Insults over PM’s appearance is reverse sexism at its worst

Exhausted. Haggard. Greying. Podgy. Dishevelled.

No, this is not my online dating profile.

These were just some of the insults dumped on Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week after he fronted cameras for his regular coronavirus updates to the nation.

 

"He looks so sick and tired and has lost hair," one viewer said.

"You look shattered mate, try and get some rest," another added.

One news headline screamed "This man is not well", adding that he seems to have "lost HAIR in two months".

Concerns about the 51-year-old leader's appearance were also raised on WSFM's Jonesy and Amanda show, prompting Morrison to insist "I'm fine".

The preoccupation with the Prime Minister's presentation doesn't end there. Betting agency Sportsbet was running odds on what colour tie Morrison will wear at his next press conference.

Unless Prime Minister Scott Morrison is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, who cares? Picture: Gary Ramage
Unless Prime Minister Scott Morrison is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, who cares? Picture: Gary Ramage

 

"No surprise blue is the favourite way," a Sportsbet spokesman declared.

Sorry, but I feel like we've been here before. Yet when the fixation on appearance was focused on female leaders, the outrage was immediate.

Remember Germaine Greer's "fat arse" comment about Julia Gillard? What about the condemnation Julie Bishop received for being a "bad feminist" for wearing red high heels? Or the fury Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington copped for claiming Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was a "princess" for wearing designer clothes.

"I joke with my male colleagues about how easy they get it. All they have to do is pick a suit, pick a shirt, pick a tie. They get to wear sensible, flat shoes and no-one ever says anything about it and if they wear the same suit a few days a week, no-one ever says 'gee they have got the same suit on'," Gillard remarked during her time in office.

So why is it still acceptable to pick apart our current Prime Minister's looks and attire just because he's a bloke?

Regardless of whether you agree with his politics or not, Morrison is bearing the heavy load of the economic and physical safety of 25 million people. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be sleeping.

 

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced horrific sexism while leading the country. Picture: supplied
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced horrific sexism while leading the country. Picture: supplied

 

Not to say that the criticism of Morrison's appearance comes anywhere close to the dehumanising objectification and sexualisation some women endure. Who can forget the 2013 Queensland Liberal National Party fundraiser that featured a menu item called "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail" with "small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box"?

But criticising a person's appearance, especially when they are leading the nation through our toughest crisis since World War II, is tedious and pathetic, whatever the gender.

Unless he's wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I honestly couldn't care less.

And the reality is for many Australians, we all look like hell. Thousands of people around the nation - the PM no doubt included - have discovered the hideous toll working from home with children takes on your sanity and physical appearance.

It's usually in the middle of a Zoom conference that my three-year-old colleague will interrupt and pull down his pants to show me the turd in his knickers.

If normal industrial laws applied, Fair Work would have a field day.

 

How about we cut the Prime Minister some slack. Picture Gary Ramage
How about we cut the Prime Minister some slack. Picture Gary Ramage

 

One of the worst possible situations in which to work full time from home in enforced isolation is when you're toilet training twins. Trust me.

The work emails, phone calls and incessant Google chat pings are unrelenting. Add to the mix homeschooling a five year old, uni assessment (courtesy of an unhinged decision during mat leave to start a Masters degree), and an addiction to Netflix's white trash masterpiece Tiger King, plus my manic 11pm disinfecting door handles and mopping sessions and, well, I'm wrecked.

The rules of professional etiquette are long gone. Bra? Deodorant? Pants? Optional. Make up? Forget about it. Ironed clothes? Don't be ridiculous. Elasticated waistbands? Every day. Shoes? I think Bluey producer Daley Pearson on The Project last week was all of us when he screamed "don't pan down" as the camera suddenly captured his bare feet.

So if the one silver lining of isolation is that we dodge the usual commentary from our co-workers about our appearance, how about we cut the Prime Minister some slack too?

The last thing anyone needs right now are snarky remarks about looking tired or poor sartorial choices.

After all, this is a pandemic, not a beauty pageant.

Lucy Carne is editor of Rendezview.com.au

Originally published as Insults over PM's appearance is reverse sexism at its worst


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