While many writers of "letters to the editor" have had a field day commenting on the First De Facto, Tim Mathieson's recommendation that small, female, Asian doctors are the appropriate professionals to conduct prostate cancer examinations, being small, female and Asian myself (although not a doctor) I applaud his efforts to provide "affirmative action" for this disadvantaged minority to which I belong. He should also ensure that supermarket shelves be lowered so we can reach all the stuff we want, and that ingredients for Indian curries, Indonesian nasi goreng and Thai satays be displayed prominently.
However, how Tim's recommendation would fit in with erstwhile Attorney General Nicola Roxon's draft anti-discrimination Bill is another issue. But Roxon has form.
When the ALP belatedly recognized that men were disadvantaged so far as health is concerned in that their life expectancy was about six years less than that for women, Roxon appointed a number of "Ambassadors for Men's Health". One of these was Warwick Marsh, Director of the Fatherhood Foundation and Dads4Kids.
However, when the same-sex constabulary discovered that Warwick had published a booklet "21 Reasons Why Gender Matters" which acknowledged the differences between the sexes and implied that children need a mother and a father and do best when raised by their biological parents, they accused him of "homophobia". Roxon dutifully sacked Marsh and in his place Tim Mathieson was appointed.
It always amazes me that the environmentalists and Greens who are so enthusiastic about promoting and protecting "diversity" among plant and animal species, and indeed among races, cultures and ethnic groups, are also determined to minimize, ignore and almost make illegal the most exciting diversity on earth, i.e. the differences between men and women. Feminists insist that men and women are the same for most practical purposes in employment etc, but then go on to claim that the world would be a better and more compassionate place if more women were in powerful positions.
If one demurs that it is illogical to state that men and women are the same but that women are more compassionate, feminists retort that logic is a male construct and that women think differently, i.e. by intuition or witchcraft or something...
Well getting back to the First De Facto, so far as I know, prior to this appointment, Mathieson had shown no interest or expertise in men's health or fatherhood issues. I know that hairdressers talk a lot to their clients - having a captive audience trapped in a chair for the duration of the hairdressing is a great opportunity to be voluble, but I always thought Mathieson was a ladies' hairdresser. Julia's hair always looks so perfectly done, even in the most stressful situations - and she has had a few stressful situations recently.
However, Mathieson's affirmative action efforts on behalf of small female Asian doctors does not deal with another main area of male disadvantage, i.e. in education. For decades females have been outperforming males in high school exams, and substantially outnumber males at universities. This data was presented at a Parliamentary Inquiry by Alan Barron, Institute of Men's Studies, and myself representing Endeavour Forum Inc, to Brendan Nelson and Julia Gillard when she was Shadow Minister for Education in 2000.
Besides highlighting the educational plight of boys and men, we also presented data showing that the rates of infant mortality, male imprisonment, alcoholism, involvement in drugs of addiction, accidental deaths, suicide and homicide (both as perpetrators and victims) were far higher than for females. I have given evidence to a number of parliamentary inquiries and have observed that the witnesses are invariable treated with courtesy, even when the MPs disagree with their views. The transcript of the Inquiry into education shows that Julia Gillard treated us as if we were hostile witnesses in a court case, and regarded the occasion as an opportunity for "banter" and to mock those speaking up on behalf of men.:
Page EEWR 155 of the transcript of the inquiry records Gillard as saying: "Sorry about our banter. It started this morning when we had Babette Francis here, and our behaviour has gone downhill ever since! The quality of submissions has certainly gone up, our behaviour has gone downhill...".
Personally I would not have thought it possible for Gillard's behaviour to have gone further downhill, not in a public venue anyway, but with feminists all things are possible.
We do hope that in his role as Ambassador for Men's Health, Tim Mathieson will ignore the banter by his de facto about the plight of males and take seriously the disadvantages males experience in education and in life itself.
Babette Francis is co-ordinator of the Melbourne-based Endeavour Forum and the Australian representative of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer - www.abortionbreastcancer.com. She lived in India during the Partition
of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan, a historical event that she believes
was caused by the unwillingness of the Muslim leaders of that era to live in a