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An Australian leader is in trouble for calling his opponent's wife a mail-order bride. Why is this an insult?

Persistent stereotypes about women, and men

Two stories on opposite sides of the world are a reminder that an awful lot of stereotypes about women, and men, haven’t changed at all.

An Australian state Opposition leader has got into trouble for calling the premier’s wife a mail-order bride. (She happens to be from Malaysia – actually highly unlikely to be a source of women using paid online marriage arrangement services, since it is far too wealthy.) It left me wondering why “mail-order bride” should be considered, as it undoubtedly is, a nasty term of abuse?

Perhaps the suggestion is that anyone who is a “mail-order bride” is little better than a prostitute (an uncomfortably obvious exposure of the traditional economics of marriage) and anyone who marries them can’t get a “proper” woman – a slur on his manhood indeed. I wonder, if you called such women “economic refugees”, would they get better treated?

Then in France, that home of supposedly sophisticated relations between the sexes, the Interior Minister, and possible future President, Nicolas Sarkozy is, according to The Telegraph considering divorcing his wife Cécilia, since while the French public apparently has no problem with male politicians having several simultaneous relationships, one of their wives doing the same thing is considered a reflection on her husband’s virility.

Why even, if this were true, should virility have anything to do with political ability? Is there some hint here into the reasons why women candidates can find selection committees, if often not voters, so resistant to their campaigns?

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On another side of stereotypes, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spike column reports that the second and fourth most common Australian web searches for men are New Kelly and Slim Dusty (an old-style country music singer, now dead). Funny how one of the most urbanised societies on earth clings to its foundation myths.

Shane Warne (cricketer) and John Howard (current, dreadful Prime Minister) were first and third, for the record.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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