Politics

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Spoke Out About Slut-Shaming On Last Night’s ‘Q&A’

"Naming it breaks the silence, calling it out breaks the power".

Sarah Hanson-Young talks slut-shaming on Q&A

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Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young used Monday night’s episode of Q&A to call out the practice of slut-shaming both in the federal parliament and in Australian society at large.

In an episode featuring a number of questions about the treatment of women, ranging from sexual harassment in universities to the controversy surrounding US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Hanson-Young spoke passionately about the abuse she and other female politicians often receive while doing their jobs.

“I’ve spent ten years in the Federal Parliament,” she said. “Copping a lot. Seeing other women cop a lot. And feeling as though in this rough-and-tumble environment, it’s best not to speak about it and draw attention to it. Because two things happen. You either have to match it, in which case you’re labelled a bitch … [or] if you allow it to affect you, you’re told you’re soft.”

Hanson-Young said the tipping point for her was after Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm made comments about her sex life on the floor of parliament earlier this year.

“There is a line, and what David Leyonhjelm did was cross that line,” she said. “Other comments I’ve had and seen, and I know other women have experienced, have crossed the line. And after ten years, I’ve had enough. I don’t think that is the way the parliament should be. And if I can’t speak about it, if I can’t call it out, as a woman in the parliament with privilege, how on earth can I expect a young woman on the shop floor, or a woman who works behind a bar, to call it out?”

Asked by host Tony Jones about her use of the term “slut-shaming” to describe what had happened to her, Hanson-Young said it was important to call it what it was.

“When I first named what was going on with me as slut-shaming, I had to say it a few times in my head before it came out because it is confronting,” she said. “But the reason I used it is because there is no better description of how this is used to disempower women.”

“The power of slut-shaming itself [is that it] has this incredible power of silencing the victim because the moment you name it, there is something, even just a little bit, where people go, ‘maybe she is a slut. Maybe that did happen. Maybe this happened’. That is the power of that type of intimidation, rumour and innuendo. And it’s used as a weapon.”

Hanson-Young highlighted several women in politics who she believes have been treated unfairly because of their gender, including Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“The things that were said about [Credlin], if she had been a bloke, never would have been said,” she said. “The way Julia Gillard was treated as Prime Minister was appalling. History is going to be much kinder to Julia than she was ever treated while she was there.”