Metalanguage, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and The Misogyny Debate

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are often critiqued in relation to their use of language and are often perceived as lacking integrity on the floor of parliament and in their policy behaviours. Consequently, they have both been subjected to scrutiny of their use of language by fellow politicians, comedians, media personalities and social commentators as well as in the private domain of members of the public.

In the very early days of Julia Gillard’s political rise as Deputy Prime Minister, her strident Australian accent was commented on and criticised– even mocked – by many, especially the educated and upper classes. (Yes, Australia The Lucky Country of The Fair Go does have class stratification.) Consequently, she appears to have undergone enunciation and speech delivery training to modify this, possibly to make it more universally acceptable across ‘class’ accents.

As a female leader, some would argue, she has also been subjected to commentary on her appearance, in both visually evocative words and in visual images (quite tame compared to some) which would not be applied to a male. This coverage involves the metalanguage of visual communication. Whether or not it is truly biased is for you to research, consider and come to your own informed interpretation.

After the famous or infamous Misogyny Debate sparked by Julia Gillards’ short but impassioned speech in Parliament – aimed directly at Tony Abbott’s criticism of her for not taking a stand against disreputable behaviour by The Speaker, Peter Slipper – public debate has raged about whether or not she accurately addressed the term ‘misogyny’ to Abbott. This has become a world wide phenomenon, possibly with significant longevity. See the New Yorker article response here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/julia-gillards-misogyny-speech.html

Recently, the editorial team of Macquarie Dictionary, a dictionary for Australian and New Zealand English, weighed into the deep waters of this debate by deciding to revise the current  common and public usage of the word ‘misogyny’  and consequently to broaden the definition. Some people have considered this akin to moving goal posts at a football game — mid game. Others consider it a valid reassessment and record of how language use evolves. What do you think?  Please read the Australian Financial Review’s informative article here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/macquarie_dictionary_has_last_word_NzrQFdWcPJG6G8qLRRiZtK

Also peruse the ABC news article; and the Comments section which sometimes includes commentary from the public about the underlying feminist discourse and gender/identity politics as people struggle to clarify definitions and differences between term such as ‘sexism’, ‘chauvinism’ and ‘misogyny’ with varying degrees of insight. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-17/misogyny-redefined-after-gillard-speech/4317468

Oh and weighing into the women-living-in-poverty aspect of the misogyny speech debate and politician Jenny Macklin’s ill-thought through comment, here’s a link to an article on The Vine website: http://www.thevine.com.au/life/news/the-35-dollar-a-day-challenge

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Because of the nature of this particular debate, this is a wonderful and fascinating opportunity to observe both the extraordinary use of language in the halls of power and arenas of media as well as metalanguage being consciously applied to parliamentary and public debate.

What you make of all this, dear reader, is now up to you. Cheers again,

Julie