Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday, September 2, 1999

Boo who? The winner of the piggery prize for sexism

Sydney Morning Herald

The Legislative Council president, Dr Meredith Burgmann, is unsure whether to judge the pearls before the swine for the seventh Ernie awards for sexist remarks, at Parliament House tonight.

The pearls will be worn by many of the 420 women to mark the 30th anniversary of Australia's equal pay decision, and they will be judged as part of the "frock-off" (boob tubes are outlawed).

The swine (in silver) adorn the awards themselves, which are made to entrants nominating the oinkiest, most sexist remark in four areas - industrial, judicial, political and media.

Already there are scratchings. It is possible that author John Morgan might have taken out the Gold Ernie for writing in Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners: "It is bad manners to expel any liquid from any orifice in public, and breastfeeding is no different."

Dr Burgmann believes this is a sure-fire big boo statement. However, it cannot win because overseas try-hards can rate only a mention, not take a prize.

On the eve of the event, the organisers are flummoxed because while all the other areas have attracted scores of entries, there has not been one porcine union grunt reported.

Is sexism in the union movement dead?

"I don't think so," Dr Burgmann said. "It's just that they haven't said anything. A lot of the worst, like Martin Ferguson, have gone into politics."

He has some entries in the political category, including: "Several commentators - for the most part women - are now asking whether middle- class, tertiary-educated 'femocrats' speak only to and for their peers."

He is up against a Victorian Liberal MP, John Richardson, who told fellow MP Lynne Kosky to have "a cup of tea and a nice lie down" when she advocated family-friendly sitting hours.

If the winner of the judicial category is "magistrate one", who said anonymously in a survey that women nagged men into domestic violence, Dr Burgmann hopes he will come forward to put his name to the award.

As the judge who decides, with the assistance of "boo monitors", which remarks are the most sexist by the level of booing they attract, Dr Burgmann has a conundrum this year.

For the Elaine award her staff have nominated Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine, who wrote of her: "She is the Felicity Shagwell of NSW Parliament (minus the bonking)."

"I don't think I'm allowed to be nominated, am I?" she said with uncharacteristic uncertainty.

Dr Burgmann claimed that Mrs Elaine Nile, after whom the award "for unhelpful remarks from women" was named, had asked her if she could have it. She had to explain delicately that she could not. It was just named after her.

The night will not be genteel.

Dr Burgmann admits that some very elegantly dressed women use the occasion to become very raucous. Last year this was assisted by the consumption of 63 bottles of champagne, 231 of white wine, 78 of red and uncounted beers.

"They think, 'everyone else around me is behaving badly, why not?'"

Copyright © 1999. The Sydney Morning Herald