How we frame political conversations is extremely important, especially when discussing a deeply personal topic like sexual harassment. This question is now in the foreground, and for good reason. It’s a conversation we need to have, and those who have suffered should be encouraged to come forward and should expect their allegations to be taken seriously.
In 2021, the zero point was Parliament. And fair enough. It’s no secret that inappropriate behavior has been happening there for decades and if parliamentarians are seen to be able to legislate for the rest of us, then their professional conduct should be up to par. Now, I don’t care who politicians sleep with, who they hang out with and what their names are. This is quite a mundane conversation and how can we expect to do our best to get into politics if the media are more interested in digging into their privacy than testing their politics.
Allegations of sexual harassment are a completely separate issue.
And while the leadership on this must come from above, there is no magic wand the Prime Minister can wield to prevent this conduct from happening in Parliament. Frankly, eradicating sexual harassment requires buy-in and portraying it as a “Liberal Party has a problem with women” issue resulted in its militarization from the start and will ultimately exclude other categories of victims.
Why am I bringing this up now?
Well, two curious things have happened in the past fortnight.
First, former Liberal MP Julia Banks published a book in which she goes to great lengths to slander the Prime Minister and his former party, including alleging inappropriate touching at an event around 2017. If she did an allegation to be made, she should do so formally, rather than making a throwaway claim in public and questioning the integrity of all the men in the cabinet. It is equally curious that Banks does not appear to have brought up this incident with Malcolm Turnbull at the time, his close friend and then Prime Minister.
She also refuses to participate in the investigation led by Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins because she does not trust the process. And just like that, instead of highlighting this problem in order to solve it, Banks is making an already bad situation worse. How do you deal with a problem if you don’t know the extent of it? And how can we expect women who have been sexually harassed, or worse, to come forward when a former MP actively undermines the credibility of the process?
In a desperate gasp for relevance and to plug her book, Banks pulled the rug under the other women in a way only a woman can. Paul Murray once described Banks as the Liberal Party suicide bomber, but instead of being a one-trick pony, she demonstrated the exceptional ability to be able to blow herself up more than once.
Second, was a positively unbalanced play by Virginia Haussegger in the Canberra Times. On the backs of Banks’ allegations, Haussegger is leading the misandrist intifada against the Prime Minister. She cynically tries to frame the Liberal Party through comments made by Frank Sinatra in the 1970s and a film titled Gas lamp from the 1940s. It is very much on the anti-liberal agenda and that is about the only clear and convincing aspect of the whole article.
But among the endless gossip, one paragraph particularly struck me. She writes: “Since all women have internalized some level of sexism and misogyny, we tend to feed our helplessness like a personal pet.”
I don’t even know where to start on the vagueness and recklessness of this comment. A perspective like this is most likely an author’s projection; an attempt to justify, and to account to all women, her own deeply rooted personal insecurities.
The use of the word “given” creates an infinitely mistaken assumption that all women internalize sexism and misogyny and, therefore, are all self-pitying victims. We don’t and we aren’t. In this great effort to demonize men, Haussegger bombards the gains and independence of women and firmly categorizes them under the label “poor little darlings”. Having a good relationship with men doesn’t mean you put yourself below them. Just as hating liberal men does not make you the Joan of Arc of feminism – in fact, it means you are giving a free pass to all the other men who behave badly and thus lessen the suffering of those other victims. .
Unfortunately, this section is only responsible for undermining the Liberal Party, regardless of the consequences. Leftist journalists only claim to care about liberal women if, and when, they start defending themselves. In this case, they embark on the singular pursuit of achieving their own personal yellowing agenda.
If liberal women don’t give up their conservatism, then they get what they deserve.
And just to be clear, I’m not looking for excuses for bad behavior; this behavior must be treated and continued in an appropriate manner. But the politicization of this issue is inevitable, and that’s the shit I’m trying to drag into the conversation by kicking and screaming. Are the men of the Liberal Party perfect? Not by far. Are they worse than the men of the ALP? Unlikely, but ALP males appear to be a protected species, so a comparison is an educated guess at best for those of us who aren’t inside.
And does this attack on the Prime Minister help eradicate inappropriate behavior and affect cultural change? No, at best, it fuels partisanship – and the rights and safety of all women becomes the collateral damage of this lawsuit.
Caroline Di Russo is a lawyer, businesswoman and unrepentant nerd.