Margie Abbott spoke out against allegations that her husband doesn’t understand women, and doesn’t like dealing with powerful women. The couple appeared on breakfast TV on Friday, with Margie claiming her husband is a “softie” who gets women.
It’s not a surprising tactic for the coalition to use the lady who knows the Opposition Leader best to try and quell these claims that Abbott doesn’t deal well with women. But having her sprout what a wonderful husband Tony is while he sits beside her barely able to contain his glee doesn’t sit well with me. For one, it didn’t feel natural. It comes across as completely orchestrated. I could almost see Tony coaching Margie while she brushes her teeth: “Remember to say that I love Downton Abbey!”
But it’s not really fair to say it was a ridiculous move. After all, many politicians’ “better halves” have spoken out publicly: Terese Rein and Tim Mathesion have both defended their spouses in recent times. And in the US, Michelle Obama addressed the the Democratic Convention just last month.
So to be fair, good on Margie for speaking her mind and defending her husband. But will it ensure the campaign depicting Abbott as a woman-hater ends?
According to Abbott if the campaign doesn’t end, then the Margie campaign will continue. He said, “Certainly if the Labor Party persist with this idea that there’s some sort of problem with women then Margie will be there correcting the record again.”
But, ultimately it’s probably his own comments that have got women worried.
Back in the days of John Howard as PM, and before gender played such a big part in Australian politics, Tony Abbott, as the Health Minister, made the following comments:
“Why isn’t the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community?” (March 2004)
“We have a bizarre double standard, a bizarre double standard in this country where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder but a woman who aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice.” (February 2006)
And it was in his own book, Battlelines, that Abbott proposed that consideration should be given to a return to an optional at-fault divorce agreement. Meaning, couples who opt for the agreement would need to prove offences like adultery, habitual drunkenness, cruelty, desertion, or a five-year separation before a divorce would be granted. According to Abbott, this would be a way of “providing additional recognition to what might be thought of as traditional marriage”.
You can correctly assume that Mr Abbott believes marriage is between a man and a woman.
But, it is these types of comments that have worried women. It’s raised concerns that Tony Abbott would prefer for women not to have some rights over her own body and the choices in her life. These comments don’t take into the consideration some women could be forced into these situations rather than opting in.
But it’s interesting that, for the majority, the media focuses so intensely on Abbott’s relationship with female voters, and largely leaves Gillard’s relationship with men alone. It seems that Abbott’s relationship with women is a better story than Gillard’s relationship with men. Perhaps it’s easier to paint Abbott as a sexist than to claim the first Australian PM doesn’t understand a large proportion of her electorate?
A recent Newspoll revealed the following:
- 59 per cent of female voters are dissatisfied with Abbott’s performance
- 57 per cent of male voters are dissatisfied with Abbott’s performance; and
- 62 per cent of male voters are dissatisfied with Gillard’s performance
- 55 per cent of female voters are dissatisfied with Gillard’s performance.
Yet, it’s Abbott that has the alleged problem with the opposite gender.
So while the public display of Abbott as the Champion for Women disgusts me, this whole gendered battle is bordering on the ridiculous. The more important story should be that the majority of voters (both female and male) are dissatisfied with both the performance of the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister. Leadership coup anyone?