A week Yumi would like to forget

Yumi Stynes. A name currently invoking an unfair share of hate, misogyny, sexism and racial vilification.

George Negus. A respected Australian journalist and an oft-heard voice in Australian entertainment-news media.

Commentators on an Australian Defence Force-associated Facebook page: misogynistic, racially vilifying, sexist and homophobic. A problem culture within the Defence Force.

The latter issues within the Defence Force have copped their fair share of criticism. The Facebook page was investigated by the ABC 7.30 Report. The program ran the week following the now-infamous Stynes and Negus public guffaws.

The level of vitriol hurled at Stynes is shocking. The fact George Negus survived this lambast of public hate is shocking – he is as guilty as she. He is a he. Has this got anything to do with it?

Commentators hurling stones at Stynes are going in hard. They’ve singled out her children, her race, her sexuality. They have called for her head.

Many commentators held up Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith as a pillar of society. I am not questioning this. He won a VC for a reason. It must take a lot of courage to sign up to an organisastion which has received 775 claims of abuse in its forces since 1951.

As criticism piled upon Stynes for insulting the Corporal, I whiffed a certain stench of hypocrisy. This all occurred in a week when the Defence Force was going through a public relations disaster of its own. Some of its officers, some of its men, were revealed to be commentating on an hate-filled Facebook page where women were deemed “filthy lying whores” and Muslims “ragheads”. This week we have again been reminded of the Skype sex broadcast incident.

Stynes (and Negus) made stupid comments. Roberts-Smith has shaken these comments off. Forgiven them. Moved on. Why did Stynes’ words snag public interest, particularly in a week when the award for most offensive should surely have gone to some male officers displaying trigger-happy Facebook antics?

Does it have anything to do with her gender?

The media isn’t exempt from driving this hate-storm.

An article posted on The Conversation and written by Ben Wadham alerted me to a rather distasteful headline. “…the Herald Sun used the front-page headline “Yumi So Sorry”. This refers to Yu-Me So Solly. Me So Solly is the cartoon The Simpsons iconic character Krusty the Klown’s favourite catchphrase to insult Asian-American people.”

A blatantly racist headline from the Herald Sun. It’s blatant racism actually surprises me. I know they print Andrew Bolt’s weekly barrage against the left, but still… It’s shameful and offensive but has it been lambasted for its vitriol? No. It held a female figure up to ransom and, in my opinion, fuelled the fire of hate against Stynes.

Earlier this year The Age featured an article exploring sexism in the discourse of politics and the public. The article, written by Anne Summers, was thorough. It chased down current and former politicians and asked them to comment (not all did so publicly) about the current state of word play in political discourse.

Nicola Roxon, Attorney-General, says she gets irritated by the media. “The media is more interested in me as someone with a young child than anything to do with policy. My male colleagues who have young children don’t get asked these questions.”

A Labor frontbencher is quoted by Summers saying, “The successful women I see are tremendously good at their jobs, and are phenomenally well prepared. They turn up at local events with a written speech, while the men just turn up.”

Summers writes, “there can be no doubting that Australia’s first woman Prime Minister has had to endure levels of vitriol never before seen in federal politics. And it is extremely personal.”

Summers reminds us of the fact that Paul Keating also toppled a sitting prime minister. “… there were two important differences. Unlike Hawke, Rudd did not contest the ballot that put Gillard in the job because his support had collapsed. It is ironic, therefore, that her legitimacy is questioned in the way it is.”

The hatred hurled Gillard’s way is harsh writes Summers, “barren”, “bitch”, JuLIAR”, “Ditch the Witch”. It’s reached a new level. Is it a coincidence it’s being hurled at our first female Prime Minister?

Yesterday, Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman, posted this piece on her website.  She makes a very clear point about the “way women in public life are attacked so viciously”.

She knows about this herself. In 2011 she stated that – to her – sports people aren’t heroes and the world held a different meaning. These comments were made on the Today Show.

“The names I was called, the abuse and threats hurled at me and my children, my husband, my parents, my religion, my appearance… It went on for weeks and was enormously distressing. I feared for my physical safety.”

How dare she have an opinion.

She points out George Negus “has not copped anywhere near the extreme or vicious nature of the abuse hurled at Yumi”. “When Kyle Sandilands said revolting things about a female journalist on his radio program, nobody went after his family.”

The vitriol, much of it is from men, Freedman writes.

She highlights the regularly repulsive behaviour of an Absolute Freakin’ Idiot, known equally as well by the name Sam Newman.  “When Sam Newman says the most repugnant, misogynistic things about women on The Footy Show, does he receive death threats? Are his children threatened? Is he subjected to sickening abuse?”

Last year #mencallmethings was a campaign initiated to highlight the abusive, misogyny of anonymous posters online. Women posted comments they had received, including the above hashtag. Female bloggers, columnists and Twitter regulars jumped on board.

Karalee Evans wrote about the campaign on ABC’s The Drum. “The horrid abuse towards women who have an opinion and dare to share it online, is a scary indicator of the health of our society.”

Last week conservative US radio host Rush Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a “slut”, “a prostitute”, said she “wants to be paid to have sex”. What a gift with words.

Warranted? No. Extremely offensive, personal, misogynistic? Yes.

What a horrifying two weeks for women in the media.

Today is International Women’s Day. A global day set aside to recognise women’s achievements, observe and highlight gender inequalities and issues.

Today is a must. We have a long way to go in recognising, appreciating and applauding women who have an opinion and who bravely voice it.

Caption: How nice that Google got involved.


2 thoughts on “A week Yumi would like to forget

  1. pixiebebeklis@gmail.com says:

    THANKYOU! I was outraged by the whole thing. Yumi Stynes is amazing and if this is front page Australian news, then our country is in trouble


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