Did you watch Q&A on the ABC last night? If not, count yourself lucky. It was an absolute doozy. Last night’s episode was always going to be a bit different; the panel was free from politicians and it was held at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
The panellists were Germaine Greer, British journalist Peter Hitchens, US author Hanna Rosin and author, columnist and television presenter Dan Savage. As usual the discussion was moderated by Tony Jones but beyond that there wasn’t too much usual about the conversation that unfolded. I was initially a little dumbfounded each time Hitchens spoke; his views were so dripping in elitism, superiority and intolerance that I couldn’t quite believe my ears. And yet he continued. As the show wore on my response developed into visceral anger.
Not all of my anger is directed at him. Some of it is aimed at the ABC, for giving him and his abhorrent views a platform in the first place. And some of it is reserved for Tony Jones for not pressing Hitchens on some of his views.
These are just a handful of the lowlights and highlights of the program*:
From Peter Hitchens
On gender equality:
“[Gender] equality was won decades ago. Women run the BBC and I’m sure women run the ABC too”. Actually Peter that’s wrong. Gender equality has not been achieved. Need proof? It’s in the pay gap, it’s in the disproportionate number of women running listed-companies, running government departments, leading faculties at university.
On mothers are the primary caregivers:
“Everyone knows mothers are better at looking after children than men.” Wrong again, Peter. Based on your views I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case in your household but come around to mine. You will see that my husband is every bit as nurturing and loving as I am with our daughters. In exactly the same way my father and my grandfather are and were. And this is not rare. Gender does not determine an individual’s capacity to care for children. Fathers are fantastic parents and you sell every single one of them short when you make this type of ill-informed blanket statement. This line is a rather convenient excuse to ensure the responsibility for rearing children sits on the shoulders of mothers.
On women returning to work:
“[Women face] this extraordinary pressure to hand their babies over to carers at six months old and return to work.” I get the feeling this bothers you not because you care about how that pressure – perceived or real – actually impacts women. Some mothers return to work after 6 months, some don’t. Some do so willingly, others do so out of necessity. I suspect this issue is more complex than you care to consider.
On gay marriage:
“You people [directed to married gay man and fellow panellist Dan Savage] say it doesn’t harm anyone but it does.”
He also added several times that the quest for equal treatment is selfish. Tony Jones had ample opportunity to intervene on this issue because Hitchens made the same comment several times. He should have been questioned. Peter, how does a gay person seeking equal treatment harm anyone? How is that selfish?
From Germaine Greer
“Patriarchy also oppresses men – it’s not the rule of men, it’s the rule of old men.”
On Tony Abbott:
“For me the great mystery is that Tony Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar.”
From Hanna Rosin
“We need to do less for our children, not more.”
“We do racism and sexism in code in the US. Here you guys use more open language.”
From Dan Savage
On Tony Abbott:
“You’re having your George W Bush moment.”
“It is as patriarchal as you make it. Marriage is a union between two autonomous individuals.”
From Tony Jones
On Tony Abbott:
“He is popular with Australians and he doesn’t care about political correctness. How do you explain the landslide [election win]?”
Did you watch? What did you make of it?
* The program’s transcript is not yet available so these quotes are to the best of my knowledge.