• The awkward exchange between cricketer Chris Gayle and journalist Mel McLaughlin. (Channel Ten)Source: Channel Ten
After a truly gob-smacking week of sexist rubbish from men in Australia, Rebecca Shaw's never felt happier about being a lesbian.
By
Rebecca Shaw

7 Jan 2016 - 12:23 PM  UPDATED 7 Jan 2016 - 12:31 PM

I am lucky enough to be a white, cisgender lesbian who lives in a big city in Australia, where I can just go about my lesbian business mostly unscathed. I am also a Scorpio and my favourite cocktail is a whisky sour, but those are just unrelated fun facts about me.

Now, it’s still true that life isn’t all smooth queer sailing here; we have a government that won’t legalise same-sex marriage, and the debate over the humanity of LGBTQI people that will come with a probable 2016 plebiscite is not something that I eagerly await. But compared to those who are young and struggling in a homophobic household in a small town, or people suffering discrimination or abuse because they are transgender, I have it pretty easy.

That’s why it’s possible for me not only to feel okay with being a lesbian, but to actually often feel grateful - especially this week. What’s the main reason I usually feel grateful? No, it’s not the glory of having an attraction to Beyoncé. It is instead the glory that is men.

You may be confused that men, and not queer women, are the ones to make me feel grateful to be a lesbian.

You may be confused that men, and not queer women, are the ones to make me feel grateful to be a lesbian. So let me break it down for you. As a feminist and woman who is outspoken on the internet, and also someone who engages with the news cycle almost constantly, life occasionally seems like the broad expanse of the North Pacific Ocean. And within that ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of men’s behaviour.

In the few days since the beginning of 2016, it seems as though Australia is determined to add as much sexist rubbish to that garbage patch as is possible. First up, we had Jamie Briggs resigning after alleged inappropriate conduct with a female public servant in Hong Kong, only to then share around a photo of the woman. A number of (male) politicians tweeted their support for Briggs, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who noted that he was "very sad" for his friend Jamie.

If that wasn’t enough, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton then accidentally sent a text message to journalist Samantha Maiden that was reportedly meant for Briggs, calling Maiden a “mad f---ing witch”. Not only does this prove that these men should have to use two cans and a string instead of mobile technology, it also indicates the level of respect they have for women.

A couple of days after this during a sideline interview, Melbourne Renegades cricket player Chris Gayle made sports journalist Mel McLaughlin uncomfortable by asking her out for a drink and calling her "baby" live on air, instead of answering her questions about cricket, the game he was there to play.

The incident divided Australia into two camps: those who think women should be safe from being put into uncomfortable positions at work, and those who don’t. Then of course, McLaughlin and many women who spoke out or wrote about the situation received abusive messages, because that is simply the normal way of things if you are a woman who states her opinion on the internet.  

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Add the possibility that bulk-billing incentive payments may be removed from pap smears and the ongoing stream of stories about domestic violence, and you will start to understand why so many women reach a point of exhausted desperation, and anger.

During times like this I start to think that I am perhaps lucky to be a lesbian, as I don’t have to navigate what seems like the more complex world that heterosexual women inhabit. It shouldn’t need to be said, but of course not all men act like this, enable this behaviour, or agree with it. I have men I love dearly in all facets of my life, except romantically.

But it’s also true that I am grateful for that fact in the dark and despondent moments when it seems that the symptoms of the patriarchy are going to overwhelm us all. After a constant barrage of men behaving badly, of mistreating women, after a week where it’s clear that we are still thought of as second-class citizens by a lot of men, I just feel as though maybe I have it a bit easier on one front.

I am not the clichéd man-hating lesbian, but when I am fatigued and disheartened from a barrage of stories about women being mistreated, it sometimes feels like the world is trying its best to turn me into one

I don’t have to overcome feelings of sadness and frustration (and perhaps residual resentfulness) to then have romantic dealings with men. I don’t have to wonder if he is aware of his privilege, or know that he can’t truly understand what it is like to wake up wondering what misogyny you will experience that day. 

I’m not saying that women don’t treat other women badly. And I am not saying that women shouldn’t date men, or that it is a bad thing in itself to have to be romantically involved with men. I am not the clichéd man-hating lesbian, but when I am fatigued and disheartened from a barrage of stories about women being mistreated, it sometimes feels like the world is trying its best to turn me into one.

That will never happen, because there are too many good men who understand that they need to stand tall against sexism too. It’s just that while I’m pushing back against the wall of bleakness, I will sometimes feel a little fizzle of thankfulness that maybe I have it a tiny bit easier for once. And les be honest, I kind of deserve it.