Is 'wheeling out the political wives' a step forward for women, or a 1950's tactic?

The 1950’s and 60’s although before my time have always somehow fascinated me.   It could be the fashion, it could be the cars, or it could be all of the above. What I do know though, is if I were to have actually lived as a young woman back in those days, I think I would have had a tough time.

You see, no matter how much I’d have loved rolling around town in a two toned Holden, listening to  Fats Domino, Little Richard or whatever else was coming out of the wireless, there was a lot of other things going on that I’d have bristled with frustration at and struggled to cop.

Quite simply, the limitations placed on a woman on what she could or couldn’t do in her life were hugely different to how they are now, and yet I think a lot of women my age or younger probably think that it was a generation of completely muffled women who all happily strapped on the apron and waited for their husbands to get home.

But there was a lot of movement going on in terms of sex equality; it’s just that it was in many areas, just the start.  The start of things that we women now have grown up to take for granted for always having been there.

Like working.  Not being expected to get married.  Being able to choose whether we reproduce.  Having a contraceptive pill available to make sure we decide when, if and who with.   Casting a vote.

There’s a lot of talk about women going on right now.  It’s less on the rights and more on the respect. How do certain men still really view us females when it boils down to it?  That’s what we want to know but it’s in danger of being abused as a subject, being used as an unnecessary slur.

And not always just by the men.

One thing that for some reason doesn’t sit well with me in regards to women having a right to voice their thoughts and opinions however is when it comes to the wives of politicians like Michelle Obama, like Margie Abbott.

There’s something about it that feels like it’s a modern woman being heard type of packaging, but it smells to me like the 1950’s.

If we’ve come to the point in history where we want to be treated as equals, then for the same reason no one is expecting Tim Mathieson to come out and make some gushing speech about why his partner Julia is such a brilliant woman and why we should vote for her, nor do I really need to hear Margie sticking up for Tony, or Michelle telling the world what a real, caring, amazing husband she claims Barack happens to be.

Sure Michelle is charming, well dressed, seemingly down to earth and knows how to say all the right things which I hope are more truth than fantasy, but whilst I’m glad she seems like a nice woman and she’s very much in love with her husband, she wasn’t voted into the job.

When Margie could contain herself no longer with all the insinuations the Labour party were making that Tony was a ‘misogynist’, yes it’s nice to know someone has his back, but that’s for her to do in their personal life don’t you think?

Coming out publicly with the old “I just want to add a bit of balance to this and to present the fact that he is you know a pretty ordinary bloke. No airs and graces, who enjoys time with his family and is surrounded by strong capable women.”

Firstly Tony Abbot and Barack Obama are not ordinary blokes.  They are very successful men who have climbed their way up to a very tough top.

I’m the first person to fly the female flag, but I do thing it’s very circa 50/60’s to wheel out the wife.  And as was proved back then, certainly in the States, just because you had a smiling wife, did not make you a saint.


10 thoughts on “Is 'wheeling out the political wives' a step forward for women, or a 1950's tactic?

  1. From: Sue Williams
    Subject: Trotting out the wife ….

    Message Body:
    As usual Amber – (and despite having felt this way about a number of your columns this Is the first time I have felt the need to correspond) – your view is one of a naieve little girl.

    Did you stop for one minute and think that a woman could NOT have done what Margie Abbott did in the 50s ? Why is it ok for Gillard to rant against Abbott – incorrectly in my opinion, from what I see she is simply sooking – yet it is not ok for his wife to speak up against Gillard and defend her husband ? If defending the man you love the father if your daughters against false accusations is so 50ish I pity the “bloke” you end up with . Would he be able to rely on you when the going gets tough ? Or us that “trotting out the partner” ?

    This mail is sent via contact form on Amber Petty

  2. Hi Sue, thanks for your comments. I do believe that these women must find it very hard to hear the constant horrible things that are said about their husbands, and no doubt believe their men to be wonderful people and loving fathers, however both sides are guilty in politics for throwing out slanderous comments and unnecessary insinuatations. They all know this is part of the business although sadly in our country, we are seem to be experiencing more childish, completely unnwarranted nonsense more than every before. Either that or we’ve all got short memories. I won’t however think it’s necessary to hear from the family in regards to any of this. He’s not a child and he has given as good as he gets. The Abbots know that moving the wife into defense is a tactic not a necessity, and one that reminds us that Julia is not married and her partner would look ridiculous doing the same for her. He’d be belittled for being a hairdresser again and she would again be written off for not being tough enough to stand up for herself, needing her man to fight her battles. There’s a strategy involved with the wives stepping forward and I do not believe it is as innocent as they want us to believe. These politicians are running our country and I’m happy for them to do so on their own, with the support and love of their families at home.

    I do thank you though for your thoughts and as I always believe, both sides of any argument are usually right. It’s just the eyes that are different that see the different sides.

    Thanks Sue!

  3. Very dear AA
    I love Wednesday mornings now. Get a real kick out of bringing the Advertiser in to see what AA has cooked
    up for us today. Another great article which I am certain women of your generation & anyone younger will
    agree with your remarks about Obama & Abbotts wives standing up for them being “back to the 50’s.”

    You are absolutely right & you will no doubt find that anyone who was in their 20s, 30s, or 40’s in the 50’s,
    will tell you that they think it is lovely that those wives did stick up for their men.
    I certainly did. But something that is a kind of secret being kept about my generation is that many wives
    who seemed to be absolutely under their husband’s command, were actually in charge & cleverly made
    their hubands believe that they had initiated some idea which their smart little spouses had somehow
    managed get into their brains. My friends who still have husbands after all this time, still do it ! e.g.

    SHE wants to go to lunch at a hotel. HE doesn’t. SHE brings the conversation round to the food &
    service at hotels. SHE then says, “You know you were absolutely right about the dreadful food at Hotel A.”
    HE says, “Yeah, that’s why we’d be better off eating at home.”
    SHE says, ” But how right you were when you suggested we should start going to hotels in
    other suburbs. You know , you’re so much smarter than me sometimes .I would never have
    thought of that! ……….. but why don’t we try it out?”
    HE says, ” Well OK but I’ll pick the hotel – there’s one at ?suburb where some of the blokes at work & I
    used to have lunches for someone’s birthday. Toss my mobile over to me & I’ ll book us in.”

    I remember my Mother getting Dad to do things like that. Strangely, it was never discussed at length but
    if someone was worried that their plans would be spoiled by someone’s husband objecting,
    the wife would say something like , “Don’t worry about Bob, I can bring him round to our way of thinking.”

    So many wives were really in charge of things at home but pretended not to be. Some, of course, had no
    say in anything whatsoever – but that is still the case today !

    Anyway, now that women want to be ‘equal’ to men, I feel it has gone too far. I am absolutely against
    women playing football , rugby or boxing & wrestling and am absolutely horrified at the thought of them
    fighting on the front line in wars.
    Women are feminine & men are masculine so why is everybody so against the men loving & caring for women
    by protecting them & women loving & caring for men by looking after them. I know it is back to the 50’s but
    I sometimes wish Germaine Greer had kept her mouth shut!

  4. Hi,
    I read your article in the paper and you seem to be missing a huge point.

    Women do not *expect* to be treated the same way as men.

    Here is a perfect example. Dating websites will allow a woman to enter her preferred height range for a partner. It is socially acceptable and indeed sanctioned that a woman can choose a partner based on something that their prospective partner has literally no control over.

    However, is there an analogous part for men to enter their preferred dress size in a potential partner? No, and indeed if someone alludes to preferring someone in a specific size range, they are often ignored or vilified for that preference. And additionally, it is not like women have zero control over their dress size, it is a choice they can make.

    Going by your example of “back in the 50’s”.. could a man get a wife if he did not have a job? Did not wear a nice suit? A man still had to ask the woman and her family if he could marry her. If anything, the 50’s model put even more control in the hands of women, at least in the context of choosing a partner.

    Anyway, if anything, the subject of your article doesn’t really indicate much regarding “attitudes towards women”, but more a gross misunderstanding of politics.

    The policies are too confusing to understand for the average punter, so they just play the popularity game. “I will vote for x because his wife says hes OK!!”. Terrible.

    • Good points Daniel!! Not sure if I agree on the “subject of your article doesn’t really indicate much regarding “attitudes towards women”, but more a gross misunderstanding of politics” but completely agree with the rest. Thanks for taking the time to comment

  5. Amber Petty I agree. I’ve had a few comments via the paper that say it’s what the wives should be doing…especially in terms of sticking up for their husbands but I think if they’re not tough enough to fight their own battles…what are they doing there? If you can dish it out…..
    a few seconds ago · Like

  6. Glenn Peddey cynical?…maybe Amber. Remember we the public demand the politician’s partner (male or female) be accessable, do something meaningful for the so called “perks”they get. Remember the kerfuffle when KRudds wife wasnt with him to open stuff and be the du…See More
    43 minutes ago · Like · 1

  7. Oh Amber, how equal are men and women now? and how does that benefit us? In the fifties there were no women crying in the toilets at work because they had had to leave their sick child with sitters. Women had the choice of working or not. With big mortgages not many women have that option now. In the fifties fathers usually stuck around to look after their responsibilities unlike many now, and the Family Court didn’t take children from the mother and give them to the father as happens these days. Men worked, often at hard dirty jobs and brought home their wages and the women were in charge at home, most of the time happily. A lot of women even now are not interested in the equality of having to work at dangerous dirty jobs. You didn’t live through it Amber so really have no idea of the realities, only what you have seen from movies like ‘The Stepford Wives’ which was not the how it was. Seeing the state of the world today I have to say things were better then.

    • I love opinions like this Molly. I never expect people to always agree with me and I’m
      Always happy to be challenged. You just may be right in a lot if what you say. And my opinion is based on my perceptions of that time and based on the personality I am. I think there is a lot of confusion between women now on what is better now and what was better then. So thank you for your opinion and I take on board your comments. Thanks for sharing them too.

Leave a Reply