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cats and rats

 Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Pubdate: 01-Jul-2010
Edition: First
   Section: News and Features
Subsection: Opinion
Page: 17
Wordcount: 845
Catwoman rules, after making mincemeat of Kevin  
At first I was mystified, but now I see it’s just the next phase in human history; revenge of the Catwoman. The cover of the latest Atlantic magazine proclaims: “The End of Men; how women are taking control – of everything.” Illustrating it is a lipstick-pink male symbol, its priapic arrow every bit as depressed-looking as the Greek economy.
In roughly the length of a short novel, the story moves from women’s new numerical dominance in the (United States) workforce to women’s dominance, full stop. Suddenly, at home, in bed, in the workplace, the marketplace, socially and in our collective dreaming, women rule.
Even in corporateland, machismo’s diehard bastion where female chief executives are still reasonably rare, the girls out-earn their brothers by a whopping 43 per cent. And they have bigger raises.
The end of men isn’t a new idea. It’s five years since Maureen Dowd’s attention-getting Are Men Necessary? And for decades prior – eons, even – dowsing the Y-chromosome was a staple female fantasy.
So it’s not a new thought but – if they’re right – it is a new reality. Since the Atlantic in question is dated July/August, historians may wrongly take it to have had hindsight of Julia Gillard’s swift and ruthless coup. Either way, though, Gillard’s takeover, with its attendant double-X triumphalism, bears the thesis out.
Two things rose in unison as Gillard made her victory speech last Thursday; mining stocks and Labor’s prospects. In retrospect, these look joined at the hip, but Gillard’s win was also seen as a victory for the factions – not just Labor’s internal cave tribes but a variety of free-range factions too, including all redheaded, unwed, childless atheists and devotees of facial “work”. Above all, though, Gillard’s beneficiaries are seen to be the Venus faction. Women.
Girls everywhere are supposed to be thrilled “one of their own” is now on top. And certainly things have changed. Within hours of the Julia ascension, I happened to be watching Kennedy Miller’s old flick, The Dismissal, and what struck me – apart from multidirectional outrage – was the astonishing maleness of a world only 35 years gone. The only significant female was Junie Morosi, and her role was sexism made manifest.
Now we have female PMs and female car-jack gangs. So the mystery is not just how did it happen so fast, and (like Gillard herself) so sub-radar, but will it be a good thing? Will female dominance be good not just for females, but for the country, the species, the future? Or will women prove to be just another of those self-serving factions that industriously feather their own nests while the future burns?
Enter Catwoman, brandishing micro-organisms, to take her revenge. It made news here the same weekend a cat parasite, toxoplasma gondii, infects some 40 per cent of humans, including 8-10 million Australians.
A single-cell protozoan, T. gondii is no mere medical phenomenon. In fact, it’s not really medical at all since, unless you’re pregnant or HIV-positive, infection is asymptomatic – except for its effects on personality. These, reported zoologist Kevin Lafferty, are more pronounced in temperate climes and – weirder still – different in men and women.
The only cross-gender trait is increased guilt-proneness, pushing warm countries higher up Lafferty’s neurosis index. Otherwise, T. gondii makes men “less intelligent and more reflective, rigid, loyal, stoic … reactive emotionally, changeable, affected by feelings, emotionally less stable and easily upset”. But infected women become “more intelligent, rule-conscious, dutiful, conscientious, conforming, moralistic, staid, rule-bound, warm, outgoing, attentive to others, kindly, easy-going and participating”.
We’ve just watched our own Punch’n’Judy rendering of this. Watched poor, principled Kevin, ousted for rigidity, weep his way out of office while high-networking, seriously non-threatening Julia is applauded for her intelligence and people skills – good boss, consensus politician, school ma’am. Kevin left the seat up. Julia sorted him out.
What we call “people skills” was once called appeasement. Already, Gillard is showing us where they lead. Within days she was outed as the real killer of the emissions trading scheme (for which Rudd took the blame). Within days she was backing off on our share of mining’s obscene profits (an industry employing fewer people than the arts and is anyway moving to robots); appealing to basest red-neckery on asylum seekers by opposing “a big Australia” and approving only “the right kind of migrants”, like herself; and effectively handing climate change to Abbott.
With lefties like this, you have to ask, who needs John Howard? Gillard claimed to oust Rudd for policy reasons, but her victory speech, and her every utterance since, was crafted for maximum ambiguity.
The Atlantic may be right that “modern, post-industrial society is simply better suited to women”, but the reason may be less flattering, namely, women’s “people skills” let them drift even further into comfortable expedience – becoming even more conformist and less principle-driven – than the blokes.
Sure, it’s women’s turn. Every cat has her day. But if paralysis is the price of consensus, is it a privilege we can afford? The thing about T. gondii? There’s no cure. 

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