No woman wants to be called 'babe' by her boss (or "the missus")

No woman wants to be called ‘babe’ or ‘the missus’ by their boss

It will never be said that 2018 was the year news stood still. There’s barely been a slow news day in the eight months and 27 days that comprise two thousand and eighteen.

Fresh from the ousting of yet another Prime Minister, we are now neck-deep into another brutal game of survivor, this time at the national broadcaster, and boy, is it ugly.

On Monday news broke that the ABC board had sacked the managing director, Michelle Guthrie two years into a five year term. She was devastated, some staff were elated and various reports of tension started flying.

On Tuesday it emerged that the ABC board had invited Guthrie to resign a few weeks ago, an option she declined.

On Wednesday a number of allegations serious enough to warrant a Senate Inquiry were levelled at the ABC chair Justin Milne, including that he sought to have Emma Alberici fired, reportedly to appease the then-PM Malcolm Turnbull who was furious with Alberici’s coverage of the government. (Turnbull has denied he ever asked for any ABC journalist to be sacked).

On Wednesday afternoon ABC staff voted in favour of a motion for Milne to resign, a motion he initially resisted. (Shortly after publishing this piece, Milne resigned)

On Thursday it was reported by News Corporation that Justin Milne also suggested that it was necessary to “shoot” political editor Andrew Probyn.

Fairfax Media also reported that Milne’s choice of language was the source of some resentment. It is reported that Milne had publicly described Michelle Guthrie as “the missus” and referred to female colleagues as “chicks” and “babes”.  Milne declined to comment.

Even more astonishing (and disappointing) than the fact this language was reportedly used is the fact that while several sources within the ABC said his language was problematic “not all believed the behaviour constituted sexism”.

Say, what?

If someone can explain to me how labelling a female MD as “the missus” doesn’t constitute sexism, I am all ears.

Is there a male CEO or MD in the country whose chair has ever described them this way?

Is there a female employee anywhere who actually enjoys being called a “chick” or a “babe” at work? Least of all by the leader of their organisation?

And when I say a woman who ‘enjoys’ it, I would like to exclude the multitude of women who tolerate such blatant sexism because that’s what’s engrained and expected, lest they speak up and be told they’re humourless PC warriors who can’t take a joke.

With the exception of those romantically involved, show me a woman who wants their boss to call her “babe” and I will show you a liar.

These are merely allegations so perhaps it’s not language that the ABC chair ever used, though certain emails do indicate something of a predilection for base communication.  If it is language the chair of Australia’s national broadcaster used, can we stop and reflect on the tone that sets in the year 2018?

The treatment of women in the workplace – and the abhorrent harassment they face – is firmly in the spotlight right now. We are living in the midst of a watershed moment for women and the time for male leaders referring to female colleagues as anything other than their names is done. Finito. Game over.

If it’s too difficult for a male boss to refrain from using sexist labels for their female colleagues, it’s worth considering whether they’re up to whatever it is their job is.

(And in case anyone is wondering what constitutes a ‘sexist’ label, one single question will reveal the answer: do men get called it? Are men ever called “babe”? Or “chick”? No they’re not. So it’s sexist.)

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