Often, people like to think Australia as a nation is pretty funkily and nattily dressed. Every week, though, events occur that shine a mirror onto ourselves that show that’s not the case. Two recent events have shown this – one is the request by middle aged breakfast TV host David Koch for women to be “discreet” about breast feeding; the other Parramatta Council asking an LGBTI support organisation to take down a sign at its “Rediscover the River” festival.
The one that is attracting the most comment currently is the reaction to David Koch’s comments about breastfeeding on Sunrise. I won’t add much to this discourse, because there have been plenty of very good posts about it, such as this one in the Hoopla and Kat Gallow’s succinct post. It speaks volumes for where we are as a society that such a person’s statements are given the credence and space in our discourse. One can imagine the conversations happening today in our workplaces, restaurants, on Facebook and in comments sections, such as this one in The Punch. Having been in such conversations at my previous workplace, I have an idea of what will be said. There will be all varieties of the concept of “classy”, “discreet”, “women should just find a room” and that sort of thing – from men and women. The fact that breastfeeding in public is lawful and shouldn’t really be anyone else’s business doesn’t seem to come into this a great deal – women are being made to feel as though the natural act of breastfeeding is somehow shameful and needs to be done with approval by society. That’s why TV clowns and other people are allowed to throw words like “classy” and “discreet” into a discourse on how women can act in public. It shows that when the mirror is held up to us on this issue, we seem to be wearing whatever conservative middle aged Anglo-Celt man clothes David Koch has on.
The other issue that should be attracting outrage (but, in comparison to the Koch issue, currently isn’t) is the move by Parramatta City Council to ask LGBTI advocacy group Twenty10 to take down an “offensive” sign put up at the council’s “Rediscover the River” festival on Thursday. This is the sign.
It’s a sign advertising support services for a group of people in western Sydney who are frequently marginalised, discriminated against and made to feel shame for their sexuality and gender identity. The services of Twenty10 are desperately needed by those in western Sydney who have experienced homophobia throughout their daily lives, both in public and at home. To my eyes, at least, it can be seen in no way as offensive to anyone (unlike, to me at least, many banners in the same region that degrades women or advertises gambling services). The event was advertised as a family day, with events that were meant to show the diversity of the area. However, the organisers of the event asked the Twenty10 organisers to take down the sign because people at the event found it offensive. Originally, a Twenty10 organiser interviewed by Linda Mottram on ABC 702 believed it was the Lord Mayor of Parramatta, John Chedid, who made the complaint – but this has been countered by Parramatta City Council in this official Facebook statement.
“Numerous complaints made by members of the public”. Members of the Fuddy Duddy Nation. The organisers of the event should should have told these complainants that their complaints are noted and then ignore the homophobia, rather than feeding it by giving in. The same goes for workplaces and public spaces where the fuddy duddies complain about breast feeding mothers. It would have also been a good move for the organisers to consult with the council on the issue. This is because councils and other bodies should just be saying that “it’s legal and it’s right” to those complaining – but it is easier and less complicated for them to just give in to the Fuddy Duddy Mob. The mirror shown to us in response to the cave in by the organisers of the Rediscover the River event shows that there are people near us with “We Don’t Have Gays Around Here, So Why Do They Need Support” badges. I find this acceptance of continuing homophobia more disturbing than the Koch silliness.
These events show that the Fuddy Duddy Nation is not discreet or classy in its open discrimination against breast feeding mothers and the LGBTI community. They hold all the cards, all the power. The battle continues against their draconian ways.