On the lawns of Parliament House in 2011, one man took a significant dump. Tony Abbott led a rally notionally opposed to the then Labor government’s modest program of carbon pricing, but much better remembered for its open, putrid sexism. The man who would briefly become Prime Minister smiled at press beside signs whose loathing, previously unthinkable in this context, helped bring us to a nasty present. You know. That one where you can publish terms like “ugly slut” and it just feels normal.
The nation saw Abbott endorse the feudal message “Ditch the Witch” to describe Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and a more contemporary pitchfork skewering her as the “Bitch” of a minor party leader. There can be no defence of these declarations, and there is no telling me that their effect was limited to just one woman. You shit like this in a public arena, all us chicks get smeared in it.
Actually, we’re drowning in it, at least in the terms of public conversation. I can’t remember a time where I’ve felt my gender carry so much extra public weight. I’ve been a media worker for twenty-five years, and it was around the time of “Bitch” and “Witch” that my contributions seemed to grow huge boobs. Man. The menarche was a less painful passage than this era which both demeans and elevates my byline in the terms of its imagined organs. I have asked several editors if I could change my name to Gavin, but they, understandably, don’t want to give up the hate-clicks.
I do not seek to complain especially about my own lot. It would be unseemly for a paid member of the knowledge class to do so, and if we overlook the problem of stalkers, the OH&S conditions of my working life are adequate. I am quite aware that the men and women who call me sexist things do so because they feel powerless, and that I, paid to hold the power of analysis, will cop this frustration. These days, there are few of us, when impassioned, who will not use the terms of identity category to make a point. “You are wrong because you are a woman” is common. But, then again, so is, “she is right because she is a woman”. These are equally offensive assessments.
So. What point do I seek to make by saying that sexism—and its cousins racism, homophobia etc.—is very real and currently undomesticated? Why am I letting you know that my working life has been impeded by the assertions of a man like Tony Abbott? Because current discourse leaves me no choice.
“Lived experience” has emerged to become the register of merit for nearly any public argument—and this is as true for many people who say their politics are “intersectional” as it is for the cultural right. I do not like that “lived experience” is a falsely intellectual measure used by nearly everyone, and I am not going to offer you up evidence from my Facebook page that I am a victim whose victimhood itself proves a case. Fuck that noise. If Lindy West and friends feel that they have made an enduring case for “structural” oppression of women by describing the individual hard time they had on social media, they’re deluded.
But I know that in the current climate, with the western world arguing over the role that personal sexism has played in the US election, I need to say plainly, yes, sexism is real, and I have felt it. I need to say that I know beyond doubt that every argument advanced by anyone in any identity category will be received in these terms: you are right because of who you are; you are wrong because of who you are. I probably also need to say that I do recognise the intrinsic value in, for example, an argument about race delivered by a person of colour and I do absolutely acknowledge that women are frequently the most qualified persons to talk about gender, being that we are the bearers of it.
But. Jeez. Being a woman does not make me right and pure any more than it makes me wrong and fundamentally evil. Being a woman is no kind of ethical guarantee.
There is, of course, the social guarantee that what a woman says in public will be immediately devalued by many, and thanks for your part in re-establishing that, Tony Abbott. This is even truer for people of colour, who are disproportionately excluded from public debate. Think, for example, about the current conversation on Australian Indigenous life. We are arguing about the “right” of insubstantial thinkers like Andrew Bolt and Bill Leak to speak. Like, that’s even an issue. These men are already employed to speak, and, in the case of Bolt—nobody reads The Australian—do so to vast audiences. Meantime, there are literal dozens of engaging Aboriginal intellectual voices who have lived and studied the matters at hand. I look at the good and often funny work of, say, Amy McQuire and Nayuka Gorrie and I am not even sure in a market sense why it has not been ruthlessly monetised.
So. Yes. There are excluded voices. Of course there fucking are, because the world is a hate cake baked in an oven fuelled by shit. But this does not mean that every hitherto excluded voice should be hailed for its wisdom because—do I even need to say this?—that is a form of intellectual prejudice.
All of which is to say, Hillary Clinton is not good because she has suffered sexism.
If you want to make the case that Hillary Clinton is good, there are ways to go about it. Personally, I will not be persuaded by these arguments and I believe that any person paid an enormous fee by Goldman Sachs for the direct private assurance that she’s just joshing to the non-investor class when she says she’s going to regulate the finance industry is a dangerous liar. I believe that Hillary Clinton is a war hawk whose reckless interventions are motivated by foul ideology even more than terrible realist strategy. I believe that any Secretary of State who greets the news of the death by anal rape of a leader with a joke is “qualified” for the fucking bin. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is an execrable tank of economic fuckery whose mild claims about helping those less fortunate with idiot schemes that cannot possibly work in nations whose extreme poverty is the precondition for US wealth is a figleaf, if not a corporate-political dating service. I believe that any person whose unrelenting, baseless criticism of Russia, a nation not one tenth as powerfully interventionist as the US, will lead us to war for the sake of her presidential dream.
And, fuck it, now I am fucking angry, so let’s talk about Russia, shall we? And then let’s have a little fucking chinwag about WikiLeaks, and the obscene local evidence that many Australian journalists want to see one of our most fearless colleagues, Julian Assange, directly face the wrath of that strong woman, Hillary Clinton.
Russia, a nation with a GDP that matches Italy’s, might not be a nice place. But, you know, take your fucking pick of nations that offend a western liberal sensibility, and you’ll probably end up at Saudi Arabia. Now, there’s a bunch of leader fucks. What should a “humanitarian” like Clinton do to a nation that is starving, bombing and generally defiling the people of Yemen, one that prevents participation by its own women in breathing fucking public air, exploits the bodies of migrant workers and lashes, executes or destroys its internal critics? Does she apply sanctions as Secretary of State? Does she even call them out on Twitter? No. She gives the nation support as Secretary of State. As a member of the Clinton Foundation, she accepts millions of dollars of their support.
Look. Even if you don’t give a shit about what is happening to all those distant brown people, you might care that Saudi has been able to export “more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” Whose assessment of the threat that this nation poses to Western nations is this? Clinton’s. How do I know? WikiLeaks.
Leaving aside my own “extreme” view that the nation that has most successfully exported dangerous ideology is the US, how is she not helping the export of dangerous ideology? And how has the work of WikiLeaks become viewed not as courageous, but as sexist and reprehensible? Well, by two means. One, its founder, Julian Assange, is not charged but currently wanted for questioning regarding a crime that best translates from the Swedish as “sexual molestation”, and I encourage you to read this reputable account of that history. Two: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.
Oh, for fucks’s sake. Putin is no greater threat to life as we know it than was Saddam Hussein. And that Clinton has simply switched the Islamophobia that worked so well for her and others in 2003 with Russophobia should be obvious. Again—for those up the back—this is not to endorse those regimes. But nor is it to permit the extreme interventionism of the US. Sure, it’s a hegemon that can do what it likes, but does this mean we should endorse that? Sure, Hillary. You go and intervene in the business of other nations, and make sure not to intervene when your “humanitarianism” declares that you probably should. You pretend that a coup is not a coup when it suits you, and let’s never talk about the strategic part you played in the murder of Honduran activist, Berta Cáceres. Because: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.
What is this pugfuckery? I am old enough to remember the last time we were supposed to hate Russia, and even then, criticism of the reds-under-the-bed McCarthyist heirloom was more possible than it is today. I can’t say “Putin is not to be feared as much as he currently is” without being called delusional. I can’t say “There is no shred of even mildly convincing evidence that WikiLeaks is in league with Putin” without being called a rape apologist, a terrorist, an opponent of humanity itself.
Where do you get this shit that (a) Putin is an enormous monster to be feared, and (b) Assange is his puppet/collaborator/publisher? You get it from the campaign that this message will benefit the most. And—again to be gracelessly clear—this is not to offer full endorsement to either Putin, who is a tool, or to the methods of WikiLeaks, with which, in the case of redaction, I am not entirely in accord.
It is to say, however, (1) you need to calm the fuck down about Russia and (2) you might consider that WikiLeaks is just doing what it has always done, except this time, without the endorsement of snivelling liberals. Who were very happy to receive evidence that the Bush administration were murderers, but are reluctant to receive the same news about successive administrations. It’s not murder, apparently. When Hillary does it, it’s a “hard choice”. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I think a dead body is a dead body, and I don’t care if that corpse was produced by a sassy lady forced to make a tough decision in a sexist world. This is not the delightful movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith. It’s foreign fucking policy.
My reservations about WikiLeaks’ failure to redact notwithstanding—and let’s not forget that the world’s press remains in the profitable business of unnecessarily destroying private lives—I am ineffably grateful for their attention to all those deaths.
And I will not fucking participate, especially as an Australian citizen, in this dangerous demonization of an Australian. Bring him home. Fuck your Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia. Fuck your calls to have him delivered to Clinton’s “justice”. And generally fuck your defence of Clinton’s “justice” which is not sanitised by the fact of her being a woman.
Look. I hate sexism. I really do. Not just in the terms of how it hurts me as an individual—but even there, I understand how resonant Clinton’s very real experience of sexism is with individual women. Yes, when Trump interrupts her in debate, I can keenly feel the pain. I am a natural loudmouth and the worst form of social torture I can imagine is to be silenced.
I will continue, directly and indirectly, to wrest control from men. Even genuinely leftist ones with whom I might almost entirely agree. I will tell them to STFU. If Julian Assange or John Pilger ever have occasion to diminish me on the basis of my gender, I will do my utmost to metaphorically tie their genitals in knots. I will hang the last patriarch with the dong of the last misogynist. I will suffer physical sympathy when I see another woman silenced by an unjustly amplified masculine voice.
But I am not going to fucking sit here while you take the idea of feminism and re-cut it to tailor the body of a bloody interventionist, use it to call for the orange jumpsuit—the possible execution—of a man who has been committed to exposing war crimes for ten years, make it into a uniform for war with a nation that hasn’t provoked it.
Well. I probably am. All I do is sit here. All I do is offer my private account of a public disaster. One that unfolds on the lawns of Parliament House just as it does in the narrow, hawkish endorsements of putative feminists. It’s all gone to shit. The last we can do, surely, is allow ourselves to trace the history of that downfall without recourse to the talking points of the Clinton Campaign.