Third Age: Asking for Trouble

Shirley Stott Despoja looks at the power behind ‘asking for trouble’ in the workplace.

There are many ways of asking for trouble. It is pointless to ask for trouble unless you are making a really good point. I think my best was way back in the mists of time (which to me was yesterday) when a popinjay editor called me into his big o ffice, got out of his big empowering chair and loomed over me seated uncomfortably in the visitor’s chair. He said, when I had countered all his arguments about why I should write something his way (that smacking was quite good for children), “You should know your place.” I ducked under his arm and sat in his big chair. Didn’t stay long, of course, just made a point in a way I was fairly sure he wouldn’t brag about to his mates. The incomparable Dawn Rowan, at that time leading the push against male supremacy in Adelaide, had shown me the way, by, at first meeting in my o ffice, helping herself to my chair. She had charm; a wonderful way of lulling idiots already dulled by their executive boardroom lunches into feeling she was a nice girl before suddenly stripping away their illusions and showing she was smarter, sharper and, more to the point, right. In those days we talked about challenging male supremacy. Today it is rendered nicely to gender inequity. I am afraid I am an unreconstructed feminist of my times. I can’t see the point in pussyfooting around. I think we should chuck out the non-achieving, blustering, self-serving male politicians who are taking up women’s space. When I think about Jamie Briggs, Mal Brough and Peter Slipper, to name but a few, I think of the good women who didn’t make it to pre-selection because of them. Both Dawn and I came to sticky ends, of course. Both subject to threats of male violence. What’s that you say? We “asked for trouble”? Nothing changes without trouble. More people should ask for it. For every David Morrison there are thousands of Tony Abbotts whose sexism he hardly bothered to disguise. They have power and support and nothing much is likely to change without a lot of trouble. If Julia Gillard had called him out with a misogyny speech a lot earlier, would she have had a firmer grasp on power? But Julia was not exactly feminist trouble before that moment, was she? Privately perhaps. But asking for trouble isn’t a private thing. Dawn invented the expression LAM (looking after men) to describe women who think they will achieve gender equity by doormatting. Once you got her drift you saw it everywhere. We still see it. Women excusing men for everything from murdering their children to dominating conversations. LAM women got ahead by tricks that let men think they were under no threat. They succeeded – for a while: until the pet became a threat (my contribution); then the brotherhood closed ranks. How else do you explain the predominance of men at the top while women still cluster in the ranks below? Our fertility is controlled. Our love of housework and arranging flowers ditched. Our education opportunities much improved, though hideously expensive. What is holding us back? The brotherhood of men, the LAMMING of women. Who just can’t cope with the idea of a woman in the big chair… yet. I am not going to stop here, as I am expected to, and give honourable mentions of exceptional men who show no signs of sexism. That is LAM. It gets us nowhere. Why should men be praised for doing the logical, bene ficial thing? Women never are. Think I am harsh? When did you hear men expose the ridiculous argument that quotas are wrong because women must make it on “merit” – and keep on about it until the argument was won? Feminist men don’t ask for trouble often enough. Should we expect women who make it to the top to make gender equity their uncompromising cause? Yes. Do they? No. A few. Not all of them. They don’t ask for trouble. So another generation of women is wasted because quotas are not used to overcome just a few of the historic and disguised and devastating inequities women suffer and which diminish our nation. And by the way, would someone please make Philosophy 1 and Logic compulsory? I’m going to have to leave Facebook and Twitter unless idiotic ad hominem arguments stop gumming up the works in decent discussions. Know what I mean? Sigh. ****** More than a third of aged pensioners live in poverty in our nation, which, for all its faults, was built and made wealthy by the labour of these pensioners in their heyday. is puts us among the worst in the OECD countries at providing financial security for the old. What a bloody disgrace. Whatever superannuation schemes are being cooked up, ever so slowly, these people need help now. If the government doesn’t show it is moving on this, let it know it is asking for trouble.

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.