Wednesday, December 12, 2007

got a bone to pick with Pamela

I am a bit late to the party on this one (it is the silly season after all) and it has been discussed elsewhere. One of those feminist moments that has been chewed over and spat out with distaste by some. No. Not the fact this country has had a woman at the helm for the last 24 hours. I am very happy that “our Julia” is acting PM while Kev is playing with the big boys in Bali but being a kiwi all I can say is “it’s about time”.

I’m harking back to the days of innocence. When one intelligent, older stateswoman stood up at a conference about an obscure aspect of literature and dared to not answer an off-topic question from a journalist in a manner that the askee wanted. Wearing the hat of Dr Greer, she came to Melbourne to give her time to the dissection of Jane Austen. She was wearing the professorial hat, not the feminist champion of all causes one and it upset one dogged individual who pursued who to give an interview. When Pamela Bone, along with ACA and all manner of other media hounds who wanted some controversial quote from the good doctor, didn’t get her session with Germaine Greer she obtained a ticket to the public lecture and let it be known that she would ask her questions there instead.

So here we are a group of “school teachers, nearly all women” (of the 9 of my mates, 2 were school teachers, 1 had a degree in education never used, 1 was a university lecturer and 1 was male – not sure if we were representative of the audience but she didn’t poll it well), who had come out of curiosity/a love of Austen/a love of Greer/to be amused/to learn something new – and at the end of an otherwise pleasant evening the last question form the crowd was a journo with an agenda.

Bone’s piece in the Oz makes an attempt at her version of fairness by admitting this was a venue to discuss literature, not politics. However the inference is that once a figurehead, you can never have a day off. If you set yourself up 40 years ago to be the voice of a generation of women you must take on every cause of female oppression for the rest of your life or you are letting the side down. No matter what profession you follow in life, you will always be the author of a groundbreaking feminist tome and you are not allowed to deviate from that role ever again.

The journalist was like a crazed mother whose child had died and turns up at a kids party years later screaming, “How can you celebrate when some women have lost their children”. She was a being obsessed with a cause and no matter how inappropriate she was gong to follow it.

The consensus was Greer answered her questions well, with compassion, intelligence and grace. She made great points as to why this wasn’t her cause yet didn’t denigrate it. But what Bone failed to listen to and report accurately was the point that Greer (and no doubt Bone) carries no weight in Africa, had no cause for respect and is likely to do harm rather than good to wade in there – as an unmarried, immodest woman with ironically only one thing on her side, her age. Why would the powers that be in that country listen to an infidel/harlot/whore? Surely that would only confirm these women some how deserved to be raped?

While Bone reports that she felt safe heading out into the Melbourne twilight – women of all ages, colours and creeds continue to be sexually abused in this country. Only yesterday a judge failed to convict some young men over the gang rape of a 10 yo girl because it was considered she may have encouraged it, given some kind of consent. What century are we living in? Is a young Aboriginal girl any more advantaged than a woman in Dafur?

But more to the point if you are not active in one cause over another, does it make you racist or if you hassle a ‘sister’ – does it make you any different from all the other sexist individuals in the media who like to shoot down tall poppies?

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