Annabel Crabb: ‘You Can’t Fix The Women’s Side Until You Fix The Men’s Side’

By Lara Robertson


By Lara Robertson

At Future Women’s sold-out Ask Me Anything event in Sydney on Monday night, political journalist, foodie and author of new cookbook Special Guest Annabel Crabb shared her opinions on everything from slut-shaming, the challenges faced by women in politics to her predictions for the US midterm elections. Here we’ve distilled some of Crabb’s most potent points.


Crabb’s Prediction For The US Midterms

“I think Trump’s going to hold the House, I think that’s the most likely outcome,” she said. “I don’t think he’s going to lose the Senate, but a couple of weeks ago I thought, of course he’ll lose the House, because that’s what happens in midterms.” The midterm elections in the United States are well underway and many are calling this a referendum on Trump’s presidency. As it stands (pre midterms), the Republicans hold a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. All this could change by the end of the week. If Democrats take back control of the House or the Senate, they could severely limit what Trump can do in the final two years of his term. If Republicans hold on to their seats, as Crabb predicts, President Trump will be able to push through his Republican agenda more easily.


On Slut-Shaming And Being Single Women In Politics

“It’s hard to be a single woman in Parliament,” Crabb said, in reference to how single women in Australian politics are often on the receiving end of sexist abuse and slut-shaming in what is often a highly-charged, male-dominant work environment. “Sarah Hanson-Young and Emma Husar are the two of the youngest women in parliament and they are single, and people think it’s okay to spread stories about your sex life or that basically, you can’t have a sex life,” Crabb added.

Earlier this year, Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm was widely criticised for telling Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young to “stop shagging men” during a parliamentary debate about women and violence. Labor MP Emma Husar also recently faced allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, which were not supported by an investigation. Husar claimed the allegations arose from her party’s right faction after she dismissed a male staffer for poor performance.


“A career in federal politics is hard, no matter what kind of genetic equipment you might have.”


On Being A Working Mother In Politics

“The experience of male and female parents in politics is incredibly different,” said Crabb, of the prevalent double standards for working mothers and fathers in government. “Christopher Pyne had four children whilst serving as an MP, Joe Hockey had three, and no-one would ever raise it with them, whereas Tanya Plibersek was constantly being asked. Nicola Roxan, who in 2007 became the first woman to serve in the Australian cabinet whilst raising a preschool-aged child, told me when she quit parliament that was the thing she got asked about most. She was health minister when [the Rudd government] was trying to restructure the health system, but she’d still get asked if her kid was alright. I think that’s a huge psychological part of why women steer away from a career in federal politics, because it is hard, no matter what kind of genetic equipment you might have, to be part of a functional family unit and also in your productive work years, travelling for 20 or more weeks a year. But the difference is, if you’re a father people won’t find it remarkable, but if you’re a mother some people find it unforgivable.”


On Julie Bishop Refusing To Call Herself A Feminist

“People always bash up Julie for not calling herself a feminist, I’m past caring about that, to be honest,” Crabb said. “In politics, you either pick that fight or you don’t, and lots of women do, and good on them, but if you think of someone in [Julie Bishop’s] situation, if she picks the fight and decides to have the fight about the label, then that’s the fight that she then have forever in her party, and she’s like ‘Well I’d rather argue about stuff I’m interested in my portfolio.’ So that’s the decision she made, and I’m not super fussed about that.”


On How To Fix The ‘Wife Drought’

In her 2014 book The Wife Drought, Crabb argues that the long-running joke made by working mothers that they need a ‘wife’ plays into the ingrained expectations that women should be in charge of domestic affairs, overlooking the fact that these expectations affect working fathers as well. When asked what governments could do to legislate this issue, Crabb said that while governments can’t change these expectations, it’s very important to encourage men to take parental leave. “I think that the intervention point is a parental leave policy that absolutely, explicitly and implicitly encourages men to take it,” she said. “You can whistle Dixie all you like to try and make things easier at work for women, and eliminate barriers in the workplace, but until you eliminate the very real barriers that stop men from leaving the workplace for a bit and then coming back, the way women do, as long as you’ve got a majority of parents being men and women, you can’t fix the women’s side until you fix the men’s side. But heaps of men think ‘I’m not doing that because most men don’t do it and I’ll be thought of as being less committed to my work.’”

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