It’s not OK to use women’s bodies to mock them

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It’s not OK to use women’s bodies to mock them


Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding

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The honour bestowed on the Herald Sun’s Mark Knight as a Walkley Award-winning cartoonist does not make up for the shortfall in his emotional intelligence in failing to understand the harm that is caused to women when their bodies are “weaponised” (“Jacinta Allan slams ‘sexualised’ cartoon of her in the nude”, 25/10). The memory of Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, being subjected to the same abuse – as though she was fair political “game” – is not too distant.
Moreover, listening to Knight’s explanation on ABC radio yesterday that he has drawn federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and former prime minister Tony Abbott without their clothes on so it’s “OK” (i.e. evenhanded) doesn’t ameliorate the point that he has crossed a line when he uses politician’s bodies as a tool to make a point that could otherwise be made differently. Not to mention Knight’s lapse in judgment when he drew tennis champion Serena Williams.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Nude humour a staple
Who can’t recall ever seeing a male political figure displayed
au naturel? I’m 50 and I remember the hilarity of the Pickering calendars of yesterday displaying many a political figure. So, even disregarding Knight’s previous cartoons of Dutton and Abbott, Allan doesn’t really have a leg to stand on – other than reminding us of her lack of recall. Indeed, her lack of recall adds hilarity to the whole “Commonwealth Games collection” pun. Time to get a thicker skin.
Abbigail Grier, Brighton East

Gendered thinking
Mark Knight has exposed a lot about himself. Would he have made the connection/justification to fashion week with a male premier?
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Seen it all before
Substitute the pixelated parts for skimpy swimwear and the drawing is no different, in essence, to the numerous humiliating cartoons of Tony Abbott in Speedo swimwear, which drew far more sniggering than condemnation. All this confected outrage is designed to deflect attention from the government’s cancelled Commonwealth Games fiasco, caused by Allan’s predecessor Dan Andrews who, incidentally, was also drawn in the nude by Mark Knight in a cartoon that drew no public outrage from women. Double standards indeed.
Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully

A strange choice
Strange that such an image was considered appropriate for the incumbent but not for her predecessor. Even stranger that defenders of the illustration cannot see that it’s sexist. Isn’t it time we abandoned these stereotypes?
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Selective target
You’ve got to give it to the conservatives. The moment a Labor woman is in power, out come the sexist cartoons and other misogynist commentaries. I don’t recall seeing a cartoon of a naked Julie Bishop or Michaelia Cash, (though I guess they were not No.1 in the hierarchy), but I saw plenty of disgusting cartoons of Julie Gillard, Joan Kirner, other female premiers and now Jacinta Allan. And from experience, this is just the beginning. And they wonder why women aren’t attracted to politics.
Olivia Manor, Coburg

Even handed
I’m with Mark Knight. Given his history of depicting nude politicians in his cartoons, it would have been sexist if he didn’t publish his latest work.
Craig Tucker, Newport


Out of touch
Somehow, in 2023, Mark Knight thought depicting the new female Victorian premier on public display naked was “not a bad idea”.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk


Spurning equity
In 1831, Governor Bourke arrived in Australia with orders to establish schools along Irish lines, to provide education for all colonial children, in decent classrooms and with trained teachers. The Church of England, fearing Catholic influence, successfully opposed the plans, leaving poor children to be taught by convict teachers in crude facilities. The Kings School, for the sons of the wealthy, was generously supported. Now Ross Gittins (“Growing moat divides schools”, 25/10) cites plans to install a plunge pool at The King’s School’s headmaster’s residence as evidence of today’s divide between private and public school facilities.

At the same time, Joe Hockey labels politicians who shun spending cuts to stay popular as a “cancer in the community” (“Entitled politicians a cancer on community, says Hockey”). This is the same former treasurer who used the terms “lifters and leaners”, and waited to leave parliament before calling for changes to negative gearing and superannuation tax breaks.
Coalition politicians who oversaw increasing gaps between rich and poor Australians, with 3 million living below the poverty line, and who oppose equitable education funding are surely the real cancer.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne

Dividing line
How is it that so many Australians who were seemingly concerned that giving First Nations People a Voice would divide the country are not outraged by the division that our present inequitable school education funding system actually causes? Ross Gittins reports that combined annual federal and state funding grew by more than $2800 (inflation adjusted) per independent school student, $2500 per Catholic school student and just $830 per public school student over the nine years to 2020.

I hope Jacinta Price and co. will be just as enthusiastic to do something about this actual national division created by and for “choice” as they were about opposing the Voice.
Allan Havelock, Surrey Hills

Level playing field
Regardless of what the Albanese government’s review finds, little will be done, if anything, to level the playing field of school funding. Governments of both persuasions are deeply scared of offending the private/church school lobby, which defies logic when the group that would benefit, the 70 per cent of parents and children who attend government schools, should no doubt view government more favourably. The real blocking factor is privilege and influence.

Just ask the question, where do the people of influence and politicians send their kids? The answer is not government schools.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha

Power and influence
Excellent and aligned points made by both Ross Gittins and Joe Hockey. So many of us demand so much, politicians are desperate to maintain power at any cost, and disadvantage grows exponentially for those who don’t have the ability to participate in “lobbying” at whatever level. Our collective greed is wrecking both our humanity and the Earth.
Fiona White, Alfredton

Wider aspirations
The inequitable funding of the two-tiered private and public school system is an unfortunate own goal for Australia. Not only is it constraining the next generation workforce to those whose parents can afford high-quality education, but it is also fuelling resentment from those locked into a patently under-resourced public school sector. The normalisation of subsidising private schools has reached a level where it is now perceived as an inalienable right for a clique of aspirational parents. There is very little empathy from the private school sector for parents who are as equally as aspirational but will never be able to afford their interminably increasing fees, despite the subsidies. Education funding should be based on demonstrable need, not an expectation of entitlement to maintain a privileged status quo.
Paul Miller, Box Hill South

Dial it up
Joe Hockey is out of touch with reality. To claim his sacking of public servants had no effect on services can be disproved with no great effort in the hours wasted trying to contact any government department by phone.
Laurie Comerford, Chelsea

Take it off campus
It is silly to lampoon the policy of St Michael’s Grammar School banning Halloween on campus (CBD, “Pumpkins not a patch on Halloween ban”, 25/10). The school leadership acknowledges it’s not trying to stop students and families celebrating this inane “festival”. They are simply and politely requesting that they do so off campus. In its modern guise, Halloween is just another occasion for retailers to exploit young kids and naive families. Its contrived spookiness, fake spider webs, and grinning pumpkins are entirely derivative of yet another form of American commercialisation that should have no place in contemporary Australia.

All so-called “Christian” schools should follow St Michael’s lead. So should all government schools. It’s time to put an end to this foolish misappropriation of an ancient rite whose meaning has been grossly debauched over time.
Allan Patience, Newport

Clear objectives
It’s just over 100 years since bush poet John O’Brien published his gently humorous take on Australian pessimism with its recurring line, “‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan”. The fact is that there’s great risk that Australia, along with other nations, will lapse into a passive pessimism at the latest climate news (“‘Time is up’: Vital signs at record extremes”, 25/10). Climate scientists report that “life on the planet is imperilled”. They tell us that the world is entering “uncharted territory”.

This must not be a counsel of despair but a call to arms. There’s no fog obscuring what our objective must be. It’s crystal clear. End fossil-fuel subsidies, refuse to approve new or expanded coal and gas projects, and invest massively in renewable energy.
Tom Knowles, Parkville

Central goal
Your report on the threat of climate change says that a “1.5C warming above the long-term ... average” means the world would “fail to meet the central goal of the Paris Agreement”. Not so: as stated by the UNFCCC, the agreement’s central aim is to keep a global temperature rise well below 2C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C. In the context of global climate, there is a huge difference between 1.5C and 2C.
Peter Price, Southbank

Team hidden
The success of the Afghanistan men’s team in the Cricket World Cup (“Afghanistan’s shock win over Pakistan”, 25/10) must be a source of great pride to some in their community. It would be reasonable to ban them from any further participation in ICC tournaments until they can field a women’s team like all other cricketing nations. Apartheid is not just the denial of participation based on race, it is also the denial of participation based on gender.
Graham Cadd, Dromana

Indiscriminate deaths
Every day, I am more shocked, horrified and appalled by the violence meted out on the people of Gaza. At the time of writing, over 400 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours. The Australian government has the power to act and put pressure on Israel to stop the indiscriminate death of civilians and the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Elliot Dolan-Evans, South Yarra

Keeping them accountable
Were Israel to agree to a ceasefire, Hamas wins. There would be no accountability for murdering 1400 Israeli civilians, a horrendous, uncertain future for 210 hostages, the displacement of 500,000 citizens and the ongoing existential threat to the future of Israel. What other country would accept such conditions, so why should Israel?
Liora Miller, Malvern

Risky ride
Capable of rapid acceleration and high speed, with small wheels, a high centre of gravity and steeply raked steering geometry, e-scooters are unstable and dangerous. If the rider doesn’t fall off beforehand, they’re a magnet for sudden-stop collisions with fixed objects and other road users (“Hundreds learn painful lesson in city’s electric scooter trial”, 25/10). They’re not fit for purpose.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

Pandering to utes
Standards Australia are considering creating larger car-parking spaces due to the increase in the purchase of large SUVs and four-wheel-drives (“Everyone is paying for those oversized utes”, 25/10). There are a whole range of issues regarding this increase, not just transport emissions and taking up more space on the roads. If you buy an unnecessarily big car that you probably don’t need, don’t complain about the price of petrol and the small parking space. You are not the king of the road, and Australian standards should not be pandering to you.
Asa Smith, Montmorency

Where does charity start?
In comparing Australia unfavourably with the United States on charity donations (0.8 per cent v 2 per cent of GDP), John Collett overlooks the woeful social safety net the US provides its citizens (Money, “Charities urged to be savvy businesses in push for profit”, 25/10).

Advocating for more charitable giving is like arguing in favour of tipping, also a problem of the US system. Instead of a decent living wage, hospitality workers must fawn to increase tips. So too with charitable giving: the bigger their marketing budget, the more corporate “charity” these services attract. When I hear of philanthropists who “want to give back”, I always ask myself how they got it in the first place.
Terri Jackson, Melbourne



Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding

Donald Trump
Nelson Mandela was a man of principle and integrity. Donald Trump should never compare himself to Mandela, he is so far down the pecking order.
Christine Hammett, Richmond

If Donald Trump wants to compare himself to Nelson Mandela, then he should do the 27 years in prison first.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

The caricature of the premier was an attack on the premier’s dignity, no more, no less.
Carol Reed, Newport

If the United Nations Security Council is to be allowed to function properly then the power of veto must be removed from those permanent members.
David Eames-Mayer, Balwyn

Did China scrap the wine tariff so we can afford more submarines to protect wine shipments to China from the Chinese navy?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

The verdict on Melbourne’s e-scooter trial: guilty.
Paul Custance, Highett

I unapologetically hold AFL players signed on lucrative, long-term contracts to an exalted conduct level.
Ian Macdonald, Traralgon

People speak of being afraid of division yet we have one of the most extensive private school systems in the Western world. Class is already a hidden division in our society.
Mel Smith, Brighton

The case of former MP Russell Northe shows, once again, the tragedy of gambling in Victoria. Pokies and other gambling avenues are destroying lives. Gambling advertising should be banned.
Reg Murray, Glen Iris

Joe Hockey has repeated his warning that societies need to curb the so-called “entitlement culture”. I wonder if he would include tax concessions such as fossil fuel subsidies or changes to negative gearing tax concessions, and dividend imputation?
Garry Meller, Bentleigh

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