Feminism according to Daisy Cousens
America has many great conservative women. I particularly like Kellyanne Conway and Monica Crowley. But Australia produces talented conservatives too. Claire Lehman, creator and editor of Quillette has come to international attention in recent times. And Daisy Cousens is very prominent these days in Australia. She appears on all sorts of shows vigorously promoting conservative views.
Her great asset is that she uses irreverent humor to punch holes in Leftist nonsense. And the fact that she is very pretty and ultra feminine does undoubtedly help.
As far as I can tell, however, she is virtually unknown in America. So I hope that the video below might go some way towards introducing Americans to her. After the video I reproduce an abridged version of a story about her.
For Daisy Cousens, there is more than one reason to celebrate the ascendancy of Donald Trump – or "Uncle Donny", as she refers to the US president.
First and foremost, it is good to wake up in the morning and know that a man of his calibre is in the Oval Office. The bonus? Knowing lefties worldwide are still sobbing into their pillows. "Hilarious," is her summing-up of the situation.
Cousens, 28, is a right-wing political pundit, frequently invited to air her opinions in print and on television talk-shows.
Besides being forthright, she is "smart, hard-working, and extremely well-educated" – at least, that is how she described herself in an article she published online late last year. In the same piece, she attributed her professional success in part to her sparkling personality and attractive appearance.
"Funny and conventionally pretty is a winning combination," she pointed out, "and although looks and charisma won't help me do the task, they assist immeasurably in gaining me the opportunity."
On a warm afternoon, I visit Cousens on Sydney's North Shore, where she lives with her parents and two younger sisters in a pleasant house surrounded by towering gums.
She comes to the door wearing a fulllength dress with a fitted bodice. Her skin is pale, her hair dark, her smile coquettish: she reminds me of Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. We take cups of tea to an outside table and I ask how she got into punditry. "I've always been conservative," she says. And confident, obviously. Also – she doesn't mind admitting it – contrarian. "I kinda like arguing with people. I like to talk."
She laughs when I mention that I saw her make a determined effort to speak over the top of host Tony Jones on ABC TV's Q&A earlier this year.
"I was just really annoyed," she says. "I'm like, 'No, let me talk, dammit!' It was very funny." On ABC's The Drum, Cousens was even more assertive. "No-no-no-no-no-no-no," she told a fellow guest who tried to get a word in edgeways. "Don't interrupt me." Both performances drew a big response online. "I didn't read any of it," she says. "But my friends were like, 'Er, Daisy, people are calling you a Nazi.'"
There's nothing like the presence of a Trump supporter to spice up on-air debate.
While I am working on this story, Cousens accepts requests to appear on Sky News' The Bolt Report, Paul Murray Live and Jones & Co, Channel Ten's The Project, as well as Q&A and The Drum. No one could accuse her of shrinking from the spotlight, but even she is surprised by how much screen-time she's getting. "They keep calling me," she says.
I think nowadays, being conservative, it's kind of like the new rebellion.
Daisy Cousens' parents are actors. (Her father, Peter Cousens, is also a producer and director whose film credits include Freedom, starring Cuba Gooding jnr.) "I think they're a bit more centrist than I am," says Daisy, as we sit drinking tea in their sun-dappled garden. She herself dreamed of becoming a musical-theatre star, and spent the best part of a year trying to conquer Broadway. She says she had $10 in her pocket when she returned from New York. What's nice, from her perspective, is that she has ended up in the spotlight any way – even if she finds herself playing to tougher crowds than she encountered in her song-and-dance days. "They booed me!" she says of a section of the Q&A audience. A small pause. "I was really pleased."
CONTROVERSY IS, of course, the pundit's stock-intrade. When Cousens says things like, "I called myself a feminist before I started, you know, thinking," you get the impression she is hoping for a sharp collective intake of breath. She tells me that she and fellow members of the cohort she calls the "millennial Right" aim to be "very, very outrageous … We like to shock people".
In the Trump era, conservatism has lost its fuddy-duddy image, she says. "I think nowadays, being conservative, it's kind of like the new rebellion."
Cousens, who likes that Trump is "very anti-politicalcorrectness", was just 15 the first time she gave us the benefit of her assessment of a US president. It was 2003, a few months after the invasion of Iraq, and US president George W. Bush was visiting Canberra. Cousens, in the national capital on a school excursion,was one of 40 students selected to sit in on his address to federal parliament ("You had to be the worst kind of teacher's pet to get picked for that," she admits).
Interviewed for the next day's newspapers, she said Bush had convinced her that starting the war was the right thing to do: "When he talked about Saddam's torture chambers, I thought, 'Oh my God, this man is trying to defend all of us.' "
Looking back, she is impressed by the chutzpah she showed when the press pack approached. "They said, 'Do any of you girls have anything to say about the speech?' And everyone was quiet except me. I just kept talking and talking." She beams. "Nothing has changed."
After Cousens accepted that her future was not on the stage, she obtained a master's degree in creative writing and began contributing articles to an online women's magazine, SheSaid. She also started writing about tennis, a sport she has always adored. Then she knocked out a piece called "Islam and Sexual Slavery", which the conservative journal Quadrant published in November 2015 under the pseudonym Victoria Kincaid (because it was so "controversial", she says). This was her break. She landed a job as an editorial assistant at [conservative magazine] Quadrant, later joining The Spectator Australia's stable of columnists.
Cousens' political pieces invariably excoriate the Left. "I wait to write things until I'm in a terrible mood," she says. "It's usually 2am and I have a block of chocolate and I'm irrationally annoyed because Rafael Nadal, who's my favourite tennis player, has lost in the early rounds." Her objective when she composes a column is "to make people think, and to make them laugh, and to punch a hole in something that hasn't had a hole punched in it before".
Factual accuracy isn't necessarily a top priority. "The single mother, popping out children at 16 for government benefits, is hailed as a 'working-class hero'," she writes. (Really? By whom?)
In spoken commentary, too, Cousens can seem to have an airy disregard for detail: she has claimed, for instance, that Trump's Democrat rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, "sort of like robbed Haiti of all this stuff after the earthquake".
Sometimes, Cousens' main aim looks suspiciously like self-promotion. In a widely derided Spectator article last month about the late cartoonist Bill Leak, she wrote that he referred to her as "beautiful Daisy" and ended their only face-to-face meeting by predicting: "You'll go far, my girl."
"I'm happy to have a political discussion with people who disagree with me, because that's interesting and I don't take it personally," Cousens says. "But the psychology of the Left is different. They get very, very emotionally attached to what they believe."
At my first meeting with Cousens, she says becoming a political provocateur has lost her about a dozen friends. "It's a shame," she says, sounding not particularly despondent. And yes, she gets plenty of online abuse from strangers, but she doesn't allow that to upset her: "It's an occupational hazard."