Charlotte Hays

It’s been a bad week for the metrosexual male.

Guy guys Tony Abbott, the newly elected Aussie prime minister, and Vladimir Putin, the newly elected king of the world, have been having a grand week. Metrosexuals Barack Obama and John Kerry? Not so much.

Could it be that the time for the staunch masculine virtues to play a role in the affairs of men (oops!) has rolled around again? A delightful throwback to the halcyon 1950s, Tony Abbott reminds me of my own uncles and the fathers of my contemporaries. Some of his pronouncements are Rick Santorum on steroids—but without the icky sweater. He has reminded women that instead of sending the laundry out it's cheaper to do their own ironing!

Yet Abbott just won a landslide victory in a bitter campaign in which Labor pulled out the "war on women" meme that was instrumental in giving President Obama a second term. Comparisons are in order.

In 2012, the Obama campaign trotted out “Julia,” a fictional woman who lived cradle to grave on public assistance from the government, the star of an Obama campaign infomercial entitled “The Life of Julia." Just FYI: In the view of the Obama campaign, Julia's dependence was a good thing.

There was also a Julia in Mr. Abbott’s life in 2012—former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who, alas, is not at all fictional, and who viciously attacked Abbott from the floor of the Australian House in what is widely referred to as her “misogyny speech.”

The occasion for Ms. Gillard’s 15-minute rant was that Abbott sought to sack Speaker of the House Jack Slipper, her ally, because the Slipper had slipped up and gotten caught sending vulgar emails to a female staffer. The emails, among other unsuitable things, compared female genitalia to a shellfish. While Ms. Gillard condemned the—uh—banter, she nevertheless thought it was the right time to attack Abbott.

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man,” Gillard said, gesturing towards the gallant Abbott. “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”

Sadly, one imagines such a charge would have been devastatingly effective were in tried in the United States. One recalls the furor over Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” remark. Americans seemed anxious to read some hidden misogyny in his eager attempt to demonstrate that he goes to great lengths to hire female staff. Australians, however, apparently didn’t buy the charge that Abbott was a raging sexist merely because he had conservative leanings and he won in a landslide.


Charlotte Hays

Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women's Forum.