Flat White

Thank you, Ms Ford – if you’ve finished

20 July 2018

11:31 AM

20 July 2018

11:31 AM

For feminists like Clementine Ford, it seems that absolutely everything is about gender, even when the evidence tells a different story. Ford says that after commissioning researcher Chrys Stevenson to conduct a “comprehensive analysis” of a recent episode of Q&A and that “the results revealed a distinct gender disparity”. Namely, men spoke for 62 per cent of the time, whereas women only whereas women only 38 per cent of the time.

Now, the hyperlink that Ford provides in her article doesn’t refer to the particular episode in question but goes to a much older piece of research, where the avowedly anti-religious Stevenson, states:

This kind of misperception can also arise out of the cultural bias of gender stereotyping. Even in today’s enlightened society, powerful females are routinely castigated for failing to conform to social expectations. Sadly – even amongst the liberal intelligentsia – there’s a deeply ingrained, perhaps even subconscious, belief that ‘mouthy’ or assertive females with strong opinions should just ‘shut the f–k up’.

Wow. So, this is the point that atheistic feminism has brought us to? That unless a woman speaks precisely the same number of words as a man then she is not being treated equally… like most men, I’m really starting to feel very marginalised in my marriage right about now. But, for what it’s worth, I blame the host Tony Jones, that enduring symbol of white male privilege. How this guy still has a job at the ABC is beyond me. (I’m being sarcastic. Tom Ballard should be the first to go). Ford was unflinching, though, in her unrelenting rant against the patriarchy:

But let’s take a look at the number and nature of interruptions. Excluding Jones (whose hosting role often requires him to interrupt), the male panellists were responsible for 12 out of 20 of the show’s interruptions – that’s 60 per cent.

The basis of Ford’s argument is a sixty-page PhD thesis by Joanna Richards, Let Her Finish: Gender, Sexism and Deliberative Participation in Australian Senate Estimates Hearings (2006-2015). Is it just me, or are PhD’s not only becoming shorter, but more and more idiosyncratic? But, as to be expected, this is precisely the type of ‘research’ that the ABC loves to champion. In a non-biased way, of course.

Now, I’ve only been physically present as an audience member once for Q&A. And that was in October 2017, regarding the debate about redefining marriage. On the panel were Magda Szubanski, Karina Okotel, Fr Frank Brennan SJ, and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Rev Dr Glenn Davies. What struck me most about that evening was how gracious and respectful Okotel, Brennan and especially Davies all were. In comparison, Szubanski spoke over the top of the other panellists repeatedly and without censure. You can view it for yourself right here:

Now, I actually commissioned my own “comprehensive analysis”—i.e. myself, it was cheaper that way—to investigate how these two white men in question might have behaved particularly towards the other two women on the show. And the results were ‘enlightening’ to say the least. I found that Szubanski interrupted the other panellists approximately twenty-eight times and Karina Okotel interrupted Szubanski twice (she basically had too, though, since Okotel was given about half as much air time as Szubanski was). But what was really incredible was that the two token white men on the panel never interrupted either of the two women—let alone each other—even once…

I was outraged! This is precisely the kind of gender inequality and power imbalance that Ford champions in her article. As Ford states:

All too often, inequality such as the kind on display here is blamed on those who are impacted by it. It isn’t that women are being excluded, it’s that we need to assert ourselves more. It isn’t that people of colour are being silenced, it’s that they need to speak up more’.

But, with all due respect, I don’t think that women like Ms Szubanski have a problem with speaking up, or even over the top of other women – just ask Karina Okotel. In fact, if the reaction of social media is anything to go by, I think most people think that women like Szubanski, as well as Catherine Deveny, should treat others with ‘proper regard’ and more ‘respect’.

The truth of the matter is, women are not being shut down or forbidden from speaking. And they are given just as much air time as men. In fact, with the digital disruption of social media and the current popularity of female columnists, women have never had so many opportunities as they do today to say whatever they want in the public square. It’s more than a little disingenuous then for Ford to argue:

Women can attempt to speak up all we like, but if we are being persistently interrupted and ignored then the difficulties we face in being heard are clearly more pronounced than any of those faced by men with power. Often, people don’t even realise they are perpetuating inequality because it just feels normal to them.

But the numbers don’t lie, so we shouldn’t either.

I completely agree, Clem. The numbers don’t lie, and neither should you.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

Illustration: YouTube.

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