Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is this family working?

Jane Nethercote in today's crikey.com.au begs the Prime Minister to ditch his more ubiquitous catchphrases, including the most egregious one of all:

'As for "working families", we're not even going to attempt to tally how many times they've been wheeled out since the ALP took power. Suffice to say that the odd reference to "bludging loners" would be welcomed.'

Indeed. Or possibly 'dysfunctional families', as in 'This family isn't working.'

As I said at the time to my sceptical, erm, family, I was lukewarm last year about Rudd because as a feminist I mistrusted his Christianity and its likely effects, including this obsession with nuclear families to the exclusion of everybody else, and (as has reportedly come to pass) the trading-off of bits and pieces of policy for support with various "faith-based" lobby groups. But I've come around to him since he won he election and hit the ground running, and some of the footage and phtotos on Sorry Day in particular showed me a side of him I'd not suspected was there.

'Working families', on the other hand, have got to go. Rudd was being mocked, mercilessly and quite properly, for this and other catchphrases before he even won the election. Is he not listening, or is this mantra-like repetition something to do with staying on-message even after you've won, and even after it's been pointed out by a number of people that it was a particularly meaningless phrase to begin with? Every time I hear Rudd (or Gillard, whom I know knows better) say 'working families', I get a vivid mental picture of young Oscar being kept on 200 calories a day so he'll stay small enough to fit up the chimneys, while little Tay-lah, suspiciously red of mouth and black of eyelash, does the round of the dodgy photographers with Mummy.

As a six-days-a-week-of-merciless-slogging childless divorcee with one Aged Parent, one only slightly less aged step-parent, two sisters, two unofficial godchildren, two cats, three step-siblings and nine step-nieces and nephews, which while making for a full and interesting life probably doesn't really constitute a 'family' in the politically expedient definition of that word, I would like to express my irritation at being so constantly left out of the Prime Minister's rhetoric, as, presumably, of his consideration. I think it might be time for Kev to face the fact that solo living is coming very close to being the norm. If this trend continues, the majority of voters in future will not be in 'working families' at all, and if he keeps implying that they're all he's interested in and the rest of us can go to buggery, he might find sooner than he expected that the Lodge has a revolving door.

16 comments:

M-H said...

As a divorced, middle-aged grandmother in a lesbian relationship who works in education and is 'bettering herself' (ha ha) by doing a PhD, I'd like some acknowledgment too. Do my partner and I constitute a "working non-family"? We certainly know the working half of the phrase applies to us.

Another Outspoken Female said...

How do you manage to write so well in your sweltering heat?

I have the same knee jerk reaction to Rudd. I never trusted him from the moment I saw a Compass special on him a few years before his grab for the top job. Every fibre of my body feel a sense of caution, yet signing Kyoto and The Apology has to get brownie points.

My personal response to Family First was always "nulliparous pagan whores last" which kind of sums up my demographic. Though whether it is misguided or not, I tend to think of that party in the past tense. I just hope our "deliberately barren" representative can keep us financially single, not quite as young as we used to be women in mind or at least redefine family (more along the lines of "Urban Tribes: Are friends the new family" by Ethan Watters).

Fiona said...

The phrase drives me nuts. Are Kevin's advisers all asleep at the wheel? As a never-married, single female, who may or may not get to have children, and who works but doesn't have a mortgage - how can I ever feel included when I hear the 'working families' sound-bite? Grrr.

*despairs at being stuck in middle of record-breaking heatwave*

Bernice said...

The key would seem to be not so much who or what you may be, but where you live. Those pesky swinging voters who are so much the focus of any politician's affections have the habit of congregating in post war (or indeed post millenium) suburbs ringing our major urban centres. Full of mortgages, debt, children and fear
Easily crowded round the blow-up pool of government largesse & supposed concern.

Caroline said...

Me too, me too. Although cannot agree that being a feminist somehow negates any efforts I may make to try and be somehow Christian or vice versa. Am I missing something? All feminists are atheists, or supposed to be? I do make (btw), a very sharp distinction between the religion of Christianity and the teachings of Christ, as I know at a deep, visceral level, that the majority of the old religious patriarchs both dead and not so, have basically got it pretty much entirely wrong. And I am free to ignore them. Which I do. I would like however, not to have to ignore the "working families" I amless successful at this. It bugs the shit out of me too. What's going on there? They've gotta be smarter than that?

Pen said...

And as a person who rather haplessly fell into being a member of a 'family' I have to say that not working has certain a siren appeal.

Pavlov's Cat said...

I should have made it clearer in the post that I have absolutely nothing against nuclear families, and indeed come from a particularly solid nuclear family of origin myself. It's the ideology behind Rudd's rhetoric that's bothering me.

As for feminism and Christianity, yes, I knew that would come up, and I've had this argument a number of times with Christian feminist friends. While I personally couldn't reconcile my feminist principles with adherence to so immovably patriarchal a religion (in its language, its belief structures, its iconography, its sacred texts, its values as practised in the usual churches, etc etc etc), I have great respect for other people's religious sensibilities, if only because I believe in a spiritual dimension to life beyond the material myself. (NB I regard the teachings of Christ as mostly an altruistic form of common sense and therefore entirely live-byable.)

My problem here is a very clear and simple one about the separation of church and state, something I really DO believe in as an absolute good and as a first principle of democracy. But there are some people I don't trust to maintain it and given what's happening in the US I hold grave fears for its survival as a political ideal, much less a reliable reality. Rudd does absolutely nothing to reassure me on this score and neither does Peter Garrett. There are matters of women's rights, like legal abortion (newly defined, I see, as a deadly sin), that cut to the heart of gender equality, but I wouldn't trust either of those two as far as I could throw them not to directly interfere in such matters on religious grounds.

Bernice, excellent point, I hadn't thought of that but of course you're right. Which means it's more cynical than I thought. But I don't know whether that makes it better or worse.

AOP -- 'Nulliparous Pagan Whore' will be going on my next Census form under Religion.

lucy tartan said...

Oh, so he doesn't mean people working to support large families of kitties? That puts a very different slant on things, then.

How are your girls coping with the weather, by the way?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Now, I must say I had not thought of the large families of kitties angle. Which is in itself quite shocking. And to think that only today I paid a not inconsiderable amount of hard-earned for a special loop-shaped combing thingy with little triangular teeth, loose hairs, for the removal of.

Madam and Poppet are not too bad, although they do look at me reproachfully from time to time as if to say that it's all my doing and I could switch it off if I wanted to.

Kathleen said...

He should get on top of recent trends a little quicker: SINKS, SPUDS, freemales and all of the possible variants. We should be celebrating these.

http://news.smh.com.au/spuds-freemales-lead-changing-trends/20080312-1yw7.html

delperro dispatches said...

Jane Nethercote from Crickey and Pavlov's Cat are feed up with "Rudd's euphemisms", most "egregiously" working families.
They want him to talk more about "dysfunction, as in non-working families" and "bludging loners". I don't really care about what they are called, just as long as they aren't called "Howard's Batlers".

Yeah it's sad that when the Government is not doing to bad that you have to confect arguments like this to blog about.

Clearly the purpose of the statement indicates more than simply trying to speak to only those who have 2.4 kids and live in married harmony. The statement works for people who work and have a family and consider themselves as part of it.

Elsewhere007 said...

And how *are* the cats?

Pavlov's Cat said...

The cats are just incredibly cute, thank you kindly, and I'm thinking of taking up handcrafts as well!

seepi said...

Well I'm in a working family and even I'm sick to death of hearing him go on about it.

Although John Howard's bizarre assumption that all women would be better off at home like Janette was equally annoying.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

Beazley used to talk about "Middle class families" being affected by workchoices. Essential Media, who did the work behind the ACTU's ad campaign told him to knock it off, as lots of the people he needed to appeal to didn't see themselves as middle class.

I suspect Rudd took Essential Media's advice, but being Rudd proceeded to a) modify it by the smallest amount possible and
b) repeat until we are all thoroughly sick of it.

Some of us have got sick of it faster than others.

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