Australia’s newly elected prime minister, the Liberal party’s Tony Abbott, will soon be sworn in after a landslide victory on September 7 against the Labour party’s Kevin Rudd. A little over a year ago, Abbott was arguably best known throughout the world as the subject of then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s controversial, scorching speech attacking his misogyny and sexist behaviors; now the man deemed “unelectable” by his own party has unfortunately become Australia’s new leader.
Abbott, in many ways, should have been unelectable, especially as a center right-wing politician in a country with a left-wing reputation like Australia. His opposing stances toward marriage equality, abortion rights, and immigrants, and his belief that climate change is “complete crap,” seemed like a recipe for defeat for the Liberal party earlier this year, especially when paired with his “gaffe prone” public appearances and obvious misogyny. Through calculated campaign moves and his main opponent’s lack of popularity, Abbott managed to succeed in securing victory for the Liberal-National coalition, but a press conference and a promise for a (well-needed) extension of maternity leave cannot erase his history of unapologetic sexism that has not seen any signs of stopping (or change his staunchly conservative political views). To give a frame of reference, here’s a look back at a small sampling of Tony Abbott’s most appalling comments toward women:
3. “Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.”
While Abbott has repeatedly promised not to change Australia’s current abortion laws, his hostile language toward a woman’s right to choose and his dismissive views toward the difficulty of the decision to abort could bring about legislative and ideological issues even if his promises are kept (for example, Abbott has implied that he believes wide-spread, abstinence-only sex education programs are the best way to lower the abortion rate, which in reality only causes an increased number of teenage pregnancies and STDs.) What his flippant characterization of abortion really shows is disrespect and a lack of compassion; the situations that lead to the decision to abort are more than simply awkward, and what is so often such a painful decision should never be classified as “the easy way out.”
2. “I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand, I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.”
It’s starting to look like Tony Abbott thinks that we’re all still living in the early 1950s, or he just really wishes that we were. It’s upsetting enough when he publically lauds his daughters’ virginity as one of their most valuable assets, or thinks that it’s just fine and “daggy” to reduce a fellow candidates’ qualifications down to “sex appeal,” revealing a mindset that reduces women’s value to their relation to sex, whether it’s through their presumed moral purity or their sexual desirability. But it’s absolutely infuriating to see a public statement questioning a woman’s right to say no and terrifying to see it come from someone in such a prominent political position. A woman’s right to decline sex is not just an “idea;” it is a fundamental right that needs to be respected in both speech and action. The fact that Abbott doesn’t seem to understand this concept highlights his sexism and casts considerable doubt over his ability (or desire) to lead a government in a way that is at all friendly toward women, giving the 10 million women living in Australia a reason to worry about the upcoming Abbott Government.
1. “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”
After reading this quote, I wasn’t surprised to see that less than a quarter of House seats for Abbott’s Liberal party will be held by women, with the overwhelming majority of positions in politics going to older white males. This isn’t an unfamiliar situation throughout the world, but the odds of Australia making any progress under the watch of the Liberal-National coalition seem dire with Abbott’s archaic views on a woman’s place sounding like the build-up to a cringe-worthy, “Woman, make me a sandwich” joke. His implications that women are, at least to some extent, inferior to men are more than just problematic, insulting, and wrong; they’re alarming, especially considering that as Prime Minister, there may come a time that Abbott will be involved in deciding the future of Australian women’s rights.
The three quotes that have been mentioned show only part of what makes Tony Abbott a cause for concern. Not only are his views on women upsetting, but personally speaking as a politically left-wing individual, his tendency to distort the facts for his own personal gain combined with his negative views toward marriage equality, immigration, aboriginals, and global warming don’t bode well for the near-future of Australian politics.
Written by Kristy Pirone
Follow her on Twitter, here!