In Memory of Jo Cox, MP

Julia Gillard speaks in London in memory of Jo Cox MP.

This is an important speech. It illustrates the increasing level of misogyny – not just in social media but also, as we have seen in such an unedifying spectacle, in the American presidential race – that now infects not just politics but ordinary social interaction around the world. Eva Cox reflects that to at least some extent it represents a degree of failure of the “second wave” of feminism to confront the

general macho, aggressive tone and content of the abuse [which] are so similar and widespread that they are likely evidence of a serious backlash and rising hostility to any meaningful sharing of gender power.

I’m not sufficiently versed in current feminist thinking to analyse, let alone challenge, Eva Cox’s position, but I do have great respect for her.

Just as I have enormous respect for FPM Julia Gillard, who had to endure highly publicised misogyny at a level possibly unexampled by any Australian female (but certainly by any Australian politician) so far.

Just as I watch Hillary Clinton – with all her (alleged) faults – enduring the gross, perverted, sick behaviour of the Repug’s chosen (heaven help us) Presidential candidate.

Personally, I have been active at a very low level on social media for a dozen years. Yes, I have copped some pretty disgusting comments, all of which have been directed at my gender, my sexual appeal, my appearance, but nothing at all like the stuff too many women have had to deal with online; by innuendo; by direct and brutal confrontation.

I am fortunate. Almost everyone I have had dealings with throughout my life have been respectful, of me and of themselves. But that doesn’t apply to everyone, and I am not so hubristic as to think I have the solution. However, these tweets from the wonderful Kon Karapanagiotidis may well encapsulate what needs to be done:

There does seem to be a rising tide -worldwide – of violence specifically directed at women. In Australia, the number of women murdered each year by current or former partners is terrifying. The use of rape as a weapon of war – even against very young girls (and boys) has probably been part of human behaviour forever, but it is nonetheless appalling.

So, how do we work towards a culture of respect?

I didn’t intend this to be such a rant. But if we are going to live, as civilized humans, this is a subject we need to deal with urgently.

Meanwhile, to Julia Gillard’s speech.

Daily Telegraph

Each of us is here today because we believe in promoting more women, who are committed to equality for their sisters, into public life. All of us are here today because we understand that we can best achieve this goal by working together.

And of course, we are here to honour the memory of one great female politician who would have absolutely endorsed this celebration of unity and purpose, Jo Cox.

Togetherness, unity – these were values that drove Jo in all that she did. She believed in a world that celebrated and reflected our common humanity. She believed in a nation that was united and welcomed diversity.

Jo fought for togetherness throughout her life.

As head of policy for Oxfam, she had comforted victims of rape in Darfur, met child soldiers in Uganda, and empathised with the hopes and fears of elders in Afghanistan – all people who had born witness to the very worst consequences of allowing our differences to divide us.

In politics, Jo brought her passion for togetherness into everything she did. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, she proclaimed to the chamber that whilst she loved the fact that her Constituency of Batley and Spen celebrated its diversity, in Jo’s words, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Jo was devastated by the conflict in Syria, and took personally the lack of urgency and compassion that was characterising foreign policy debates over Britain’s role as a global power and the responsibilities that came with it. She feared for the children of refugees, for their future, their safety, and their health and education. These were issues that she felt strongly enough about to challenge her party, and to challenge the Prime Minister. In doing so, she changed the foreign policy of this country.

In the midst of the toxic politics that too often characterised Brexit, Jo continued her personal crusade for togetherness. She believed in the Remain position because she believed Britain – the United Kingdom – was stronger in the European Union than out. She believed unity equalled strength.

This concept of togetherness was something that defined Jo. It was a value which she fought for in the community and throughout her career. Tragically, it was a cause that cost Jo her life, far too terribly and far too soon.

Like millions of others around the world, I remember where I was when I heard of Jo’s death. I was in a hotel room in Brussels and – unusually for me – I had the television on. Normally, I get my news online but I was sorting through documents and other stuff I had accumulated on the trip. I flicked the television on for background but on hearing about Jo I stopped moving around the room, sank on to the bed and watched – saddened, stricken and shuddering about what this said about our world.

Women friends of mine, who were campaigning in Australia’s election, were particularly shaken. They wondered; “What does this mean for us now?” Standing at street stalls and giving out pamphlets at train stations they asked themselves for the first time ever – “are we safe?”

How do those who loved Jo recover? How do we all move beyond the shock and the fear?

My answer is that while we must farewell Jo, we must never farewell the values that defined her.

Jo lives on through those who loved her, those who miss her, and through all of us that share her passion for social solidarity as we choose to step up and serve in public life.

I have been asked today to give you an honest account of the reality of being in politics.

The most important truth is one Jo understood so well. Politics enables us to drive and deliver real progress. If you are driven by a sense of purpose, as she was, politics and the pursuit of power enables you to achieve your dreams for your society.

Activism is wonderful and it serves an important role in our democracy. But if you want to see real change and you want to see it endure, then politics is where you need to be. This is why Jo Cox made the transition from campaigner to MP.

I genuinely believe that politics is a noble calling, not a grubby, necessary evil. We are so incredibly fortunate to live in free and fair democracies where we have the right to run for Parliament. Jo was an exceptional person, there’s no doubt about it. But she wasn’t unique, and she would have been the first person to say so. There are so many women in our communities who could serve with distinction: we need to help them to get into parliament and to be proud to be political.

Of course, this isn’t just about numbers, and it’s not about ‘having a go’. It’s about results. Women need power to change things. You can’t change things if you are a name on a ballot, a quota filled – you need your seat in Parliament. Participation is the start, but power is the end. Jo knew that – it’s why she worked so hard across party lines to make sure that women were running for seats they could win and it’s why she herself joined a party where she stood a shot of becoming an MP and, one day, a minister, even a Prime Minister.

Jo had courage, but she was also unashamed to have ambition. She wanted to go far, and she wanted to lift up others as she climbed. There’s no stain in aspiring to the highest office in your country. It doesn’t taint the purity of your purpose.

Today, I want to say to you loudly and clearly – Have the highest of ambitions for yourself, for your purpose. Jo believed Britain could be a force for change in the world, and she fought for that.

I know what it is like to have power, to combine it with a sense of purpose and to deliver results. Whether it was improving our schools, introducing a National Disability Insurance Scheme or establishing the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, I was able to deliver on issues that mattered hugely to me and to the future of my country.

When I left the Prime Ministership, I immediately leapt into writing my memoirs. It was important for me to do this early, whilst the feelings, experiences and memories were fresh, and my reactions unsullied by the passage of time.

In doing so, I had to look back unflinchingly at my own time in politics. I had to unpack the highs and lows, the achievements and misses. The brutal politics, the incredible opportunities. And of course the way I experienced it all as a person, and as a woman.

I wanted as I wrote to send a strong message to young women contemplating politics and that message is define your sense of purpose, nurture your sense of self and go for it.

But as you forge ahead, understand that you will encounter sexism and misogyny and prepare yourself to face it and ultimately to eradicate it.

Let me share with you what that gender discrimination can look and feel like.

As Prime Minister, day after day, time after time, I would find myself in a room, often a business boardroom, where I was the only woman, apart perhaps from a woman serving coffee or food.

Because politics at senior levels in my nation and yours has been almost always the pursuit of men, the assumptions of politics have been defined around men’s lives – not women’s lives. It is assumed a man with children brings to politics the perspective of a family man, but it is never suggested that he should be disqualified from the rigours of a political life because he has caring responsibilities. This definitely does not work the same way for women. Even before becoming prime minister, I had observed that if you are a woman politician, it is impossible to win on the question of family. If you do not have children then you are characterised as out of touch with ‘mainstream lives’. If you do have children then, heavens, who is looking after them?

I had already been chided by a senior conservative Senator for being ‘deliberately barren’ and then had to stomach reading follow-up pieces like the one entitled ‘Barren Behaviour’ in one of our two national newspapers, which stated:

‘At the Junee abattoir, manager Heath Newton knows what happens in the bush to a barren cow. ‘It’s just a case where if they’re infertile they get sent to the vet to get checked and then killed as hamburger mince,’ he says . . . ‘In the Kimberley region, near Broome, where Senator Heffernan issued his public apology for his remarks on Wednesday night, the barren cows even have a name: killers. It’s the ultimate fate of an animal that can’t breed.’

Before becoming prime minister, I had also worked out that what you are wearing will draw disproportionate attention. It did when I became deputy leader of the Opposition. Pleading, ‘I like to wear suits’ or ‘I have been on the road for days’ simply did not cut it. Undoubtedly a male leader who does not meet a certain standard will be marked down. But that standard is such an obvious one: of regular weight, a well-tailored suit, neat hair, television-friendly glasses, trimmed eyebrows. Being the first female prime minister, I had to navigate what that standard was for a woman.

It is galling to me that when I first met NATO’s leader, predominantly to discuss our strategy for the war in Afghanistan, where our troops were fighting and dying, it was reported in the following terms:

‘The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has made her first appearance on the international stage, meeting the head of NATO, Anders Rasmussen, in Brussels. Dressed in a white, short jacket and dark trousers she arrived at the security organisation’s headquarters just after 9 am European time and was ushered in by Mr Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General.’ This article was written by a female journalist. It apparently went without saying that Mr Rasmussen was wearing a suit.

On another occasion, whilst in a bilateral meeting with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Earth Summit in Rio, a respected female journalist opened her article with: ‘As well as matters of state, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Julia Gillard have had a chat about their hairstyles.’ Six paragraphs then followed on the matter of our respective hairstyles.

This gender stereotyping was at the very benign end compared to much of what I faced: ‘Ditch the witch’ on placards at rallies. The ugly ravings about how ‘women are destroying the joint’ from a conservative and cantankerous radio shock. The pornographic cartoons circulated by an eccentric bankrupt. The vile words on social media.

It may be easy and comforting for you to conclude that all this is something about the treatment of women in Australia. I regret doing this but I have to disabuse of you of that notion. Indeed, some of the sexist insults thrown at me were not original. Rather they had originally been hurled at Hillary Clinton when she ran first to be the Democrats’ nominee for President in 2008.

Sadly, the current Presidential election campaign in the United States is showing us that this sort of gender discrimination isn’t set to leave us any time soon.

A Washington Post analysis that looked at 100,000 tweets made during the New Hampshire primary found the most ‘gendered’ words used about Secretary Clinton were a common swearword starting with ‘b’, a reference to her sexual organs, including a word starting with ‘c’ and the term ‘rapist’, including threats that she should be raped. For Mr Sanders, ‘dad’ and ‘basketball’ were as gendered as it got. Donald Trump today labels her as “Lying Hillary”, “Crooked Hillary” and he appeared to give a subtle endorsement to the use of violence against her at one of his rallies, where it has become routine for the crowd to shout ‘lock her up’ or even ‘string her up’. In this week’s debate, he embraced the spirit of these chants saying Secretary Clinton should be in gaol.

While not as dramatic or coarse, we have already seen Prime Minister May’s appearance and childlessness be subjects of focus.

Obviously, any one contending for high office has to be scrutinised and tested and no gender analysis should be taken to mean that female candidates should be immune from criticism. But these gendered references are the antithesis of valid critiques and there is a responsibility that lies on everyone’s shoulders – men and women – to make sure in any political campaign that criticism is not gender based, that it is not about precluding a woman from leading simply because she is a woman.

Beyond sexism, there are other very real risks that women in public life must face, and I fear those are much greater than they were when I commenced my own journey into public life.

Violence against women is nothing new in our world. Conservative estimates tell us that at least one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. These statistics traverse geography, race and age. In the United Kingdom, the number of violent offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, rose by almost 10% in 2015-16.

Now threats of violence have become more prevalent for women in public life.

Once upon a time, to criticise a public figure, you generally had to put your name to that criticism. Be it a letter to an editor, a confrontation at a town hall meeting, a considered critique delivered on screen or a view written in a newspaper.

Now, both seasoned commentators and the general public can say what they like, protected by the anonymity of a twitter handle. They have the power to fire barbs directly at their targets without any fear of consequence.

At best, these can be snarky and occasionally witty criticisms of a politician’s decisions or actions.

At worst, they can take the form of detailed death threats, or threats of violence against family, friends and staff.

And of course, as a woman in public life, the violent threats take on another sickening dimension. Threats of violent abuse, of rape, are far too common. A woman in public view may expect to receive them almost daily.

In the United Kingdom, the number of cases of extremely offensive online abuse against women is sharply rising, despite concerted efforts to highlight and challenge this type of abuse. I commend the Guardian’s The Web we Want campaign, and the cross party Reclaim the Internet campaign. This work represents important first steps, but there is much more that needs to be done to stem this flow of abuse that so disproportionately impacts women.

Our community would not consider it acceptable to yell violent, sexually charged abuse at a female politician walking down the street. Why is it okay to let these voices ring so loudly in our online worlds?

These voices weaken, ridicule, humiliate and terrify. Not only do they challenge the resolve of the women who cop the abuse, but they deter other women from raising their hand to serve in public life. For all the structural barriers to women’s participation in politics, and for all the gender bias and sexism that must be addressed, so too must we challenge and defeat the online abuse.

We don’t yet know to what extent online abuse translates into physical violence. But I am certain the connection is real, that women feel and fear it, and that it is preventing women from standing up and serving in public life.

All this needs to change. And in this room, we have the power to change it. When we reflect on what feminism has already achieved for women – voting rights, anti-discrimination laws, education, workplace rights, financial freedoms, better policing of crimes against women and the list goes on – we should be fortified and inspired by what we are capable of achieving next.

Jo Cox’s purpose in public life was togetherness: she wanted to see a world that was more fair, more safe and much less divided.

Through her work she delivered on this purpose. The world truly is a better place because of Jo’s service.

Let her purpose serve as the inspiration for us to fulfil our own.

Let her fearlessness give us the strength and courage to serve in public life, not withstanding all that we know about its potential perils and dangers.

Let her ambition and pride in her work be our own.

And for the women, like myself, who have already experienced the great opportunities of public life, let us stand in solidarity with the next generation of women and support their right to serve and lead, safely and freely, but most importantly – powerfully.

Thank you.

The Huffington Post

616 thoughts on “In Memory of Jo Cox, MP

  1. Would love to have this button at a government presser. .Would have RSI inside 10 minutes.

  2. The Adler 110, which Lyeonhjblahblah wants to be imported into Oz. (isn’t his son, son-in-law or suchlike a gun importer?)

    It is scary how easy it is for even an amatuer can alter an Adler to take ten rounds. It is as close to assault gun as you can get and still call it a shotgun.

    I found that on the internet in a 2 minute search.

  3. To save watching the whole 19 minutes (yes, that took just 15 mins to do), the guy took off the tube that holds the five rounds under the firing barrel and fitted a longer one that holds ten rounds. And the guy didn’t even know the name of some of the parts of the gun!

    Lyenhwhatsit has some dangerous ideas for a Senator.

  4. From Wiki

    David Leyonhjelm was born in the Wimmera, in western Victoria and was raised in Heywood, on the dairy farm of his parents Bryan and Jean Leyonhjelm.[5][6] The family are of Swedish noble origin;[5] the ‘Leijonhielm’ barony granted 1719.[7] He was the oldest of four children, and as a teenager trapped rabbits and worked in a shoe shop to help support his family.[5] When he was 15, his parents separated, and he moved with his mother to Melbourne, where he attended Dandenong High School.

    He started out as a vet.

  5. Pollbludger sports a beautiful set of numbers. Lurved the bit under the title. Nice dig at Truffles or as he is becoming known in the fungi circles, Phallus impudicus

    Essential Research: 53-47 to Labor

    The weekly result from Essential Research finds Labor’s lead reaching heights not seen since the last days of Tony Abbott.

  6. Toad of Toad Hall Brandisnaps’ real calling would have been back in the 17th century. He would have been ideal.

    • I can just see him in the powdered wig, the beauty spots, the high heels, the pannier skirts …..

      Just like a pantomime dame, really.

  7. If I keep paying attention to news and Twitter I’m going to have to go to confession at least 5 days a week.
    I keep blaspheming. Today alone I’ve muttered Christ’ about twenty times. Yesterday was worse, Monday was a shocker.

    Nite – I’ve never been to confession, but the Malcolm LackBalls government is turning me into a sinner.

  8. A brief overflow of Kīlauea’s summit lava lake on October 15

    On Saturday, October 15, Kīlauea Volcano’s summit lava lake overflowed the vent rim between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., and again around 6:30 p.m., HST. In this image, captured by HVO’s K2 webcam, you can see small spill-overs (shiny black lava) on the east (far left) and west (right) sides of the vent rim.

    In recent weeks, the lava lake level has been rising and falling in concert with summit inflation and deflation (DI-events), with the lake surface often in view of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park overlooks. On September 22, the lake level rose to within 10 m (33 ft) of the vent rim, the highest level reached since the previous lake overflow in April-May 2015. Since then, the lake level has risen and fallen with multiple DI-events.

    A switch to summit inflation on October 13 led to Saturday’s brief overflow, which was soon followed by a return to summit deflation and a drop in the lake level. As of this morning, October 17, the summit lava lake level was 17 m (56 ft) below the vent rim.

    • How would senator macdonald react if he were anally raped? Or orally raped? Or both? And repeatedly?

      Mere trivia?

      I wonder.

    • Brian,

      I hope you understand why I have been so explicit about my feelings towards that particular senator. I also apologise to you and everyone here who may have found my statement more than somewhat too raw.

  9. L2

    Bastard ? A description of the prick several orders of magnitude below what he deserves to be called . What do they put in the water “north of the Tweed” ? Quinceland punches well above their weight when it comes to producing poillies like this.

  10. I wonder, when was the last time a journalist tried to get away with calling Turnbull a great communicator, or a progressive force? He’s trashed his own reputation so quickly, and so thoroughly, that it’s impossible to even entertain those ideas any longer.

    So what is the point of keeping him as leader of the Liberals? I can’t think of one. The party only elevated him as a bulwark against falling poll figures, and he’s no longer capable of that. They’re only holding off replacing him because it would make them look unstable, and because their hold on the House of Reps is so fragile. There’s no way forward for them, and the fact that no alternative leader is even being put up for consideration suggests they’re out of ideas across the board.

    Are they really planning to get from here to the next election purely on distractions? Seems that way.

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