What does a woman need to do to combat sexism in politics? South Australian Liberal MP Nicolle Flint has an idea: drape yourself in a garbage bag dress to call out the issue, particularly a columnist who wrote a piece over the weekend focussing on her apparel and choice of footwear.
“I’ve put up with a lot as a woman in politics,” Flint begins in her video, which she posted on Twitter.
She then listed a series of incidents, including having being stalked, being called a ‘skank’, ‘prostitute’, and having a former top journalist publicly encourage that she be strangled. Sexism in politics? Oh, yes. It’s there. It’s very, very real.
On Sunday, Sunday Mail columnist and ABC radio journalist Peter Goers wrote, “Flint wears pearl earrings and a pearly smile. She favours a vast wardrobe of blazers, coats and tight, black, ankle-freezing trousers and stiletto heels.”
He continued, claiming that the SA State Member for Boothby, who has been in her role for over four years, “presents herself in her own newsletter 23 times as a fashion plate.”
“What should a woman in politics wear?” Flint asked in response in her video. She then took off the coat she was wearing to reveal a make-shift dress made from a grey plastic garbage bag (and a belt).
“How about a garbage bag? To match your rubbish views.” Flint concluded.
On her Facebook page, Flint added a link to Goers’ column as well as adding “It’s time women in public life are judged on what they stand for, not what they look like.”
The video has so far received more than 4,500 likes on Twitter and has been supported by numerous politicians across the country. Sexism in Australian politics is as old as our federation. But it’s only in the last few decades women have had the public platform (and cultural permission) to express the abhorrent nature and frequency of it.
In Queensland, Labour MP Anika Wells wrote on Twitter: “Be authentic but appeal widely. Be charming but don’t try too hard. Put together, but not like you spent much time on it. Made up but not like you care so much. Confident, but modest ya know? I’m with @NicolleFlint, the standards expected of women politicians are garbage #auspol”
In Adelaide, Senator Marielle Smith wrote that despite the fact she rarely agrees with Flints’ politics (Flint is Liberal , Smith is Labour) she agrees with Flint’s stance on battling sexism in politics, saying “…but I am 100% behind her decision to call the gendered nonsense out. There is no place in our politics for denigrating commentary on the appearance of female politicians. For goodness sake: judge the policy, not the shoes.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is also in support, thanking Flint for “standing up and calling out the constant sexism dished out to women in politics.
“Doesn’t matter what side you are on, no woman should have to put up with sexism in the workplace.”