Time for us to face an awkward truth. I believe Pauline Hanson is our grandest example of feminism at work.
As uncomfortable as the idea may be, Pauline Hanson is living the feminist dream writ large. Despite entering politics as a twice divorced, single mother with four children, a limited education and a small business to run, I’ve rarely heard her speak on how difficult it was to get ahead, or how threatening it was to be interrupted by a man, or how there were no role models in parliament to inspire her.
And so while feminists squabble in mainstream media about what women say to each other about jackets on morning TV, Pauline Hanson is busy moving ahead, and she’s doing it in the most feminist way possible, by speaking the truth as she sees it, boldly and out loud.
For the last twenty years Hanson’s truth has been punctuated by her ongoing ignorance and racism so any mainstream media woman who aligns herself with Hanson for any reason is tarred with the same brush. This has lead Hanson to achieve her status largely without the networks that exist for women in power in media and PR. She’s done it outside feminism’s voices in this country, not with its help.
To take feminism in its broadest sense is to see it as the work to advance women’s equality in every aspect of life. We are very selective when it comes to who we allow to speak for feminism, or represent its core values, whatever we deem those values to be. They mustn’t be too rich, so you can keep sending those fat shaming Gina Rinehart memes around. They mustn’t be too poor because we can’t trust them beyond being the victim; we want to see women succeed but we celebrate the schadenfreude of the mistress who topples the Channel 7 man who is all too powerful, even though it was her choice to step outside her professional role. That is, if feminism is about choices.
So why isn’t Pauline Hanson a headline act at women’s conferences, elucidating on how to get ahead against furious opposition, when you have no money, when your kids are hungry, but you want to change the world?
The answers I’ve been told include that Pauline acts like a man, that she has given herself over to men for success, sacrificing her claims to any sisterhood that others might get.
Hanson’s playing the system, I was told, and I wish that was part of the feminist curriculum.
Petitions and demonstrations don’t make for change. The best way to dismantle something is from the inside, not by hanging banners on its front lawn.
While feminism debates how much room a man can take up on a bus before you put his pic up online and demand his sacking, Pauline Hanson, that fish and chips mum from Ipswich, is introducing bills to parliament and making decisions about legislation, never once pulling out the inequality card, even though she came from massive disadvantage, and had no major party backing.
Pauline Hanson went to jail in the course of her participation in the democratic process because of what we know now to be Tony Abbott’s command. She hasn’t done much of the work for inmates she promised to do when she got out, but even Bronwyn Bishop called her Australia’s first political prisoner.
Hanson is at the helm of one of the fastest growing populations in the country, a phenomenon in itself. But the pearl clutching hand holding onlookers are too incredulous that this is happening to believe it’s real.
“You shouldn’t talk to your father if he is a Trump supporter”, my American friend told me. I agreed, but that’s the exact reason while his reign will be eight years, not four.
As long as people keep ridiculing and denigrating those who don’t agree with them, those same people will remain resolute that they were right to have their hatred entrenched. Silencing Hanson and her supporters serves only to reinforce their underdog belief, and justify the initial reasons why.
While feminism debates how much room a man can take on a bus before you should put his pic up online and demand his sacking, Pauline Hanson, that fish and chips mum from Ipswich, is introducing bills to parliament and making decisions about legislation, with a hugely successful political win just behind her, and growing influence ahead of her, never once pulling out the inequality card, even though she came from massive disadvantage, and had no major party backing.
What if we may not like what she says, but she’s living the reality of what feminism promotes; individuality, free speech and choice for women to have success in whatever realm they truly choose?
What if Pauline Hanson is Australia’s biggest feminist success story, and being female isn’t really that big a deal after all, if you believe in yourself and your values enough and work your guts out?
What if we all just have to get on with it?