The Ugly Subtext: Abbott’s Political Edition

EDIT: This is a follow up to my earlier post, The Ugly Subtext, which, for want of a better term, is the beginning of an ongoing series of posts I plan to write that focus on the way our culture often takes an anti-intellectual approach to educated or intelligent individuals and their achievements.

 

First, look at the photo accompanying this article http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-14/tony-abbott-daughter-bridget-longman-wyatt-roy/4886938

It seems harmless enough, right?

Now consider this, Tony Abbott is a candidate with a perceived problem with women, and he has recently reignited the debate with his ‘sex appeal’ comments. He political career is littered with comments about women and women’s role in society that has been described as out of touch, sexist, misogynistic, and sometimes just creepy.

Consider also that Abbott’s public appearances have been criticsed for being overly staged and micro-managed, or entirely non-existent (such as his long running absence from Q&A or his tendency to walk away from press conferences when confronted with questions he doesn’t want to answer).

Finally, look at the photo again and then tell me the different messages being sent out by the attire of Abbott and Wyatt Roy, and of Abbott’s daughter.

Why, in the wake of the sex-appeal comments, is Abbott’s daughter wearing a skin-tight dress and cardigan that leaves little-to-nothing of her physical form to the imagination? If we are to assume that Bridget dressed herself that morning in her personal attire, surely someone in the campaign team would have had the sense to say “Maybe we want to play up the ‘young professional’ look around your father for the next few days” – after all, she’s 20 years old and studying Radiology, a course with an average ATAR requirement in the mid 90’s, so it’s not like she doesn’t have some academic cred to justify such an image alongside her gaffe-prone father.

Instead, the campaign managers, and Abbott himself, said “no, the skin tight young-person look is JUST what we need” – keep in mind that Wyatt Roy is only a couple of years older than Bridget, and he’s desperately going for the “I dress like my daddy” look – or worse, someone in the campaign actually suggested or chose that outfit for Bridget to wear in a staged public appearance alongside her father!

The ugly subtext here is that Abbott, who has three fairly accomplished daughters, is happy to use them primarily to act more like spokes-models at a car show to dress up his campaign appearances than to actually celebrate his daughters as examples of young women in Australia who are high achievers in their own right.

If Abbott and his campaign managers see Abbott’s daughters primarily for the value of their ‘sex-appeal’, then what hope do any other women have for fair or respectful treatment?

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