Shrill? Aggressive? And other names we call smart women

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'Leigh can be a real cow sometimes'

Liberal strategist Grahame Morris apologises for calling Leigh Sales a cow on 702 ABC Sydney on Tuesday morning.

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Some years ago, following the initial awkward date phase, I was out and about with my brand new, officially recognised boyfriend. We were at the pub, and I was meeting some of his mates (that’s how it went in the Melbourne Indie Rock Scene™). My new Boyfriend beamed, put his arm around me, and announced - without a hint of satire - “This is my bitch.”

 

I made a noise that was something like this, and set him straight immediately. Now, you could put it down to his being not particularly enlightened (when we broke up, he bellowed “BURN IN HELL!” and did a donut in his V8), but the mundane business of calling women names crosses all education levels, class barriers, races and religious creeds - everyone’s called a woman something, and all women have been called something other than their name.

Leigh Sales on the set of the <i>7.30</i>.

Leigh Sales on the set of the 7.30.

 

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Slut, whore, nag, bitch, cow, ho, slag, hussy, hysteric, crone... the epithets are endless.

 

You might have seen Leigh Sales take Tony Abbott to task on 7:30 last week. For her troubles, she’s been called “shrill” and “aggressive” (despite her work on 7:30 being neither), and then, yesterday, Liberal Party strategist Grahame Morris unleashed this corker: "Well Leigh can be a real cow sometimes when she's doing her interviews."

 

Prime Minister Gillard this past week called to task the ongoing misogynist smear campaign against her, which had included highlights such as Alan Jones saying she should be ''put in a chaff bag'' and dumped at sea”. Prior to that, Australian Agricultural Company CEO David Farley called her “an old cow”.

 

On the brighter side of the road, Kanye West has written a song in celebration of his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian: "I wrote the song Perfect Bitch about Kim."

 

Lupe Fiasco, in turn, attempted to “start a conversation” about gender roles in hip hop with his song, Bitch Bad (which features the refrain, “Bitch bad / woman good / lady better”). That conversation was won effortlessly by Sheena Bryant at Madame Noire, who writes, “Let’s be real, some of your mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins and friends have or will exhibit the same kind of behavior that promptly causes you to label a woman a #yourchoicewordhere.  Is it okay then for me to use this same term when referring to your mother?  Are you planning to use similar language for your daughter whose behavior WILL be influenced by the culture you continue to architect with your mouth?”.

 

(The misogynist apologists will inevitably cry “Well, men in the public arena are called names, too”, but the names thrown at them are rarely as gendered or sexualised; “Dickhead”, maybe “idiot”, perhaps “bore”. The worst things you can call a man inevitably hinge on feminising him: “motherfucker”, “girl”, “c--t”, “bitch”.)

 

It’s all too easy to see this as someone else’s problem; when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut”, for example, the liberal media was quick to denounce conservative misogyny. But what about the misogyny of the left? As Kristen Powers wrote at the time of Limbaugh’s mouth-running, “Liberal men marginalising women in the media with name-calling is actually more common that you would think, and it isn’t reserved just for conservative women. Veteran political reporter Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post wrote this week about the time Matt Taibbi—who incidentally blurbed Rachel Maddow’s new book—described Tumulty variously as mannish,” afemale impersonator,” apre-op version of Dave Barry,” andugly.”  She says that he also “wrote at length about the size of one female reporter’s rear end, and called another one  ‘squirrely bitch.’” If the left reacted with the same furor to liberal misogyny as they have reacted to Limbaugh, misogynist cracks would go the way of racist and anti-gay ‘jokes.’”

 

In which case, it may well appear that we’re screwed, plain and simple. What the hell do we do?

 

The answer is simple: we don’t shut up about it. Whenever someone calls a female commentator  “shrill” or “hysterical”, we call them out. When a female politician is called a “cow” or a “hag”, we call them out. And whenever someone calls you a “bitch”, you make the War Of The Worlds noise, and set them straight.

103 comments

  • Is it OK if I refer to Leigh Sales as "uberhot"?

    Commenter
    Dan
    Location
    NSW
    Date and time
    August 29, 2012, 8:14AM
    • It isnt that she was a 'cow' it was the fact she is excellent at her job and he is a right winger and that is all he had. Much like the right wing columnists, Gerard, Miranda and Piers, the articles they write are often less factually correct than say an article from Michelle Grattan. They get it wrong but shout louder

      Commenter
      Franky
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 29, 2012, 8:16AM
      • I don't get the cow comment...she is obviously human. Did he mean she was genetically modified to become a cow? Or that she used to be a cow who underwent an operation to become human? And how is that possible?

        Commenter
        Bob
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 9:01AM
      • I would suggest you are wrong here. They are all factually correct, it is how they use the facts that is the issue

        Commenter
        Carstendog
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 9:33AM
      • The difference between Leigh Sales and Graeme Morris is that she is a highly professional journalist and he is a spokesman for the Liberals who masquerades as a journalist. No professional journalist would use abusive language to describe another doing his or her job professionally. Full stop.

        Commenter
        Johnno
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 10:54AM
      • What a non story that has been blown up out of all proportion. Though I suppose this has made Leigh a celebrity now instead of a journalist and we all had an opinion on Grahame Morris well before the incident. How much mileage can be got? So Leigh, when are you signing with Channel 9 where the story is always the presenter as this has become?

        Commenter
        Journos with the Stars
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 11:29AM
      • I do not remember Kerry O'Brien ever being called a cow, or a bull. Kerry was known to be just as forthright in challenging politicians with flakey ideas. I agree that this is just the right wing push back whenever they feel uncomfortable about being challenged.

        Commenter
        OpenWindow
        Location
        Richmond VIC
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 11:37AM
      • Well it might not be correct to refer to her as a "cow", but in fairness I have seen some absolutely offensive references to Mr. Abbott, but hey that doesn't matter because he is a right wing Liberal Opposition leader isn't he!!

        Commenter
        bigal
        Location
        4572
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 11:41AM
    • I generally try to look for non-gender specific put-downs that I can throw at anyone, regardless of gender. Makes everything easier. Regarding Leigh Sales' interview of Tony Abbott (it's hard not to type the words I usually use to refer to him), I thought it was aggressive, and brilliant! To me, being aggressive in an interview with a politician seems to be the only way to get an iota of truth out of them, and I applaud Leigh for that.

      Commenter
      DrNik
      Date and time
      August 29, 2012, 8:24AM
      • I supose we are dismissing all the personal abuse the "left" heaps on men then..... Go gooogle some of thing John Howard and Tony Abbott get called.

        The simple thing all people in public life get vile abuse, not just women unfortunately. Yes and needs to be stopped by all people

        Commenter
        Carstendog
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 8:32AM

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