Thursday, 19 March 2009

Pauline Hanson and those photos

I'm embarrassed to admit it - but in an unfeministic moment, I giggled at the news of Pauline Hanson's alleged nude photos. And, if we're to be honest about it, I suspect I wasn't the only one.

Later, when I reflected on it, I wasn't sure why exactly I'd laughed. I guess there's a rather childish glee in seeing someone you don't like get their comeuppance - 'just desserts' are the standard ending of many a traditional story.

But there's something more to it. The idea of a powerful woman being sexual is a fraught business - it's as if such a woman must be some kind of femme fatale, like Madonna; or be branded as a 'deviant', like Helen Clark and the lesbian rumours; or be regarded as frigid or asexual, like 'iron lady' Margaret Thatcher.

Whoever photoshopped Pauline Hanson into those pics knew the idea of Pauline Hanson being sexual would seem ludicrous to many - and it did. It's hard to say why, but the idea of a woman being both powerful and capable of sexual affection just doesn't fit well within our culture. For a woman, an aspiration to power remains somewhat odd or deviant - being submissive remains a part of 'normal' female sexuality. This isn't the case for the male of the species. Although there are some exceptions, power is normally considered an attractive quality in men.

For the record, I don't particularly give a shit about Pauline Hanson as an individual. I think she deserves every bit of scorn she gets for fostering racial prejudice, and her objectionable politics are exactly what our dislike should be directed at. But the principle remains an important one - a prominent woman should be critiqued for her ideas, not belittled because of her sexuality. This belittlement is a tearing down - a reminder to the powerful woman that, ultimately, she's just a p*ssy like the rest of them. In that respect, making fun of one powerful woman is an attack on the sexuality of all women.

10 comments:

indii said...

I couldn't agree more. I detest Pauline Hanson's politics, however I can't help but be outraged by the release of these photographs. According to the photographs' owner, they were taken a long time ago, by someone she trusted, in private. I fail to see how these photos have any relevance to her current political campaign.

The fact that the media has run so far with this story is just another slap in the face to women in the political arena in this country. When will we ever grow up?

Lisa said...

such an interesting line of thought on all this.
despite whether the photos are real or not, the fact remains that people wanted them to be real, and that is truly the saddest indication .
Lisa x

Madeleine said...

The photos were of someone else, they were not photoshopped.

Regardless of one's politics, "news" of this sort is out of line and out of place in public.

When I first emerged in student politics a student editor published a photo of a scantily clad woman jumping out of a cake and put a photo of me next to it and gave both the heading "Deja Vu."

Apparently many people thought the cake woman was me. It was common knowledge that before I became a Christian I had a fairly wild past and the woman bore a passing resemblence to me and since the media had published both pics with the heading it MUST have been me.

Even my own mother in law thought the pics were of me. It was horrible. The person was not me, I had never jumped out of a cake and I didn't think the person looked anything like me. Matt, wonderful man he is, could also spot that it was not me but it felt like the whole world couldn't and believed they were looking at my breasts.

That incident was my first defamation action. I hope Pauline sues everyone who published the photos and I wish her well in that even if I don't have much time for some of her politics.

Julie said...

Here's the link to the story where it's confirmed the pictures are not of Hanson.

I have to say I thought she was lying about her involvement in this when I saw her talking about it on the news a few days ago. Doesn't change the fact that really this shouldn't even be a news story in the first place.

Deborah said...

I loathe Hanson's politics, but I just groaned when the news first broke. I don't give a damn about what some consenting adults did twenty or thirty years ago. And I'm very tired of the way that women's sexuality keeps on getting used as a tool to try and humiliate them.

Madeleine, what happened to you really sucks too, for exactly the same reasons. It's a standard tactic, and it doesn't mater who it's used against, or what their political views are. It's just wrong.

backin15 said...

I share the consensus here, the tactic is loathsome, the fact that Hanson is too doesn't make it acceptable. It's no different to paper's publishing racey photos of sports women. It's simple degradation.

Madeleine, I didn't know that story. Waikato student politics certainly deteriorated. I assume/hope you won.

Anna said...

Actually, like you Julie, I did wonder if Pauline had had a hand in it at first...but whether she did or not, the choice to publish was still grounded in the misogynist assumption that it's OK to dismiss what a woman is trying to say and take the piss out of her on the grounds of her sexuality instead.

barvasfiend said...

I'm fascinated that this story has gotten so much traction in NZ. In Australia it seemed to be a flash in the pan - -or maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention.

I agree that the media (and sometimes public opinion) struggles to come to terms with the idea of a female politician being sexual, but I'm not sure if this was a large part of the fascination with Hanson's so called pictures - (yes, I know they were fake)

I think Hanson's pictures were positioned as newsworthy not because she is powerful - in fact, she's largely seen as a figure of fun here, especially after a couple of fulsome magazine articles (with huge readerships) where she talked about her tragic love life.

I think the fascination with Hanson was more because she is the everyman's aging bogan chick - she's slightly mocked, and an object of sympathy (both for her appalingly bad judgement in her personal life, and for being jailed where no-one else would have been), and derision. Her politics, although sensationalist, were fringe, and she positioned herself as a sort of outback Kath and Kim, providing a useful diversionary strawman for more left wing interests in the election debates.

I don't really think Hanson IS percieved as a powerful woman - more a woman's weekly disease-of-the-week.

When the fake photos of Julia Gillard emerge, then the squirming will begin in earnest.

Bevan11 said...

You're all talking about it; therefore it must be newsworthy.

Julie said...

Sorry to be late back to this - Madeleine we don't agree on much but I do agree with you that the treatment you received was unacceptable. I really really hate the "can't you take a joke" line.