The Labor party gynocrats currently playing the Misogyny Monologues in Canberra to an admiring media audience both locally and globally are a political extension of the self-referential and self-regarding feminism that gave us such unwatchable drama as Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. The Misogyny Monologues assumes, in the manner of such solipsism, that only a single correct position prevails on questions that affect soi disant women’s issues.
From this Labor feminist perspective, any plausible or, at least, debatable alternative that conflicts with official orthodoxy must be silenced. To enforce the orthodoxy, Labor’s thought police engage in a practice of labelling those who hold alternative viewpoints pejoratively. Not surprisingly, this tactic gives Australian political debate an increasingly Orwellian feel.
Indeed, when Macquarie Dictionary editor Sue Butler feels constrained, after Gillard’s diatribe, to change the dictionary’s misogyny entry from ‘hatred of women’ to an ‘entrenched prejudice against women’, we realise we are entering the realm of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Newspeak.
Unlike the Macquarie, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary definition of misogyny shows that the word compounds a Greek past participle and a collective noun: misos (hatred) and gyne (women). To redefine the first term as ‘prejudice’ and not hatred both distorts and stretches the concept. In the words of Syme, who worked in Oceania’s Ministry of Truth on the 11th edition of the Newspeak Dictionary: ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’
Nor does the editor’s subsequent comment that ‘the entry [for misogyny] now has two definitions’ solve the problem of imprecision. As Alice observed in Through the Looking-Glass, ‘the question is whether you can make words mean different things’. Ms Butler and her Australian Labor sisterhood seem to reply, in the manner of Humpty Dumpty, ‘The question is, who is to be master. That is all.’
In the curious looking-glass world of Australian Labor, the Macquarie Dictionary’s redefinition of the term now fits ruling orthodoxy. ‘Political chaos,’ as Orwell observed in his 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English language’, ‘is connected with the decay of language.’ As a consequence of this negative political labelling, it is now impossible to offer even mild scepticism on a range of otherwise debatable policy positions. These range from a woman’s right to choose, late-term abortion, gay marriage, maternity leave and female priests and bishops. As a consequence, Tony Abbott is guilty of ‘hypocrisy’ for daring to raise the question of former Speaker Slipper’s attitude to women as the Prime Minister is daily offended by ‘the leader of the opposition’s sexism and misogyny’.
This is not to say that the Labor and feminist position on these issues is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is that any male or female who might query that position is ipso facto declared misogynist and excluded from debate. ‘Misogyny’ thus functions like other politically correct terms ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘imperialist’, ‘colonialist’, ‘fascist’ to silence alternative positions and ultimately halt debate.
That this is about thought control and power becomes evident when the self-declared defenders of women’s rights address what by any liberal, secular and even, one might hope, socialist standard is real misogyny. Where, we might wonder, were Tanya, Julia, Jenny and Nicola when the Taleban gunned down a defenceless 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, who committed the offence, in Islamist eyes, of welcoming a secular education and promoting girls’ education and women’s rights? The Taleban attempted to execute her for ‘Western thinking’.
What have the Labor feminists to say about the practice of forced or arranged marriages of underage girls among minority communities in Australia, which leads to cases like the rape and murder of Sargun Ragi? What are the views of Labor’s gynocracy on the male imamate’s patriarchal imposition of the veil on teenage Muslim girls in western Sydney?
What, one wonders, could be more misogynistic than the practice among some Australian Muslim communities of female circumcision? At least Eve Ensler had the integrity to add a Muslim woman’s viewpoint, ‘Under the Burqa’, to a revised version of her Vagina Monologues.
On these women’s issues, however, we find Labor feminists notably silent. Why should this be? In the leftist feminism that increasingly passes for Labor policy, the neglect of these misogynistic practices demonstrates neither cowardice nor indifference.
Rather it demonstrates multicultural sensitivity, deep cultural awareness and empathy with the non-Western other. Such renaming is not so much a convenient double standard as the classic practice of doublethink. It requires the orthodox to exercise a control over mental processes as complete as a contortionist over her body.
As Orwell explains, ‘doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’ Like the inner party intellectual, the Labor feminist knows in which direction memories must be altered and therefore knows how to play tricks with current political reality, but by the exercise of doublethink she also satisfies herself that reality is not violated.
Doublethink over the treatment of women and multiculturalism as well as on a range of economic political and environmental issues now lies at the very heart of AusSoc. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, ‘the essential act of the party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty’. Its increasingly crude attempts to silence criticism that might expose its contradictions merely keeps ‘the lie one leap ahead of the truth’.
The feminist groupthink that flourishes on the wilder shores of academe has now become integral to Labor thought and practice. The growing thought control that pervades Australian political debate progressively corrupts language as official language corrupts thought. Words used in such a consciously dishonest way create a gap between real and declared political aims. As Orwell noted in 1946, politics thus becomes ‘a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia’. Ultimately, what the current misogyny monologue reveals is not Abbott’s but Labor’s rank hypocrisy.
David Martin Jones is a Brisbane-based academic and writer.