July 03, 2004 | Unknown

Get Ye Home and Up the Duff: The Howard Government and Women

It has often been claimed that those who preceded John Howard and Associates in power were banished because they were distant from most Australians.
Although the alleged aloofness of Paul Keating’s Labor is sometimes argued to have been chiefly economic, their commitment to supporting the advancement of groups such as women has frequently, if paradoxically, been cited as evidence of exclusiveness.
Gary Johns, long ago the federal member for Petrie, championed this claim, hopefully under the influence of the intoxicating substances that accompany defeat, with the suggestion that Labor too readily heeded the opinions of, amongst others, “feminists” and the “disabled”.
Heavens knows, Australian blokes running the country shouldn’t be forced to listen to broads or the wheelchair-bound; think of what your mates would say if they saw you.
Unfortunately, with feminist issues deemed a “minority” concern, they returned to relative obscurity or vanished, and with defunding so have many of the organisations that advocated for them, whether as external bodies or internal units within the bureaucracy.
Currently conservatism rules with “no backchat young lady” as only sisters who agree are welcome. Despite the fact this is not unusual for an institution dominated by males; good results rarely emerge from “yes, John, whatever you say; three bags full, John”.
Dr Tahnya Barnett Donaghy of the University of South Australia has said, “this skews gender discourse within government, where only those (i.e. groups like Mission Australia) who are considered in line with government policy are listened to”.
Under Howard’s leadership, the inclusiveness that pays attention to women’s progress only when they’re headed to the maternity ward or the kitchen has been somewhat restored, and it better deliver sons and meat and three vegetables.
This is the Get Ye Home and up the Duff, Woman policy, with Minister for Health and Ageing Tony Abbott administering But Not Till Ye Be Wed or Ye Be a Wanton Wench.
At the time we’re getting the Government’s anti-domestic violence brochure this might be uncharitable, however, while mostly constructive, the booklet has a nuclear family bias that leaves the reader wondering where the Government thinks most women learn that abuse is acceptable and somehow their fault.
In any instance, financially independent women are surely in a better position to respond to violence at home, and, although by no means guaranteed, less likely to be victims because bullies prefer to pick on those who are vulnerable in some way. Mind you, petty tyrants are capable of fettering the free and eroding the confidence of the self-assured.
The $3000 baby payment will, with good reason, be appreciated by mums whose babies held out for the new financial year, however, it’s another instance of the Federal Government giving assistance to some women due to a certain behaviour; this time becoming mothers, but in different contexts being mothers and wives, but not wives and mothers who work outside the home, as the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part B and cuts to the child-care subsidy attest.
Even if Dr Sarah Maddison pointed out in The Courier-Mail on 2 July 2004 that amendments to FTB Part B “should mean fewer two-income families are penalised”, she also determined “the old-fashioned white-picket fence ideology is still firmly place”.
Such initiatives illustrate that the social engineers in Canberra are busy creating the kind of society they want, so they can turn around and say it’s the one the majority desire because of the way most of us are living. That is, for example, if working outside the home achieves little for mums financially fewer will and before long it can be heralded as the norm.
Of course, in the days when women sublimated their talents and ambitions for someone else’s expectations they got despondent, forgive my indulgence, not unlike the depressed and frustrated housewife in the Marianne Faithful song that’s on the compact disc playing while I write this article:
“Her husband, he’s off to work and the kids are off to school, and there are, oh, so many ways for her to spend the day. She could clean the house for hours or rearrange the flowers or run naked through the shady street screaming all the way”.
Women don’t often, literally at least, scamper around local roads without clothes on, but they do get motivated and, hopefully, politically aware and active. Another term of Howard, and then Costello, and feminism could fire up again, more resolute than ever.
Well, wishful thinking and slightly extravagant, but we’ll have to depend on it if the Coalition wins the next election.
Here’s a link to an article that also features in a slightly different version in the latest edition of Bust. Quite funny, a bit silly and stereotypical, but sometimes,alas, true.

Posted by Unknown at 11:31 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I agree with you here Darlene (!). Howard’s conservativism might eventually begin to erode his female voting base. Let us hope so in any case. I am though a little bemused by the Howard phenomenon – an economic liberal and a social conservative, all in the one persona. This combination, is perhaps not as exaggerated as in the case of the execrable George Bush, with his lunatic fringed Christian fundamentalism, and his “fair go” for the Corporate Few working seemingly well in tandem.
    The dialectics of modernity are certainly complex. But I might make that the subject of another post sometime.

    Comment by Gary MacLennan — July 4, 2004 @ 7:07 am

  2. I love The Ballad of Lucy Jordan – and Mariane’s version is particularly poignant. And relevant.
    But then, my wife’s about to submit her thesis and return to full-time work …

    Comment by Hughie — July 5, 2004 @ 11:07 am

  3. Thank you all for your comments.
    Heavens, Mr Pundit, I had never thought of John Howard “giving too much credence” to feminists.
    Don’t tell me he spends his spare time going to collective meetings and sitting in a circle listening to Ani DiFranco tunes.
    On what evidence do you base the assertion that Pru Goward is “one of the most blatant misandrists in public life”?
    Them sounds like fightin’ words rather than an indication of reality.
    Attention being paid to issues like domestic violence doesn’t equate with “man-hating”. It equates with addressing a prevalent problem within our society.
    Thanks again.

    Comment by Darlene — July 8, 2004 @ 1:23 pm

  4. how come wankers in the liberal partly have any say when they can not tell the truth on anything without dubbya’s approval.however the next election is already won by the liberals with the help of the c.i.a.. america needs a friend cos they are hated everywhere. howard only has one friend in australia [ goanna packer] perhaps someone still watches channel 9 but my home has rubbed out’9′ many years ago. i can and do survive without it very happily thankyou.

    Comment by roadrumbler41 — July 21, 2004 @ 1:58 pm

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