Why the Menu Matters

By now, pretty much everyone’s seen, or at least heard about, that menu, produced for a fundraising dinner held for Liberal National Party member Mal Brough. The guest of honour was Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, lending a hand in the effort to oust Independent Peter Slipper from his seat.

Remember Mr Slipper? Former Speaker, toppled after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him – allegations in which Mr Brough played a significant part? Oh, and let’s not forget, Brough himself admitted that he’d ‘misled’ people about the situation in order to help bring about Slipper’s downfall. But I digress.

The food presented for the dinner was, as expected, rather fancy. It’s the sort of thing you’d see at very high-end restaurants. That wasn’t the issue. It was the way the dishes were described. Now, you’d expect to see a little mockery of the opposing side at an electioneering function, and this was no exception. Kevin Rudd was compared to a goose at this one.

But then there was the way the menu referred to the Prime Minister:

The menu for Mal Brough's fundraising dinner

The menu for Mal Brough’s fundraising dinner

‘small breasts, big thighs, and [a derogatory reference to her genitalia]’. (I’ve blacked out the most offensive part of the description.)

Any way you look at that, it’s almost breathtakingly disgusting. The Prime Minister – the elected head of government – discussed in terms that wouldn’t be acceptable in the workplace, let alone a so-called fundraiser. A vicious attack on her physical appearance and her gender. Yes, her gender. When you start referring specifically to someone’s genitalia in such terms, you’re attacking their gender.

No doubt it was meant to be funny. I bet the guests got a big chuckle out of it, too. There’s nothing like mean-spirited mockery to really set the tone of an evening. More fun than teasing the ‘weird kid’ in the playground, right?

The menu made it to the public arena via the evening’s chef, in response to a tweet from Hockey:

One suspects the chef was less than impressed with Hockey pointing the finger at the Prime Minister and calling her behaviour offensive, given his attendance at the dinner – and his failure, at the time, to condemn the menu.

Brough was quick to get his face on television to say the menu was ‘inappropriate’ – but none of his people had drawn up that menu, and he didn’t know who did.

Inappropriate. That’s one word for it.

Hockey tweeted:

That, frankly, is absurd. He was the guest of honour. A copy of the menu was, according to the chef, placed on each table. Are we really supposed to believe that Hockey didn’t even glance at it? That no one pointed out the oh-so-hilarious descriptions?

And then there was Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, at a press conference with Steve Ciobo (who commented on Lateline that the Prime Minister was likely to ‘get her throat slit’), shaking his head and solemnly declaring that it was ‘tacky’ – but that we should also condemn ‘squalid’ jokes at union dinners. And by the way, wasn’t it convenient that this menu came to light at a time when the Prime Minister was under fire from her own party?

One after another, all three representatives from the Coalition worked to diminish the seriousness of the issue. Whether it was tepid language, attempts to divert or a completely unbelievable alibi, the reaction from the Coalition has fallen far short of the mark.

But really, what else should we have expected? Remember, we are talking about a Coalition that, under Abbott’s leadership, has never hesitated to making crude, sexist and violent remarks about the Prime Minister. Remember this?

Abbott fronting the 'No Carbon Tax' rally, backed by abusive signs

Abbott fronting the ‘No Carbon Tax’ rally, backed by abusive signs

At that rally, Opposition Senator Barnaby Joyce positively encouraged that placard-waving crowd to chant, ‘Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!’ People screamed for the Prime Minister (the ‘witch’) to be killed. Not one Coalition member out there spoke out against that. Abbott, in fact, even suggested the Prime Minister had brought it on herself.

Hockey stayed well away, but didn’t condemn any of it. Hmm, sounds familiar. Perhaps he ‘didn’t see’ any of those signs.

The menu is only the latest in a long series of sexist, violent attacks on the Prime Minister. It’s not merely disrespecting the office. It’s not picking out a long nose, or big ears, and highlighting them in a cartoon. These are sustained, specific attacks targeting the Prime Minister as a woman. The description of the offensive dish literally encouraged the diners to consider themselves cutting apart, chewing and swallowing those parts of a woman’s body that display her gender. This isn’t coming from some extremist group, hell-bent on armed revolution. This is either being endorsed by, or originating from, the Opposition – the Coalition that may well be elected to office in September.

At the time of the ‘No Carbon Tax’ rally, Independent MP Tony Windsor sounded a note of warning about the violent rhetoric. If it continued, and worsened, he said, he was afraid that it might spill over into actual violence. He was mocked mercilessly for ‘overreacting’.

But here we are, with MPs suggesting that the Prime Minister be murdered (and ex-MP Peter Reith suggesting that she commit suicide). Here we are, with MPs laughing about offensive, sexist descriptions before digging into the dish that was supposed to stand for her.

And here we are, with an Opposition Leader – possibly soon-to-be Prime Minister – who apparently thinks that it’s only ‘tacky’ or ‘unfortunate’ when someone suggests assaulting or even killing a woman.

Think about that.

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15 Responses to Why the Menu Matters

  1. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously think
    this web site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the info!

  2. […] we learned about an offensive menu produced for a fundraising dinner held by the Queensland Liberal National Party to assist their […]

  3. Nancy Urban says:

    It is sad that on a major radio, ex sport stars said that all they heard on the TV last night was political correctness after political correctness. Where does the buck stop. This is highly offensive, and people have said, if it was said in their work place, they would have been reprimanded. This is what I hope people will not elect come election time. The people who are pushing Abbott leave a very sour taste. We already know that a particular empire is being investigated for unlawful, dispicable acts, and the way things are being glossed over makes me sick.

  4. Fed up says:

    They also appear to be blind, Do they really believe the PM has small breasts.

    Maybe they should look again. In fact , she has slimmed down and looks pretty good. I believe the exercise has paid off.

    But small breast, never.

  5. ScarletEllis says:

    “too many words”
    Lol – you are an utter moron. If you can’t read well enough to get through it that is your own fault. Don’t complain about words being used in a blog.

    • ScarletEllis says:

      Oh damn – looks like he deleted his stupid comments. 😛

      • I’ve removed the offending comments. The poster claims they don’t wish to be subscribed. I can’t remove their subscription, but if they’re not prepared to unsubscribe themselves, I will take their posts out.

  6. Rob says:

    Making Australia UGLY.

    We are all better than this an we deserve better than this. I refuse to be lead to the gutter.

  7. lilacsigill says:

    Truly vile and really not unexpected.

  8. Judy McShane says:

    Yes, I agree – this is an absolutely disgraceful display by the Coalition. It is neither funny or respectful. Yet these same people think they are fit to lead our country. Think again Australia please!

    • Disturbingly, at least one news program has already described it as ‘lucky’ for the PM, since it takes attention away from her remarks about abortion at the Women for Gillard meeting.

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