Tony Abbott: Foot in the mouth

Sudha Menon (Person of the Week)
Filed on December 27, 2014

Tony Abbot is not the most popular man in Australia just now. Certainly not with the ladies. A series of gaffes and insensitive remarks about women have left the ladies in the country fuming and sent the Australian prime ministerís popularity ratings plummeting. We are sure no sensible man in the country would willingly step into the manís shoes just now

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.” Tony Abbot made this infamous comment in February 2010 and one would have thought that the backlash and the hoots of laughter that the comment evoked at that point would have taught him to be more careful in future.

Tony Abbott: Foot in the mouth (/assets/oldimages/tony_1226.jpg)

Nor sir! Earlier this week, Abbot, who was elected prime minister of Australia in 2013, followed up on the ironing comment by announcing that his biggest achievement for women has been reducing household bills by doing away with a carbon tax that burdened households. “As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means an Aus $550 a year benefit for the average family.” Eliminating the tax would help women by considerably decreasing the power bill incurred during ironing clothes, Abbot said.

As was expected, the prime minister’s comments were met with howls of disbelief and hoots of laughter from both his female colleagues in the opposition and from women across Australia who took to social networks to ridicule the man for his ill-advised pearls of wisdom.

“Was planning to write paper for Astrophysical Journal today but too distracted by household budget,” scientist Lisa Harvey-Smith tweeted as Abbot’s comments dominated television news telecasts through the day. Another woman, Willa McDonald, was more direct in her reaction: “I know where I’d like to put my ironing board,” she tweeted.

As the comments of outrage poured in, Abbot found himself isolated in the political circles too. Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “The problem isn’t that Tony Abbott’s stuck in the past, it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company in a world where men do the big jobs and women do the ironing. Another Labor leader, the head of the party in senate, Penny Wong expressed her disgust saying: “I think we can safely say that time and time again, over and over again, Tony Abbott just reminds us how out of touch he is with the lives of women in modern Australia.”

This is not the first and we are sure it is certainly not the last time that Abbot will get himself into trouble with women, over his comments on women. When it comes to gender issues, the man looks like he has a severe case of foot in the mouth disease. How else would you explain his utterances about women, over the years?

In August last year Abbot got brickbats aplenty when he made a sexist remark while responding to a media query about the similarities between member of parliament Fiona Scott and her predecessor Jackie Kelly.

“They’re young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they’re just very connected with the local area,” he said, without the slightest inkling that he was walking into a landmine.

To be fair to him, one must say that he has been a staunch believer in the superiority of men theory for a long time now. Take a look at his thoughts about women, way back in the seventies when he was a student: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons,” he had written then.

As we can see, nothing much has changed in his thoughts since then.

To be fair to him again, we have to admit that he thinks the same about women everywhere, including his own home. Here is his biggest advice to his own daughters. “Virginity is the greatest gift you can give someone.” This particular gem came in 2010 when he said that would be his advice to his daughters on the subject of sex before marriage!

We are sure a lot of women in the country will want the man to create a new post in his cabinet: Minister for gender sensitisation, with special charge of training the prime minister.

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