On Friday afternoon I decided that 1 Million Women should say something about the appalling treatment that Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had been subjected to at the hands of a Perth talkback radio shock jock, Howard Sattler.
As prominent Australian journalist Lenore Taylor, now with the online Guardian Australia, wrote on the same day, ‘the standard you walk past is the standard you accept’, and this was something I could not walk past.
When I started to draft a Facebook post, news came through that Sattler had been sacked by his employers, Fairfax Radio, having already been stood down earlier amid a public opinion firestorm over his interviewing of the PM on Wednesday. I’m not going to repeat what was said, it’s been all over the news for days.
1 Million Women is apolitical as an organisation, so I took care with my wording, saying this:
‘We can’t let the day go without saying – Our Prime Minister, The Hon Julia Gillard, should not have to endure such despicable behaviour. Shame on you, (sacked) shock jock, Howard Sattler. Your rude arrogance was breathtaking & your line of questioning, appalling. Such disrespect is shameful.’
The intention was not to support Ms. Gillard politically in an election year. It was to abhor the disrespect shown to an important democratic institution, the prime ministership of our country, and the casual cruelty inflicted on Ms. Gillard as a person. Note, not even just as a woman, but as a human being.
What came next, after I clicked to make the post live, is a reflection of both the best and the worst of the online world of social networks. Within 48 hours that single post gathered nearly 7000 likes and over 800 comments, with over 800 shares.
The overwhelming majority of the comments the post received ‘got’ what we were saying, that the denigration of Julia Gillard and the disrespect for the institution were shameful!
However a small minority of comments, say about five percent, were in themselves variously hateful, aggressively partisan and simply crude and abusive – the nasty troll set on social media, and not all of them from men. Some were ugly enough to delete, a small few bad enough to ban.
For the record, 1 Million Women is a movement of women taking action on climate change through the way that we live. We take practical action in our own homes, workplaces and communities, and build our collective power as women to drive change .
So why enter into the Julia Gillard-Howard Sattler imbroglio at all? As a movement of women, we will always stand up for the rights of women. We will always stand up for kindness and respect.
When 1 Million Women stood up to deplore the treatment meted out to Julia Gillard, it had nothing to do with politics. It has to do with people in positions of influence, like Howard Sattler, who appear to be consumed by their own hatreds and intolerances. In an era where common decency and respect for our community institutions, our public officials and our professional people is being stripped away by destructive nastiness we desperately need to tap into the best of humanity – our better angels – and repudiate the dark side.
Lenore Taylor in her article concluded that ‘… everyone who finds a comment offensive, below a reasonable standard of debate or questioning, and continues to walk past, helps acceptance of the unacceptable.’
Passive acceptance of behaviour like that of Howard Sattler and his ilk is not what I stand for, nor ever will, and I believe the past 48 hours have shown it is not what 1 Million Women followers will accept either.
Natalie Isaacs, Founder, 1 Million Women