John Coates’ mansplaining Annastacia Palaszczuk shocked many, but it is a textbook example of what women face every day.
“You are going to the Opening Ceremony,” said IOC member John Coates, folding his arms and leaning back in his chair.
It wasn’t a question, it was an order. Coates was speaking to the thrice-elected Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk at a press conference in Tokyo, the morning after the 2032 Olympic Games were awarded to Brisbane.
‘You are going to the opening ceremony.’ Here is that awkward exchange between AOC President John Coates and Queensland Premier @AnnastaciaMP at a media conference in Tokyo last night. #Brisbane2032 @BreakfastNews pic.twitter.com/bQqvFYyQla
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 21, 2021
Coates was not referring to the Games eleven years hence, he was referring to the Opening Ceremony of the ill-starred Tokyo Games, which are just about to commence after a year delay due to COVID. Palaszczuk had taken the principled and responsible stand of declining to attend the ceremony even though she was in Tokyo to pitch (successfully) for the Games in 2032. No doubt her decision was partly driven by concern about bringing the Delta strain of COVID back home with her, but also, perhaps, it was driven by a sense of solidarity with fellow Queenslanders currently experiencing restrictions and with the 12 million Australians currently in lockdown.
Coates went on to try and pull rank.
“I’m still the Deputy Chair of the Candidature Leadership Group,” he said – whatever that is.
The pronouncement of his illustrious position was greeted by nervous titters from the assembled press, but Palaszczuk’s body language said it all. She shrank in her seat and cast her eyes down. As Coates continued to patronize and mansplain by asking (knowing full well the answer), “… you’ve never been to an Opening Ceremony, have you?” the Premier of Queensland never once met his eye.
Women have exploded in fury at the clip that is circulating on social media. Following on so close to all the revelations about the treatment of women in the Australian parliament, thanks to the courage of Brittany Higgins and now Annabel Crabb (with her superb documentary about the routinely disrespectful treatment handed out to women in power), it is impossible to watch yet another accomplished female authority figure being treated like a naughty schoolgirl by some bloke and not feel your blood boil.
Naughty schoolgirls, of course, should not be treated with such condescending disrespect either, but Palaszczuk is arguably one of Australia’s most successful politicians. She brought the Queensland ALP out of the wilderness to three wins in a row, each with an increased majority. If that doesn’t earn you the right to be treated as an equal by an (ahem) Deputy Chair, what the hell would?
Women everywhere know exactly how Palaszczuk felt. ABC Breakfast presenter Lisa Millar’s simple “Wow!” at the end of the clip spoke volumes. When a man decides to pull male rank (and don’t kid yourself, there are many blokes who either consciously or unconsciously assume that simply being a man gives them automatic authority over women) and put us in our place via a potted lecture delivered in front of our peers for extra shame impact, we have all experienced the rapid sequence of thoughts that enter our shocked brain.
They include: “Is he really doing what I think he’s doing? Shit, he is, he’s giving me a lecture! Is anyone going to speak up on my behalf? Don’t be an idiot, of course not. They’d rather you than them. Should I bite back? Tell him to back off? But if I do that, the focus will move to me and they’ll all use my anger against me and tell me I was over-reacting.”
Following on so close to all the revelations about the treatment of women in the Australian parliament, it is impossible to watch yet another accomplished female authority figure being treated like a naughty schoolgirl by some bloke and not feel your blood boil.
Hillary Clinton wrote about her own dilemma when she faced a rampaging Donald Trump stalking her around the stage in one of their Presidential Debates when they were both vying for the job. She asked herself, as she continued to remain calm and focused – one could say presidential – while Trump loomed over her, whether she should turn and tell him to, “Back off, you creep!”
According to her memoir, she still wonders whether deciding not to was right or wrong. In my view, sadly, she was better served by remaining silent. It is infuriating and deeply unfair but women’s anger (however justified) is always used against them. For women of color, of course, it is even worse – see Kamala Harris and Serena Williams.
Palaszczuk recognized the trap Coates had set. She tried to remain silent but a journalist put her on the spot. “Premier?” he asked. “I don’t want to offend anybody,” she replied. As well she might, she knew she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.
Coates may have had a glimmer of self-awareness about what a pompous prat he was being when he finished up by trying to broaden his attack by saying, “None of you are staying behind and hiding in your room, alright?” (That “alright?” is particularly disrespectful.) And then could not resist congratulating himself with a final, “a very important lesson for everyone here.” Lesson? Lesson? Who is he to be teaching the Premier of Queensland any kind of bloody lesson? Can you imagine him saying such things to a bloke? I can’t.
I sincerely hope Palaszczuk sticks to her guns and does not attend. I hope John Coates is given some sorely overdue lessons in how to talk with women in authority and women in general. I also cannot help noticing how often it is men involved with sport who are the culprits when sexist and misogynistic behavior hits the public eye. Just as too many of our male parliamentarians seem incapable of treating women as equals, the same problem seems to be rampant in the world of sport.
Far from men like Coates being in a position to teach anyone anything, from where I sit, it looks like they have got an awful lot to learn.