MyEnvironment Inc / Opinion / Feminism Can Wait

Feminism Can Wait

Wendy Harmer, The Hoopla, June 2, 2013

Is Tony Abbott a misogynist, garden-variety sexist or just a macho bloke with a clunky turn of phrase?

Is Julia Gillard a true feminist warrior or cynically playing the gender card? Is she a closet Queen Bee?

To me the bigger question is, are our leaders greenies?

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Wendy Harmer, The Hoopla, June 2, 2013

Is Tony Abbott a misogynist, garden-variety sexist or just a macho bloke with a clunky turn of phrase?

Is Julia Gillard a true feminist warrior or cynically playing the gender card? Is she a closet Queen Bee?

To me the bigger question is, are our leaders greenies?

When UK writer Cailtlin Moran wrote: “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad.” I immediately thought: We need to reclaim the word “greenie”. We need it back. Even badder.

Looney, hating, self-loathing, ugly, smelly, selfish hypocrites – the badges “greenie” and “femmo” aren’t much fun to wear. Add to that “gay”, “disability”, “indigenous rights”, “refugees” and right there you’ve got an entire lapel of ridicule.

In fact it’s whole stinking t-shirt of  “bleeding heart leftie”.

Who would be silly enough to argue that one cause trumps another? One Ring to Rule Them All…Except…

I was in conversation the other night with my old friend Bob Brown, who is just back from campaigning for the people of Sarawak where a proposed complex of hydro-electric dams will see some 20,000 people flooded and, as he says, “a living culture is facing death.”

How does Bob order his priorities? He’s gay. Why isn’t he pictured, chalk in hand, on rainbow crossings?

I heard he was once asked whether he was more “green” than “pink”?

So I put it to him…and he paused.

It’s almost 40 years since the Launceston Examiner announced: “Doctor Says He’s Gay”. Bob well remembers the blokes down the street who wanted to punch him. The hate mail, death threats and the rest. He and his partner, Paul Thomas have lived with it for years.

“Hmmm, more green than pink?” he pondered. “I can’t remember being asked in quite that way, but I would have answered ‘yes’, I’m sure.

“There was so much to do on gay rights then, but if I’d diverted my energies away from the Franklin …well, I reckon there’d be a dam there now. I came out as gay a long time ago, and that’s my testimony. I live it. It’s there for all to see. There were just bigger things I had to do.”

How to choose one “worthy” cause over another? It seems an impossible ask.

Bob said: “I remember in that during that Franklin campaign we used to sit under signs that read: ‘No jobs on a dead planet’. Today I’d add to that: ‘There are no equal rights on a dead planet’.”

Is he seriously saying that gender equality can wait? Take a number and sit behind a koala?

Of course you can be all shades of everything, all at once. But, like Bob, I’m more green than …erm… whatever colour femmo is. I believe the answer to the future lies in women having leadership roles in society – business, agriculture, health, our parliaments and the law – but this change is slow, generational.

Meanwhile, the state of the Australian environment has never been more parlous.

The 2013 Federal Budget cut $350 million from Australian Landcare and biodiversity programs; the Barrier Reef is facing unprecedented threat from mining interests abetted by the ALP and a future coalition government will further remove “green tape” from development proposals across the land for the benefit of Rinehart and Co; Queensland’s Campbell Newman has given permission for land clearing across 2 million hectares that amounts to “the greatest rollback of environmental protection in Australian political history. Now it is open slather” (And that even made The Australian.)

NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell has strangled funding for the Environmental Defender’s Office – the one last bulwark for communities standing up against Coal Seam Gas – and the Victorian Government has marched its State emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum, off to the gallows of extinction.

That bloody possum! 

I’ve been aware of  the tiny “fairy possum” since I joined my first green group “Save the Otway Ranges” as a young radical four decades ago. It was environmentalism that attracted me most of all the “isms”. All these years later, it still does.

Now the possum’s almost deadibones. I’ve been an abject failure, you could argue.

I have confidence that since we’re the majority of the population, women will prevail in the quest for equality. Likewise for the gay community – same sex marriage will surely happen.

But I’m frightened for the possum.

I recall that on Bob Brown’s lapel – potentially the size of a planet - he wears a single pin fashioned in the shape of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

His focus has always been on the survival of this one magnificent creature and from that, all things flow. I admire him for picking his battle. He’s always inspired me to do the same.

So, forgive me if I do not give a brush-tailed bettong’s bum about whether Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, wants to lean ”in”, “out” or, in fact, disappear up her own fundamental.

I remain on Team Marsupial.

Caitlin Moran also gave us this little exercise: “here is a quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.”

a) Do you have a vagina? and

b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

Then congratulations, you’re a feminist.

I thought: Here is a quick way of working out if you’re an environmentalist. Breathe in and breathe out.

a) Do you have a set of lungs and a stomach? and

b) Do you want to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat uncontaminated food? And

c) Would you like to share the world with a very small possum? A “fairy” possum?

If you said ‘yes’ to all that then, congratulations, you’re a greenie too!

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