Friday, October 12, 2012

Julia Gillard needs to man up

By Brendan O'Neill

YouTube sensation (and Prime Minister of Australia) Julia Gillard has been called a “badass motherf–––––” for her speech on sexism. The video of her laying into the Oz opposition leader Tony Abbott over his allegedly misogynistic views has gone wildly viral, being lapped up by bloggers and tweeters the world over, effectively making Gillard into the Susan Boyle of the feminist lobby. But what did Gillard actually say in her 15-minute excoriation of Abbott? In essence, she just said one thing, over and over and over again: “I am offended.”

In what was essentially a gratuitously ostentatious display of Gillard’s own emotional sensitivity to certain words and ideas, the Aussie PM continually played the offence card. “I was very offended” by something Abbott said about abortion, she said. “I was very personally offended by those comments”, she said about something else. “I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia”, she said, in relation to a comment Abbott made about housewives. It goes on and on. “I was offended too by the sexism… I was offended by those things… I am offended by their content… I am always offended by sexism… I am always offended by statements that are anti-women… I am offended by those things… I am offended by things.”

The speech was basically a big, massive offence-fest, a public display of Gillard’s ability and willingness to take offence, both personal offence and proxy offence on behalf of “the women of Australia”, at every slight or slur that she overhears.

That this speech has become a huge hit among web-based feminists says a lot about the state of modern feminism. Once, feminism was about giving offence; now it is about taking it. There was a time when feminists self-consciously and sometimes gloriously offended against everything from family values to Fifties-style morality to religious views of what women should be like. Now, feminists spend most of their time taking offence, and trumpeting their wounded, offended feelings from the rooftops: they’re offended by certain words, by gangsta rap, by Page 3, by porn, by sexist T-shirts, by pretty much everything.

The transformation of feminism from an assertive, offence-giving form of politics into a passive, offence-taking form of therapy reflects a change that has taken place across the political sphere. Feeling offended is the lingua franca of modern politics. Politics used to be about saying, “I believe in something and I am going to make it happen”. Now it is about saying, “I am offended by something and I am going to make it disappear”. From gay-rights groups that fight to have offensive adverts removed from buses right through to hot-headed Islamists in the East who make a fiery, often violent display of their feelings of offence over anti-Muslim movies and cartoons, everyone is playing the offended game; everyone is taking to a soapbox, not to tell the world what they think, but to tell us how they feel.

This promiscuous and weirdly proud offence-taking – where saying “I am offended” is now basically another way of saying “I am a good, moral person with high-level sensitivities” – is a very bad thing. It implicitly demands an end to offensiveness, to anything that certain people or groups might find upsetting. But some of the greatest gains in history were only made possible by people’s willingness to offend against cultural norms or accepted wisdoms – from Copernicus’s offensive suggestion that the earth orbited the Sun to Sylvia Pankhurst’s offensive proposal that women should be equal to men. In contrast, what was ever gained through trying to stamp out offensiveness and make everyone polite and sedate and samey? Nothing but conformism and a stultified public sphere. So, Madam Prime Minister Gillard, please man up. You are one of the most powerful women in the Southern Hemisphere. You should be bigger than this.


Labor failed its own sexism test: Bishop

DEPUTY Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says she knows the "offensive and tasteless" joke that was told during a comedy routine at a union dinner - and by staying in the room Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan had endorsed and condoned it.

Mr Swan's tolerance of the sexist comments meant Labor had failed the test it had set for the opposition, Ms Bishop said on Friday.

The joke was told before Mr Swan, the guest speaker, gave an address to a dinner for the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in Parliament House on Wednesday night.

Mr Swan has conceded he should have at least told organisers of the function that it was out of line, and says he did not walk out because he did not want to give the "offensive" comments another airing.

The joke about Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin followed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's tirade against Mr Abbott in parliament this week, in which she accused him of being sexist and misogynistic.

She went on to to say that Australian women have had enough.

"When I see sexism and misogyny, I'm going to call it for what they are," Ms Gillard said after the parliamentary attack.

Ms Bishop told the Nine Network on Friday: "I have been told the content of the joke. It was tasteless. It was offensive to Tony Abbot's chief of staff.

"Labor have failed the very test they set for the opposition and Wayne Swan remained in the room after the joke was made ... by Labor's own test they endorsed and condoned the joke."

Ms Bishop also defended Opposition Leader Tony Abbott against sexism claims.  "I don't think Tony Abbott is sexist in the least," she said.  "He has always been respectful and supportive of me and my other female colleagues."

She also denied Tony Abbott's leadership was under threat from Malcolm Turnbull. "Tony Abbott is our leader and he has the full support of the coalition to continue as our leader," she said.


Uproar as students dress as 'traditional' Aboriginal people

The publication of a photograph of university students at an official college function dressed up to look like "traditional" Aboriginal people, with their faces and limbs painted brown, has forced an internal investigation and rapid re-education program.

The eight female students from the co-educational Cromwell College within the University of Queensland were depicted in the photo - taken last Tuesday - with wild hair, holding sticks and wearing material fashioned into makeshift loin cloths.

The photo made its way on to online social networking sites and quickly raised the ire of a number of indigenous Australians from around the country.

At least one contacted the college and the university directly, sparking the investigation.

"Think #racism and #blackface are unacceptable in Australia? ... Let UQ and Cromwell College know," one Twitter user wrote yesterday.  Another posted the photo again with the words included: "University of Queensland Cromwell College for aspiring racists everywhere."

But the residential college, which is associated with the Uniting Church and was founded in the 1950s, said the students acted out of ignorance, not malice.

The Cromwell College principal, Ross Switzer, said he had called a meeting of the entire college body last night and spoken to the young women involved in the photo.  He described their behaviour as "a young person's uneducated approximation of Aboriginal life".

"They were not aware of the blackface mocking or demeaning indigenous people," he said. "They were trying to give a tribute to indigenous Australians, not mock or demean them.

"I know that ignorance is no excuse for that behaviour [but] it was ignorance rather than an attempt to laugh at indigenous Australians."

Mr Switzer said the photo was taken shortly before an annual college dinner celebrating diversity across the world and that he had, since last night, organised cultural awareness training for his 250 residents.

The dinner was centred on Thanksgiving in honour of the college's exchange students from the US, he said.  However, the group of young women dressed to depict Aboriginal Australians went to the most trouble with their outfits, he said.

The Diversity Council Australia said the incident showed a deep ignorance of Aboriginal culture and religion in Australian society.

"I think is a societal thing," chief executive Nareen Young said.   "Because Australia denied Aboriginality for so long, the understanding of the religious and cultural significance of ceremony isn’t in the community."

Ms Young, who has an indigenous background herself, said Cromwell College responded appropriately yesterday by promising to bring in cultural awareness training. It also needed a reconciliation action plan, she said.


Woman in hospital for routine knee surgery dies due to improper record keeping

A SECRET investigation is under way into how a woman who went to hospital for routine knee surgery died an agonising death because of a clerical error.

The State Coroner heard how it took seven days for bungling hospital staff to discover they had made two separate medical charts for the woman, with paracetamol medications ordered and administered on both.

Five doctors and four nurses are reportedly under investigation by the secretive Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

The case was referred to AHPRA by Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission, which investigated the scandal after a coroner's request.

The woman's death is a tragedy the so-called watchdog agencies do not want you to read about.  They declined to provide details. The woman's identity is unknown and the name of the hospital was suppressed.

A cover-up continues, with Queenslanders - and Parliament - not told whether those responsible were admonished.

It is known that a confidential investigation ordered by the HQCC concluded the medical team at an unnamed Brisbane hospital showed "disregard for basic medication safety practices".

The HQCC would not release the damning report, even to Mr Springborg. The so-called medical watchdog would not even say who conducted the inquiry.

The case highlights the lack of accountability and transparency in the medical industry and the treatment of negligence allegations.

A brief "case study" tabled in Parliament said the tragedy began when a woman went to hospital for an elective total knee replacement.

"Three days after surgery the woman became unwell," it said.  "She had not had a bowel motion after the operation and was experiencing persistent nausea and vomiting.  "The woman was diagnosed with a partial bowel obstruction.

"A nasogastric tube was inserted to feed her (so she was nil by mouth) and she was given intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and a blood transfusion.

"Over the next three days, the woman's condition improved and an oral diet was gradually re-introduced.

"Two days later the woman developed signs of another bowel obstruction, including vomiting, abdominal distention and pain . . . and she became increasingly dehydrated.

"After another two days, a nurse discovered that the woman had two separate medication charts, with paracetamol-based medications ordered and administered on both.

"The woman had therefore inadvertently received excessive amounts of paracetamol throughout the post-operative period.

"She was immediately started on treatment for paracetamol toxicity but her condition continued to deteriorate."  Near death, her family members elected to cease active resuscitation and she died shortly after.

"A coronial autopsy found the woman died of multiple organ failure due to, or as a consequence of, drug toxicity, predominantly paracetamol," Parliament was told.

With the help of an independent clinician the HQCC reported a "concerning pattern of disregard for basic medication safety practices across health professions".

The report noted the five doctors and four nurses "were either directly involved in the woman's care or had reviewed information, such as the woman's medical record, that would have enabled them to rectify the identified issues".

Queenslanders may never know the full story. It was not known whether the woman's family was seeking civil damages.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Its not a clerical error, its a Nursing and Medical error. Calling it a clerical error creates a straw-man to blame. Doctors and Nurses screwed this up.