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The danger of Steve Price and his ilk

The danger of Steve Price and his ilk

Friday 15 July, 2016
On Monday’s QandA, Steve Price demonstrated how dangerously out of touch his views on violence against women are. Is it time we stop giving airtime to these opinions?
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There are some things in this world I will never understand. Like why anyone thinks it’sfunny to joke about killing another person – male or female. I will never understand why anyone feels that a strangers’ desire to marry is a threat to their own loved-up, soft-filtered, over-Instagrammed wedded bliss. And I will never understand how Ellen Burstyn could be Matthew McConaughey’s daughter at the end of Interstellar. Don’t try and go all Neil DeGrasse-Tyson on me and tell me how the time-space-black-hole-parallel universe-continuum makes it possible for them to age at different rates: it will never make sense to me.

But there are a few things I do understand:

I understand – without question – that Australia has a domestic violence crisis.

I know that one in four Australian women have experienced domestic violence from an intimate partner.

In 30 weeks of the year so far, 36 women have been murdered – that we know about.

I do know – as Van Badham was trying to remind us on last night’s QandA – that under the coalition, $34 million dollars has been cut from community legal centres, often the first port of call for women needing urgent assistance when leaving an abusive relationship.

I also know that Australia has a problem when it comes to allowing female voices equality in the public domain.

According to a 2016 MEAA study the gender pay gap between male and female journalists sits at over 23 percent.

This week on QandA, a highly intelligent, impeccably credentialed and greatly respected woman tried to tell a man what she had learnt from her own experience and instead of listening, he shut down a narrative he didn’t like with an outdated gender-biased insult.

Every single major daily newspaper in Australia has a male Editor-In-Chief. With the (recent) exception of the ABC, every single broadcast network in Australia has a male CEO. In radio, with one or two notable exceptions, it’s a similar story. Forget about the school canteen on election day, the real sausage party is going on in the boardrooms of our media organisations across the country, except the snag in this case is far from democratic: in fact, recent findings suggest that of all the people seen, heard or read across the Australian media landscape, only about 24% are female. And over 40% of Australian women in the media have reported being violently stalked, harassed and trolled online.

Durinng QandA on Monday night, these two issues came front and centre.

I admit I hadn’t watched QandA in awhile. Like most Australians I have a healthy amount of derision for the show, which is counterbalanced by an equally healthy desire to learn and to be part of the conversation (read: get snarky on Twitter and hope they pick me! pick me! to be on screen).

I’d pretty much avoided it during the election but with Malcolm and co back in the (Kirribilli) house, I thought it was safe to wade back in, only to be hit by the almighty wave of bullshit that was Steve Price vs Van Badham.

You’ve all heard about it by now: Steve got asked a fairly serious question by a very serious questioner on a seriously serious topic and, instead of saying something valuable, decided to defend the morals of some mates who may or may not have been joking when they suggested drowning was a suitable way to get rid of pesky, opinionated women.

Cue Van Badham shutting that shit down in spectacular fashion and Steve whining like a spoilt child about being lumped in with the same morons he had literally just called his “very good friends” before declaring Van “hysterical” for suggesting that three larrikins having a laugh about holding a woman underwater until she stopped breathing was somehow reflective of a deeper, darker issue in Australian society.

The nerve! The hysteria! The ovaries of that woman!

On radio Tuesday morning, Badham was asked if Price would ever “get it” and she said no, he wouldn’t and that he would never change…something he then went right on to prove in his appearance on The Project last night, where he is a regular panelist. He didn’t apologise for his remarks, despite the urging of all his co-hosts, instead protesting that he was “ambushed” by the question and referred to Van Badham as the “aggressive woman sitting beside me”. He was good enough to note that he didn’t blame her for doing “her schtick; that’s what she does…(tries) to make me the bad guy,” but that he was “disappointed” that the story had become about him, not about domestic violence.

Okay. Coupla things:

  1. Steve Price – not Van Badham – made it about him the second he decided to defend his bros rather than answer the question.
  2. “Ambushed”? I’m sorry but no. QandA has been on the air for awhile now. No panelist agrees to go on it expecting an easy ride. You don’t want to face the music, don’t buy tickets to the band.
  3. “The bad guy”? Please refer to item 1. If there was any “schtick” responsible for you looking idiotic Steve, it wasn’t Van’s…it was the one between your legs.

To his credit, Steve does now seem to understand that he was wrong to not initially address the domestic violence issue at the heart of the whole argument. He was at pains on The Project to talk about how he’s been in contact with Tarang Chawla who asked the original question. And he plans to meet with the Victorian Minister for Family Violence next week. So full marks for trying to right the wrongs there.

But what he would not – could not – accept was that it was his inherent, outdated misogyny that got him into this mess in the first place. And it is precisely that misogyny that is so dangerous in the media and should no longer have any place in public discourse.

I am all for free speech but we have got to stop giving people with dangerously outdated ideas – about race, sex, gender and climate change (among others) – microphones. Andrew Bolt. Sam Newman. Pauline Hanson. And yes, Steve Price. Old, white folks doing their best Clint-Eastwood-in-a-deck-chair impersonation do nothing but breed division. Debate is healthy, division is not. There are so many wonderful new voices out there in Australia: why do we give so much air time to the dinosaurs?

This isn’t a dig at conservatives: I’m all for an intelligent conservative viewpoint. Steve Price’s co-host on The Project, Waleed Aly, is one of the most interesting and considered voices in the media today and he himself identifies, according to 2010 essay in The Quarterly magazine, as politically conservative, writing, “For a long time I have been intrigued by the fact that I find myself in agreement with much conservative political philosophy, yet in consistent disagreement with politicians and commentators who call themselves conservatives.”

As usual, Aly has hit the nail on the head: conservative doesn’t have to mean backward. It should never mean bigoted. I’m more than willing to hear what Julie Bishop has to say. Former Liberal leader John Hewson, since leaving politics, has become one of the most erudite and intelligent voices of true conservative thought – as well as being a staunch climate change activist. I can even take Alan Jones on occasion these days, because he’s willing to stray from the party line on things like coal seam gas and the proposed gay marriage plebiscite. But the fact is that people like Steve Price add nothing to the conversation but division – and if the recent election has taught us anything it is that as a society we are already bitterly divided. What we need more than anything is to find common ground, especially when it comes to no-brainer issues like domestic violence.

If a woman like Van Badham can’t speak about domestic violence without being patronised by a bloke feeling threatened, what hope does a woman without her resources have? Without her education, her financial security, her knowledge of her own self-worth?

When people like Steve Price – and Sam Newman and Eddie McGuire, for that matter – make it about them, about how they are misunderstood and hard done by, the true issues get blocked out. Which is why we can’t keep giving them a microphone. Free speech is one thing, hate speech is something very different. Free speech is Pauline Hanson railing on her own personal website, or on Twitter, about her latest misconception when it comes to what is or is not Halal. Free speech should not be Sunrise paying for her to appear regularly in the lead-up to the election, simply because she might say something controversial. Paying her does nothing but encourage the hate and giving her a platform for this hate does nothing but spread fear and division.

Same goes for Bolt. And a bunch of others. Including Price. I watch The Project pretty much every night. I love it. And I’m all for including a conservative voice in prime time. But it shouldn’t be someone as pig-headed, as backward thinking and as unwilling to hear reason, as Steve Price.

This week on QandA, a highly intelligent, impeccably credentialed and greatly respected woman tried to tell a man what she had learnt from her own experience and instead of listening, he shut down a narrative he didn’t like with an outdated gender-biased insult.

In households all across Australia the same thing is happening every night, only it’s not an insult, it’s a fist. Or a knife. Steve Price just proved exactly why this is a crisis: if a woman like Van Badham can’t speak about domestic violence without being steamrolled, belittled and patronised by the bully-boy bravado of a bloke feeling threatened, what hope does a woman without her resources have? Without her education, her financial security, her knowledge of her own self-worth?

This is why Steve Price, and his ilk, are dangerous. And why they should have to – forgive me if I sound hysterical – shut up, once and for all.

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