Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Suggested reading

Later edit: I did not make it clear that this was a newspaper article published in The Age newspaper. 

We will have a new Governor General soon, one Samantha Mostyn. She  seems eminently qualified for the position. In Australia our King has State Governors to represent him and his representative for the whole of Australia is the Governor General. 

Practically, the Governor General is a public speaker and a ribbon cutter but that is I am sure doing them a disservice to describe their job as such. They also sign off on legislation presented to them by governments. The job comes with a couple of very nice houses. Of course the job is not always just ceremonial, as we discovered in 1975 when via the Governor General, Her Majesty The Queen sacked our Prime Minister and his government.

Anyway, the knives came out for the new Governor General once her selection was announced and I rather liked this read. NB, our so called Liberal Party is our conservative right wing party, like the Republican and the Tory parties. AFL is Australian (rules) Football League. I hope you can read it as it goes deep into the heart of sexism and misogyny. 

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/the-sick-joke-that-insults-our-new-gg-and-beyonce-20240404-p5fhhp.html

So I discovered a new word this week. While obsessively playing Beyonce’s stupendous new album, Cowboy Carter, in every room of the house, and on every street I walked down, I was trying to think of how best to describe her ferocity and strength, her sexuality and power as a singer, mother, lover.

Virility kept coming to mind, so I hopped online to check if it only refers to manhood or masculinity. And it does. But it turns out there is a female counterpart – muliebrity – meaning the state of being a woman. It often means softness, but surely, when applied to the Queen Bee, something immensely potent too.

A word we seem to have found little use for.

Beyonce is a woman of meteoric achievement who has soared and been savaged, and in experiencing the cycle repeatedly, as so many public figures do, she has railed against bile and pessimism, saying “with a lot of success, comes a lot of negativity”.

She’s right. I’m growing increasingly intolerant of pervasive negativity, of nasty, often partisan criticism, of seeing the worst in people and gracelessness in public life – it’s exhausting and depressing and just turns people off the news, and politics – and this week set me off again.

Because, within just hours of this week’s announcement that the businesswoman, board member and former AFL boss Sam Mostyn would be our next governor-general, the snark and criticism began, with headlines and commentary declaring: “Cushy job for the wokest of women”, “the most political pick for GG in a long time” and “How can a second-tier warrior of the new Left be a neutral umpire?”

Where was the respect? She hasn’t even started yet. How does anyone benefit from immediately ripping down an experienced leader, respected across major parties, whose future role is largely symbolic and ceremonial, but contains the potential to fill a vacuum left by bickering politicians?

Mostyn will be the second woman to occupy this position, after Dame Quentin Bryce (from 2008 to 2014), but the only people really focusing on this fact were those arguing that this somehow insulted men. And, weirdly, women.

In The Australian, one commentator wrote: “I guess some women will be celebrating Sam Mostyn’s appointment as governor-general as a clenched-fist moment of empowerment. Just quietly, women of that ilk will also be celebrating that someone called Samuel Mostyn would not have had a snowball’s chance in hell of even being short-listed.” I didn’t see any clenched fists, did you? The writer continued: “Mostyn’s appointment is the crowning achievement for one of the country’s most outspoken quota queens.”

Whaaaat? So, if you, as a woman, lament gender inequality, and you get appointed to a high position, it’s because the world has suddenly, despite all evidence to the contrary, tipped the other way? After a century of rule by Samuels, they’re suddenly locked out?

Australia has had 27 governors-general. And, aside from Bryce, an academic, those 26 have been aristocrats, governors, politicians of all stripes, soldiers, judges, army officers, a prince, a former premier, military commanders and major-generals, legal scholars, an archbishop. Notice anything in that line up? A certain … in fact, literal … uniformity?

Mostyn was president of Chief Executive Women, worked for Labor in the 1990s, and the boards she has sat on include Virgin Australia, the Sydney Swans (she was the first female AFL commissioner), Mirvac, Transurban, the Climate Council and GO Foundation. She has exerted a quiet, broad influence. In her words, she has worked in “sport, civil society, arts and culture, First Nations reconciliation, sustainability in the environment, policy development, mental health, gender equality and young people”.

The idea that an appointee needs to demonstrate an absence of views, have no party background, no political experience, is a fiction. Male political leaders, premiers and opposition leaders have filled the position of GG without protest. Liberal MP Eric Abetz encouraged Mostyn, in shedding her “activism”, to emulate former governor-general Bill Hayden, an actual Labor leader.

Do we see men as political operatives and women as political activists?

At a time when the Liberal Party has been haemorrhaging female voters and losing seats to teal Independents, it’s fascinating to watch conservatives argue that the very words diversity, inclusivity and equality are somehow divisive, ignoring that they are values pursued by the majority of the corporate sector. Indeed, these values are not partisan but are held by a broad range of people without controversy or, in most circles, comment.

The idea that any woman who believes in gender equality, as well as diversity, is somehow a left-wing lunatic is a joke. A quick reminder of the likes of former Liberal PM Robert Menzies, who said: “In the long run, won’t our community be a stronger, better-balanced and more intelligent community when the last artificial disabilities imposed upon women by centuries of custom have been removed?”

Are the only skills we want in our governors-general military, legal, political and theological? Or do other skills matter too? Attributes Mostyn has been criticised for lacking – not being a “business heavyweight … [with, as] far as one can tell ... no track record running an actual business or taking P&L responsibility” – would disqualify most of the GGs in history.

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It is not as though Mostyn has engaged in corrupt conduct, in any kind of scandalous behaviour or made offensive remarks? How high we set the bar for women. How stubbornly we continue to portray them as interlopers into male worlds.

There is today a nastiness to much commentary that is counterproductive and only discourages decent people from agreeing to take on public positions, as the onslaught can begin early and become deafening, relentless.

We have witnessed the same thing being done to Australians of the Year. Look at how former army chief David Morrison, a good man with a long, distinguished career of service, was vilified as “woke” when he was selected because he became a diversity adviser after leaving the army, where he had been a powerful advocate of women in his ranks. Think of Grace Tame, a survivor of child sexual abuse and powerful foe of paedophiles, who was relentlessly pulled into culture war debates, against her will.

An extremely unpleasant experience, at best, for both of them.

Again, who profits from caricaturing these people and shutting them down? It’s patently obvious that we are crying out for some decency, some compassionate, even uplifting leadership. Former High Court judge William Deane had been on the executive of the Democratic Labor Party in the 1950s, and as governor-general from 1996-2001, as John Howard put it, “displayed an unfailing interest in the place of the disadvantaged within Australian society”. He also unified the country by the compassion he showed to those suffering after the Port Arthur massacre, the Thredbo landslide and a backpacking fire. He was loved for being human, for showing care.

And he was shown respect.

I couldn’t care less if I disagree with someone politically as long as they are a person of character, integrity and kindness.

New research by Sarah Cameron and Ian McAllister on the decline of the popularity of political leaders, published in the Electoral Studies journal, found that, over time, a perception of personal integrity has become crucial. They write: “We find that leader integrity is the main trait that influences leader popularity and the results indicate that its effect is increasing over time.” One possible explanation was: “in an era of declining public trust in politics and rising populist sentiments among the mass public, voters may be looking to their political leaders to arrest this decline. In short, voters may be seeking qualities in their leaders that they do not find in the political system as a whole.”

Mostyn was a frequent guest on the ABC’s former week night panel show The Drum, which I hosted for years, and was unerringly professional, reasonable, articulate and non-combative. She seemed able to unite, to enter any conversation and somehow bring people to a point of agreement. But what struck me most of all about her appearances was how unusually the younger women in the office responded to her when she came on. One of them said to me one night: “That is exactly the kind of woman I would like to be when I am older.” Others nodded in agreement. They shrugged when I asked why, as though it was obvious. She has an air of cool competence, obvious intelligence, equanimity, cheer and co-operation that lit them up.

Most of the young people I know would struggle to name any governor-general. So isn’t that a good quality to have in one: someone who inspires?

It’s a rarity not just in public life, but anywhere.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese congratulates Sam Mostyn.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announces Sam Mostyn as governor-general.



35 comments:

  1. Sigh. A fine article which I hadn't seen. Thank you. And sadly, and in my opinion totally irrelevantly, she will also be judged by the way she dresses.

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    1. EC, I would like our GG to dress appropriately for the office, whether it is a she or he, it doesn't matter. I can't remember any female Governor or GG Bryce being criticised for their dress, and I hope it will be the same for Mostyn.

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  2. Thank you for the article. It makes for a depressing read as it is oh so painfully true. Things haven't really changed that much in my lifetime, despite the lip service paid by the top of the heap.

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    1. JayCee, that someone has written this and I've republished it indicates to me that things have changed. So many social attitudes have changed in my lifetime, and some people now just keep their gobs shut.

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  3. Stalker
    Andrew
    BeyoncĂ© ‘Texas takem’ is sch a cool song, lots of videos on you tube with her singing and people dancing to it
    One of my hobbies is reading newspapers of various persuasions and contributing comments to both The Age and The Australian.
    A friend directed me to Daily Mail and its article on the death of the Iranian president.
    The comments were fascinating and intriguing , I have never seen such responses to the death of a person before I have to admit I laughed at quite a few of them . I wonder if it is trend that is emerging . I cannot put a label on these responses but perhaps an appropriate word would be deflection .
    If I was still teaching I would use the article and comments to encourage students to discuss what their take on it
    Journalism has always fascinated me. I remember the days when my dad had The Bulletin delivered , it was published in pink. They had some fine writers of all persuasions .
    There are some free great online publications as well. New Lines and NPR are two I subscribe to


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    1. You'd think we'd past such sexism by 2024, but I guess not.

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    2. I'll watch the clip Stalker. Comments on media articles are always interesting to read but I only have so much time in the day. The Australian used to be a great newspaper, with various views. It turned into a newspaper that I no longer liked to read. I hope current teachers are doing exactly as you describe. Young men really need educating, and young women need to have confidence boosting.
      Again, I know there are other great news sites available, but as above, there are only so many hours in the day.

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  4. I heard recently (and agree) that fake outrage over anything is big business.
    It's a disgrace what's happening to her.
    But *sigh* all too common.
    Great article.
    XO
    WWW.

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    1. WWW, I was surprised at the tabloid style response to her appointment. Without doubt, she will go on to be one of our respected Governor Generals, as most have been. Most.

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  5. She doesn't look like a Governor General to me Andrew.
    Beyonce, heard of her but probably to your surprise I never bothered listening to her singing.

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    1. Margaret, we will wait and see, but we don't normally see much about our Governor General. I know nothing of Beyonce.

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  6. I am amazed by the fact that you could write so much about her. To me, it is a pretty waste of her talents in the position of government general. From freezing NZ

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    1. Sorry Roentare, I didn't make it clear that it was a newspaper article. I have edited it now. It is not warm and sunny here either.

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  7. Political subjects make my mind numb and I'm not kidding! I scrolled through this and read the words but couldn't tell you what was said or what it meant. I did understand we are getting a new Governor General and it's a woman. Fine with me. I'm not joining all those "paid to bicker" people who begin the slandering almost before something happens. In my opinion, if Sam is the best person for the job, then let her do it, and I hope she does well.

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    1. River, you've boiled it down to something simple and that is a good thing. I am sure Sam will do well.

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  8. It is depressing how we knock people down just because they've succeeded, and more so if they're female. It seems that everywhere is a mess at present.

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    1. Yes JB, the glass ceiling is full of jagged edges.

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  9. Well I have learnt a new word today - muliebrity. Thanks!

    As for Samantha Mostyn, I wish her the best of luck in her new role. An intelligent woman with a keen sense of right and wrong - why can't the naysayers simply pause for a moment and praise her appointment?

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    1. Did I misspell a word YP? It is hard to understand the criticism of her appointment, signed off by your and my King.

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    2. No you did not misspell a word Andrew. You are a smart lad.

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  10. We have had 5 female governors-general out of 30. The last 2 have been women so hopefully times are changing.

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    1. Pat, that's impressive and much better than us. We do have better figures with State Governors.

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  11. Voters may be looking for qualities in their leaders that they......here I divert to my own words, --do not posses themselves. There are no angels among us. None.

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    1. Quite possibly true, Strayer. You are not an angel?

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  12. Mostyn is a place and a historic one in north wales !!!!

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  13. "Muliebrity" is awkward to say which is probably why it doesn't get used. I've never heard of it.

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    1. River, it certainly looks hard to say. I am not going to try. I've never heard of it either.

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  14. Well-written and well-said, Andrew. And I love the new word you introduced me too: muliebrity. Sandra sandracox.blogspot.com

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    1. Sandra, will we see 'another word for muliebrity"?

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  15. I am not at all sure that snarky sexist comments turn people off. Even conservative politicians realise that the majority of readers/viewers have to find their nastiest comments appealing.

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  16. Hels, I'd like to think that wasn't the case but yes....

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  17. The world seems to hate women, in general. And what the hell is wrong with being woke? Doesn't woke mean being sensitive to injustice? When did that become a bad thing?

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    1. I really don't know why Pixie. Why do those in power and some men feel like that? As for woke, I guess I am and proud of it. I don't take recognising the wrongs committed by my ancestors as being a bad thing. Even the wrongs being committed now.

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Words #397

I pronounce words so differently to many people in Australia. I don't know why. It is just how I speak. Here are some  examples. Integra...