What Berejiklian and Maguire tell us about the state of modern love

As one expects of a Leftist, Jenna Price (below) has a simplistic view of the matter she discusses. She overlooks a very common arrrangement between partners, where the man defers to the woman on most issues on the understanding that he will have the biggest say on things that are particularly important to him. It is a perfectly reasonable trade that works well for many couples but Price would probably see it as male dominance

I defer to my partner on most things but where the matter is important to me I do put my foot down. And my partner accepts that and respects my wishes on such occasions -- with no hard feelings. She is actually quite a tyrant but we both have sufficient flexibility and appreciation of one another not to make that an obstacle between us. She gets her way on most things so is not hardly done by -- and I love my little tyrant

I should perhaps make it clear that nothing I have said is any defence of the pathetic Daryl Maguire. Gladys Berejiklian is a fine woman who treated him far better than he deserved

The big reveal in the Berejiklian ICAC report last week was that in the romantic relationship between a premier and a backblocks MP, Wagga Wagga’s Daryl Maguire was boss. But the bigger reveal is that the relationship between Berejiklian and Maguire is a model which is surprisingly common – a sizeable number of Australians agree relationships should have bosses – and that boss should be a man.

It’s been made very clear to our politicians what we want from them – much of the pressure for the National Anti-Corruption Commission came from us, voters, folks who were sick of seeing pork-barrellers do for their own.

But do we really know what we want from ourselves? Do we need bosses in our relationships? Shouldn’t it be more like a see-saw, a constant thoughtful negotiation, where we balance the needs and wants of our partners and our families, of ourselves?

I called Queensland University of Technology’s resident expert on men Michael Flood to ask him what he thought about the state of modern love. I assumed he would say the Berejiklian-Maguire relationship was outdated. I assumed he would say, nobody thinks like that any more or if they do, they belong to minority groups such as the Sydney Anglican Church (Brian Douglas from the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture tells me most Anglicans do not have such a literal view of the scriptures).

But no. Here we had a deliberately-kept-secret relationship between the most senior politician in the state and one of the more junior and less able.

According to volume two of the ICAC report, a conversation revealed Maguire accused Berejiklian of being “mean”. She replied:

Because you know what I tell you why because normally you’re the boss and it’s hard when we have to switch it around that’s the truth.

Maguire: Yeh but I am the boss, even when you’re the premier.

Berejiklian: I know. So therefore it’s hard when I had to switch it around.

Maguire: Glad, even when you are the premier I am the boss alright.

Berejiklian: Yes I know.

Heartbreaking really. Yes, she’s a corrupt politician but no one should be consigned to taking instructions from a nebbish.

Flood’s explanation of the state of relationships killed me. In Australia, he said, a 2017 national community attitudes survey revealed a substantial minority of people, and especially men, believe men should dominate relationships and families. One in four Australians believe “women prefer a man to be in charge of the relationship”. About one in six agree “men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household”.

In a society where we often chat about how important merit is, wouldn’t you argue that the person appointed to be in charge should be the best person for the job? And wouldn’t you say to yourself, I don’t want to be in a relationship where someone wants to be the boss of me? And wouldn’t you also say to yourself, the best decision maker depends on what the bloody decision is?

And who drives those beliefs? Flood tells me it’s men. One in three men agree that “women prefer a man to be in charge of the relationship” compared with only one in five women. Twice as many men (21 per cent, or one in five) agree that “men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household”, as compared with one in 10 women.

Look, I get the concept of bosses in the workplace (designed to maintain the power structures of capitalism and keep workers downtrodden) but a boss at home designed to maintain the power structures of patriarchy? No. Thank. You.

Is it about men earning more? Thinking that because they earn the big bucks, they get to take charge? And what would happen if women started charging out for the mental load? For the cognitive work they do in keeping relationships and connections alive? Money’s good but love matters more.

CEO of Relationships Australia (NSW) Elisabeth Shaw says the entire “man is boss” narrative is still very compelling for some women and that’s reflected in the success of the 2011 bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. And we can’t know for sure from the ICAC transcripts whether these conversations were just teasing, maybe even throwing down the gauntlet, maybe a kind of relationship joke. But that’s not how it reads. It reads like humiliation in spades.

Shaw, who’s worked in the fraught area of family stress for years, says that in successful relationships, people can have different areas of strength. But that doesn’t mean there is never any discussion of alternatives. The sign of a successful relationship is that other comments, other ideas, are in the mix. That’s what tells you it’s not an entrenched, fixed or abusive dynamic.

“Not everything has to be a debate, but there are ebbs and flows in strong relationships,” she says.

And no, I’m not giving Berejiklian any leeway. She is corrupt. But if it can happen to the most powerful woman in the state, it can happen to anyone. Let’s start the relationship revolution right now. Ask me how.


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