on the eve of this Equal Voice/LEAF joint event on new avenues for increasing the number of elected women at the highest levels of government in our country that I will be attending tomorrow, and after several good conversations with fellow female legal academics about brilliant comebacks that never made it out of my mouth (list is long and still growing), I offer you some video inspiration.
(this version here shows more of how she was being interrupted but the sound isn’t good)
Wasn’t that great? Penny Wong is Australia’s Minister for Finance and Deregulation. She’s their first openly gay cabinet minister, She is Australia’s first Asian born federal minister. She toed the line for a long time on her party’s position against same sex marriage, which earned her lots of criticism from same sex rights activists ( Queerty called her “Australia’s worst lesbian”) but I suggest reading her words here and here before deciding what you think on that. She’s a member of Emily’s List Australia, which supports progressive women vying for political office. She’s a barrister & solicitor, and she’s my new model for how to avoid regret either because of what you said or didn’t say. The only thing I quibble with is the “schoolyard politics” bit. Kids can/should/sometimes do have higher standards than Senator David Bushby. He meows at her, she indicates that she is confidently superior in every way, and that although she contemplated having him for lunch to avenge the insult, he is too disgusting and unworthy, and she’d like to get back to work. I’ve put more detailed instructions below for myself – and anyone else who needs them. ALSO: the woman behind her stops texting to listen. So there’s that too.
DON’T ignore it.
DO give a death glare and hold some silence for a beat or two.
DON’T raise your voice.
DO speak with coldly disgusted, condescending fascination, as though inspecting a particularly grotesque grub of some kind (“It’s just extrohdinary” she says. I don’t know if my Canadian accent can pull this off but i live in hope).
DO name the sexism
DON’T let the speaker deny it
DO indicate that you will not be derailed from what you were doing before sexism intervened (the shirt-tucking-in part, where she gets ready to get “back to work,” is lovely).
and DO occupy the moral high ground by both expecting and accepting (as she apparently has) any apology.
Thanks Penny Wong, for showing how it’s done. I’m keeping the script in my mind for next time. I know some people like a a more heated kind of anger, but I am highly in favour of cold fury in these situations and this is hall of fame material.