Verity Johnson: Australia, the lucky country?

In light of Tony Abbott’s elect Guest Blogger ,Verity Johnson, asks the question, is Australia a woman loving country?

When I moved to Australia I was loaded down when I came through customs.

I was carrying enough Marmite to paint the Taj Mahal brown and yeasty. I was also carrying my teddy. Yeah, who’s independent? But the biggest thing I was carrying was idealism about my new life in Australia.

Growing up in England, Australia and NZ were sold to me as women loving countries. NZ was the first country to give women the vote. Australia the first to let us stand for election.

So I was hopeful.

But today I need to tell you what I, all my friends, and every young woman in Australia is thinking.

It sounds something like “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.”

Now don’t worry that us feckless youth have found religion. We’ve found out that Tony Abbott is our new Dear Leader. So much for the dreams of female equality.

The feeling of growing helplessness at the advancing Abbot has been here a while.

It was ignored. But now it can’t be.

I am not yet one of those who’re stockpiling my Marmite and preparing for Armageddon. I will wait to see how Tony Abbot handles Australia’s future. But right now I’m apprehensive.

Why? Because Abbot makes young women like me feel patronised.

On the campaign trail, what was his reason why people should vote for female Liberal MP Fiona Scott? Because she had sex appeal.

When a woman is running for MP she wants to be sold on her abilities not her arse.

Selling her sexiness makes teenage girls like myself feel that our bodies are all that matters. Now that’s doing wonders for our self-confidence issues. But more than that, it just dismisses the importance of female intelligence and achievement.

This makes girls like me, who want powerful jobs, feel disillusioned and frustrated. It also makes us feel like all the effort we put into education was pointless. We’re never going to be taken seriously. We’re eye candy not equals. So why bother?

I wouldn’t mind so much if there was no history of this.

But the new PM is the guy who responded to the issue of female under-representation in power with “isn’t there an assumption that’s a bad thing?”

And of course there is the roll call of comments about abortion, housewives, and becoming an honest woman.

It’s not just Tony Abbot. Australia’s comments over the last year don’t exactly inspire female confidence.

When we had Gillard, radio hosts thought it was ok to say that her father died of shame. She was mocked on a menu. She was called a witch. She had her face pasted onto porn images and chain emailed. She was asked if her husband was gay. She was called “barren.”

When the last time was someone called a male PM “barren” for not having kids?

And the responses to the Fiona Scott scandal were just as outrageous. Australia’s ex PM John Howard told women not to be offended and to “get a life.” Male letters to the editor told girls not to be PC and make a fuss.

I loved the letter in The Australian that was confused as to why it was insulting to talk about a female MP’s sex appeal.

“Don’t women want to be called sexy?” it cried.

Yes we do. But not when we are trying for a job. Then we want to be evaluated on our intelligence and diligence.

Right now young Ozzie girls feel that they aren’t being taken seriously.

The worry is that Abbott isn’t going to help this. Whether they have meant to or not, he and large part of Australia have given girls the impression that our societal contribution is in our cleavage.

Is this how Australia wants young women to grow up?

I’m 19. People my age should think that anything is possible. Instead my girlfriends feel that becoming PM is as a popular career ambition as becoming the Pope.

Personally I’d rather be Pope. At least then the boss wouldn’t ask me to pick up his pencils.

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