Friday, November 03, 2006

A good second comment - but fired anyway!

The fallout from the sheik affair continues. Suzanne Bassette, the national secretary of the left-wing Australian Democrats, wrote a letter to The Australian in which she expressed support for al-Hilaly:

I'm going for political suicide here but I’m willing to stand up with anybody else in this country who happens to agree with Sheik Hilali’s sentiments… Unfortunately, how a woman dresses does affect her level of likeliness to be chosen (for rape).

This is not a useful way to put things. The sheik's lecture did much more than just warn women to dress modestly to avoid sexual assault. It portrayed women as the fount of moral corruption and Christians as the most evil of God's creation. So it's unfortunate that Suzanne Bassett should talk about agreeing with the sheik.

However, in a later comment Suzanne Bassette wrote something quite insightful:

I have to apologise for my poor choice of words. Of course assaults occur everywhere and are hideous deeds. But I'm a grown up woman with a daughter and I tell her it's common sense to not be out on your own if you can catch a cab or wear outfits with your breasts hanging out of them outside of a safe group environment.

Really, would we go to work in a bathing suit? No, that's because like it or not there are some boundaries of common sense that apply and having an attitude that I can do ANYTHING I like and it's all your fault if you do something does carry a stupid factor. After all, being grown up isn't about doing whatever you like, but learning how to not do things you know inside are outside the zone.

This is a braver comment than Suzanne Bassette realises. The liberal political tradition is based exactly on the idea of individuals doing whatever they like, so it's a well-aimed dagger in the heart for her to describe this view as being unsuitable for grown-ups.

Young women in particular have it drummed into them that it is their "right" to act however they like. So much so, that some young women have lost a necessary sense of self-protective worldliness: accepting drugs and lifts from groups of strange men, passing out drunk in public, tottering home alone drunk.

I don't think I'm alone in cringing when I observe young women behaving this way. It's natural for us to feel concerned, as when Gabrielle Carey wrote in last Saturday's Age:

The biggest risk I ever took was hitch-hiking with Kathy Lette to Adelaide to see Spike Milligan when we were 16. How mad is that? I would die if my daughter did that today. [28/10/06]

Suzanne Bassette has been sacked from her role as national secretary of the Democrats because of her comments. Although I don't like the fact that leftists like her are rushing to defend al-Hilaly (presumably because they believe he is the oppressed "other"), I commend her for making (in her second comment anyway) some useful observations on this issue.


  1. Once every five years or so Leunig does a cartoon I can agree with.

    See here.

    Although Andrew Bolt does a good job in attacking the left on various issues, he gets it wrong when he attacks Leunig over this cartoon (see link).

    Bolt seems to think that Leunig is attacking "freedom". This implies, though, that Bolt thinks it is an important "freedom" for young women to be recklessly and self-harmingly immodest - something few of us will be able to agree with (including nearly all parents of teenage daughters).

    There's a good letter in response to Bolt from someone calling himself "Be objective" which I'll quote:

    "C’mon Andrew

    You can do better than the juvenile and inane, “if he’s not with us, he’s against us”, mantra.

    Sheik Hilali’s recent comments in relation to rape and the victims and perpetrators of rape are offensive and I do NOT agree with them.

    But, what is wrong with Leunig’s cartoon?

    Is there something wrong with a father telling his daughter that it is INAPPROPRIATE and DANGEROUS to wear a just a bikini if travelling home by train at night?

    Andrew, I know you dislike Leunig, but, to me, the measure of a man is his ability to agree, when appropriate, with someone he dislikes."

    This letter writer "Be objective" gets it right: he sticks with the best of his own tradition, even if this means opposing both the sheik and the more ideological view within the liberal right.

  2. The notion of 'freedom' when one charts a course "out on their own" (like these feminist that want to do whatever they like) - away from social convention, is something i could stomach a lot easier if they'd stop whining about the consequences to their 'chioces'.

    Their 'chioces' away from society's norms.

    Break away if you wish - but stop asking for society to 'protect' you when you've 'shunned' them.