Friday, October 10, 2008


Emma Tom, one of The Australian newspaper's more irritating opinionistas, is living proof of the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Or, to be more accurate, that the loud and pushy wheel gets the newspaper column. It's hard to find another explanation for the fact that any number of witty, erudite writers have been passed over in favour of this alumnus of the "I have a vagina! Yes, I said 'vagina'! What do you think about that, fascists!" school.

Her columns are a little like the cheap biscuits in your office tea room: offering a sugar hit without actually being all that enjoyable. Although I've learnt to skip over her columns (and also to turn down offers of cheap biscuits), this caught my eye yesterday:

Here are a few other things that have happened before (paid maternity leave):

* Up to one-third of women dying during childbirth (Europe and North America in the 1800s).

* Attempts to ban labour pain analgesics because they were regarded as decoys of Satan (Europe in the 19th century).

* The expectation that little women greet their husbands in a state of perfectly ironed obedience before arranging pillows, removing shoes and not speaking unless spoken to (the good wife guide in the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly).

This last historical titbit is particularly relevant because it is exactly the sort of suffocating social oppression our mums and mums' mums endured when they were sprogging on.

"Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity," Housekeeping Monthly instructs. "Remember, he is the master of the house ... You have no right to question him. A good wife always knows her place."

Obviously our mums and mums' mums didn't get paid maternity leave.

"Historical titbit" my arse. While the spokesperson for modern, liberated womanhood apparently has access to the internet, it seems she doesn't have access to any part of the internet that espouses critical thinking. The invaluable refuses to catagorically state that the article is a fake, but it admits that it's more likely than not that it is. Anyone who doesn't automatically believe anything that reinforces her own prejudices could see that.

For example, one would think that any magazine with a readership of more than twelve would have left some sort of trace on the internet, if only an acknowledgement of its existance in a library database. However, it seems that all of the Google hits for "Housekeeping Monthly" refer to that one 1955 article. of course it's possible that Housekeeping Monthly was a very short-lived publication and that only this article has survived, but Occam's Razor would suggest that fakery is more likely.

Sadly, I suspect that Emma Tom's realisation that she wrote an entire colum based on her own thundering duncehood will not be an opportunity for quiet introspection and self-chastisement. Instead, I fully expect next week's column to be a noisy blather about how even the best, smartest and most enlightened of us can be taken in by internet hoaxes.


Blogger an9ie said...

Wow, I had no idea she was even still around.

I think I know the fake article of which you speak, but I didn't realise Snopes had a thingy on it. Off to Snopes I go now.

As always, a pleasure, Mr B.

12:51 PM  

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