Sexism is off to a flying start in 2016

Chris Gayle faces the media following his comments to sports journalist Mel McLaughlin.

Chris Gayle faces the media following his comments to sports journalist Mel McLaughlin. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Can you believe that it's already time to once again look back on the year that was and relive its most egregious acts of public sexism? Sure, it's only the first week of January but it's already been such a bumper year that I'm delirious with excitement as to what the remainder of 2016 holds. No doubt the following examples of mindless misogyny will soon be superseded by even greater acts of male entitlement, so let's take a few minutes to remember just how well this year began, shall we?

Woman once again fails in her duty to stay young and hot forever

The year started off promisingly enough, with The Force Awakens, the latest Star Wars instalment featuring Rey, an actual female lead character, continuing to dominate screens across the globe. Sadly however, many fans were disappointed to discover that Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia, looked about 30 years older than she was 30 years ago when she donned that infamous metal bikini.

The bullying got so bad Carrie Fisher addressed it on Twitter the only way it deserved, by blowing her critics a giant virtual raspberry.


The curious case of the disappearing lead character

Speaking of Rey, where is she? That's the question Twitter was asking when Rey failed to turn up in action figure form, alongside her more acceptably male co-stars. The #WheresRey saga continued when Hasbro (bro by name, bro by nature) released their The Force Awakens Monopoly set where players could choose character tokens in the form of Finn, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, or glorified emo child Kylo Ren.

Mild spoiler alert: Yes, Darth Vader, who appears only in the form of a charred helmet, and Luke, who is in the film for about 30 seconds, are there. But #WheresRey?

Hasbro claims they didn't include Rey in order not to give away a vital plot point. However, they weren't so concerned about ruining the "reveal" that wayward storm trooper Finn is black. So call me cynical, but it's almost as if these corporate conglomerates posing as entertainment creators realise that merchandising is where the big bucks really are these days, and while dude-bros may tolerate a female protagonist or two in the actual movie, it's way too much to expect them to actually be a female character in a board game.

Plus, Finn is already there, and he is black! You can't have a person of colour and a woman in a board game with just four characters. Only 50 per cent white male representation? The sky would fall.

Daft politicians versus mad f***ing witches

While we were all losing it over a glorified video game, closer to home our male politicians were already knee deep in a tussle over who will be crowned Sexist Polly of the Year.

Briggs looked to have the race all wrapped up when he was caught passing around a phote of a female diplomat who had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. The image was then leaked to the press, exposing the young woman to public ridicule. Even The Daily Telegraph was unimpressed, with political editor Samantha Maiden calling his actions "as dumb as all get out".

But, never one to miss an opportunity to show his dazzling ineptness, Peter Dutton stole Briggs's thunder by composing a text message to Briggs in which he called Maiden a "mad f--king witch", and then promptly sent it to Maiden.

Disappointingly, Maiden let him off the hook, but while she is prepared to downplay the significance of his comment, others, including this Facebook group created in his honour, are not as willing to sweep under the carpet the history of this quintessentially gendered slur. It is through slurs such as "witch" that men have always sought to undermine, demean, and dismiss women who don't know their place. Including our only female PM.

No Chris Gayle, sexual harassment is not "just a joke"

Cricket star Chris Gayle blasted his way into this list on Monday night when, during a live television interview on the field, he propositioned journalist Mel McLaughlin, asking her if she wanted to get a drink. Mistaking her contemptuous bristle for embarrassment, he then mumbled, "Don't blush, baby". She cut the interview short and, amidst the inevitable fallout, including his club the Melbourne Renegades fining him $10,000 and numerous other female sports journos describing his behaviour as "the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to sexism in sports, Gayle claims it was "just a joke".

Cue about ten thousand men on social media grumbling about how feminazis are so out of control that men aren't even allowed to ask women out anymore. Because, of course, the inalienable right of men to sleaze onto uninterested women clearly trumps the right of women to do their work in peace and with respect.

Of course, the whole "why can't women take a joke?" defence is a terrible lie. These comments are meant to humiliate women, to remind us that we are not to be taken seriously, that men may have to tolerate us taking up space in their traditional domains but they will still stake their claim to the public sphere by making us as uncomfortable as possible whenever we dare to think it belongs to us too.

Who needs bodily autonomy anyway?

It's not often Australians are asked to indulge a contempt for women, poor people and democracy in one fell swoop. But on Monday night, the country got to do just that when Channel Nine's A Current Affair, in what can only be described as an attempt to discover just how many would-be fascists are lurking in its audience, asked this very reasonable question:

As thoroughly enraging as this week has been, we must recognise it for what it is - part of the backlash against our progress. The closer we get to a more equitable society, the more visible we become, the more the privileged and entitled will push back. During weeks like this it may seem an endless battle, but as Carey Mulligan says in Suffragette, "We will win". We have to.

And on that note, Happy New Year!