Abbottvision – Tony’s Vision for Australia Revealed

It was a slightly odd Sunday morning up in the Lower Blue Mountains. I was listening to the news about the Thomson resignation from the ALP on my car radio. I parked the car in my local shopping centre carpark, only to see the NSW Senator Doug Cameron in the same car park, about to go home. To, as it turns out, do phone interviews with David Speers on Sky News. Business As Usual, I thought. And so it goes.

However, that’s not the main topic of this blog. There will be a lot of colour, light and bluster expressed this week about the End Times of the Gillard Government. What is more interesting is that over the weekend we received a rare glimpse into just what the inevitable Abbott Government will be about, from the Forestville Front Rower at an address to the Victorian Liberal Party State Council.  It makes for interesting reading.  His words are in italics, my attempt at translation of the meaning after each paragraph.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope the response is as enthusiastic at the end of the speech as it has been at the beginning. It is so good to be here. It is so good to be in the presence of so many enthusiastic Victorian Liberals. It’s great to be with my Deputy, Leader Julie Bishop. It’s tremendous to be in the presence of the Premier, Ted Baillieu, for this, the 154th State Council of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party and for this, my 51st visit to Victoria since the election. And I know you are always happier to see me when Margie is by my side and it’s good that she is here to see the strength and the passion of the Victorian Liberal Party. It is so good to be here.

Hello, Victorians, I have been here 51 times since the last election – that shows how keen I am to try to arrest the swing against me that occurred then.  As you can see, I also like a bit of self-deprecation, in the guise of saying my wife is better to see than me.

I want to say to you that, yes, we are on track to win the next election, but this is not about winning elections; this is about building a better country – and that is one of the things that sets us apart from the contemporary Labor Party. We do not just want to win elections, we do not just want to hold on to power at any cost, our passion, our vision is to build a better Australia, to give our country the better government that a great nation deserves.

My approach to sell a persistently negative message about every thing the government does is working. We will win the next election. This speech, though, is about us and what we actually intend to do. We want to sell ourselves as a party that doesn’t act like the Labor Party and “hold onto power at any cost”. This is a vision and passion speech.

We want to build a better Australia and we want to build a better Australia on the best values of the Australian people. And we, my fellow Liberals, are fundamentally a party of values and of principles. As Liberals, we want smaller government, lower taxes and greater freedom. As conservatives, we want to support the family and values and institutions that have stood the test of time. But above all else as Australian patriots we support policies that work and that will make a great country even better in the future, that will make our country more prosperous, more cohesive and more widely admired right around the world in the years ahead. That is our vision ladies and gentlemen.

We in the Liberal Party have Values, Principles and Patriotism. Those Values are Money.  Ensuring Governments cost less money to run.  Except for giving money to families – we will still support them as much as we ever did.  By making a smaller government that costs less, we will make Australia have more money, more cohesively patriotic and admired for the money we have, as well as the cohesive patriotism. Under me, there will be cohesion in the way we see Australia, whether people like it or not. That’s because we will be cohesive.

And as I look out over this hall full of very enthusiastic Australians, as I look at all of you, I see a snap shot of modern Australia. I see mothers who want a better future for their children. I see tradies who take pride in their work. I see public servants who want people to be proud of the work of government, not embarrassed by it. I see migrants who came to this country – not because they wanted to change us, but because they wanted to join us. I see small business people working long hours to serve their communities and I see retirees who don’t want to be a burden on others. And, you know, I see as I look out on this concourse of my fellow Liberals, I see lots of union members, because you see, these days the union members come to the Liberal Party’s meetings, it’s only the union officials who go to the Labor Party’s meetings.

You are all Australians.  This is Australia right here. No homosexuals, no asylum seekers. That’s good. Now for a checklist. Mothers – I will mention you first because our polling says I am not popular with women. Tradies – I know you like me because I’m a rugged bloke who likes using his hands, like you. Migrants – the fact you are here means you like our Assimilation policy, rather than that multiculturalism stuff that tried to change us into a nation of diversity. Small business people- I know you like us, because you are scared of the carbon tax. Like you were of the GST.  Retirees – I know you always like us. I mentioned you last because I don’t have to really beguile you with my vision. I will finish with a snarky comment about union members liking us now and faceless union officials.  I make this comment because I suspect you won’t like our next workplace relations plans that we reveal after the next election.

And ladies and gentlemen, when I say that we are determined to give Australia the better government a great country deserves, don’t we need a better government in Canberra after five years of Labor. I have often heard it said that the Gillard Government is the worst government since Whitlam, but let me say again that that statement is very unfair to Gough Whitlam who unlike the current Prime Minister did have some vision, did have some standards and certainly would never have sold the soul of the Labor Party to the Greens under Senator Bob Brown.

More comments on how bad the Labor Party is – that being our biggest selling point. Not only are they bad, they also have no vision – to prove that I am going to make a religious reference about the ALP being really under the thrall of the evil, Godless Greens, led by the other man I have spent so much time demonising, Bob Brown. I am mentioning him again because I’m a bit annoyed he has gone. I haven’t had enough time to work out how to demonise Christine Milne – I’m disappointed they didn’t make Lee Rhiannon the leader. She would have been easy to target with Three Word Phrases, all involving “watermelon”.

As Liberals we know, but as Australians the whole country knows that we have a government which is good at politics, which is good at being the epitome of sleazy influence peddlers. It’s a government that can execute a Prime Minister but it can’t execute an efficient government programme – that is what’s wrong with our country right now.

I am not speaking of our vision quite yet – I have some catchy lines to recycle first. Unlike Wil Anderson, I don’t see the need to make a new show with a new title.

It is the most incompetent and the most untrustworthy government in Australia’s history. They could not put roof batts into people’s houses without causing more than 200 fires right around our country. They could not build school halls without rip-off after rip-off. They are now spending $50 billion digging up streets near you so that your home can have fibre whether you want it, need it or are ready to pay more for it – three times as much in fact as you are currently paying for your broadband service.

I will give you more lists of how bad the Government is.  So, I will repeat the same misrepresentations I have been selling to the media for 2 years. The fires They Caused, not the installers. Conflating that small number of cost overruns on the BER project – none of you have the long, boring report about that stuff.  Also, some made up figures about how much your broadband service will cost.  That vision thing – I will get to that.

This is a government which closed down the live cattle trade with Indonesia in a panic over a TV programme. This is a government which is progressively closing down the forestry industry in Tasmania because it can’t say no to Bob Brown and now, ladies and gentlemen, the most incompetent government in Australia’s history is going to hit us with the world’s biggest carbon tax. The world’s biggest carbon tax is just eight weeks away and still this Prime Minister and this government can’t tell us who the 500 biggest emitters are – shame on them, shame on them. This is going to be a monumental disaster that if the government isn’t changed will haunt this country, not for years, but forever. This is why we need to change the government.

Before my vision, more about this terrible government. A government that shouldn’t have investigated expressed concerns about the live cattle trade. One that wants to look after the environment instead of the financial interests of Gunn’s. And of course, say it with me – The Carbon Tax. A Monumental Disaster. I like using the word Disaster – it plays well on television. So does the word Haunt.

This is a government, ladies and gentlemen, which is spending $2 billion in the state of Victoria, not to give you cheaper energy, but to give you more expensive power. This is a government which is spending $2 billion to close down two of the biggest power stations in this state, power stations on which Victoria’s record as the manufacturing heart of this country utterly depends. This government is so incompetent that they are spending $2 billion, not to create jobs, but to destroy jobs, and that is why this government must go.

The long term environmental health of Victoria doesn’t matter. That’s why the brown coal plants should stay.  That’s my environmental policy.

But ladies and gentlemen, you can trust the Prime Minister, can’t you? Kevin Rudd could trust Julia Gillard when she said that she had more chance of playing full-forward for the Western Bulldogs than becoming Prime Minister. He could trust her, couldn’t he? The people of Australia could trust Julia Gillard when she said “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”. Andrew Wilkie could trust the Prime Minister when she said: “there will be mandatory pre-commitment under the government I lead”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the only people it seems who can absolutely rely on this Prime Minister’s support, the only two people in this country who can absolutely trust this Prime Minister to stick behind them, you know who they are – they’re Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson.

I can’t go on without referring to the deposing of Kevin Rudd. It’s something that I’m always asked to do. It is to me what a Chopin Polonaise is to a concert pianist.  Plus, not only that, but Gillard took from our hands a highly suspect MP, he’s now a millstone around her neck. This stuff just writes itself.

The only person in this country, who seems to think that Peter Slipper can go back into the Speakership of the national parliament before sexual harassment allegations against him are resolved is Julia Gillard. And the message that she is sending to everyone in this country who might have been a victim is: ‘you bring that claim forward and I’ll accuse you of being involved in a political conspiracy’. Well, shame on the Prime Minister for sending that terrible message to the people of Australia.

The Liberal Party have a long history of respecting the right of victims of sexual harassment and homosexual people.  Look at our record on that. Actually, don’t.  But look at the ALP. They are terrible, aren’t they.

The only person in this country, who still expresses full confidence in the Member for Dobell Craig Thomson is Julia Gillard.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, there was a leadership challenge inside the Labor Party just a few weeks ago. It might turn out to be the precursor of another one in just a few weeks time. But didn’t they carpet bomb the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? Didn’t they show you just what they would do to people who they didn’t like or who they didn’t agree with. We had one backbencher – a backbencher in 2007 who was telling us that for the future of Australia there was nothing more important than the election of Mr Rudd as Prime Minister – one Victorian backbencher who told us just a few weeks ago that Mr Rudd was a psychopath with an ego problem. And we had the Prime Minister herself who said of her predecessor that he had paralysed his own government and he had sabotaged hers. What does it say then about the current Prime Minister and the government of Australia when 31 members of the Labor caucus preferred a psychopath to the incumbent Prime Minister? What does it say about the government we have?

Yes, the Government provides me with a constant stream of three word phrases and media outlets with constant copy. It’s easy being me.

You know, Australians were recently polled on which was Australia’s best government. Ninety six per cent nominated a government other than the current one. Fully 50 per cent, I’m pleased to say ladies and gentlemen, nominated the Howard Government, the government in which I was proud to serve, the government in which my Deputy was proud to serve, the government in which fully 16 members of my shadow ministry served – and we have learnt the lessons of the Howard Government and we are the inheritors of the strength of the Howard Government and the longer this government lasts, doesn’t the former government look like a lost golden age, ladies and gentlemen?

Before I get to what my government will look like, I will talk about the previous Liberal Government. That was good, wasn’t it. I can see you all nodding at that. I will try to make my government look like that one – without much reflection on what it didn’t do well.

You probably watch a fair bit of political television, as I do, and I couldn’t help but notice the other day the Leader of the House of Representatives, Anthony Albanese, almost crying on national television as he lamented the state of the modern Labor Party, saying that he just wanted to get on with the job of “fighting Tories”. And what was he doing yesterday as part of his desire to fight Tories? Well there he was defending Peter Slipper’s use of Cabcharge dockets. That’s what the modern Labor Party, ladies and gentlemen, has come to. The party of Ben Chifley has become the party of Craig Thomson. Chifley’s light on the hill has evolved, has degenerated into something so much worse. What perhaps? Well, Craig Thomson’s red light on the hill. And in place of that noble vision of Ben Chifley, what do we have? Today we have the faceless men scurrying towards their red light on the hill waving the union credit card around. That’s what we have.

I have some new material, people – now I am using old Labor imagery as the basis of the new stuff. Red Light on the Hill. Funny, no?  No member of the Liberal or National Parties have ever used prostitutes, I’m sure. Or if they did, they certainly didn’t use traceable credit cards.

Well, ladies and gentlemen and fellow Liberals, our job, our job as Liberals, our job as members of the Liberal National Coalition is to reassure the people of Australia that it doesn’t have to be like this. It never should be as bad as this and it can and will be so much better than this. We have a plan, ladies and gentlemen, for a strong economy. We will get spending down, because if you can get spending down, you can get taxes down and if you get spending down, you can get borrowing down, and if the government is not out there borrowing $100 million every single day, then the pressure can come off interest rates and so homebuyers and small business people can flourish again as they should in this country which ought to be the best country in the world.

Now. Our plan. Our vision. Money. We will spend less to make interest rates come down. The same way interest rates aren’t coming down now.

We have a plan for stronger communities and at the heart of that plan is giving the whole country the better schools and the better public hospitals that they deserve and to that end, we will do what we can working with the states to try to ensure that we do have the kind of community controlled public hospitals that Jeff Kennett gave us here in Victoria and we do have the kind of independent public schools that Colin Barnett is giving us in Western Australia.

While we will cut our spending, somehow with that reduced spending, we will make better hospitals and schools. That will be by doing what Jeff Kennett did to hospitals in Victoria and what is being done to teacher unions in WA.  Independent Public Schools mean those teachers don’t have the same job security as they used to have – and that will make for a healthier school system.

We have a plan for a clean environment, because we will actually get emissions down. We won’t just make everyone’s life harder. We won’t just make everyone’s cost of living worse by hitting everyone with a great big new tax on everything that not even Labor is prepared for or understands.

Despite us continuing with brown coal power stations and chopping Tasmanian trees, as outlined earlier, we will cut emissions in a way I am not going to outline or even provide hints about right now. But we will. After making mention of the Great Big New Tax. I can’t resist doing that line. It is to me what “Chicky Babe” was to Bruno Lucia on All Together Now.

We do have a plan for more secure borders – and don’t we need more secure borders on this day, on this day when the 300th illegal boat arrived on our shores because this government lacked the magnanimity and the judgment to leave well enough alone. So, we will put back in place the policies that worked, the policies that stopped the boats under the Howard Government, the policies that Julia Gillard has been too stubborn to implement.

One of our biggest selling points is selling the scary image of asylum seekers breaching our borders, so I can’t go on without mentioning them. Our plan is to bring back John Howard’s policy. Don’t listen to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship telling people that Indonesia won’t accept the boats or that Nauru doesn’t deter people.  The Indonesians will listen to us and Nauru will work – and will be well catered for.

And ladies and gentlemen, we do have a plan for the infrastructure of the future. Oh yes, we believe as much as anyone in faster broadband and we will deliver faster broadband but you are not going to get faster broadband by restoring a government-owned telecommunications monopoly. You are not going to get faster broadband with the great leap backwards to the 1960s and you should not spend $50 billion of government money, of borrowed government money on faster broadband when we still have trains that don’t turn up on time, ports and airports that don’t work properly and when millions of Australians try to get to work every day are stuck in traffic jams on roads that have so often become little better than the worlds longest parking lots.

We have an alternate vision to the NBN. We aren’t telling you what it actually is, but it’s better than a plan that insists on getting broadband to towns that private companies wouldn’t service. As you are all Liberals in Victoria, there aren’t many people from outer suburban areas or country towns here, so you will assuredly agree that private enterprise will be as good with broadband as Optus and Vodafone have been with rural mobile phone coverage.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a better way and we will put it in place.

No, still not telling you.

Just in the last month my colleagues and I have unveiled a series of new commitments that will make our country better. They say we’re negative. I say what is so negative about proposing a joint parliamentary committee to have a bipartisan approach to the National Disability Insurance Scheme so that we can get this important national innovation in place in a responsible and timely fashion. What is so negative about a Productivity Commission inquiry to ensure that the families of Australia, the parents of Australia get the flexible child care that they need, which acknowledges the fact that hundreds of thousands, millions of Australian families have work patterns that are no longer accommodated by eight til six institutional models of child care. What is so negative about saying that the 457 business visa programme, introduced by the Howard Government, won’t just be a component on the sides of the immigration programme of the next Coalition Government but will be its mainstay, because nothing would be more calculated to restore the faith of all Australians in the integrity of our immigration programme than the absolute confidence that everyone in this country is pulling his or her weight.

I am not negative. Most of this speech has not been negative. It’s been a positive vision about how bad the government is. I do have some other visions, though. I like the ALP’s disabilities plan. So, we’ll take that. Plus, there’s my new Nannies Plan, which we will achieve whilst making government smaller – we can’t tell you how that will happen yet, but it will happen.  We will bring back the 457 business visa, because people made so much money from those migrants who didn’t insist on joining pesky unions. The unions that encourage people to not work. Except those union members sitting here, of course. But, speaking of unions…

And today, ladies and gentlemen, I announce a new commitment, a new commitment that will ensure that we have responsible and well run unions in this country. You might think that’s impossible but it can be done. You see we think that the business of unions ought to be protecting the interests of workers, not running protection rackets for former union bosses.

And a New Policy! Finally – you see, I’m not negative. I want to police the unions. That’s not negative or pursuing a pursuing old shibboleths at all.

So our commitment today is to ensure that essentially the same governance rules that apply to businesses and that you adhere to in your business life, will apply to unions and union officials as they go about the business of running their unions.

We want to make sure we cash in on the Craig Thomson business as much and for as long as possible during this election campaign. Each time I mention this policy his face and name will be instantly recalled to voters.  Maybe even appear in ads.

In particular, if the same offence is committed, the same penalties will apply. You see, we know offences have been committed in the Health Services Union because we finally got a report out of Fair Work Australia – we haven’t got the main report, but we have got one report – and that report clearly revealed that offences had been committed. Now, those offences, as things stand, attract fines of just $2,200 from union officials under existing legislation. If the same offences had been committed by company directors, they would be liable to fines of $200,000 and potentially exposed to five years in jail. Well, the same offence deserves the same punishment and that’s what will happen under the next Coalition Government.

The New Vision of Australia is about fining union officials. A bit like WorkChoices was about locking unions out of workplaces and workplace agreements. But I’m not mentioning WorkChoices. I am targeting the officials at this stage.

And there will be a new cop to ensure that these rules are properly enforced. We won’t have the same person or the same conflicted entity enforcing the rules and mediating between the warring parties, we will have a Registered Organisations omission that will ensure that unions are well run in practice as well as in theory, and I tell you what, under the Registered Organisations Commission it won’t take more than three years to investigate an open and shut case of wrongdoing.

People like to hear about new “cops”, “probes” and the like. So, there will be a Union Official Cop. He won’t be faceless, though. Or perhaps he should be – maybe I will make that joke next time.

So, ladies and gentlemen, as we meet today in this marvellous venue – yet another tribute to the energy of a great Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett – I think we should feel confidence in ourselves and hope for our country. We know that it can be better, we know that it will be better, we know that all it requires for our country to once more enter into what is rightly its inheritance is a change of government.

I have chosen Jeff’s Shed to speak in because people laughed at this place when it was built – a waste of money, they said. But they were Wrong, like they were wrong to belittle Jeff.  Now people are starting to change what they write about John Howard, we are feverishly rewriting the history of Victoria to cast Kennett as being one of the greatest Premiers this state has ever had. Even a political writer for that lefty Fairfax mob is in on the action.  And I mention Kennett to assure you that I am a better choice for leader than Malcolm Turnbull, who probably doesn’t like him.  That is my vision – to remake Australia by drawing upon the ideas and vision of John Howard and Jeff Kennett.

I have a great team and I am thrilled to see so many of them here today. Julie, obviously. My other colleagues I can see in this audience; Andrew Robb the Shadow Minister for Finance, Kevin Andrews the Shadow Minister for Families, Bruce Billson the Shadow Minister for Small Business, Mitch Fifield the Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Michael Ronaldson the Shadow Minister for Veterans and my other colleagues, my other parliamentary colleagues we are a great team. We are a united team. Sophie Mirabella, there she is between my wife and David Kemp. We have a great team but the team is not just us, the team is not just the Members of Parliament and the frontbenchers, the team is all of you and it doesn’t just stop in this room. The team must be all of the people with whom you network – your families, your friends, the people you play sport with, the people who go to church with, the people you shop with, your neighbours, because we need a better government for a great country, we will get a better government for a great country if all of us keep working together to that end.

I know we don’t see a lot of my team on the media – my three word phrases work a treat, but here is a chance to see them.  Remember Kevin Andrews?  No?  Well, he’s here.  You might not know the rest, but surely you know Sophie Mirabella. We know you like her, even if they don’t seem to like her on that Q and A show.  Terrible show, people questioning the Three Word Phrases.  We are a team, with Victorians in it.  You all shop together, play that funny game you play down here together, so that proves that they are human beings – and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

That’s what I am doing. That’s what every single member of your parliamentary team is doing. That is the great end to which I am directing every fibre of my being. We won’t let you down and we know that you won’t let us down and we know that together we can make this country again everything that it ought to be.

Thank you very much.

That’s it – that’s the vision thing. I am working hard to enact it. We are working as a team to enact it. The vision is – that we aren’t the current government. We will endeavour to direct every one of our new policies to show what is bad about the current government. The other policies – well, they will be Howard and Kennett’s ideas. You like those, don’t you. That’s what our country ought to have.

There is Abbott’s “vision”. A bold vision of yesteryear.

 

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Blessed are the Cheese Leerers – The Absurdity of Transactional Relationships

Responses to my previous blog post about Bettina Arndt have prompted me to consider just how people see relationships and the politics surrounding the choosing of a partner.  It struck me that what Arndt and many other writers of her type are writing about is a transactional relationship. That is, that the chief reason for women to go to university, get a “high status” job and therefore a big salary is to ultimately gain a similarly trained and salaried mate. Using statistics about pay scales and university education feeds into this concept that relationship construction is about financial status, not other factors.

This idea is hardly new – there was a time once where women of “high birth” were good only for increasing the status of the family that produced the daughter, or keep the status quo. Jane Austen addresses this in her work, where she is advocating a slight move away from the transactional relationship, towards one where people of marginally different social status – ie. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Lizzie Bennett – can defy social convention and pressures find other things in common.  In Arndt’s world, Anne de Bourgh would have married Mr. Darcy.

The article from an increasingly detached social observer – just see how much credence she places in American bloggers – demonstrates how much is not understood about the changes education and technology are bringing to the development of people and relationships.  Her example of the “Alpha Male”, who I called Dr. Malcolm Franklin – Hamm – going for a girl in her 20s – eliminates the possibility that the girl in her 20s could be a sparkling conversationalist. Or that they could have interests in common. I have found in my interactions with women in their 20s – especially on Twitter – that there are many quirky and engaging women in their 20s – which would come as a shock from people who are older who see them as “competition” or some such.  These are women who pursue their own interests and adventures, whether it pleases men or not.  I think of @superhotmel, who has an abiding interest in Lego minifigs ; Keira Nightingale – @bambiandthejets – who has a profound love and knowledge of AFL and has taken that and applied it into making an excellent collection of supporter stories ; or @erinrileyau and @nicolacastleman, with whom I have had many long conversations about politics and football ; then there is the most under followed Tweeter I know, @tollplaza, who applies a very funny and unique slant to life and television. Especially Psychic TV. Seriously, people should follow her.  There are many other examples, such as the spark for all this, @rubywildflower.  It is entirely possible that someone in their 30s, 20s, whatever, from whichever background, would find great joy and companionship with such people who have their own interests and passions.   It is a mistake to look at two people in a room, in love, and assume that it is a relationship not built on love and mutual interests – instead, that it is purely transactional.  This whole point can be made about women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond who also possess a dazzling array of experiences, knowledge, passions, interests that make them interesting, intriguing, attractive, fascinating.  These people all defy the stereotyping that articles like Arndt’s so easily adopt.  That is because they have chosen to be interesting and wonderful on their own terms – not terms deemed by those who wish to think society is a system of games and transactions.

The example provided in Arndt’s article from the 30 something journalist – “and those who remain are leering by the cheese table” has struck me as fairly symbolic of the absurdity of the world Arndt is writing about.  It is one aspect of transactional relationship theory that one thing a “high status” person would not do is enjoy food.  Such people, in my experience, talk of food as being a burden, not a total pleasure. They speak of it having to be restricted in diets, as food needing to be entirely healthy. As such, they would always refer to things like cheese as a pleasure and pain – “ooooh, I love cheese, but it goes straight to my hips”.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me if it does – that applies to men and women equally.  I love cheese, craft beer, good food. I like sharing it with people who are similarly inclined. If I was at that party, I would be seen as a man leering by the cheese table, because I would have seen a particularly nice bit of roquefort, blue or Wensleydale.  I probably also would have been trying to avoid a journalist who seems to be rather judgmental and dull. People who think of people from the opposite gender as a “goal”, “target” or “person of similar status” are generally boring people who talk of their latest diet / exercise regimen – certainly not good TV programs, music or cheese.  Talking of leering at cheese – here is some champion cheese leering – for more examples, visit my tumblr peoplewholeeratcheese.tumblr.com – I thank @miss_shiny for the name. Blessed be the Cheese Leerers – for we will enjoy our lives and relationships.

We are All Omicrons. Bettina Arndt and the Manosphere

Hot on the heels of my previous Ruby Wildflower blog post about the attitude of men towards women, pops up Fairfax lifestyle columnist, Bettina Arndt, proving the points I was making about out of touch lifestyle writers making stupendous claims about men and women in their 30s. In Arndt’s case, making bald claims and spurious evidence to support her case. There are those on Twitter who immediately roll their eyes when Arndt’s name is mentioned – and say that writing about her just encourages her. I would argue the opposite – it is precisely because people don’t write detailed critiques of people like Arndt that she gets away with the absurdity. In addition, she has a far higher readership than pretty much every blogger in the country. So, here is a bit of a breakdown of what she wrote and just what is so breathtakingly wrong about it. Her article will be in italics.

Why women lose the dating game

In the Arndt world, going on a date isn’t an activity designed to find people with which you have a connection – it’s a game. With winners and presumably, losers. This is not the actual purpose of a date – which should be about finding something unique, compatible and so on. But then again, I’m not a lifestyle columnist.

Playing the dating game

Playing the dating game Photo: istock photos

The photo spells out the tone in which the article is composed – telling us that romance and dating is to be measured in financial terms

Bettina Arndt listens to the other voices in this debate: the men.

“The other” – making men seem like something mysterious and “other” rather than a fellow human being. It’s off to a good start.

Naomi sat in the back row of Melbourne’s Grattan Institute, about to watch her fiance give a lecture. She was joined by three unfamiliar women – all attractive, well groomed, in their mid-30s. From their whispered chat, she quickly realised they weren’t there to hear about politics and economics but to meet her eligible man. Naomi explains: ”He’s 36 years old and is definitely someone who falls into the alpha-male category: excellent job in finance, PhD, high income, six feet two, sporty and very handsome. And he’s an utter sweetheart.”
Arndt starts her piece with a startling image of the woman in her mid 30s. Not interested in politics or economics. Just interested in meeting a man. They are “well groomed” not because of a pride in their appearance or out of necessity in the professional world, but in order to attract a Man. Not just any man – an “alpha” male. What makes a man “alpha” presumably is a high paying job, a PhD, being sporty and handsome. I am imagining a man who is part Malcolm Turnbull, part Dr. Karl, part Buddy Franklin and part Jon Hamm. The type of man people meet all the time. It does make me wonder what would make him a “Beta” – maybe a humble Masters Degree, or if he doesn’t play sport, not particularly handsome, a lowly job as a public servant – or that unforgivable sin, being short. Maybe if he had a job as a high school teacher, was 5 foot 6, not good at sport and was fairly ordinary looking, he’d be an Omicron. Never mind how kind, intelligent or nurturing he may be. Let’s continue with this affirming, positive image of the modern woman.
Naomi is an attractive 28-year-old PhD student. She has been in a relationship with her fiance for six years. Her new companions were very friendly and chatted to her during the break. But then her partner, who had been socialising at the front of the room, made eye contact with Naomi and smiled.
”The women saw this and it was like the room had suddenly frozen over. There was silence and then one of them asked me if I knew him. I wasn’t going to lie, so I told them he was my partner and how long we’d been together. It was amazing how they responded. They stopped smiling at me, shifted awkwardly in their seats and looked me up and down as if they were trying to figure out how a girl who still wears jeans and ballet flats could land a guy like that.” The women left before her man gave his speech.
As soon as women in an economics lecture see that their dream man wants an intelligent woman in her 20s, that’s it for them. The sisterhood breaks part instantly. They are so shallow that can’t understand why their dream Alpha Male would want a woman who wears jeans and comfortable shoes.
Everything makes sense to me now. Yes, women really are that shallow. That is everyone’s experience of women in their 30s – certainly, every woman I talk to in their thirties is not listening to what I say, but wondering if I’m sporty and hunky. These same women flee the room when my partner comes in, without makeup and with a pair of flats on. This is my experience every time.
Actually, not really. If I do discover if a woman is like this, I run a mile. Not literally, because I’m not very sporty. But I would if I was an alpha male. Because I’m a Sigma, I just wait until I get a chance to mutter to myself how incredibly boring said person was. The same goes for men who have the same approach to the judging of women. I don’t discover this attitude that often, fortunately. Back to Bettina’s terribly representative example.

Naomi is stunned by the number of women in their 30s who throw themselves at her partner: the colleagues who sign emails with kisses; the female journalist who pointedly asked, post-interview, if he was married.

This Alpha Male is important – clearly, he has the Lynx Effect without having to buy the evil smelling concoction. Women of all levels of education – even journalists – lose all reason and dignity as he walks down the corridors. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that the article was written by a teenage boy fantasising about his power with the ladeez. It is then, however, we get the crux of the Arndt argument.

Yet given the plight of thirtysomething women seeking partners, it’s hardly surprising that her boyfriend is in their sights. We hear endless complaints from women about the lack of good men.

There is a plight, a disaster, a problem for women in the thirties seeking men. “We” – whoever that is, though I expect it’s Arndt and her circle of friends – can’t find a commodity they define as “good” men. I expect it’s the Alpha Male that we met earlier. You know – Dr. Malcolm Franklin – Hamm. And they are complaints that are endless. But why are these women going through this disastrous “good man drought”?

Women astonished that men don’t seem to be around when they decide it is time to settle down. Women telling men to ”man up” and stop shying away from commitment.

It’s the fault of women. They went off and had careers and then, when they decided to settle down (clearly, all of this planned), the men disappeared. Not only that, but it is women who scared these “good” men away. But I digress – as Bettina has. She did, after all, declare that her article was about “the man’s point of view”. So, after this amount of time establishing just what a good alpha man is and establishing the attitude of women in their 30s, we are introduced to this “point of view”.

But there is another conversation going on – a fascinating exchange about what is happening from the male point of view. Much of it thrives on the internet, in the so-called ”manosphere”. Here you will find men cheerfully, even triumphantly, blogging about their experience. They have cause for celebration, you see. They’ve discovered a profound change has taken place in the mating game and, to their surprise, they are the winners.

Here is a secret. When the dinner is cooked and I go into my home office, I call out to my partner “sorry, I can’t talk to you now, I’m on the manosphere”. I read all those blogs by men bragging about the Alphaness and how they are winning at the dating game. Blogs written by blokes in their 30s about their experiences like this one, with all the bragging graphs, this one with stuff about clubland, or the scene in NSW. Arndt helpfully provides her own examples, such as these:

Dalrock (dalrock.wordpress.com) is typical: ”Today’s unmarried twentysomething women have given men an ultimatum: I’ll marry when I’m ready, take it or leave it. This is, of course, their right. But ultimatums are a risky thing, because there is always a possibility the other side will decide to leave it. In the next decade we will witness the end result of this game of marriage chicken.”

The endgame Dalrock warns about is already in play for hordes of unmarried professional women – the well-coiffed lawyers, bankers and other success stories. Many thought they could put off marriage and families until their 30s, having devoted their 20s to education, establishing careers and playing the field. But was their decade of dating a strategic mistake?

Dalrock sounds like a prize wanker to me. And then I read his blog – you can be the judge of whether that opinion can be supported. He represents himself as a “happily married man in a post-feminist world” – whatever that is. It sounds to me that in his twenties that he met women who had heard some of the views he is currently expressing in his blog and they made up a reason to make him go away. Being a man who likes to make things sound better than they were, he talks about “marriage chicken”. Arndt has then read Dalrock’s bitter attitude towards women as a truth about women in their thirties. This provides a note to any aspiring columnists in lifestyle sections in mass circulation papers – if you want to make a spurious point, you will find a bizarre blog to support that point. Continuing with that theme, we have other “representative” men:

Jamie, a 30-year-old Sydney barrister, thinks so: ”Women labour under the impression they can have it all. They can have the career, this carefree lifestyle and then, at the snap of their fingers, because they are so fabulous, find a man. But if they wait until their 30s they’re competing with women who are much younger and in various ways more attractive.”
This raises the question – how many times have we heard the cliche “women think they can have it all”. It’s a phrase I have NEVER heard come from a real person. NEVER. If you know someone who actually uses that phrase, put a piece of tape across their mouth, because whatever will come out next won’t be worth listening to. Jamie is another in the wankosphere who clearly has had many rebuffs from many women and has said as a way on self-consolation “women in their 20s are so much more attractive”. He doesn’t say in what way they are “more attractive” – it sounds as if he hasn’t been out with women in their 30s or their 20s. If he did manage to “snag” a woman in her 20s, she would find very quickly that Jamie is a boring man who judges people according to age and uses cliches like “having it all”. Arndt has swallowed this phrase from the unacknowledged source as evidence of Man Attitude – but then has moved onto statistics. Nothing like good stats to support an argument, no?

The crisis for single women in this age group seeking a mate is very real. Almost one in three women aged 30 to 34 and a quarter of late-30s women do not have a partner, according to the 2006 census statistics. And this is a growing problem. The number of partnerless women in their 30s has almost doubled since 1986.

Women not having a partner is a Problem, according to Arndt. Therefore, the increased number of women without a partner over the years is a Growing Problem. Never mind the increase divorce rate, where women have, as a generation, felt more empowered to leave a relationship that isn’t working, but then not just hopping on the next male passing by. Also, never mind women who choose to live a fulfilling life that doesn’t need a man to make it feel Complete. Those women don’t exist in Arndtland.

The challenge is greatest for high-achieving women in their 30s looking for equally successful men. Analysis of 2006 census figures by the Monash University sociologist, Genevieve Heard, reveals that almost one in four of degree-educated women in their 30s will miss out on a man of similar age and educational achievement. There were only 68,000 unattached graduate men in their 30s for 88,000 single graduate women in the same age group.

Ah, in Arndtland we do have the Alpha Female – the “high achieving” woman. To her, these university educated women are rapidly seeing a decrease in university educated women. That’s because the measure of success for Arndt now is a university education. Those women and men who didn’t go to university aren’t high achieving. Possibly even Sigmas.

And the higher-education gap keeps widening. In the past year, the proportion of degree-educated women aged 25 to 34 rose from 37.7 per cent to 40.3 per cent, according to the Bureau of Statistics, while for males the figure remained below 30 per cent, having risen only 0.5 per cent in the past year.

It gets worse for these ridiculous women who sought to get a university degree – there’s now far too many of you, competing for a pool of university educated men that hasn’t changed. Clearly the Dr. Malcolm Franklin Hamm market hasn’t an endless elasticity of supply – demand has increased. Women should be dismayed by the demand / supply curve. (If I was Greg Jericho, I could produce a graph for you to look at that shows what that would look like, but I’m not, sadly. Mind you, if you were an Alpha Woman reading that graph, you wouldn’t be interested in looking at a graph like that. That’s because you would be busy thinking about your Alpha Man). Maybe it’s the fault of women who competed against men at high school and won the university places. In Arndtlogic, you should have paused and thought of the uni graduate marriage pool in your 30s before studying for the HSC / VCE / Uni Entrance Exam. This is confirmed in this paragraph from Arndt –

Although there are similar numbers of single men and women in their 30s overall – about 370,000 of each across Australia – half these available men had only high school education, 57 per cent earned $42,000 or less and 95,000 of them were unemployed.

There it is. Worthless Upsilon men who don’t earn much money or went to uni are your lot. Plus the unemployed. The unemployed – the Omegas of our society, in Arndtlogic. Why are women destined to a life spent with Upsilons and Omegas? Because it’s THEIR FAULT.

The high expectations of professional women are a big part of the story. Many high-achieving women simply are not interested in Mr Average, says Justin Parfitt, the owner of Australia’s fastest growing speed-dating organisation, Fast Impressions. Parfitt adds: ”They’ve swallowed the L’Oreal line: ‘Because you’re worth it!’ There’s a real sense of entitlement.”

Yes, the owner of a speed dating organisation is the authority on Men and the attitude of Women. In a perfect synergy, he uses the language of advertising to frame his point of view – in the way we all do when speaking about society. Let’s not let the spectre of exhaustive research hang over this piece – let’s hear more from Mr. Speed –

He finds many of his female members are determined to meet only men who are tall, attractive, wealthy and well educated. They want the alpha males. ”Most of the professional women rarely give out ‘yes’ votes to men who aren’t similarly successful,” reports Parfitt, who struggles to attract enough of these successful men to his speed-dating events. Sixty per cent of his members are female. Most are over 30.

Yes, men are so easy to judge in 5 minutes of mindless small talk in an absurd speed dating situation. Plus, so many women in society rely on speed dating to find their ideal partner. Again, I’ve never met anyone who think speed dating is nothing more than a massive giggle. I’d be interested if anyone found anyone remotely interesting at such things. However, Arndt uses this female pickiness at speed dating as a chance to make one of her more outlandish conclusions.

During their 20s, women compete for the most highly desirable men, the Mr Bigs. Many will readily share a bed with the sporty, attractive, confident men, while ordinary men miss out. As Whiskey puts it at whiskeysplace.wordpress.com: ”Joe Average Beta Male is about as desirable to women as a cold bowl of oatmeal.”

I went to Whiskey’s Place. Aside from declaring that “America is a Hard Left Nation, No Question About It”, he speaks of “Alpha male struck naïve Freshman girls” in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily advise you read. Arndt uses as support for her view a blog that is representative of nothing more than a Republican male confused about the world changing around him.

Data from American colleges show 20 per cent of males – the most attractive ones – get 80 per cent of the sex, according to an analysis by Susan Walsh, a former management consultant who wrote about the issue on her dating website, hookingupsmart.com.

If you visit “Hooking Up Smart“, another American site about dating there you get a number of the terms of reference that frame Arndt’s piece. The “manosphere” for a start, plus “MWALT – Most Women Are Like That” and other fascinating acronyms. The numbers look a bit strange to me – a bit even. Those 80 per cent of men are clearly Upsilons or Sigmas not getting sex in college. But they do in their 30s, I suppose, according to the logic. Let’s look at those sexless men.

That leaves a lot of beta men spending their 20s out in the cold. Greg, a 38-year-old writer from Melbourne, started adult life shy and lonely. ”In my 20s, the women had the total upper hand. They could make or break you with one look in a club or bar. They had the choice of men, sex was on tap and guys like me went home alone, red-faced, defeated and embarrassed. The girls only wanted to go for the cool guys, good looks, outgoing personalities, money, sporty types, the kind of guys who owned the room, while us quiet ones got ignored.”

He barely had a date through much of his 20s and gave up on women. But then he spent time overseas, gained more confidence, learnt how to dress well and hit his early 30s. ”I suddenly started to get asked out by women, aged 19 through to 40. The floodgates burst open for me. I actually dated five women at once, amazing my flatmates by often bedding three to four of my casual dates each week. It is a great time as a male in your 30s, when you start getting more female attention and sex than you could ever have dreamt of in your 20s.”

Greg, the writer in his 30s is getting a lot of sex, despite being a dreadful Beta. A representative man, clearly. He tried to “compete” with sporty men in his 20s and now he is in his 30s, he is getting sex. He WINS! Nothing is said that perhaps the women he was trying to date in his 20s didn’t share the same interests as him, or perhaps he sucked in the lie than many men believe in their 20s, which is “punching above your weight”, which translated actually means “go out with someone entirely wrong for you”.

Greg, to me, sounds like he’s another resident of the wankosphere. He can seem to be nice, friendly and personable to women in their 30s – but to Greg, it’s “sucked in, women! I am just sleeping with 5 of you at once! I am a WINNER!” Ah, no, Greg, you aren’t. You are someone boasting to Bettina Arndt. But I digress.

That’s when some men start behaving very badly – as the manosphere clearly shows. These internet sites are not for the faint-hearted. The voices are often crude and misogynist. But they tell it as they see it. There is Greenlander, an apparently successful engineer in his late 30s. In his early adult life, he was unable to ”get the time of day from women”. Now he’s interested only in women under 27.

”The women I know in their early 30s are just delusional,” he says. ”I sometimes seduce them and sleep with them just because I know how to play them so well. It’s just too easy. They’re tired of the cock carousel and they see a guy like me as the perfect beta to settle down with before their eggs dry out … when I get tired of them I just delete their numbers from my cell phone and stop taking their calls … It doesn’t really hurt them that much: at this point they’re used to pump & dump!”

Cock carousel. Pump and dump. Hmmm, delusional doesn’t apply to the women, “successful engineer”. Sounds like he’d be a delightful dinner companion.

It’s easy to dismiss such bile but Greenlander’s analysis is echoed by many Australian singles, both male and female.

Yes, it is easy to dismiss Greenlander, Bettina. But you don’t, because you have Conclusions to be Made.

”It’s wall-to-wall arseholes out there,” reports Penny, a 31-year-old lawyer. She is stunned by how hard it is to meet suitable men willing to commit. ”I’m horrified by the number of gorgeous, independent and successful women my age who can’t meet a decent man.”

Penny acknowledges part of the problem is her own expectations – that her generation of women was brought up wanting too much. ”We were told we were special, we could do anything and the world was our oyster.” And having spent her 20s dating alpha males, she expected them to be still around when she finally decided to get serious.

HORRIFIED! WE WERE WANTING TOO MUCH. WE WERE LIED TO BY THE FEMINISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANT A MAAAAAAAAN NOOOOOOOOW!!!! IT’S THE FEMINISTS FAULT THAT I CAN’T HAVE AN ALPHA MAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!

If anyone knows Penny, she needs support. She sounds a touch judgemental.

But these men go fast, many fishing outside their pond. The most attractive, successful men can take their pick from women their own age or from the Naomis, the younger women who are happy to settle early. Almost one in three degree-educated 35-year-old men marries or lives with women aged 30 or under, according to income, housing and marriage surveys by the Bureau of Statistics.

Men are fishermen. And they are marrying younger women. Not that the phenomenon of an age gap of 5 years isn’t a cultural norm or anything. That maturity levels between a 30 year old woman and a 35 year old man might be pretty even. No, let’s not let that idea enter the Arndt thesis that women in their 30s are in the wrong pond.

”I can’t believe how many men my age are only interested in younger women,” wails Gail, a 34-year-old advertising executive as she describes her first search through men’s profiles on the RSVP internet dating site. She is shocked to find many mid-30s men have set up their profiles to refuse mail from women their own age.

Wails Gail – nice rhyme. Anecdotal evidence of RSVP is another tool here – and those men in their 30s who go on RSVP seeking young trophy girlfriends are representative of, um, men who are probably delusional enough to think that women in their 20s will “want” them. That the idea of “punching above their weight” hasn’t died as it should have when they were 21. Maybe, possibly, perhaps. Not that the idea is entertained here.

Talking to many women like her, it’s intriguing how many look back on past relationships where they let good men get away because they weren’t ready. American journalist Kate Bolick wrote recently in The Atlantic about breaking off her three-year relationship with a man she described as ”intelligent, good-looking, loyal and kind”. She acknowledged ”there was no good reason to end things”, yet, at the time, she was convinced something was missing in the relationship. That was 11 years ago. She’s is now 39 and facing grim choices.

”We arrived at the top of the staircase,” Bolick wrote, ”finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up – and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.”

Those cheese munching men are clearly something to avoid. How dare they leer at cheese. With the assent of her fellow writer, Arndt comes in with the punch.

So, many women are missing out on their fairytale ending – their assumption that when the time was right the dream man would be waiting. The 30s are worrying years for high-achieving women who long for marriage and children – of course, not all do – as they face their rapidly closing reproductive window surrounded by men who see no rush to settle down.

The clock is ticking. Because that is what all women desire and want. As well, men in their thirties just all want to go out and score women in their 20s. So say RSVP users and American bloggers – so it must be true.

And, of course, many women eventually do find a mate, often ending up with divorced men. There are complications with that second-marriage market, in which men come complete with former wives and children. That was never part of the plan.

Oh, DEAR! How dare they. DIVORCED MEN!!!! Is there a letter lower than Omega? And those messy CHILDREN from another relationship. How terrible. Women can’t possibly bond with such spawn, can they? Actually, as I have seen many times, they can. With beautiful results. I find that conclusion one of the most personally offensive, in terms of men who are “second” hand goods. That’s because, apparently, life has follow a plan and be a fairytale. And divorce isn’t a part of it, despite its prevalence. A prevalence not dealt with in the sharp statistical analysis with which Arndt has written up until now. Talking of sharp, now a summary of one of the millions of self help books –

Many really struggle with the fact that they aren’t in a position to be too choosy. American author Lori Gottlieb gives a painfully honest account of that process in her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough.

”Maybe we need to get over ourselves,” she writes. The 40-year-old single mother enlisted a team of advisers who helped her realise that while she was conducting her long search for the perfect man – Prince Charming or nobody – her market value had dropped through the floor.

”Our generation of women is constantly told to have high self-esteem, but it seems that the women themselves are at risk of ego-tripping themselves out of romantic connection,” she writes. She acknowledges she made a mistake not looking for a spouse in her 20s, when she was at her most desirable. She advises thirtysomething women to look for Mr Good Enough before they have even less choice. ”They are with an ‘8’ but they want a ’10’. But then suddenly they’re 40 and can only get a ‘5’!”

Yes. Marriage is a commodity. Men are to be compared on a numerical scale – which confused the heck out of me – it was Greek letters, now it’s numbers. Women should just be happy with the drecky cheese men. To finish with, we have a last word from the wankosphere –

Women delaying their search for a serious relationship have set up a very different dating and marriage market. The Sydney barrister, Jamie, finds himself spoilt for choice. Like many of his friends he’s finding women actively pursuing him, asking him out, cooking him elaborate meals, buying him presents. ”Oh, you’re a barrister,” they say.

While many of his mates are playing the field, determined to enjoy this unexpected attention, Jamie is ready to settle down. He’s very wary of Sex and the City types, women who are convinced they are so special, but he’s confident he will soon find someone with her feet on the ground.

”I’m lucky,” he says, ”to be in a buyer’s market.”

Yes, Jamie. He sounds like a keeper to me. A definite Dr. Malcolm Frankin – Hamm who definitely doesn’t leer at cheese.

Addendum – Check out the new Tumblr – People Who Leer At Cheese.

Excluding the Quiet – Newspaper Lifestyle Sections Selling Us the Loud

Two days ago, my friend (whom I have not met), @rubywildflower, sent out a request for a guest post on her blog, which I thought was a good challenge. I don’t usually use this blog for comments on love and relationships – it’s more of a culture / politics / sport type of thing. I wrote it, she published it – and I received lots of great compliments and retweets from people who don’t usually respond to my blog posts. That was very cool and unexpected.

It brought me to realise, though, that in the realm of comments on love and relationships, newspapers, magazines and TV really do, for the most part, represent the views and worlds of a very small proportion of the population. The loud. The brash. The insider. Flick through any lifestyle section of a newspaper in Sydney and it is, like the real estate section, all about the inner city. People living it loud and large, drinking, partying, staggering through the weekend. Women trying to emulate Sex in the City. And people are expected to live vicariously through its participants. Samantha Brett and her “push up bra” sensibilities.  I have never met a Samantha Brett – and nor would she want to meet a quiet man like me.  Sam de Brito and his insouciant air when he sells his schtick – “I’m an unreconstructed man / I loathe political correctness / take me or leave me”.  I have never known a man like that in the real world – he seems to me to be more like Pete Campbell from Mad Men, pretending to have “everything”, when it’s just an act. Selling an image, rather than being an actual person who thinks those things.   Mia Freedman, for all her practiced self deprecation and charm also strikes me as rather unrepresentative, in that she has been a publishing insider for many years, getting invites to things her readers will never go to (but desperate want to), meeting people her readers won’t and so on.  She is, though, being her true self, which is a plus – however, it’s not a real self in which I have much interest.

It’s a world so removed from a number of us it’s almost another planet. I have always been pretty quiet when in pubs and parties – awkwardly so. I do talk a bit when warmed up and the people I am with seem interested in what I have to say – and vice versa. It doesn’t come naturally to me.  This is why I usually loathe Sydney’s loud bars, with their too loud music and talk-averse atmosphere. Sydney also seems to be home to some people who will turn up to a drinks session, see that no-one is loud enough for them, then leave. I like it when those people leave.  It is pretty clear that they don’t want to talk to the quiet people, the nice people – just those that are like them. I have personally found Melbourne’s bars and people to be more welcoming and open for long, interesting chats – but again, that’s just my experience.

This is not to say that lifestyle sections of newspapers are totally bereft of excellent writers who do speak for the quiet, the nice, the shy and the awkward. There is, however, a place for those that don’t live it large.   Anyway, here is my take on how men (well, at least me), see women, as posted previously by Ruby Wildflower.

Not all Men are Sam de Brito

Reading Twitter throws at me a range of experiences and life pathways I find fascinating as well as overwhelming. What I find overwhelming is how many women have a default position of putting themselves down and also thinking of themselves as uninteresting or undesirable. It really does my head in.

This is because many women seem to be wrestling with a negative self-perception caused by any number of factors. The magazines I look at as I avoid the “Down, Down, Prices are Down” posters are astonishingly good at parading the idea that a certain look, weight loss and exercise are much more important than personality. Make the mistake of reading just one paragraph of the stuff and you are dragged into a world of dumb.  Look at the TV and there you see The Biggest Loser and women crying because they can’t find a man because of their size.   Then there’s Sunrise, Today and those shows that demonstrate that intellect, a finely tuned bullshit meter and a healthy dose of cynicism won’t get you a gig on TV.

This all leads to the idea that people in general won’t find you interesting or engaging if they aren’t a certain way.  So, as a result, many women on Twitter stay quiet for fear of being criticised / seen as dumb.  So, for people who seek society’s acceptance, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.  They shouldn’t be quiet or scared of being judged. Everyone says stupid shit on Twitter and in blogs. I certainly do. I use it to say whatever comes out of my brain and I cop all sorts of abuse and criticism.  If I know it’s unjustified, it hurts for a few seconds (it used to hurt for longer) and I move on.  If it’s justified, I suck it down and will admit to my blunder.  It’s what makes Twitter so good – it shows a lot of our flaws and strengths, all at the same time.  All of us of either gender should use it as a way of understanding ourselves and the way we interact.   In short, women shouldn’t be defined by the way others see them, women or men – but often do it.  The rest of this post, however, will be about men and how men in their 30s see women in their 30s. If people are interested.

Women who want men to notice them, date them, be with them, this is for you.  If it’s men you seek, they are out there.  I was out there in my 20s, pretty much the same person I am now, except I had zero self confidence and believed I would be single all my life.  I was always the friend women never saw as a possible boyfriend. The confidant, not the hot, sexy edgy man they sought. I see that a number of women in the 20s (and 30s) are still seeking the “other”, the edgy, often arrogant, haughty man who practices the bullshit “treat then mean, keep them keen” mantra. And it is bullshit. Any man who actually believes that mantra isn’t worth spitting on, let alone deserving of your intimacy.  This is kind of myth that blokes like the odious Sam de Brito perpetuate in his largely unreadable column and twitter feed. Good men know that de Brito and his ilk are insufferable wankers you wouldn’t buy a beer for. The ones who give other men a bad name.

These same men also read people like Samantha Brett and her type and think of them as “high maintenance” and therefore avoid them like the plague. High maintenance infers that you will spending a lot of your own coin just to keep a woman who wants to substitute substance for flashy bling. That is also a false relationship. If your partner has a job which enables her to bling up and feel good about wearing nice things, then great. Partnerships should be equal and that should also apply to spending money on things.  Money shouldn’t be the basis of any relationship, it should be mental, physical and spiritual connections (and I don’t mean religion here).

There is nothing wrong with admitting to loving Lego, World of Warcraft, politics, whatever really floats your boat. And there are single men out there who want to connect with you. They want to spend a quiet evening discussing the latest episode of Mad Men and celebrating how Joan kicked that arsehole of a husband out the door. They want to go to dorky movies with you. They are harder to find, perhaps, because the dating world seems to demand that men, as well as women, put on a false front and set of criteria in dating profiles. The men you seek will like the whole package – they won’t be talking to your breasts, but they will like them all the same, no matter their size. The same goes for your bodies – there are men out there who realise that true sexiness is defined by what the mind does with your own body as well as that of your partner, not how it would look like to a magazine audience.

They are out there, these men, if you want. They might have some emotional damage, they might be coming out of messy divorces or relationships, they might have children. They might not be exciting, edgy or hot in a conventional way. They may also need some guidance in the bedroom, especially if past partners were of the “I threw him a bit once a week / month / year” variety. But they will provide engaging conversation and support as well as other benefits.

Shaping a new form of Greens leader in the Milne Kiln

The retirement of Bob Brown came as a surprise to many, largely because the Greens don’t operate as a colander.  I wasn’t surprised as some were – due to Brown’s age as well as the ideal timing of the announcement, 18 months before the next Federal Election – giving enough time for his successor to build a public persona.

Now we have a new party leader, ready to lead a party. That is the key message that should be coming out of this change. No longer are the Greens just a group centred around the personality of one charismatic, friendly, avuncular leader. The Greens are a party, with structures, a variety of views and ways of developing policy.  I think already we have seen that Milne has been at the pottery wheel, working on shaping her vision of what a Greens leader looks like for a while – her first week showed what has come out of her kiln. The new leader has already made a mark as someone who is ready to make deals and represent a sophisticated approach to policy, as shown in the Mike Seccombe piece in the Global Mail, not the extremist stereotype so easily made.

Milne has also outlined her startling (to some) desire to redirect Green focus to regional areas. Startling because the perception amongst old political heads is that appealing to regional voters won’t win the Greens seats. That flies in the face of one of the long term agenda of the Greens – to be agrarian conservatives. That is, protect what is disappearing and come up with more sustainable ways of doing agribusiness.  It is core business for the Greens to be interested in protecting farmers’ rights, to be opposing the poisoning of water tables and other destruction caused by coal seam gas mines, to be helping agribusiness develop organic techniques as well as other ways of sustaining Australia’s food bowl status.

This is why I wasn’t surprised or startled.  It’s not a new approach by the Greens.  It was no surprise that Milne started her regional listening tour by visiting Jeremy Buckingham, the NSW MLC from Orange who squeaked into the upper house a few hundred votes ahead of Pauline Hanson. (Note that even the ABC reporter on the ground didn’t know who he was, by saying he was the region’s “local state MP”, when really he isn’t.)  His role has been to represent rural interests in the NSW Greens and has been touring those areas as a part of that agenda.  He is a Green who works against the stereotype perpetuated by the likes of Joe Hildebrand – he is a rural resident who spends his time talking to farmers. Buckingham is proof that the Greens are developing into a broad based party, containing a range of people with a range of backgrounds, agendas and interests.

It is easy for outsiders like the Joe Hildebrands of the world to take potshots at “inner city” Greens eating vegan food in Glebe, because they would never interview Greens members or take the time to investigate how the party works. These same critics, who also include Peter Hartcher, also focus just on the likes of Lee Rhiannon. The same Rhiannon who has fought for a range of issues over the years as a NSW MLC, not just being the Militant Watermelon that some would like people believe her to be.  She brings one voice to the Federal Greens and a passionate one. So does the likes of Rachel Siewert, who is currently highlighting the paltry amount of money Newstart provides people on unemployment benefit.

In her new role, Milne will probably enjoy a number of parts of it. She will enjoy talking to people in rural areas as well as others, considering that teachers like talking to people, generally. I do wonder, though, how any political leader copes with the land of dumb that we see in political reporting in Canberra. One such example is that produced by the former Liberal staffer Chris Kenny, who, as ever, shows little clue of how the Greens actually run or how the Greens deal with the Labor Government has actually worked. The balance of power Greens haven’t really had a large number of total wins in terms of its policy outcomes – after all, the carbon reduction target being delivered by the carbon pricing mechanism isn’t particularly large. The government is still subsiding miners and have left gold mining out of the MRRT. Dental care is still largely out of medicare, same sex marriage was cut down by the likes of Uncle Joe de Bruyn. We still have the arcane chase for offshore processing and Milne has already flagged her objection to the pointless chase for a budget surplus.  It’s just mendacity on Kenny’s part to claim that Brown had “too much” influence over the government – it’s a line he repeats parrot fashion and it suits his desire to be Australia’s Bill O’Reilly.  Truth was, the Greens received what a balance of power party usually receives – concessions, amendments. The fixed price of carbon over a limited term was a concession. The long term market based carbon pricing scheme is still the ALP approach, the front end is the window dressing put there to appease the Greens.

It was of mild surprise to me that Adam Bandt was installed as deputy, considering his recent arrival as an MP. It makes sense, though, on several levels. One, he is the Reps member and on a broader level, he does represent the inner urban professional who makes up a considerable number of Greens members and voters.  David Shoebridge performs a similar role in NSW. This may cause sniggers amongst some in the land of political punditry, but personally I think it’s of benefit of any party to have intelligent, articulate, politically clean people as representatives. Preferable to the likes of former union leaders like Craig Thomson and Marn Ferguson or, say, Barnaby Joyce.

Those who also like to compare the Greens to the Democrats also miss the point of what having Milne as leader will do for the party. The Democrats were a “keep the bastards honest” party, with a narrow range of goals focused on keeping both sides of politics to account. A party defined by the rules of the big two, formed by a former member of one of them. The Greens are a separate political force, defined by those who sit outside both major parties, a party that formulates its own methods and structures. Evidence from countries such as Germany show that the Greens can survive past the departure of its first leader and can form a culture that is bigger than one person. It’s a mindset that most Canberra writers don’t seem to get – that’s because they only deal with Canberra and perceive the rest of us from that prism.  Milne, though, will have, amongst other things, her garden as a form of escape from the levels of derp she will face.