Aussie Politician Criticised For Handing Out Flowers On International Women's Day
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Our social media feeds were full of powerful female icons yesterday (March 8) to celebrate International Women's Day.
There were so many posts of poignant op-eds that called for changes in the ongoing gender inequalities faced by women in Australia.
It was a chance for government figures to take a stand, especially given recent allegations of inappropriate or illegal behaviour in Parliament.
But instead, Liberal MP Dave Sharma decided to give out flowers.
Happy International Women's Day.
Let's make it a day when we strive to improve the respect, dignity and equality for every woman, everywhere.#internationalwomensday2021 #IWD2021 pic.twitter.com/pbpqfGdzp7
- Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) March 7, 2021
After Sharma posted snaps to Twitter of himself handing out flowers at a train station, the backlash came swiftly.
One commenter wrote: "This is not the image of equality and individual respect that Australian women are demanding right now."
Another asked: "Am I the only one to find this offensive?"
A third said: "How about equal representation in parliament, in Cabinet, on boards, as CEOs and generally in the C-suite, equal pay, equal superannuation and being treated with respect at work? Not little purple flowers that droop at the end of the day and fade to nothing like promises."
Responding to the criticism, Sharma told Guardian Australia that while 'the merchants of misery on Twitter accuse me of crimes against the zeitgeist, the dahlias brought some joy and smiles to many faces - which is what they were intended to do'.
However, in a surprising twist, the women being handed a flower in Sharma's photo happened to be a friend of SBS writer Alex Lee, who shared the text messages she received from her pal.
So the international woman in this photo is my friend. This is her response: https://t.co/5ri85LyoaQ pic.twitter.com/lDvrAYUJfm
- Alex Lee (@alex_c_lee) March 8, 2021
"I felt like saying this doesn't make me want to vote for you mate," the woman texted Lee.
Speaking to Patricia Karvelas on ABC News later that day, Sharma said he hadn't given out the flowers as a tactic to score votes.
"I don't expect her to vote for me," he said.
"It was for everyone. I didn't hand them out saying 'are you a Liberal voter?' first. It was an exercise designed to mark International Women's Day and have a pleasant surprise on a Monday morning."
Labor MP Anika Wells hit back at Sharma, pointing out that 'for many women, [it was] just another uninvited advance from a man who expected a woman to be grateful for it'.
"I know you are good in this space, I know you have good intentions and you want to see progress," Wells said to Sharma.
"And the frustration, like I said coming back to this reckoning [we are seeing in parliament], is that good women look at good men like yourself and say 'if good men like yourself can't see that this wasn't the right thing to do, how can we have faith that things are going to get better?'"
Asked if he would do the same next year, Sharma said: "Absolutely. I will do it on any number of other occasions."
Wells added: "Please don't."
Featured Image Credit: Twitter