Sexism rears its ugly head again

August 22, 2008

Around 150 women and men gathered on the lawns of the Mt Isa Civic Centre on August 19 to condemn Mayor John Moloney's recent statement degrading women and to demand his resignation.

Moloney had called for "beauty-disadvantaged" women to move to Mt Isa to redress a supposed gender imbalance. "If there are 5 blokes to every girl", he told the August 16 Townsville Bulletin, "we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mt Isa".

Apart from the blatant sexism of Moloney's comment, the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that, in fact, men make up 52.6% of Mt Isa's population, a far cry from the 5:1 ratio suggested by Moloney and certainly not a gender-imbalance crisis.

Moloney later attempted to defend his comment, saying: "It's a compliment. A woman can come here and transfer themselves with love and devotion in marriage from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan." He added that the women who protested in Mt Isa were blaming him for their own "unattractiveness".

On the day of the protest, an Australian Public Service Commission submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into paid maternity leave revealed that public servants who take maternity leave are significantly less likely to be promoted at work. Federal sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said in July that sexism is "alive and well" in Australian workplaces, and that "barriers to women's full and equal participation in the paid workforce are real".

Moloney's comments, which were subsequently backed by independent MP for the seat of Kennedy, Bob Katter, are clearly a crude expression of a social and economic system that continues to define women primarily as wives and mothers.

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