Australia

Australia: 'Mansplaining' and Taylor Swift lyrics take on Turnbull

Tanya Plibersek in parliament in June 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Plibersek's use of a youthful term is reported to have confused some of the house's less youthful politicians

Barely two days into his new job, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already had a taster of some of the biting wit he can likely expect from the opposition.

During question time in parliament on Wednesday, the new man in charge was accused of "mansplaining" by Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

Mansplaining is when a man explains something in which he is less of an expert, to a woman who is more so, because he assumes she is ignorant.

Ms Plibersek had asked whether Mr Turnbull could "confirm how much he will restore to the foreign aid programme after the cabinet he was part of cut the budget by $11.3bn dollars" in the last budget.

Mr Turnbull responded: "If the honourable member wanted to get a serious answer she should ask a serious question. If all she's interested in is making an allegation, making a political argument across the dispatch box, that is fine. But it's a complete waste of Question Time."

Unimpressed with the verbal jousting, she replied: "Mr Speaker, I'd rather have an answer than the mansplaining by the prime minister."

Within minutes, "mansplaining" was trending on Twitter in Australia, winning Ms Plibersek - and the word itself - both fans and critics.

Image copyright @astudentnow
Image copyright @JennyEjlak
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Image copyright @fury_jen

The charge of sexism may have stung, however, as Mr Turnbull had earlier said he was "very committed" to having more women in his cabinet than in previous ones.

"There is no greater enthusiast than me for seeing women in positions of power and influence in parliament, in ministries right across the country," he said.


'Mansplaining' explained, by Simeon Paterson (a man), BBC News

An amalgam of the words "man" and "explain", it is a man explaining something in a patronising way to a woman, typically one who is more expert in the subject matter than he, because he assumes she is ignorant of it.

It is thought to have been first used by American feminists in 2008 shortly after the Los Angeles Times printed an article by Rebecca Solnit, titled Men Who Explain Things, in which she recounted the story of a Mr Very Important explaining her own book to her at a party.

Starting to cross over into mainstream conversation, mansplaining has joined "manspreading" - men sitting with their legs too wide apart in shared spaces, often on public transport - on a growing list of portmanteaus describing thoughtless behaviour by men.

In 2014, it was even named by Australia's Macquarie dictionary as its "word of the year".


'You look like my next mistake'

Ms Plibersek's comment was not the first attempt by the Labor party to update the language used in Australia's parliament in recent days.

On Tuesday, New South Wales Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, ran through a list of songs he thought best summed up the previous day's purge on the opposite benches, which saw Mr Turnbull unseat Tony Abbott as leader of the Liberal party, to become the fourth prime minister since 2013.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Dastyari, seen on an earlier appearance in parliament, quoted Taylor Swift lyrics at Mr Turnbull: "You look like my next mistake"

He read out the lyrics to Taylor Swift's song Blank Space, saying it "really is a modern soliloquy on the Liberal party".

"Saw you there and I thought oh my God, look at that face. You look like my next mistake," he began.

"New money, suit and tie. I can read you like a magazine. Ain't it funny, rumours fly. And I know you heard about me," he deadpanned.

"So it's gonna be forever, or it's gonna go down in flames. You can never tell me when it's over, if the high was worth the pain."

Image copyright @maddydell

In case his point was lost amongst the laughter of his peers, he clarified that he thought the Liberals opposite were mistaking the messenger for the message - and that changing their leader would not help them while their policies remained the same.

Ms Swift's thoughts on Australia's leadership change, or the use of her lyrics in parliament, are not known.

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