. The shouting. The grandstanding. The turning of backs on women who are speaking. Honestly, a pack of blokeheads behaving badly.
Sociologist Michael Flood, an associate professor at the Queensland University of Technology, agrees politics is shaped by masculine norms.
"Elections involve gendered attacks on and policing of female political leaders and gendered slurs," he says.
"It shouldn't surprise us that men from across the political spectrum practise sexist attacks on women. Sexism and misogyny are pervasive in our culture, and men from left and right draw on them in attacking their female political opponents or indeed their female colleagues; and progressive political parties and social movements historically have often been hostile to women's participation and to issues of gender equality."
As Flint told me on Thursday, we need more leadership from everyone. I'm not nearly as thrilled with the leadership of Scott Morrison as Flint is - in fact, not at all thrilled. But I think men need to be able to express their ideas about politics without necessarily appending body parts and abuse to their views.
Make that the election challenge.
"Women in public life deserve to be able to do their jobs without the sexist slurs and attacks. Say that I am horrible uncaring person but you don't need to say I'm a #&@!%^&," says Flint.
It's a long way to the election. Too long. But if you are a man, this gives you enough time to think of other ways you can critique women with whom you disagree.
That doesn't just include politicians. Don't like what a woman journalist does or says? Maybe analyse what they said, instead of revealing the paucity of your vocabulary and imagination. Stick to the facts and let go of your roaring misogyny. Ditch the word bitch and learn a little bit more about policy. Think that's patronising? Suck it up. We've had to deal with it for decades.
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