Men who supported women in 2013

Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra.

Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

And so this is Christmas.  Even for those of us not at all religious there is an undeniable sense of joy, peace and ‘good will towards men’ as the bible so encourages. But it must be pointed out that some translations qualify this passage to ‘peace to men of good will’.  Which I think is much easier.

Yesterday at Daily Life we celebrated the Women of the Year, so today let’s give a bit of space to the men of good will in the struggle towards equality and support of women.  Those blokes who recognized that women’s rights are human rights and that a society where women and girls are mistreated, underpaid or unrecognised is a society that needs an occasional sermon from a mount or indeed a mounted computer screen.

So I thereby nominate Lieutenant General David Morrison as a man of good will for this year.  Given ‘Kate’ the Australian Defence Force Air cadet is our woman of the year this is perhaps particularly fitting.  For while Kate’s bravery to speak out and stand up to the hostile boys club is nothing compared to his work it must help her to know that in an institution that led her down badly now has a senior leader who will speak out.

Former Defence minister Stephen Smith.

Former Defence minister Stephen Smith. Photo: Andrew Meares

And speak out he did.  On International Women’s Day this year, as Chief of the Australian Army, David Morrison addressed the UN. It was a surprising speech that came after sitting down with women who had been physically and emotionally abused by fellow soldiers and it earned him the title of ‘a male champion of change’ by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elisabeth Broderick. You can read the transcript here:


It began with an acknowledgement of his benefits of masculinity and patriarchy and ended with a promise of a better future.  Some months later he gave a blistering address to his troops about ‘explicit, derogatory, repugnant, demeaning and repugnant’ emails concerning women. This speech was far less polite than his UN address; it was a tour de force that committed Australia to an inclusive army, rid of those who won’t work with women or meet its standards and told troops ‘if that does not suit you, then get out!’ It was a powerful message to the 1.5 million others who watched his visible fury and resoluteness.

Special mention must also go to the former Minister for Defence Stephen Smith who stood up to the institutional silence and ordered the inquiry into the treatment of women in our defence forces.  Smith released the report in June and bought forward the opening up of all roles in the ADF to women.  It remains to be seen whether the recommendations are followed up. Don’t hold your breath but here they are if you’d like to track progress.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox at the Independent Commission into sex abuse.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox at the Independent Commission into sex abuse. Photo: Steven Siewert

The NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch was another man who stood up for women this year.  Via the Murdoch press he revealed domestic violence had become an increasing part of police work and called for men to stand up and 'ostracize' those who are violent towards women. "Domestic violence isn't a women's problem it's a men's problem and until such time as men wake up to that fact and other men, good men stand up and do something about it, it will continue,"

Now, while the notion of ‘good and bad men’ is rather simplistic and better suited for tabloid sensibility it was a sign that police are improving caring and supporting women who are abused. Again, though there’s still a long way to go. 

While some are cynical about the wearing of a white ribbon to signify opposition to sexual violence, it can’t be denied that a call to challenge and report sexist and violent behavior is a welcome call for action.  Many white ribbon ambassadors have incredible stories of courage and care. Take Ian Barker who is a carer for his daughter who was left brain damaged after being bashed by an ex boyfriend and now works for early intervention in cases of domestic violence.

Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for campaigning for the right to an education, holding ...

Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for campaigning for the right to an education, holding hands with her brothers and her father Ziauddin Yousufzai. Photo: -

Peter Fox should also be acknowledged. The former Police Officer was so sickened by the protection given to Catholic Priests who had sexually abused young men and women, that he became a whistle blower.  His standing up to such powerful institutions ruined his career and damaged his mental health but was instrumental in the setting up of the NSW Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. 

And I also acknowledge the Male Champions of Change who are putting pressure on some of our largest companies to commit to diversity and gender balance.

Internationally, respect must go to Malala Yousafzai’s father. Ziauddin Yousafzai is a poet, school owner and educational activist and it was he who first suggested his daughter write the BBC blog that began her journey towards danger, near death and symbol for female education. All hail as well to Badrinath Singh, the father of ‘Nirbhaya’, the Indian student who was brutally raped and then murdered exactly a year ago yesterday.  Badrinath refused to be quiet and shamed by her ’undoing’ (as rape is often referred to in India) and fought for her justice and recognition. Yesterday he spoke out again saying he doesn’t see the change that is needed to ensure the safety of women in India.

Assistant Commissioner with the NSW Police Mark Murdoch.

Assistant Commissioner with the NSW Police Mark Murdoch. Photo: Jon Reid

Time Magazine named Pope Francis as it’s Person of the Year, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church while capturing the imagination of millions of people who had become disillusioned with the Vatican.  While I’m inspired by his commitment to humility, frugality and his statement that the Vatican must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, I’m not sure we are there yet with the Church.

Meanwhile, a shout out to another set of men who donned a dress this year. After an Iranian court sentenced a man convicted of domestic abuse to walk the streets in a frock, a group of Kurdish activists dressed in dresses to show that ‘being a woman is not a tool to humiliate or punish anyone’. 

But, being Christmas, let’s also nominate ‘ordinary’ men who restore our faith. Those partners, brothers, sons, teachers, carers, lovers and guys who assist women in attaining their potential.  We used to say behind every good man was a good woman, now let’s flip it.  Of course men shouldn’t get medals for being decent, loving and great. But men of goodwill deserve our thanks this Xmas.  After all. we can honour them without obeying.

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.


  • Surely Tony Abbott should have got a gong for his ridiculously generous paid parental leave scheme?

    Fits in exceedingly well with a lot of other policies that have been promoted by writers here.

    Freddie Frog
    Date and time
    December 17, 2013, 8:08AM
    • You mean the one that supports wealthy women and punishes the poor?

      Hazy and Dolorous
      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 9:01AM
    • You mean the one where he specifically delineates the "women of calibre" he thinks deserve up to $75K to take care of their own babies, while nurses and childcare workers would get about a third of that?

      And you mean the same Tony Abbott who thinks that a woman's virginity is the "most precious gift" she can give? And who thinks that abortion is the "easy way out"? And used his ministerial veto to ban the TGA from considering RU486? And subjected our first female PM to misogynistic abuse? And appointed himself as the Minister for the Status of Women, despite all this and much, much more?

      Whatta guy, our Tony.

      Red Pony
      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 10:50AM
    • Hazy and Red Pony, I think he's referring to the policy that compensates women according to how much they are earning before they go on maternity leave. I understand that there's a case to be made for a fixed sum of money (and indeed this would be my preference as well) but I can also see the rationale behind his methodology as well.

      Also can we please kill off the claim that he is misogynistic. I agree that he sometimes comes across as chauvinistic or paternalist, however there is a huge gap between this and being someone who hates women.

      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 11:18AM
    • The policy that states, in the policy document that fathers staying home while the mother works is perverse?

      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 12:35PM
    • Hurrow,

      Paid parental leave (why do we keep calling it "maternity leave" when either parent can access it?) is supposed to be a support payment to assist new parents with essential expenses. It's a form of welfare or social assistance, basically, which is why it is means tested. Paying more to wealthy women has nothing to do with feminism, it is pure handouts to the wealthy at the expense of the average taxpayer.

      And I certainly agree that Tony is both chauvinistic and paternalistic, but those are not at odds with misogyny. He has repeatedly displayed total contempt for women in general - except for the few women he has personal control over, such as his wife, daughters, and ministers. Other women have abortions for "convenience" and therefore should be denied reproductive autonomy. For "biological reasons" we aren't suited for leadership. "Bad husbands and bad fathers" do us "more good than harm". Women who oppose him are "witches" and "bitches". Women who support him are "good girls". If you can only respect women who are subordinate to you, you are a misogynist. Therefore, Tony sounds pretty misogynistic to me.

      Red Pony
      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 12:58PM
    • Red Pony, the PPL scheme is at least partially designed to remove the terms 'welfare' and 'social assistance' from the lexicon, and make parental leave exactly that, leave. Annual leave isn't 'welfare', either is sick leave. By changing it from an amount to being based off of pay, you change the perception of it from a hand-out to an integral part of business life.

      It also avoids future political battles around how much and what is the means test. It takes it out of the political landscape and just makes it a normal part of life. And that's fantastic, it shouldn't be a political football every election year, it shouldn't just be another handout. It should just be a part of life for Australians.

      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 1:14PM
    • @Regularchap: PPL is welfare, because unlike annual and sick leave it's paid for by taxing companies and government revenue. Or, is what ou're actually saying is it can't be wlefare because women of 'calibre' would never think of accessing such a thing. You know, like the 'baby bonus'.

      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 1:44PM
    • Red Pony,
      I agree with you. Its a horrible policy and we should drop paid parental leave altogether.
      Why should the government be paying people to look after their own children.

      In a world of true equality, both males and females wouldn't be expected to pay for the life choices of other people. That would be the true feminist position if equality for everyone was its true aim.

      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 1:51PM
    • - Dear Regularchap:
      If its like sick leave - then shouldn't the employer pay?
      If it comes from the taxpayer its welfare
      I'm not against the big W but it has to go based on need not perceived social superiority of the middle class
      Working-class women who cannot take their leave and are forced by financial need back to work asap will be subsidizing with their tax "doctors' wives" who choose to stay at home and play Desperate Housewives.
      Govt money should only ever roll downhill not the other way.
      We might as well go back to serfdom.

      Date and time
      December 17, 2013, 2:22PM

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