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John Passant

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March 2015



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



International Women’s Day and female doctors being raped at work in Australia

Dr Gabrielle McMullin is a senior vascular surgeon. Alice Matthews from ABC News interviewed her after the release of her new book  Gender Equality – The Role of Merit and Quotas.

In the interview Dr McMullin detailed the case of Caroline whose career as a neurosurgeon was destroyed before it started. She rejected the request of one of her colleagues, a male mentor and supervisor, for sex. It was a long battle for her to win her complaint against the man, who after the rejection began giving her bad reports.  She has never been employed as a neurosurgeon.

The lessons Dr McMullin draws from this are shocking.  She said:

Her career was ruined by this one guy asking for sex on this night. And realistically, she would have been much better to have given him a blow job on that night.

And her advice to new doctors in the field is give in. According to the report:

She said she told trainees that giving in to sexual harassment was an easier path than pursuing the perpetrators, because of sexism among many male surgeons.

Such acquiescence may still result in any sex being rape since it is not freely given consent.

Dr McMullin’s motives for suggesting giving in are not clear. I take it to be a wake up call not just to hospital administrations but to society.  Here are intelligent, successful women working with intelligent successful male colleagues and they are subjected to the sort of abuse you imagine could only happen at the most degraded workplaces. On top of that the structures in place in their workplaces fail to protect or support them.

This is not a one off. According to a report by Julia Medew, Patrick Hatch and Steve Lillebuen in Monday’s Age:

Sexual harassment is a major issue in Australian hospitals and victims are not speaking up because of inadequate complaint processes and fear it will ruin their careers, doctors say.

More than a dozen female doctors have contacted Fairfax Media to back Sydney surgeon Gabrielle McMullin’s assertion that sexual harassment was occurring within a culture of silence and that those who wanted to protect their careers should not speak out.

Hierarchies at work are open to abuses of power. Capitalism creates those hierarchies. The reality in Australia is that the higher up an organisation one looks the more likely you are to find a man in power.

Second the reality of women’s oppression under capitalism means this is unlikely to fundamentally change. Women’s role for capital is to be the unpaid bearers and carers of children, the next generation of workers.  The liberation of women under capitalism would involve those costs being shifted to capital. While the necessity of women to the creation of profit and the ongoing survival of capitalism is now vital, and sees some half arsed fiddling at the edges policies on child care and paid parental leave, the more radical options that actually address working women’s needs, like free 24 hour child care, communal housing and all that that entails for community cooking, cleaning, care and the like cannot be on the agenda of capitalism. First they undermine one of the main roles of women in society and the stereotypes that go along with that and second capital can’t afford it.  Profit trumps people.

So should women at work follow Dr McMullin’s advice. No. But they shouldn’t have to fight on their own either. Building our unions to fight for and defend women in the workplace has to be a priority for all workers.

It is unlikely the doctors’ and bosses organisation, the AMA, will do anything for female doctors, let alone take up their cases against other male members.  The AMA reflects the status quo and the interests of rich doctors; it doesn’t challenge the system. It might be that real trade union, like United Voice or the Nurses Unions, which do fight for their members to some extent, and which have many many women workers as members and understand the gross sexism in society and hospitals, would be better organisations for young women doctors to join than the AMA.

Would having more women in leadership roles fix the problem?  No. Margaret Thatcher was a warrior for her class. She inflicted more pain on women than the Labor men who went before her.

Under Australian Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard the gender pay gap worsened and on the same day she was giving her famous ‘I will not lectured to by this man about misogyny’ speech, she was cutting the single parent payment for about 90,000 people, 80,000 or so of whom were women. This cut to weekly payments of up to $100 sent them deeper into poverty.

The problem is capitalism and its hierarchies, not the gender of those in charge. Having more women as slave owners would not have challenged slavery. It would have reinforced it. Whoever advances up the greasy pole of capitalism self-evidently (irony alert) owes their success to capitalism, and of course (sarcasm alert) to their own hard work divorced from the rest of society.  Having more women as bosses will not challenge the system that gives rise to women’s oppression. It will only reinforce it.

In the meantime, women workers, including junior doctors, could join unions and turn them into organisations that defend their interests.  In the words of the famous song, don’t be too polite girls, don’t be too polite.



Comment from Harry Feldman
Time March 9, 2015 at 6:04 am

If capital had the capacity to employ all the women freed of domestic labour and childcare, couldn’t workers still absord the costs of those responsibilities through taxation?

Comment from John
Time March 9, 2015 at 7:39 am

Yes but the costs would be so great as to destroy their ability to live, I am assuming. Hmm, maybe I am wrong about this…

Comment from Jim
Time March 9, 2015 at 10:30 am

The AMA are a bunch of pussies (sarcasm and irony alert).

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Joining unions won’t help doctors or nurses very much. Even 30 years ago, unionists were treated like rubbish by employers and government. As long as there is a glut of workers, partly created by forcing mothers of very young babies back to work and the employment of migrant workers, the workplace will continue to become a very abusive place.

To get away from negative global agendas, workers need to form new unions that aren’t affiliated with the ACTU and global union groups. Australia also needs to manufacture and consume its own goods.

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