Why the gender-based hate?
In late July, ABC journalist Leigh Sales highlighted an appalling habit in Australian culture. Taking to Twitter, she offered an insight into the abuse hurled at her after a recent interview with PM Scott Morrison, and it makes for some nasty reading.
Much of it was sexualised, much of it was obscene, and quite frankly a lot of it was disturbing. With an obligatory language warning in place, here’s just a snapshot of some of the vitriol she received…
One social media user labelled her a cavorting wh*re, another a sl%t, and someone else said she was in need of a vibrator. She was also called a b&tch, while someone else informed the ‘twittersphere’ she basically sat on the PM’s lap whenever she interviewed him. Another user threw the C-word in for good measure.
Sales went on to note the slew of abuse is hardly a rare event in her job as one of the ABC’s most high-profile journalists. After a previous interview with former PM Malcolm Turnbull she was basically accused of shagging him. Sadly, such blatant abuse is not an isolated event.
In 2018, a report by Women in Media Australia found one in five Australian female journalists have been cyberbullied, and they are three times more likely to be attacked than their male peers. Both those findings are pretty horrifying, but the second certainly makes you think.
When Kerry O’Brien was host of The 7.30 Report, was the abuse of a similar nature? Sure, he probably received angry emails, accusations of bias and a daily dose of pretty toxic hate mail. But was it so gender-based and sexual in nature? Was he ever accused of sitting in then PM Julia Gillard’s lap during an interview? Or labelled a sl%t?
Of course, it’s not just female journalists copping a deluge of gender-based hate speech. The phenomenon extends to politics, the law, and pretty much any woman in a high-ranking position.
Let’s go back to Australia’s first female PM Julia Gillard as an example. During her time as the leader of a first world country in the 21st century she was frequently referred to as a b&tch and encountered phrases like “ditch the witch” along with pornographic cartoons and what she describes as “incredibly vile and often violent things said on social media”.
In an interview on the issue with the BBC, Ms Gillard said she had been aware Australia had a blokey culture, and she had never felt alienated by that, except when it came to abuse that was so gender-based in nature.
“What took me by surprise was something much more pointed and much sharper,” she said.
“…the fact that much of the imagery woven around me in the parliament and the media was, when you look at it, gendered at its centre - all of that was more than I was expecting.”
And that’s the point…as a high-profile person in any career, you expect to be held accountable. But for your actions, not your gender. People entering these careers are by no means wall-flowers, but why is it still acceptable and common for the abuse hurled at women to be sexual and so demeaning in nature?