Women are hardest on other women

The "sisterhood" is a myth

DIPPING my toes into the forum of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas with a panel devoted to the topic All Women are Sluts, I decided it would be an appropriate venue to take a young date. Thus armed, we sat in the Playhouse at the Opera House, in front of the great orator and storyteller Mike Daisey and his director wife, and waited for fierce debate to break out.

The panel was all women, including the moderator - an embarrassing bias to begin with.

The Melbourne convener of Slutwalk, Clem Bastow, spoke eloquently for women to dress sexily, briefly, scantily and not to get raped. Samah Hadid, a young Muslim girl in a green hijab and multi-layered, comfortable pants and top, smiled widely with bright red lipstick and make-up and promoted the right of Muslim women to dress up and not be dressed down. Catharine Lumby stirred the middle-aged feminist critique, under attack for attacking the aggression of young feminists.

In many arenas women are under attack from other women. The great debate in feminism is between women themselves, about their roles, robes and attitudes. In my own world, I would pick a jury of women over men in a rape case because women are harder on women. Women judges, in my humble observation, are more critical of other women appearing as advocates before them. Women gossip more cattily and crushingly about other women.

In a world where economic currency is falling, the most favourable currency is sex. In the cardboard kingdom of Richard Pratt, sexy women fight for a piece of cardboard to call their own. In my own building, bylaws were stuck to the mirrors in the lift, foreshadowing the board's intention to ban brothels in the building. I suspected they were there when I used my iPad or iPhone. The screen displayed in the scan for a wireless connection the names of nearby networks. Imagine my shock when the names of two were WHORES and C---S. I finally put two and two together, confirming Madison Ashton as the madam in residence, but only briefly given the bylaws were passed and eviction followed. Dick Pratt was a pants man even when his own masculine scaffolding must have been failing under the pernicious disease that is prostate cancer.

Since Adam pinged Eve the world has always been a sex world but now it is getting the publicity and media to match its partner in crime, money. Sex and money go hand in gland. Rich men get more sex than the poor. Charisma and character get men somewhere but currency takes you further. Fathers plead with their daughters to marry rich, not for love. Fortune trumps fame every time.

Perugia in Italy is a peaceful place for a murder trial. I miss Vanity Fair's Dominick Dunne's description of the countryside and details of the death of Meredith Kercher. The murder was an exquisite interaction of sexual frenzy, bisexual behaviour and bloody handprints on the pillow.

Amanda Knox, known as Foxy Knoxy, and the victim were perfectly cast for Dunne's classic penmanship. He had written about money and sex for 50 years, having had some experience in both.

The prosecution initially argued ''cult sacrifice'' before settling on ''sex game gone wrong''. There were many problems with the prosecutor's DNA evidence. There was no DNA from Knox in the murder room. Nevertheless she was convicted and sentenced to 26 years. The judges reasoned that the actual perpetrator, Rudy Guede, was assisted by Knox and her boyfriend in subduing Kercher after she resisted Guede's sexual advances. They said Knox smoked hash and read sexually explicit comics, provoking her behaviour. She was acquitted and released last week. She can look forward, if she can cope, to her own show, Knox on Fox, millions in advances for her story, Playboy centrefold requests and perhaps resumption of her studies.

It will be hard to lead a normal life after being described as a drug-taking, sex-crazed she-devil. In proceedings by a Congolese bar owner against her false accusation, she was called, ''an explosive mix of drugs, sex and alcohol'', ''Lucifer-like, demonic, satanic, diabolical''. The prosecutor told this jury to ignore her ''doll-like appearance'' and said she was a ''spell-casting witch, a virtuoso of deceit''. The world is indeed sexist. Knox's co-accused boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, barely gets a mention in coverage of the trial, in the same way Michael Chamberlain was just a bloke in long socks who was married to the alleged baby murderer Lindy Chamberlain.

Before Knox on Fox starts, the Murdoch network needs to eat a lot of humble pie because correspondents Ann Coulter and Jeanine Pirro said Knox had been convicted and punished fairly. As I said, women are harder on other women than men would dare to be.


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