It's not the election or the census results that will tell us about the future of Australia. It's Eddie McGuire.
Eddie has received more than his regular share of media attention this week. He hit a nerve and he hit it hard, and it lead straight to the heart of who we are as a nation. The census and other longstanding data will tell us we are a country with an increasing aging population and rising single households who dwell in urban areas and are increasingly obese... all of this is undisputed, known fact. Eddie McGuire just ensured that in our future we will be a nation of equals, with matriarchal values at the core.
What has become known as "the drowning comments" shot at journalist Caroline Wilson represent a tipping point in Australian culture where the patriarchal values of old are skating on broken ice. There are no more Sheilas. There are no more Blokes. Parents no longer tell boys to "man up" and there is no such thing as "running like a girl". While the media is awash with Eddie bashing, the truth is that this is bigger than Eddie. He said sorry in many ways.
The nerve that has been hit went straight to the heart of brand Australia, a heart where derogatory jokes aimed at women that once were okay -- yes, we used to accept them -- today are not. Take this classic Australian joke: Bruce and Sheila were watching "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" while they were in bed. He turned to her and said: "Do you want to have sex?" "No," she answered. Bruce then said: "Is that your final answer?" She didn't even look at him this time, simply saying, "Yes." So he said: "Then I'd like to phone a friend."
Some may laugh, but this humour is brand Australia of old and what was witnessed this week was the collective voice echoing a new brand Australia that stood up and said "no". We've finally grown up, we are an adult nation that cannot tolerate this derogatory, dangerous and fundamental inequality in our culture.
Eddie blew open Pandora's box with his threats.
For the past three decades, brand Eddie McGuire has epitomised media power, wealth and iconic national fame. A month ago, many would have said there is not another Aussie bloke with equal stature, and there are few with the same gravitas and longevity that Eddie McGuire has in the Australian media. As a country, we once held these values dear, but as brand Eddie has just discovered, these values are shifting. We have come to realise that wealth, fame and power are not attainable for most Aussies -- not only are they not attainable, they are not a contemporary definition of success. In Australia, the idea of owning your own home is a fast fading dream. In 1994–95, 42 percent of Australians owned their own home outright. Over the following decade, those who owned their home outright declined to 31 percent.
Fame is fleeting. Those who hit peak fame suffer from tall poppy syndrome and other stars like Kylie Minogue and Elle McPherson simply leave our shores. Overall, the concept of power as the be-all-and-end-all prize is slipping in our culture. Once strong and defining patriarchal values are diminishing in our society as new matriarchal values take over. This is evident in new collaboration economy business models. The most known examples are Uber and Airbnb. For the people, by the people, these peer driven models are more feminine in their constructs.
Forty three percent of Australians relate to or understand collaborative economy behaviours such as carpooling, house swapping, crowd funding and co-working. More Aussies are happy to say "no" to centralised institutions and "no" to top-down, male-dominated hierarchies. We are happy to consume all things in an equal manner. Power over women is not okay ever, full stop.
So who is the new Australia and why can't we take a joke? Julie Bishop's initial reaction to the drowning comments speak to a cultural truth."If we're going to take offence at every silly, offhand remark or attempt at humour, then we're not focusing on the really important issues of the day."
Our nation's brand values are about "sharing a joke and a smoke". We are globally famous for our sarcastic and down-to-earth humour. Humour is an enduring value of our country... just look at Aussie comedic stars such as Dame Edna, Wil Anderson, Tim Minchin, Kitty Flanigan and Chris Lilley.
Our comedians rise fast and furious to achieve global acclaim. All comedians use self-deprecation as a tool to get the joke in the bag. Some also use gender and race in a comedic way. Take Chris Lilley's 'Johah From Tonga'... comedic genius or outright racism? They play with satire where Eddie did not.
Brand Eddie represents Australian values in a time gone by, a time where the boys were boys and their games were king. In the words of Dame Edna: "You mustn't judge Australia by the Australians."