August 23, 2008
The Canberra Times

If the hat fits: mayor’s mouth runs off with the misogynists

Mount Isa’s Mayor, John Molony, has a big mouth. He may have trouble getting a coherent sentence out of it. And he may struggle to form a logical argument in his big head. But none of that bothered the marketing men at Akubra. They chose to name a hat after him. They called it ”The Honest John”.

Now, after Molony’s goose call to ”ugly ducklings” to ”proceed to Mount Isa” to find a smorgasbord of sex in what’s dubbed the ”beer- goggle capital” of Australia, what fool would dare wear an Akubra again. Reduced to a country bumpkin’s clown cap, the Akubra is now the official head gear for thick heads.

But this week’s outrage from the women of Mount Isa isn’t about hats. It’s about heads, and what should be in them. The idea that a man with the breadth of vision of a cross-eyed cat- fish, and the girth of a walrus, has the right to tell women that they’d be doing well to shack up with men like him in Mount Isa, is indeed comical. Perhaps that’s why Australia is now a laughing stock in the international media.

Commentators across the globe are having a field day with Malony’s madness. After relishing in quotes from the mayor – such as ”May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa” – is it any wonder Down Under looks like Hicksville? A writer in The Yorkshire Evening Post could hardly wipe the smirk off his face: ”It’s views like these which makes you realise why God made Australia a rather overlarge pimple on the bottom of the world.”

If you think that might embarrass Molony, you’re wrong. He’s loving the attention and basking in the publicity. He’s even boasting that his idiotic utterances have managed to push the Olympic Games off the front pages and put Mount Isa in the headlines. ”I’ve never heard of that happening before.” No. Because no- one has been quite this stupid.

Molony may lack subtlety and sense, but he doesn’t lack chauvinism. He’s brimming with it. And so too are all those foolish people who this week have gently scoffed and smiled at Malony’s comments, excusing him by saying ”he probably means well”. No, he doesn’t.

What Molony is doing – knowingly – is challenging and celebrating the misogyny and chauvinism entrenched in Australian culture, particularly in rough outposts such as Mount Isa.

It’s worth unpicking what he actually said, to understand how abhorrent and backward this mayor’s thinking is. By insisting that ”beauty disadvantaged women are unhappy with their lot”, Molony is reinforcing the assumption that a woman’s happiness is determined solely by her appearance.

But much worse than this, is Malony’s firm belief that ”ugly” women will evolve into something ”beautiful” through the simple act of hooking up with a man – any man: even the most ugly, beer-bellied men languishing in the pubs of Mount Isa.

And this is where Molony is most offensive, although he’s incapable of understanding it which is evidenced by insisting his comments are meant to be a ”compliment” to women. ”A woman can come here and transfer themselves with love and devotion in marriage from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. It can have a complete transformation for a woman.”

The underbelly of his argument goes to the very core of what makes our culture so deeply chauvinistic. It is the notion that women only have currency that is worth anything when they are connected or attached to a man. In other words, a woman who is not physically beautiful has no inherent value, unless she is partnered. That attachment then bestows a value on her.

Molony’s use of the phrase ”love and devotion in marriage” surely gives many women the creeps. What he’s implying here, again, is that women are valued for what they give.

In Molony’s macho world of miners and rednecks, it would seem that beautiful women don’t need to demonstrate such things as ”devotion”, as their beauty alone grants them value in all men’s eyes. But the ”beauty disadvantaged” have to work hard at it. And according to Molony’s world view, the act of female ”devotion” to a man is enough to make even the ugliest among us think we’re as adorable as a glamorous movie star.

But the Mount Isa mayor is not all dewy-eyed in his old-fashioned chauvinism. There’s more than a hint of outback pub smut in what he’s had to say.

Take this, for example: ”Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness.” Now what on earth do you think he might think the unattractive ”lass” with the ”wide smile” might be thinking? Is she smiling about the roast lamb she cooked for her man last night, or the cream sponge she’s baked for this evening?

Or could it be that without even a lick of lipstick, or bothering to brush her mangy hair, she scored a hot young bloke and a night of lovin’ last night, and is eagerly anticipating what’s on offer at the pub tonight? Or, is her ”degree of happiness” due to being pinned to the eyeballs on Mogadon? After all, maybe that’s what’s needed to live in a town like Mount Isa, where men with big mouths and thick heads wear big hats.

Virginia Haussegger is a Canberra journalist and director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra.

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