The backlash Scott Morrison deserves
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a fan of a catchphrase and memorable slogan. This is the PM who's embraced the name "ScoMo" after all.
But on Tuesday, despite being so clever with words, he managed to say something not only ridiculous but also downright dangerous.
When talking about Monday's revelations from news.com.au that Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped by a fellow Liberal staffer in Parliament House, Mr Morrison said that speaking to his wife Jenny had helped him "clarify" things.
"Jenny and I spoke last night, and she said to me, 'You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?'" said Mr Morrison.
"Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so as I've reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say."
Those five words "as a father" and "our girls" made me so angry.
All women matter, no matter who they are. Why do we have to keep having this conversation?
The language around "father first" and "our girls" is dangerous because it insinuates that females are only worthy if they are special to a male in some way. Is my only worth being attached to a man, am I not worthy of respect in my own right?
Do men really have to think of a woman as someone's daughter before they know it's unacceptable to sexually assault them?
It also begs the question: What had our Prime Minister's view on an alleged rape at Parliament House been before his wife Jenny explained it?
Surely our PM's view should be that all women should feel safe from predators in their workplace, no matter if they are someone's beloved daughter or not.
It feels as archaic as some of the other language trotted out around female sexual assault such as "what were you wearing?" and "how much had you had to drink?"
It detracts from the major issue that almost two million Australian adults have experienced at least one sexual assault.
The backlash against Mr Morrison was swift, with #ScottyTheMysoginist trending on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon with him being called out as "part of the problem".
To Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and any other man who needs to hear this: if you have to contextualize sexual violence against women by imagining it happening to your wife, daughter, etc. in order to appropriately act, you are very much part of the problem.#auspol pic.twitter.com/8TAmds9xeq— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 16, 2021
The satirical news website The Betoota Advocate posted some hilarious ideas on what else ScoMo could backflip on after a "chat" with Jenny.
It's a backlash I think Mr Morrison deserved.
But there's a wider issue here. Why did he choose to use that particular language? Was he trying to make the announcement of an investigation into the alleged rape more palatable to loyal male Liberal voters? If so, why does he think men can only condemn rape if it's put in such simplistic terms?
Surely in 2021 we're way past justifying why rape is unacceptable and have moved onto the "how can we stop men raping women?" (97 per cent of reported rapes in Australia are by men and 82 per cent of assault victims are female.)
If Mr Morrison has to think of his daughters in order to condemn rape then what message does that tell people? The case of Brittany Higgins should matter to people before they think of her as someone's daughter, it should matter because she was allegedly raped and she's a human being.
Mr Morrison saying "as a father" is a foolish way to communicate such an important issue to Australia, and it does nothing for women - we should care about all women whoever they are.
Saying that, maybe someone should tell Jenny about the two little Sri Lankan girls being kept on Christmas Island, then Mr Morrison might care about them too.
Riah Matthews is the commissioning editor for news.com.au. Have your say below
Originally published as The backlash Scott Morrison deserves