Establishment slaps down 'uppity' women

Disengagement from mainstream politics is so widespread that when the marginalised and poor start getting engaged the establishment, and its media, hits back.

This explains the corporate media's sexist-tinged blitzkrieg against Sue Bolton and Roz Ward, both Melbourne-based activists. Both women have come to prominence recently for their determination to stand up for the most marginalised and dispossessed sectors of society and involve others in the process.

Bolton, a Socialist Alliance councillor in Moreland, has come under heavy pressure for refusing to be cowed by the Victorian Police, sections of her own council and the racist right-wing. She organised a successful “Say NO to racism” community rally on May 28 in the face of huge pressure not to. She also had to withstand pressure over the tactical choices the local community made in organising it.

Ward, a member of Socialist Alternative and an advisor to the Victorian government on the besieged Safe Schools program, was suspended from her job at La Trobe University on June 1 for a private Facebook posting in which she described the Australian flag as “racist”. But late on June 3, the university decided against pursuing serious misconduct allegations against her and told her lawyers the suspensions was lifted. La Trobe said it believed it was not in the university's best interest to pursue the matter.

NewsCorp has vigorously campaigned to axe the Safe Schools program on behalf of the ignorant and intolerant conservatives in the major parties who, falsely, argue that the program promotes “cultural Marxism”, paedophilia and homosexuality.

Finding that Ward, who worked in the University's Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, was also an advisor on the program to the Victorian government was grist to the mill.

NewsCorp found all manner of arch-conservatives, including the disgraced former Premier Jeff Kennett, to repeat the lies and threaten the continued funding of the Safe Schools program.

The program is designed for schools to discuss the needs and rights of LGBTIQ people. Nevertheless, the Coalition government has gutted the program while saying the opposite.

The Safe Schools Coalition, which has groups across the country and, importantly, includes high school students at the receiving end of homophobic bullying, have made a good deal of noise around the government changes, and are not giving up.

This is the establishment's main problem: people, and in particular women, who do not give up.

Bolton, a seasoned campaigner, was determined not to cancel the anti-racism rally in multicultural Moreland. She insisted it was and is legitimate for local councillors to instigate community-wide responses to institutional racism.

She argued, correctly, that if she had backed down in the face of intimidation from the far right, they would most likely have protested anyway and scored themselves a political victory.

Both women are intolerable to the powers-that-be because they pose a political threat: they are conviction campaigners. They are not just campaigning to change people's lives for the better today, they are organising to undermine the structural problem — capitalism.

Institutional racism, sexism and the repression of LGBTIQ people are an intrinsic part of how capitalism maintains its ideological and economic control. Capitalism's economic power means that institutions with ideological and cultural functions — the news, entertainment media and educational institutions — are dominated by pro-capitalist ideas.

Mostly, they manufacture consent, trivialise and smear. Occasionally, they allow a dissident to speak up as “proof” they are not censorious.

Whether editors directly intervene or not, self-censorship is the norm. If you want to keep your job, why write something an editor will reject? Sure, ask the protagonist to submit a column but only after damning them with negative “opinion” pieces before and afterwards. This is what has happened to Bolton and the Moreland residents.

The media stitch up of the Moreland rally is not just about trying to ensure Sue Bolton is not re-elected to council this year, it was also about providing political ammunition to the state to justify more anti-protest laws.

Bolton and Ward are not the only women being singled out. Fiona Byrne, a former Greens Mayor of Marrickville in Sydney, dared to support a pro-Palestine motion in 2011 and, after a vicious Murdoch-led campaign, helped along by detractors, stepped down. And there are many more.

The corporate media works to maintain the political status quo, which more and more people are now questioning, so it is not easily going to brook critics, especially not those seeking to completely up-end it.

But feisty women, with principles and conviction, are not easily scared off either. The best solidarity we can offer to Ward (who is fighting to be reinstated) and Bolton (who is fighting to keep her position on council) is to keep up the fight: grow the campaigns which expose, and undermine, the system in which sexism, racism and the oppression of LGBTIQ people thrives.