By Ruth Limkin
There’s a disturbing trend in Australian social discourse at the moment.
If you don’t toe the ‘ideological party line’ you don’t seem to have a right to express your opinion. If you summon some courage, and do speak up, you are swiftly condemned as having some kind of phobia or being highly discriminatory and offensive. The words used to describe you can be, in all honesty, appalling.
Take the recent comments made about Bess Price, an indigenous woman who spoke out supporting the Northern Territory Intervention. Professor Larissa Behrendt, an indigenous laywer, then took to Twitter to say: “I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.”
We cannot have authentic conversations about things that matter if bullying and intimidation silence some viewpoints. Silencing debate in a democracy is a form of self-hatred. We love our democratic freedom so much we end up abusing it through refusing to recognise and make a place for difference.
What’s terribly disturbing is that an educated woman, the South Australian of the Year, thinks it’s appropriate to bully another woman in a public forum.
It’s a less than stellar moment for Professor Behrendt. It’s a less than stellar moment for democracy. To be honest, it’s a less than stellar moment for womanhood.
Successful, prominent women should be setting examples to young women about how to disagree respectfully.
Now is the opportunity to set a new example – how to admit a mistake, apologise sincerely and reconcile with another.
Discussing difference is the essence of democracy. We don’t all have to agree – but we do need to respect all who participate in the conversation.