Chauvinist picks: the most sexist moments of 2013

Oscar's host and the co-creator of <i>Family Guy</i> Seth MacFarlane, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and pop star Robin Thicke.

Oscar's host and the co-creator of Family Guy Seth MacFarlane, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and pop star Robin Thicke.

In many ways, 2013 was the year of the great feminist (re)awakening. Such websites as Daily Life, Everyday Feminism and stalwart Jezebel have helped propel feminist discourse into the mainstream.

But it was also a year of brutal sexism. By July, I was already despairing at the hits that never seemed to stop coming. It's not easy to compile a list such as this, what with so much material to choose from. Ranging from mild sexism to full-blown misogyny, here are my picks for the top 10 sexist moments of 2013.

10. Women should shut up in public


With so much sexist shenanigans this year, you would be forgiven for forgetting this little doozy from the then Socceroos coach, Holger Osieck, in June. Chagrinned at being directed where to sit by a female organiser at a press conference, Osieck quipped: “There is a saying - women should shut up in public.” Osieck later apologised, saying he didn't “mean anything by it” and has “been married for many years”. Because married men - like those with daughters- cannot possibly be sexist.

9. Huma Abedin blamed for her husband's sexting

If you are a fan of blaming women for everything, then this one is for you. A Fox News commentator absolved serial sexter Anthony Weiner of his indiscretions because of his wife's Muslimness. Democrat politician Weiner, you see, simply wasn't sexually attracted to Huma Abedin who is a top aide to Hillary Clinton, “because she is connected with Islamists who want to kill us”.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had a different-but-not-really take on it. “When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet.” 

Yep, because only Muslim wives stand by their wayward husbands - right, Hillary?

8. Miley Cyrus uses black women as props

Ah, Miley Cyrus. Where would 2013 be without you? While mainstream feminism rightly defended Cyrus from slut-shaming, at a time when feminists of colour are becoming increasingly disillusioned with mainstream white feminism, it was disappointing to see white feminists persistently gloss over Cyrus' penchant for objectifying the bodies of black women. For a rundown on the – wait for it - intersection of race and sex in Cyrus' We Can't Stop video, see this concise but excellent analysis by Jezebel's Dodai Stewart.

7. Twitter mistakes Wimbledon for a beauty contest

When Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon, which, as far she knew, was an achievement based on been able to hit a ball over the net more often than your opponent, the Twitter outrage was swift.

“Bartolli didn't deserve to win because she is ugly,” declared one Twit, clearly confusing the event with Miss Universe. “Bartoli cannot be the new face of Wimbledon. I've seen better looking slugs.” And it all descended from there.

Perplexed BBC commentator John Inverdale, amazed that Bartoli could be a Wimbledon champion without resembling a supermodel, asked on radio: “Do you think Bartoli's dad told her, 'You're never going to be a looker? You'll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.'”

I'm confused. Does Sharapova not have to “fight” on the tennis court? Perhaps she simply wills the ball over the net with the sheer power of her translucent skin, long legs and shiny blonde hair?

Neil Wilson, pictured, appearing at court via videolink, with Judge Nigel Peters, has been ordered to serve a two-year jail sentence after his original suspended sentence was ruled to be 'unduly lenient'

6. Judges and lawyers call child rape victims “predators”

This is where we go from “mere” sexism to full-blown misogyny. British judge Nigel Peters gave 41-year-old convicted child sex offender Neil Wilson a lenient two-year suspended sentence after the prosecutor argued that the 13-year-old female victim was “predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced”. 

Even more disturbing is that this is not even close to being an isolated incident. Good thing patriarchy is dead, huh ladies?

5. Ornaments made of women

You know sexism is firmly entrenched when the editor of a major magazine nonchalantly states that the women in his magazine are "ornamental”. So said Esquire editor Alex Bilmes during a panel discussion in March's Advertising Week Europe. “They're there to be beautiful objects. They're objectified.”

You would think he would have stopped talking at this point as his female co-panelists squirmed. But he continued: “We also provide pictures of cool cars.”

4. Blurred Lines

It's been called the most controversial song of the decade and banned from at least 20 student unions in Britain. But as sketchy as its lyrics are, the bigger problem with Blurred Lines was the music video, about which Robin Thicke said: “Of course it degrades women. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.”

Despite the protestations of the director, who insisted the video was “not sexist”, in a world were women are routinely reduced to their body parts and their physical attractiveness emphasised above all else, a video featuring fully clothed men and naked women does not equality make. Least of all when one of the men is singing about “splitting the ass” of the women “in two”.

3. Julia Gillard's "big red box"

An entire list could be compiled on the sexist taunts thrown at Julia Gillard this year. But by far the most galling was the LNP fundraiser menu serving up “Julia Gillard Fried Quail”, consisting of “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”. 

The insult was hardly original. Women have been likened to animals and their flesh for centuries in order to justify their oppression. As Carol Adams writes in The Sexual Politics of Meat: “We distance ourselves from that which is different by equating it to something we have already objectified.”

2. More Twitter abuse

In April, British student Caroline Criado-Perez spearheaded a campaign to get a woman on a British banknote. When, in July, the Bank of England announced that Jane Austen would be the new face of the 10-pound note, Criado-Perez became the target of a Twitter harassment campaign, receiving a stream of rape and murder threats that went on for days.

Police eventually charged a man with harassment, and the incident propelled Twitter to adjust its “report abuse” settings.

1. Tony Abbott's "women of merit"

Julia Gillard was accused of trying to inflame a gender war when she suggested that an Abbott government would see “women once again banished from the centre of political life”.

A few short months later, newly crowned PM Abbott announced his ministry, including only one woman in the cabinet (Gillard had seven). But the real kicker came when Abbott pointed the finger at the lack of women in his inner sanctum … at the women themselves. Despite criticism from Liberal senator Sue Boyce, Abbott insisted his cabinet ministers were chosen on “merit” rather than quotas.

Make no mistake, the meritocracy argument is used to justify sexism. Quotas are not designed to elevate undeserving women but to ensure capable women are not overlooked in favour of less deserving men. As Jane Caro writes, “until relatively recently, there was a worldwide 100 per cent quota that reserved all positions of power, authority and privilege for men”.

Indeed, Abbott's meritocracy was knocked on its head when journalist Ben Eltham revealed there were at least five women in the Liberal Party with a better track record then the men who were chosen at their expense.

Dishonourable mentions

  • Vice co-founder Gavin McCinnes called women over 40 “sad” and blamed feminism for everything. 

  • Seth McFarlane sang We Saw Your Boobs at the Oscars, mocking Scarlett Johansson, who had naked pictures of her leaked onto the internet against her will. 

  • McYoga mogul Chip Wilson finally convinced women to stop giving him all their money when he said women whose thighs rubbed together shouldn't wear lululemon's overpriced leggings. Previous insights from Wilson include: “The Pill created a generation of divorce-shattered women now seeking empowerment through yoga." 

  • Yumi Stynes took a leaf out of the Liberal Party's book and blamed women for Tropfest's ongoing snubbing of female filmmakers. “Listen, if you're gonna complain,” Stynes complained, “why not go out and make a film yourself, ladies?” 

No further comment.