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The Australian woman's reproductive duty to society
February 16, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Recently, a postgraduate researcher in journalism attended a talk about the challenges of Australia's aging population, given by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Afterwards, when a member of the group she was in introduced her to Rudd and mentioning the PhD she was completing, Rudd rolled his eyes and remarked that that is the "excuse" that "all" young women are using nowadays to avoid starting families.
posted by acb (121 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
-picks jaw up off the floor-

You know, even having experienced this, I'm still always shocked and flabbergasted that people actually say this shit.
posted by strixus at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


Yeah but what was she wearing?

hamburger oh dear lord hamburger
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:51 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow. We've come a long way, baby.
posted by Heretic at 11:51 AM on February 16, 2010


That's not a knife. That's a foot in your mouth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:52 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a decent conversation to be had about how socioeconomic pressures to delay childbearing are at odds with fundamental facts about our own biology, but I really doubt it's going to happen in this thread.
posted by Oktober at 11:52 AM on February 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


Sounds like "the challenges of Australia's aging population" also include getting saber-tooth tiger stains out of your leopard skin clothing.
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Australia: Failing to defeat expectations.
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a decent conversation to be had about how socioeconomic pressures to delay childbearing are at odds with fundamental facts about our own biology, but I really doubt it's going to happen in this thread.

Also a conversation about how the "duty" of a subgroup of society translates to a "duty" on any member of that subgroup.
posted by DU at 11:54 AM on February 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Given the baby deluge among my grad student friends, I'd say that he's anecdotally full of shit. Grad school is a way better time to have babies than when you're up for tenure.
posted by emilyd22222 at 11:54 AM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why do we assume it is the obligation of all women to reproduce?

Suggested for further research.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:54 AM on February 16, 2010


Blaming the victim, as always. It's not an excuse, it's a choice - a very difficult one - that young women would not have to make in a truly equitable society.
posted by Anali at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a decent conversation to be had about how socioeconomic pressures to delay childbearing are at odds with fundamental facts about our own biology, but I really doubt it's going to happen in this thread.

That's true, but largely because threads tend to follow the tone of the post.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2010


That may be the case, but it does not follow that everyone either wants or has a duty to have children. In Australia, these days, 11 years of right-wing governmetn followed by two years of centre-right government with a strong social-conservative streak (witness the national internet firewall plan, for example) has instilled some regressive assumptions, such that people (particularly women) who don't have children are selfish "baby bludgers" shirking their duty to society.
posted by acb at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2010


That's true, but largely because threads tend to follow the tone of the post.

The tone of this post seems fine. What's wrong?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


the "excuse" that "all" young women are using nowadays to avoid starting families.

The excuse my girlfriend uses is that she isn't a brood hen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:56 AM on February 16, 2010 [42 favorites]


Ah yes, the oldest excuse in the book! The old, "I'm going to study functional SNPs in the lymphotoxin- gene that are associated with susceptibility to myocardial infarction," just to get out of starting a family. Gen Y, you procrastinators you!
posted by geoff. at 11:58 AM on February 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'd rather have underpopulation and overly skilled workers.

Also, ew, sexist.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:58 AM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


"I would, but it would be born Australian."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:59 AM on February 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


Funny. I used my family as an excuse to avoid finishing my dissertation. I guess I'm doing it wrong.
posted by bibliowench at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


The excuse my girlfriend uses is that she isn't a brood hen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:56 PM on February 16


The excuse my girlfriend uses is that she isn't my wife.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


That's true, but largely because threads tend to follow the tone of the post.

The tone of this post seems fine. What's wrong?


Nothing's wrong with the post. It's just not in the direction that the commenter was hoping/expecting it to go in. If the FPP were a link to a study or an essay describing the difficult decisions professional women make, then the conversation they were hoping for may have come to fruition. This FPP is about the Australian PM making a stupid comment - therefore I predict a thread full of stupid comments. I ain't mad or nuthin - I guess I'm just saying that one shouldn't impugn the fine members of Metafilter if this thread doesn't evolve into an enlightening look at the serious issues faced by certain women in society.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny coming from a guy that uses politics as an excuse for avoiding starting families.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


She should have started crying and screamed, "I'm infertile you jerk!" And then collapsed on the floor. Making a scene would have probably taught this guy a lesson about opening his mouth. Then again, maybe not.
posted by dortmunder at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh man I don't get to do this very often, and might be a long time before I get to do it again but here we go

HEY AMERICA!
OUR POLITICAL LEADER'S A BIGGER DICKHEAD THAN YOURS IS
HOWDYA LIKE THAT EH
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Now, I know I haven't been here for that long, but I'm pretty sure the mods don't like when we make predictions about how threads will go really early in the thread.


[comment removed - can we NOT predict bad behavior in a thread where none has happened? thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on October 5, 2009 [+] [!]

posted by pecknpah at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it possible he was deadpanning?
posted by Reverend John at 12:12 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't we just pass a law requiring PhD's to reproduce?
posted by oddman at 12:15 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's been pretty horrible watching Metafilter deteriorate into a series of preemptive posts about likey derails when a subject is even slightly controversial. This used to be the place I came to have reasonable discussions among intelligent and informed people. It's now where I go to see various hyper-sensitive "ists" and equally defensive knuckle draggers and Ron Paul supports shit fight about how their both simultaneously being oppressed by the other. In other words, it's turned into every shitty talkback section of your local news rag.

Horrible might be the wrong word. Sad. That's it! It's horribly fucking sad................
posted by lattiboy at 12:17 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


She should've handed Rudd a copy of her master's thesis, "What's the Matter With Sheila?: Gender Roles in Contemporary Australian Society (Or, The Bizarre Persistence of Knuckle-Dragging Attitudes Toward Women in a Place Otherwise So Elegant and Casually Sophisticated the Women's Studies Degree-Wielding Canadian Spouse of At Least One Mefite Reads Melbourne Real-Estate Listings as Fantasy Lit)."

I hate to generalize, but even our ultra-urbane, wine-snobby, Montessori-preschool-endorsing Aussie friends bicker with their spouses like they're reenacting scenes from The Honeymooners, complete with winking, broad-gender-stereotyping asides. What's up with that? Mates?

I don't mean the question entirely facetiously. I really have found it repeatedly jarring how out of otherwise liberal character the Aussie gender divide seems to be. I mean, crikey, isn't Rudd supposed to be a progressive?
posted by gompa at 12:17 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]



There's a decent conversation to be had about how socioeconomic pressures to delay childbearing are at odds with fundamental facts about our own biology, but I really doubt it's going to happen in this thread.


Exactly. Hey, politicians, tell us how we are supposed to feed your housing/economic recovery if one part of the sacred marital unit has to stay home and raise kids, thus not providing the second income that enabled this giant bubble in the first place?

You want me to stay home and make babies? Pay me.
posted by spicynuts at 12:22 PM on February 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


I hate to generalize, but even our ultra-urbane, wine-snobby, Montessori-preschool-endorsing Aussie friends bicker with their spouses like they're reenacting scenes from The Honeymooners, complete with winking, broad-gender-stereotyping asides. What's up with that? Mates?

Yuppies, Australian or not, like "classic" things, like chinos and polo shirts, landscape paintings, and sexism entrenched gender roles.
posted by fontophilic at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2010


ladies, ladies, enough with the excuses! just close your eyes and think of Australia. { / }
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2010


Crikey, what an asshole.
posted by scblackman at 12:28 PM on February 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


It would be great to get some third-party confirmation of Rudd's remarks. The guy hardly comes across (at least in the international press) as some sort of sexist conservative.

However, from my experience working in government, I can say that journalists not infrequently get it wrong, and are always searching for controversy - it sells papers.

That said, although I'm a parent myself, the whole argument that people who don't have kids are somehow less than fully-realized adults is pretty stupid.

Anyway, while declining fertility is an issue in an ageing society, the real issue is the individual productivity of the workforce. You want to provide support for an elderly society? Try investing more on education so people get better-paying jobs.

The one thing I've heard from relatives living in Aus and local businesspeople doing business there is that the Australian workforce is not educated.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 PM on February 16, 2010


This is very interesting!

I recall having a conversation with a friend once, in which he asserted that population needs to rise in order for economies to grow; an economy really needs more people to create more wealth in order for that overall growth rate to nudge steadily higher. In the case of modern western capitalist democracies, these economies are founded on the assumption that growth shall be perpetual, perhaps with the occasional slump year. And so you find these situations in which population contraction (as in Australia or the US) leads to massive contradictions with the financial planning for things like pensions and social security.

But in both Australia and the US, the growth of population comes with massive environmental problems. Both countries are suffering water depletion issues due to over-utilization, though in the US this hasn't quite gotten bad enough to make the mainstream news yet. This over-utilization comes from steady increase in population, combined with expansion of industry and agriculture putting greater strains on the water supply. In this sense, stabilization or reduction of population is an excellent idea for beginning to combat the environmental problems. Without argument, voluntary reduction of birth rate is one of the best ways to achieve population stabilization; other options tried out at various points in history include war, infanticide, and forced sterilization, all quite unpopular in the modern Western democracy.

So we end up with this conundrum: Overall, reduction of the birth rate really is a good thing. We use fewer resources, and have more time and attention for the children we do have. But on the other hand, we really don't have an economic structure in place that allows for the care of the elder generation. It's a massive hole in the economic system that needs serious thought to address.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:31 PM on February 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I really have found it repeatedly jarring how out of otherwise liberal character the Aussie gender divide seems to be. I mean, crikey, isn't Rudd supposed to be a progressive?

After the 11 years of Howard, Australia seems to have taken a tilt towards cultural conservatism. You have the national internet censorship firewall facing little public opposition (the fact that Labor politicians are more scared of losing preselection if they cross the floor than of losing votes if they vote for this stinker is telling), increased film censorship (typically of films associated with urban "elites"; always good for culture-war points) , the banning of video games unsuitable for children, an increase in flag-waving nationalism (witness the Cronulla riots, or the phenomenon of music festivals being full of young men wearing flags as capes and sometimes forcing dark-skinned attendees to "kiss the flag"), and now the not uncommon assumption that women who don't bear children aren't pulling their weight in society. (This is evident not just in the PM's remarks but in the opposition's characterisation of the (childless) deputy PM Julia Gillard as "barren" and an "empty fruit bowl"). The last assumption may in part come from the Howard government's introduction of the "baby bonus", a cash bonus paid to Australians who had children; after all, if taxpayers' money is used to encourage people to do something, it must be a duty.
posted by acb at 12:31 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are we regressing and how can we make it stop?
posted by Space Kitty at 12:32 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The implication here is that more women would have babies if only it weren't for the lack of support from government programs or employers. While that may be true for many individual women, I also take issue with applying that assumption to all women - maybe I just don't like babies and you can't pay me enough to have one, and this fact does not make me a Manolo-hoarding bitch who's too good for diapers.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:43 PM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


kaibutsu, your friend's theory is a popular one, but still crap. And of course, fatal to the human race in the long run and a creator of massive misery in the short run. There is no such thing as infinitely sustainable population growth, so long as we are confined to this planet anyway.

You would think that a system that results in massive amounts of death and suffering and the eventual extinction of your species (or at least its decimation) would be the definition of unsuccessful, no?
posted by emjaybee at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2010


he asserted that population needs to rise in order for economies to grow

His assertion is false. More sophisticated tools and processes allows more wealth to be produced per worker. So as long as there are ongoing technological (or other) improvements in your economic infrastructure, economic growth can be (and in many countries demonstrably is) maintained in the absence of population growth.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2010


Interestingly, there has been worry in professional schools about the reverse - that women with MBAs, MDs, and JDs often give up their chosen profession after having a family. Its a complex issue, that touches on gender discrimination, role expectations, and a variety of other factors, and there is some interesting research going on in the field.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:46 PM on February 16, 2010


this fact does not make me a Manolo-hoarding bitch who's too good for diapers.


What's wrong with that? Manolos are cute.
posted by emjaybee at 12:46 PM on February 16, 2010


Can't we just pass a law requiring PhD's to reproduce?

IIRC, Singapore used to give massive tax breaks to the children born from highly educated families, while penalizing regular folk who had more than 2 kids.
posted by nomisxid at 12:54 PM on February 16, 2010


Why are we regressing and how can we make it stop?

Hmmmm, perhaps liberals should have more children.
posted by codswallop at 12:56 PM on February 16, 2010


I mean, crikey, isn't Rudd supposed to be a progressive?

No, no and for a third time no. Where do people get this idea?
posted by pompomtom at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2010


Guilty. Though I'm not Australian, but any excuse is a good one to me to avoid having to go through that. Forget about it.
posted by anniecat at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2010


Out of the mouths of dweebs...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:02 PM on February 16, 2010


Why do we assume it is the obligation of all women to reproduce? And why do we label them as selfish when they don't? We never label career-driven men as selfish.

Wait, I thought the idea was that having children and reproducing was selfish, when there are so many poor and hungry children out in the world. Who said it's generous to have children?
posted by anniecat at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2010


For what it's worth, we have a larger-than-average family and I'm continually astounded at the comments people feel free to make. I'm not even famous. Sometimes it's funny, and sometimes I get all stabby-feeling. So, you know, you can't win.
posted by jquinby at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2010


(Though, I should point out, I'm not Australian either.)
posted by jquinby at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2010


I think Rudd was deadpanning, trying to make a cliched joke. An awful, pathetic, insulting joke. For some reason, since becoming PM, that man has become a complete mannequin, totally fake, totally divorced from reality, totally anti-social.

Look, I voted for him. At the time, he came across as nothing more than a dry, boring bureaucrat, but someone who at least seemed intelligent, and looked like he could get the job done. Since then, he has become so totally robotic and artificial in his attempts to be as forgettable and inoffensive as possible, that he's actually ended up being more offensive, as comments like this reveal.

Hey Kevin - in a week when Tony Abbott has revealed what a misogynistic fuck he is, why are you trying to race to his side of the aisle with bullshit like this?
posted by Jimbob at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


(In penance for his many sins, Rudd should step aside and give Our Julia the reigns.)
posted by Jimbob at 1:14 PM on February 16, 2010


No, no and for a third time no. Where do people get this idea?

I dunno, Labour Party, Kyoto Protocol signatory, climate change as "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time," the dude from Midnight Oil as his environment minister, withdrawal from Iraq, formal apology to the stolen generations, all that. From this side of the pond, it scans as progressive. Especially compared to Howard.
posted by gompa at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's pretty awesome that every 25-32 year-old woman in Australia is completing a PhD. Good on ya.
posted by GuyZero at 1:27 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh, sent an invite to the US President to come visit and called him Barrack. I lol'd because, jesus. On this particular subject, my ultra-Catholic family is having children all over the place so I've done my part, in a way, by not running into their bedrooms banging pots together when they're trying to get it on. Which is what I would normally do.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:33 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Labour Party:

Think "New Labor"

Kyoto Protocol signatory:

His climate change policy essentially pays the coal industry to continue to pollute, and implements emissions targets that will do sweet fuck all to slow atmospheric CO2 concentration increase.

climate change as "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time,":

See above.

the dude from Midnight Oil as his environment minister,:

He split the environment ministry down the middle. Penny Wong gets the actual important stuff - climate change, water etc. and Garrett gets the left-overs, and is, himself, internally conflicted and unable to do a decent job.

withdrawal from Iraq:

Unavoidable. Everyone's withdrawing.

formal apology to the stolen generations:

Continued with Howard's Northern Territory Intervention without skipping a beat.

(Just to be completely cynical about things.)
posted by Jimbob at 1:39 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stephen Harper and Kevin Rudd should meet halfway. Without lifejackets. That'd sink our nations' two biggest problems, nice and easy.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:40 PM on February 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wait, I thought the idea was that having children and reproducing was selfish, when there are so many poor and hungry children out in the world. Who said it's generous to have children?

I love that comment. I volunteered as a youth mentor and still see "my kid" regularly. Many of the kids in the program were from neglectful, poor or single parent families. I always feel sad when people get the glazed look when I talk about her; I get the feeling that I'm somehow making them feel inferior although that is not my intention and I try not to give that impression. I always get the feeling that if she was "my kid" that they would be far more interested anyway. After I give birth to a BFA I want to go back to youth mentoring - there's an immigrant girls program that I would love to be a part of.
posted by Calzephyr at 1:41 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well...that's the excuse we're using. I suppose once my wife finishes her PhD we'll have to think of another one.
posted by electroboy at 1:43 PM on February 16, 2010


I voted for Rudd* (I made a point of going to the Australian High Commission in London just to get my vote in), and would still do so, but only because he's unambiguously the lesser evil at the moment. If the Tories would get someone other than a cartoonish culture-war authoritarian to lead them, it might just apply some pressure to Rudd to be less of a dickhead, but it seems that there is a bipartisan consensus on the reactionary side of the culture war.

* Australia has a preferential voting system, so "voted for Rudd" here is shorthand for "gave Labor preferences ahead of the Tories".
posted by acb at 2:11 PM on February 16, 2010


For the record, if the are any female Australian PhD students looking to reproduce out there, I will grudging father a child upon you - but only for the good of Australia. And don't expect me to be there for "birthdays" or "the birth."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:11 PM on February 16, 2010


Man, I wish LP (Australian left-of-centre blog) wasn't broken today; there was a really good free-ranging discussion about this going on about the PM and his "sense" of "humour".

The commenters there were sounding out the possibilities: a) that Nina Funnell is lying or made it up (very unlikely) b) that Rudd was expressing a sincere political viewpoint and policy position of the Australian Government (still unlikely, but less so considering the rest of his Cabinet and Caucus), c) that Rudd simply was trying to make a poor joke and failed because he's a desperately unfunny person (quite likely, based on his history with humour) and d) that Rudd was making a joke based on his own particular conservative set of views about postgraduate education and women (most likely of all).

Whatever the case, the take home lesson for Prime Ministers is that if you're trying to make an edgy joke to someone you've never met but that you know writes for a major newspaper DON'T FUCK IT UP OR IT'LL COME ACROSS AS INCREDIBLY SEXIST.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - can you folks look like you are making an effort please? otherwise MeTa is right around the corner. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:20 PM on February 16, 2010


Jimbob has a really good point in the first paragraph. Rudd may well have been trying to make a joke.

Australia's PM has come up with some awful attempts at being funny/a regular bloke and more ikable. This may well be another.
posted by sien at 2:33 PM on February 16, 2010


I think he needs to be cut some slack. People can say some dumb things when they get surprised. Perhaps she had great boobs, or he was shocked that she wasn't in the kitchen or something. You never really know.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2010


It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't, ladies.

Like Amanda Marcotte riffed in a recent blog post (on a rather unrelated issue): If you don't like a catch-22, you shouldn't go around being female.
posted by muddgirl at 2:48 PM on February 16, 2010


The one thing I've heard from relatives living in Aus and local businesspeople doing business there is that the Australian workforce is not educated.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 PM on February 16 [+] [!]


Weird. I could have sworn I got an education when I attended all those schools and universities. Oh well, I guess I'll just continue to wallow in my own ignorance.

What does "not educated" mean anyway? We can't spell? Or add up? Or perhaps we don't all attend gender roles workshops? Please, enlighten us so we can be better.
posted by awfurby at 3:04 PM on February 16, 2010


Also, Kevin ought to watch himself. Australia lacks the infrastructure necessary to support projected population growth over the next two to four decades, yet alone desired population growth. There are insufficient jobs and insufficient resources. Most families simply cannot support even a single child, yet alone three or four. State education is a comprehensive failure and private education is not affordable.

People around my age in this country are the ones who are expected to be having children (though likely we should have been at it earlier). Problem is, I remember school a little too vividly and damned if I would put my flesh and blood through something like that. Home education? Sure. Which one of us will be doing that? Me? Okay. So what will we do on half our income? Argue with my partner about money and drink heavily and raise our child on junk food? Sure, no problem. Oh wait the child is fat and hyperactive and has diabetes let’s take it to the hospital as it has heart palpitations. Hello yes my child is having a heart attack. He weighs eighty-nine kilograms and gets up at three in the morning having wet the bed and goes into the kitchen and eats brown sugar right from the packet. We don't feed him properly because we are depressive alcoholics living on one income and constantly resentful and tired from fighting with one another and didn't even want this kid anyway we only had it because the PM said it would be good for the country. We should wait over here because you're already busy trying to save a child who got stabbed through the heart in a playground incident? Over here near the vomiting guy who got in a drunken punchup and has glass through his fists? No problem we’ll just sit here. Yes we’re sitting right here nurse. Oh no my child is dead. Do we have to pay back the baby bonus?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:06 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can't we get beyond Blunder Gnome?
posted by panboi at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was an appalling sentiment to express, but I think he'd have to eat raw newborn babies before he'd get even close in my esteem to Howard's level.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:16 PM on February 16, 2010


and turgid dahlia - I never knew you lived in Ipswich.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:18 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


situations in which population contraction (as in Australia or the US)

Eh wot. The population of the USA is not contracting. It's growing at a good clip with no indication of this changing.
posted by Justinian at 3:20 PM on February 16, 2010


I never knew you lived in Ipswich

Ipswich?! Oh we used to dream of living in Ipswich!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:30 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


well fiasco da gama has already said what I was going to say, as a participant in the LP thread - there's a very good chance this is complete bullshit, was misheard or was a bad joke.

Without dismissing the fact that Rudd is a confirmed cultural conservative, he's far more modern than that and I really find it hard to believe he believes that. Also, Nina Funnell has been making shit up about what he's been saying about Australia's demography issues (the first part of her article) - I suspect she has a massive capital F Feminist chip on her shoulder about any man in a position of authority..
posted by wilful at 3:35 PM on February 16, 2010


I suspect she has a massive capital F Feminist chip on her shoulder about any man in a position of authority..
that's not what I was going to say
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:37 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes you were that's exactly what you were going to say, also something along the lines of "She just needs a good shagging, that will sort her out!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:39 PM on February 16, 2010


[eats raw newborn baby with brown sugar]
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2010


Just like our sweet-toothed cannibal forefathers!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:42 PM on February 16, 2010


sweet-toothed cannibal forefathers!
So you are from Ipswich.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why do we assume it is the obligation of all women to reproduce? And why do we label them as selfish when they don't? We never label career-driven men as selfish.

Wait, I thought the idea was that having children and reproducing was selfish, when there are so many poor and hungry children out in the world. Who said it's generous to have children?


I would like to see BOTH of thee extreme viewpoints go right out the window. Deciding to have/not have children is a very personal decision and no one should be considered selfish for following her (or his, in the case of the father) heart, no matter which course it takes.
posted by misha at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Blaming the victim, as always.

*eye-roll*, yes, the story of this privileged, highly educated young woman just screams "victim of the patriarchy, come see the oppression inherent in the patriarchal system!". It might have been a joke, an off-hand remark or it may not have happened at all.


Yes you were that's exactly what you were going to say, also something along the lines of "She just needs a good shagging, that will sort her out!"

Who doesn't need a good shagging? A good shagging would sort a lot of people out. Hell, even mediocre shaggings for all would bring us a lot closer to world peace.
posted by MikeMc at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of us could also use a good FLAGGING amirite?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:28 PM on February 16, 2010


Please don't misunderstand me. There are a small bunch of academic Feminists out there, that come across as very bitter and who see everything through a very narrow window of their own preconceptions relating to governments, men, culture, stuff. I know, I have been tutored by them (getting good marks because I was able to say the right things) or otherwise socialised with them, they can be fine, fun people unless you get them onto their idee fixe.

This does not bear any relationship to feminism and does not remotely, not for one second, suggest that I am dismissing her jsut because she is a female academic. Most women studying and teaching feminist issues at Uni are not like that.

I don't want to pretend to know anything about Nina Funell, however given what she said in the first half of her article, which is totally against all other commentary on what Rudd said in his Australia Day speeches, there are pointers that she may just be, well, a little bit of a barrow-pusher.

also, the SMH doesn't mind making shit up just to sell papers these days...
posted by wilful at 4:32 PM on February 16, 2010


oooh, censorship!
posted by wilful at 4:34 PM on February 16, 2010


this fact does not make me a Manolo-hoarding bitch who's too good for diapers.

I can't afford Manolos but I'm too good for diapers, or at least I'm going to tell myself that because I'm going to die childless and without any family, and no one will ever love me the way I loved my mom when I was a kid. Or if I had children, they'd probably hate me later for something or become drug addicts or stoners or end up getting useless degrees like their mother and get married late and make me cry like I made my mother cry long distance when I said I was going to graduate school in England and then maybe I would consider getting married someday in my late thirties. I broke her heart to pieces like it was my job.
posted by anniecat at 4:37 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


US birth rate: 13.4 / 1000 total population
US death rate: 8.0 / 1000 total population (source: CDC vital statistics, April 2009 figures).

Net natural increase in US population: 5.4 / 1000 (this doesn't include the increase in population due to immigration)

Australia birth rate: 12.5 / 1000 total population
Australia death rate: 6.7 / 1000 total population (source: indexmundi, July 2009 estimate).

Net natural increase in Australia population: 5.8 / 1000 (again not including immigration).

Conclusion: Time to start picketing graduate schools here in the US! "Women out of the classroom, back into the bedroom" would make a good placard, don't you think?
posted by math at 4:42 PM on February 16, 2010


Wait, I thought the idea was that having children and reproducing was selfish, when there are so many poor and hungry children out in the world. Who said it's generous to have children?

If you want to have children, that's the obnoxious thing people tell you. But trust me, if you're someone who doesn't want to have children you can't even make the slightest factual mention of it without someone telling you you're selfish -- the implication being that you want all your time/money/effort for yourself -- and immature and always, always that dismissive "oh, you'll change your mind" in the tone of voice that suggests, "See? Even though you believe you're a horrible person, I know deep down you aren't! I'm being so generous to you!"

I have the utmost sympathy for those that give people crap for having children, don't get me wrong; people should mind their own business either way. But at least for the time being, the majority of people do want children so it's a more socially acceptable preference to voice, hence the perception that the default position is that people should be having them. I have literally never been able to say I'm not interested in having children, no matter how polite I am when asked, without someone harassing me for several minutes, and this is when I give short, cordial replies like "I've just never wanted them" and not fighty things for them to latch onto and drag it out further. While parents surely hear sometimes that they're selfish, it's nowhere near the prevailing reaction; you don't have to live your life pretending you don't actually want kids, for example, because except for a few assholes most people either agree with you or find nothing wrong with it. I have had to just smile and nod several times when people -- especially older people -- try to strongarm me into agreeing that I could change my mind. I actually feel ashamed sometimes for not sticking up for myself more stridently, but it never changed anyone's mind before so I've gotten sick of trying. There's no fantastic way to point out to someone that they're being presumptuous, ignorant, and rude without their just arguing with you more either.

I sometimes wonder if a lot of the "no YOU'RE selfish for having children!" stuff wouldn't be expressed as often if fewer child-desiring people didn't continually and publicly harangue others into conversations about having children, and then argue with and condescend toward those who don't want them. It's a bit chicken-and-the-egg, admittedly, but it's to be expected when you put someone who's already in the minority on the defensive. Those who want children would probably face far fewer insults if they called out their fellows for being rude and ignorant when they start in on someone who doesn't want children. I make a point not to insult someone for their decision to have children -- no matter how insulting some of them are to me -- and I wouldn't tolerate any of my friends getting shitty with someone over something like that either.
posted by Nattie at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have the utmost sympathy for those that give people crap for having children

Oh wow, horrible typo that completely changes the meaning of what I'm saying, hello! I meant: "I have the utmost sympathy for those that get crap for having children." Ayaiyai.
posted by Nattie at 5:04 PM on February 16, 2010


Via that LP thread wilful linked to earlier, is mamamia:
UPDATE: A spokesman for the Prime Minister contacted me this afternoon wishing to make the following statement:
The claims made about the Prime Minister’s views on these matters yesterday are not accurate and do not reflect his long held views.
The Rudd Government is doing more than any other Australian Government to support women being able to make decisions that are right for them.
We are introducing an 18 week paid parental leave scheme and have increased the child care rebate to 50%.
We’ve also reduced the HECS contributions for new maths and science students and are paying 50 per cent of the HECS repayments for graduates in this field.
The Rudd Government will continue to look at ways to support women in making the choices that are right for them.
(For non-Australians: HECS is the Higher Education Contributions Scheme, under which the Commonwealth pays for undergraduate education but reclaims part of the cost through the tax system from recipients)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Context: I am a 30-year old Australian woman and I have a PhD.

It really miffs me that a couple of posters are seriously subscribing to the idea that Nina Funell lied in her article and that she is a "I suspect she has a massive capital F Feminist chip on her shoulder about any man in a position of authority". Of course it is not out of the realms of possibility that a journalist should lie or subvert the truth, however, I rather think it is not the case here.

The first time I read an article by Nina Funnell was in 2007. Walking home she was grabbed by a man who beat her, held a knife to her throat and then attempted to rape her. She fought back so vehemently that he ran away: her furious screaming and punching worked. The incredible thing was that after her attach, Funnell wrote an article about what it feels like to be the girl who is attacked. She used her own name and photo.

Since this time I've seen a great many articles by her, and they have always impressed me. Funnell's writing is measured, considered and well researched. Not that this is surprising: she is an intelligent young woman with a PhD.

NOW, think about the context of Rudd's comment. First up, Funnell is no random PhD student. She was shortlisted for the Young Australian of the Year award for her work in journalism and outreach. Second, the people who attend events like the one under discussion are invited because they are Young Australians of Note. They are the cream of the cream and are expected to Achieve Great Things. It is here that PM Rudd tells her that her research endeavours are merely an excuse to avoid having children.

It would be preposterous... except it is not at all surprising. As I said, I have a PhD. I'm also an Australian woman. Having completed a postdoc in the US, I am constantly amazed by just how bad things are for women in Australia (compared to other 1st world countries, of course). Sexism is engrained in the culture. An example: late last year I completed some teaching and marking work for the university where I did my PhD. Upon submitting my timesheet I was told that I would not be paid at the rates I was entitled to (ie. pay rates for people with a PhD). I did some research and found that every bloke in my position was being paid PhD rates. I am still waiting to be paid for the work I did. This is tip of the iceberg stuff... I could go on ad infinitum with examples, and so could many other Australian women. Our Deputy PM, Julia Gillard continually has to field jibes that she is barren and therefore unqualified to comment on Australian families. What bollocks.

I'll stop there. I am just so, so angry that this happened to Nina Funnell. And I'm angry because it encapsulates the experience of Australian women in academia. And I'm miffed because I am far too young to feel so disheartened by the academic environment I find myself in.

(Australian) women on MeFi... what have your experiences been?
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 5:28 PM on February 16, 2010 [18 favorites]


As another Australian who eagerly voted for the Ruddbot at the last election, I stand behind JimBob's comment. We knew that Rudd was never going to be the change we'd secretly hoped for - though we rocked our Kevin07 and repro 'It's Time' bumper stickers because it was enough to not be John Howard, frankly. But this... come on, man. All we were really asking for was someone who could keep the place on a reasonably even keel while we caught our breath and tried to get our heads back into order after twelve years of Howard's Australia; twelve years of the country getting slowly meaner and crueller more hateful, inch by ugly inch.

Is it really that hard not to copy the Liberal Party playbook line for line, Kev? This is a direct echo of Peter Costello's (Howard's treasurer, for you non-Australians) creepy request four or five years ago that Australian women have "one for Mum, one for Dad and one for Australia."
posted by MarchHare at 5:58 PM on February 16, 2010


Well Kevin Rudd's spokesperson says it was not accurate. Nina Funnell hasn't retacted. So there we have it, nothing can be proven.

Except, as I have already said, while I know Rudd is a social conservative, I still have great trouble ascribing this statement to him, it really doesn't fit with anything or everything else he has done.

So yeah I still think it was probably a misunderstanding, but quite possibly made up, even if uconsciously.

As for Australia being remarkably sexist, well I would like data rather than anecdotes. Our Deputy PM has received jibes from who? Bill Heffernan and George Brandis, that's who, and the outrage at their comments reflected the obvious fact that they are old reactionaries and not reflective of majority opinion.
posted by wilful at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2010


/throws another tinnie on the barbeque.
posted by Artw at 6:13 PM on February 16, 2010


/throws another tinnie on the barbeque.

You Poms and your warm beer...
posted by acb at 6:17 PM on February 16, 2010


It's very common for Australians of all backgrounds to have their parents caring for their kids. The majority of families with young children have two incomes.
posted by bystander at 7:25 PM on February 16, 2010


Well, that comment now seems odd.
Count me in the camp that this was Ruddbot humour, but I wish he would leave his conservative social values in church.
posted by bystander at 7:28 PM on February 16, 2010


This reminds me of some of the politics I witnessed in Canada. I mean, jeez, you don't have to fund American-style professionally calibrated focus groups, but how about just running some of this stuff by 5 or 6 normal people sitting around your living room, before you shoot your big mouth off?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:41 PM on February 16, 2010


population needs to rise in order for economies to grow

Paging an economist: Am I wrong in thinking that the above is a discredited belief?

IIRC from undergrad macro, there are several main measures of growth. Harrod-Domar, a model from the 40s that is considered outdated, considers labor solely as a function of available workers. In this case, labor supply (i.e., population) and capital reserves (savings, more or less) are key to growth.

Then, in the 50s, the Solow-Swan model was introduced, and it separated labor productivity (seen as good) from sheer population growth (seen as bad). Without getting into it, the equation basically consists of two parts: total growth minus depreciation. Getting a PhD increases labor productivity, while population growth is part of depreciation. PhD good, babies bad.

Then in the 80s, Solow-Swan was tweaked to create endogenous growth models. The differentiation between labor productivity and sheer population growth remained. Bonus: These models often focus on increasing human capital, mainly through education. PhD excellent, babies not great—unless you educate them.

Which is to say, Rudd has his shit mixed up in more ways than one.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:51 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then again, the rules might be different when it comes to PhDs in journalism....
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:51 PM on February 16, 2010


no, evidenceofabsence, you're talking about per capita, he is (presumably) talking about gross growth. Which can be legitimate in certail contexts, even though we're generally most interested in per capita growth.

But anyway, there's no evidence that getting a PhD has any relationship to being less fertile.
posted by wilful at 8:21 PM on February 16, 2010


Far be it from me to defend the guy - me, a dyed-in-the-wool Labor voter who couldn't bring myself to vote directly for him (he was my local member at the time) - but…

Having met him a couple of times (once for an hour or so in the course of work, once for ~10 minutes after a public meeting) before he was PM, I can tell you this: off the clock he seems to be a cheery, funny guy, but his sense of humour ranges from the wry to the dry. And by 'dry', I mean 'Strzelecki Desert, <4" annual rainfall, D-R-Y'.

From my limited experience, I'd bet it was totally deadpan humour. Saying it to a journalist was just the icing on a cake made of stupid.
posted by Pinback at 8:29 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


wilful,

Very much devil's advocate here, but both age and education level are negatively correlated with childbearing rates. Just the truth.
posted by effugas at 8:44 PM on February 16, 2010


wilful- I'm not finding any studies on female PhDs in Australia, but it's generally the case that higher education in women correlates with lower birth rate and fertility rate, no?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:55 PM on February 16, 2010


Longtime lurker, joined to comment on the issue.

As much as I would love to give Kevin Rudd the benefit of the doubt, I can believe that he wasn't making a bad joke. I hesitate to throw in another "in my experience" comment, but I've seen intelligent, educated men spontaneously spew dumb, sexist comments because they hold pretty old-fashioned ideas about women and reproduction at their core, especially if they were raised in communities untouched by political correctness, or communities who think political correctness is a joke as they are rarely called on to defend their statements.

Take my dear old Chinese father. He was broad-minded enough not to care that he didn't have sons, and put my sisters and me through private liberal arts colleges in the United States although his family found it absurd. But the man also once remarked that he didn't see the point of women going to medical school since they'd have to quit their jobs once they had children. I would have challenged him, but I think I was seven when he said that. And sadly, I've heard several of my friends -- Western-educated Asian male professionals -- express similar sentiments very casually. They're not necessarily cultural conservatives either. They've just never really questioned gender roles or thought much about them, and it shows up in casual conversation.
posted by peripathetic at 9:21 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny coming from a guy that uses politics as an excuse for avoiding starting families.
Howard was the last guy, the right-winger. This is the new guy the left winger
Can't we just pass a law requiring PhD's to reproduce?
Actually I was thinking. If Rudd really thinks the rigors of PhD studies are preventing childbirth, then why not provide extra funding, free childcare, plus a leg up on academic appointments, etc to women who do have children while in Grad School? I don't know how well grad students are paid in Australia, but in the US they are not paid very well at all.

The interesting thing is that what Rudd said was probably true for his social class Most of the young women he meets are probably grad students. That little anecdote says a lot about social class as well as gender. He could probably make a bigger effort to find out why lower status women are choosing not to give birth, and ameliorate that if he really thought there were not enough kids.
It's also completely ignoring the way countries like the U.S. and Canada build their workforce: immigration. Our (the US's) birth rates are as low as Europe's but our population is still growing because lots of people want to move here. The same is true of Australia, so they could just let more people in if they wanted too.
Well Kevin Rudd's spokesperson says it was not accurate. Nina Funnell hasn't retacted. So there we have it, nothing can be proven.
Uh, he said it wasn't an accurate representation of his views not that he didn't say it. If he didn't say it, he would have said he didn't say it. So obviously, he did say it. All politicians' statements need to be parsed pretty closely. Besides, he said this to her in front of a group of people.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on February 16, 2010


He could probably make a bigger effort to find out why lower status women are choosing not to give birth, and ameliorate that if he really thought there were not enough kids.

Yeah, but setting up specific tax penalties for residential properties that are not your primary residence would piss off all the baby boomers who leveraged their cheap-in-the-day houses to take out mortgages on second & third & fourth investment properties, pricing young people completely out of the market.

The fact that people can't afford a place to live is the problem, forcing partners to both work full-time just to make ends meet if they want to own anything vaguely resembling a family home.

This - along with job insecurity brought about by "industrial reform" & the increasing shift towards temporary & casual jobs - is the key reason behind unwillingness to start families, and it cuts across all social strata.

Unfortunately, the electoral backlash from property owners would be so fierce that it's not in any government's interest to tinker with the status quo, othering than tossing the occasional inflationary scraps of assistance for first home buyers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:22 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


God yes. What UbuRoivas said. The first front in the Australian class war needs to open at the point of inheritance and capital gains tax.
I don't know how well grad students are paid in Australia, but in the US they are not paid very well at all
Unless they receive a Commonwealth scholarship or they study in a field where there's significant corporate involvement, they're not usually paid.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:30 PM on February 16, 2010


Rudd is a devout Catholic.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:00 PM on February 16, 2010


Rudd is a devout Catholic.

Well, not really. He attends an Anglican church.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 11:16 PM on February 16, 2010


Rudd is a devout Catholic.

Yup, apart from arguably being wrong (arguably, because as eatyourcellphone's wikilink mentions, he attends an Anglican church but hasn't renounced Catholicism), pointing out a person's choice of religion as shorthand for "they believe women should be at home making babies" or anything else is a crap argument.

Having known far too many Catholic (and a few Anglican) priests than is healthy for a good agnostic boy like myself, I can tell you that while the majority may toe the Church's "no sex before marriage, and no abortions" line, most of them are far from socially conservative on other aspects. Leftist firebrands, in fact, for the most part, who believe in sexual equality, equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal standing for all in society.

It's time to stop equating Catholics - and other mainstream Christian religions - with fundie nutjobs…
posted by Pinback at 11:54 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Crikey, what an asshole.

Arsehole. Harder'n it looks ay mate.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:59 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stupid stupid joke I'm betting. Poor taste and all that. Dude has to apologise for the appearance and effect of dismissive prejudice and sexism. When's he due on Q&A next? He's bound to be whacked on the spleen with a big stick. And deservedly so.
posted by peacay at 1:55 AM on February 17, 2010


Count me in the "come on, if it was said it was obviously a poorly delivered joke" camp. All women use postgraduate study as their excuse? Are we even on the same planet? Think more along the lines of "oh yeah, that's what they all say" with a head chucked back and a gentle chuckle. Ingest, in jest...

Rudd is a drone, and his horrible huffing laugh induces the thought that he's about 6 years old, but he isn't even remotely as stupid as some here seem to suppose.
posted by pjm at 2:13 AM on February 17, 2010


This isn't the first time an Australian politician has expressed that view in a less-than-ideal fashion. Former Victorian (Liberal) Premier Jeff Kennett once told a room full of year 12 High School girls to "go forth and multiply".

And really, it's all about the baby boomers, and how to pay for their retirement. Which is kinda frustrating. The baby boomers, being such a large demographic, have been pandered to by the Federal Government their entire lives. Witlam gave them free Tertiary education, and you should see the tax benefits today for people over 60+ managing their own super. Now, just when we finally thought we'd seen the end of their war-mongering, anti-environmentalist monarchy-loving reign, we find that we're all going to likely be taxed through the arsehole to pay for their pensions!
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:18 AM on February 17, 2010


Having known far too many Catholic (and a few Anglican) priests than is healthy for a good agnostic boy like myself, I can tell you that while the majority may toe the Church's "no sex before marriage, and no abortions" line...

Do most self-identified Catholics toe this line though? (Does the Catholic Church still insist that it is the absolute external conscience of all Catholics, as it did before Vatican 2? Is contradicting church doctrine, i.e., supporting a woman's right to have an abortion, grounds for excommunication these days?)
posted by acb at 4:29 AM on February 17, 2010


Yeah, I think Rudd is using weasel words to get around the fact that he said it but didn't mean it to sound quite so fucking retro. Dude needs to learn when to stick with the Ruddbot act and save the jokes for his family.

I bet Therese Rein gave him a raised eyebrow when she heard about it.
posted by harriet vane at 4:32 AM on February 17, 2010



Count me in the "come on, if it was said it was obviously a poorly delivered joke" camp. All women use postgraduate study as their excuse? Are we even on the same planet? Think more along the lines of "oh yeah, that's what they all say" with a head chucked back and a gentle chuckle. Ingest, in jest...


That sounds a bit too close to "geez, lighten up, bitch". Jokes like that are only funny if you're not the one at whose expense they are being made, if the attitude isn't backed up with a culture of condemnation or discrimination against those who transgress against the norms being humorously reiterated in the "jokes". Also, the belief that women who don't have children are selfish/shirking their duty to society is nowhere near sufficiently uncommon to make such jokes. One would expect Kevin Rudd to grasp this.
posted by acb at 4:35 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


One would expect Kevin Rudd to grasp this.

Actually, in retrospect, there is the disturbing possibility that Rudd, the media-savvy politician with his finger on the pulse of Middle Australia, does grasp this and also calculates, with some accuracy, that the odd sexist statement putting the uppity sheilas in their place would win more support from the great Australian public than it would lose, much in the way that the Howard government's racist dog-whistles appealed to and legitimised a deep vein of reactionary gut feeling.
posted by acb at 5:19 AM on February 17, 2010


acb, you're of course entitled to your opinion, but I don't believe that it was a calculated dog whistle. Anyway, ascribing motives and meanings is difficult without seeing/hearing the delivery. I think the simplest explanation is that he didn't think before he spoke and delivered a dud line. Does it reflect underlying prejudices? Is he really a sexist bastard at heart? Maybe; but it's surely not at the Tony Abbott level of chronic deviance. Yet anyway.
posted by peacay at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2010


Dude should have followed his joke with "Hamburger."
posted by five fresh fish at 8:01 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but then she'd be all "WHAT? YOU SEE ME AS NOTHING BUT A SLAB OF CHEAP MEAT?!??"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:25 PM on February 17, 2010


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