In an infuriatingly predictable case of woman-asserts-self-and-is-berated-for-it-because-she-is-a-woman, Leigh Sales has faced incredible cyber abuse following her interview with Labor leader Bill Shorten in the lead up to the federal election.
The 7:30 host, who is known for her no-nonsense approach to interviews, has taken to twitter to address and call out the “river of disgusting, sexist and relentless abuse” she has faced throughout the current campaign.
From memes of her sleeping with Malcolm Turnbull, to slurs labelling her a “biased slut”, the tweets Sales shared were just the tip of the derogatory iceberg, just as this repugnant case is merely one example of our culture’s awful view of powerful woman.
— Peter Deane (@Peter_Deane) June 30, 2016
The fingers behind the keyboards which produced said tweets predominantly belonged to men, who were evidently infuriated by the way in which Sales questioned Shorten’s responses throughout a political interview. Although these people are entitled to their opinions about the content and delivery of the interview, the aggressively popular suggestion that she must be sleeping with the opposition is indicative of the fact that the root of their anger was Sales’ gender.
It comes down to the proverbial notion that ‘a woman is bossy, a man is the boss’, and the systematic witch hunt of strong, assertive females that is subconsciously weaved into our culture. If Sales were a man, the interview would have been described as ‘intriguing political rally’ or anything else that implied that both parties were equally valid. However, we as a culture – and particularly men – are trained to see a female taking control of the conversation and immediately grab our pitchforks while questioning her gall.
But Sales did not become one of Australia’s best journalists by sitting down or shutting up – and this is certainly not her first time addressing her experience with the systematic persecution of powerful ladies. After claims she was flirtatious in an interview with Turnbull last September, Sales tweeted out a handy template which ‘critics’ – a loose term for someone with both an opinion and an internet connection – could use to commentate further interviews.
— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) September 21, 2015
Although the template is an excellent illustration of her unapologetic attitude, the fact that there was even a call for this tweet is an issue. After her most recent Twitter call out, other female journalists have followed suit, highlighting the barrage of misogyny they too face on a regular basis.
— Annika Smethurst (@annikasmethurst) June 30, 2016
This kind of backlash has become far too normalised for public figures, to the point that we as a culture expect them to accept it as simply another part of their job in the way that an athlete might expect muscle fatigue. In reality, these journalists’ duties do not extend beyond ethically reporting their stories or publishing their interviews, and furthermore, being in the public eye should not mean something different depending on your gender.