COMMENTS made by stock agent Gerald Madden denigrating Warrnambool City Council’s female councillors were “absolutely sexism” and “a concern”, according to a south-west women’s health organisation leader.
Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West executive officer Emily Lee-Ack said she was disappointed by the sexism row, which centred on comments Mr Madden — a former Moyne Shire mayor — made about Crs Kylie Gaston and Jacinta Ermacora on ABC Radio on Tuesday during an interview regarding the Warrnambool saleyards.
Mr Madden said: “I don’t think the two female councillors are that smart that they could bring up the wording themselves” in relation to a motion put forward at Monday’s heated council meeting.
Ms Lee-Ack said in a press release that she was “disappointed to see remarks by stock agent and former Moyne Shire councillor Gerald Madden belittling women leaders based on their gender”.
“Women councillors have a right to participate in any debate without having their intelligence questioned,” she said.
“Crs Kylie Gaston and Jacinta Ermacora have been elected in the same manner as their male colleagues and as such are deserving of the respect afforded to all councillors.”
Ms Lee-Ack said it was concerning some people still felt it appropriate to speculate on women’s capacity as leaders when they do not agree with their position.
“Is it sexism? Yes,” she said.
“When women are singled out as lacking the intelligence to conduct themselves as independent thinkers, and the inference is that this is because of their gender, it is absolutely sexism,” Such comments, no matter how casually they were made, reflect “a culture which does not respect women”, she said.
Mr Madden rejected the accusations, telling The Standard his comments were meant to imply his belief that the councillors had been influenced by the council’s chief executive Bruce Anson.