Geelong Trades Hall Council president Jackie Kriz gave the following speech on October 12 at a rally in protest against Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons' sexism. Kriz is also a member of Socialist Alliance.
We have to ask ourselves — is what the mayor did really that bad? I mean, he only wore a t-shirt depicting a naked lady with some captions.
We've heard the comments — it's only a t-shirt, or it's political correctness gone mad. What's the fuss? It's a trivial matter. We hear this rhetoric all the time, but it is not a trivial matter.
Sexism and misogyny are “hardwired” into our society. It is woven into the very fabric of our institutions. It is in our schools, our sporting clubs, our workplaces, our churches and our council. It is everywhere: it is institutional sexism.
It has been made acceptable through the TV shows we watch, the video games our kids play, the products we buy, through the media, magazines, advertising and imagery such as the mayor's T-shirt.
The objectification and the sexualisation of women, and now girls at a young age, are having dire consequences on women.
Why are we so angry about this? We are in the middle of an epidemic of violence against women. The mayor must be living under a log if he hasn't heard about this.
In Australia, one in three women will be sexually abused before the age of 16. One in five women is reported to have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. One in three women will experience a physical assault in their lifetime; and two women are killed every week by their partner. That is the real terrorism of our modern era — violence against women.
How do we fight the ever growing hatred and violence against women? First of all we have to be brave and challenge it. We have to speak out when it is so obvious and so very wrong.
Many of us are mothers, sisters, aunties and we are daughters. I am a proud nurse, president of Geelong Trades Hall, and a member of the largest union in Victoria, the Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation, which is a predominantly female union.
I am also a committed feminist. I am therefore compelled to expose the mayor for what he is — a sexist and a misogynist. I don't want to be standing up to speak out against the mayor.
But I have to. I have a son. And he admires the mayor. He looks up to him. And so do a lot of other young men and women. They see him as successful, flamboyant, confident and rich.
He is a role model for many of our young people. As feminists, we have to undo what he has done. This is not about one t-shirt, this is about our elected leader influencing our young men with a t-shirt saying that when women want something, they have to use sex to get it.
I don't accept the excuse mayor Lyons has given that he didn't read what was on the T-shirt. We know that appearance is very important to him.
So, when we analyse the mayor's T-shirt we have to say, "This guy is not working for us". He has let us down.
He has a lot of power to be a guiding light, a role model, a “pole star” if you will. Unfortunately he is none of those. Instead he just feeds misogyny and negative attitudes towards women.
This T-shirt is a symbol of his disrespect for women. It directly contravenes the mission statement of City of Greater Geelong Women's Committee which is to uphold “Equality, inclusion and respect for women in greater Geelong”. He has gone out of his way to do the opposite.
If we can't rely on our elected leaders in office, who can we rely on?