Let's look at Senator Matthias Cormann.
Now let's stop looking at him.
Instead, let's THINK about Senator Matthias Cormann, about what he represents, what place he occupies in the modern Australian dialectical discourse. Let's not get bogged down in semiotics, but rather let's examine Matthias Cormann from all sides and make up our own minds about what he symbolises for a culture in crisis.
To put it another way, he has a pretty funny accent.
But forget about the accent for a moment: making fun of people's accents is a big part of being a progressive, but it's not the only part. It's what they SAY with those accents that is the important part, and what Matthias Cormann has said with that hilarious accent is this:
"Bill Shorten is an economic girlie-man,"
This has caused a furore in some circles, as it as been seen as an attack on women, an attack on equality, an attack on our children's futures, and by some even as an attack on Bill Shorten.
But is it really such a terrible thing to call someone "an economic girlie-man"? Let's unpack this, shall we?
First of all, the derivation of girlie-man: etymologically, the term originates in the two separate words "girlie", meaning resembling or bearing characteristics of a girl; and "man", meaning a person who is a man. So we can assume that Cormann was saying that Shorten is a man who in some way resembles a girl.
Our starting point must be to determine the truth value of this assertion. So let's look at Bill Shorten:
How much does he resemble a girl? "Not very much," you might say. BUT what if you look at him from this perspective?
Well. Doesn't THAT put a different complexion on things? Can anyone who has seen the above photo truly say that there is nothing in Cormann's assertion?
But what of the broader implications? Is it true that, in using "girlie-man" as an insult, Cormann is demeaning women by suggesting they are weaker and less capable than men?
I say, not at all. Because let us be clear, Cormann did not actually call Shorten a "girl", That would, indeed, have been reprehensible - to suggest that being a girl precludes one from being an effective leader is disgusting. To suggest that any girl is as bad at her job as Bill Shorten even more so. I have personally known many girls, and watching them burgeon into womanhood is a very different experience than watching Bill Shorten burgeon into Shortenhood.
Also, Cormann did not call Shorten a "man", which would obviously have been slanderous.
What he called him was a "girlie-man", and that is a horse of a different flavour.
Think of it this way: a dog can be a very useful thing, and a tractor can be a very useful thing, but a dog shaped like a tractor? That is entirely different.
What Cormann was saying was that Shorten is a kind of tractor-dog, a hybrid of two things that are excellent in isolation, but when combined lack a certain something. You might like girls, and you might like men, but is a girlie-man something you'd like? Probably - it sounds like a lot of fun - but is it someone you want in charge of the economy?
After all, remember the old song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". Maybe a girlie-man doesn't just wanna have fun - maybe they do have other interests - but there can be little doubt that they will probably be a little bit more frivolous than what you'd ideally like in a person whose duties will necessarily include stamping repeatedly on unemployed people's faces.
Is Matthias Cormann sexist? Well, if it's sexist to suggest that an economic girlie-man is not the sort of tractor we want ploughing our kennels, then sure, he's sexist. But if it's sexist to not suggest that women can do anything they want without fearing that they won't be criticised for not being men if they're genuinely not as good at their jobs as another woman might be if she wasn't not a man, then I'd say that the answer is clear for all to see.
To sum up:
Girls are good. Men are good. But girlie-men are girlier than is ideal, and manlier than a girl should be. And saying so isn't as bad as you think even in a weird accent. Not that having a weird accent should ever be acceptable.