In yet another instance of sexism in Australian politics, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has called Labor Leader Bill Shorten an “economic girlie-man”.


I’m not even going to try to dissect what he’s getting at in terms of the economy. What I hate is his use of “girlie-man” as an insult.

He’s using it to imply weakness or ineffectiveness. When questioned, Mathias Cormann stated “I don’t think there’s anything gender specific here. Not girls, girlies, it’s very different. I hope you are not going to say I am a sexist misogynist.’”

“Girlies” is not gender specific? The dictionary disagrees:


adjective ˈgər-lē

: featuring attractive young women who are wearing little or no clothing

: having a quality that is considered suitable for girls or women and not suitable for men or boys


Even if you are the Finance Minister, you don’t get to change what a word means, and there are much better words out there to get your point across. Calling someone a “girlie-man” is sexist …Economic girlie-man… Kicks like a girl…Runs like a girl…Cried like a girl… Adding a feminine descriptor as a put-down is all too common in our vernacular and what does this say to us, as women? To our daughters? I remember a game of cricket when I was a kid where a neighbour informed me that I ran “like a girl”. I wasn’t entirely sure what I had done wrong, exactly, but the derision was clear. Running “like a girl” was not on.

Wikipedia tells me that Mathias Cormann himself has a daughter. I wonder if he has ever thought about how she might feel, hearing her Dad put someone down by calling them a “girlie-man”? Does it tell her that her Dad thinks she is inferior? Weak? Stupid?

I’ve seen some comments online that imply anyone getting angry over Cormann’s comment is an example of political correctness gone mad, but I disagree. George Orwell once wrote “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” If we keep using female as an insult, it stands to reason that this infiltrate how we view women. Surely removing this habit of associating femininity and negative traits is a step in the right direction?


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