But there’s a difference between being politicised and having millions of people listen to what you say, and being a woman, in public, and saying I’m going to get up every day, I’ve got three beautiful kids and a husband I love, and I’m going to eat a bowl of cement for breakfast.
Yeah but I’m only telling you about the awful stuff; there’s also some great stuff. I’m not going to be disingenuous and say I’m a crusader for no personal benefit. I’m paid well for what I do.
But yes, sometimes, you know, like last year with the Cadel Evans thing…
Yeah. I’d never experienced anything like that—it was actually quite a turning point. I was getting death threats. I was fearful for my physical safety, and the safety of my family. A lot of it was kept from me until quite recently. My staff were trying to shield me. I thought that I had a pretty thick skin and then something like that happened that took me a while to recover from.
What did you learn from that?
I learned that I can’t get too comfortable when I’m on television. I made some really big mistakes that day. I misjudged the national mood, and I wasn’t on top of my game. I was doing the ‘What’s Making News’ segment on the Today show, and I’d been doing it for years. I know Karl [Stefanovic] really well and I’m really comfortable on the show; what happens usually is that I go in early in the morning and they give you the topics a twenty minutes before you go on.
Everybody filters stuff out, there’s so much information coming at us. Without even realising it, you naturally filter out stuff you’re not interested in. For me it’s sport, I just don’t hear it, I’m just not aware of it. For other people it’s celebrities, for other people it’s politics. I was coming to work and listening to the news, and it was something about Cadel Evans and the Tour de France, but it was a big Monday, Amy Winehouse had died the day before, it had been the Norwegian mass shooting, and eighty people had been killed or whatever. I was assuming that we were going to cover those. So I was sitting in hair and makeup and the producer came in and said, “Karl just wants to talk about Cadel,” and I just went, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’. He made everyone on the set get up and sing the national anthem and he was just going on and on and on about it. I got on and I didn’t have anything to say about that; I was rolling my eyes very much at Karl, because that’s the kind of relationship we have, like brother and sister. People perceived that I was being disrespectful to Cadel, and my timing was bad. My point, that I stand by, is that we place too much emphasis on sporting achievement and sporting heroes, and that takes away so much oxygen from other people who are doing truly altruistic acts. You define hero as whatever you want, but I don’t define hero as someone who rides a bike.
My timing was off. Everyone was so buoyed, the sweat was barely dry off his brow, he was still getting off the podium and I went and popped a balloon. When there had been a weekend of really awful news, and this was some great news and I’d just gone like that. That’s how people perceived it. And then I got death threats. And then the abuse, the things I was called, the names that I was called, that my family was called, my children, my parents, my religion—just everything.
‘You Jew bitch should die.’ ‘You fat ugly Jewish dog.’ Threats of sexual violence against me, against my children, against my mother. It wasn’t just a little flare up, it went for two weeks and it’s still going—I’m looking forward to when the Tour de France starts up again. Every time anything happening with sport or cycling or Cadel Evans happens, Twitter flares up again. It was going so fast it was like watching the hash tag on Q&A. By lunchtime I was scared for my physical safety, and that’s when you can get really confused about what’s real and what’s not. It gave me a brilliant insight into cyberbullying and how it must feel for kids—you don’t know if the person who’s looking at you in the sandwich shop is the same person who said, ‘Die you Jewish cunt.’ It was extraordinary how many people would write me messages like that, and then you’d see their avatar and it’d be a picture of them and their kid. You just think, You’re a parent and you think it’s okay to get online and do something like that?
It must take an enormous amount of resilience to get past that.
Resilience and therapy. Resilience and women. Having strong women around me. That idea that the arms of all of the women who’ve been there before you are holding you up—that is the sisterhood at its best. Women are interesting, and it doesn’t have to be all, Let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but whether it’s looking at Oscar frocks or laughing over some device that makes you not have camel toe, or debating whether or not to have botox, Mamamia and the Internet are at their best when women are sharing and discussing and holding each other up. That sounds a bit Mary Poppins, because not every post is like that—just because I have a vagina, doesn’t mean that I have to support every other woman because they also have a vagina, you know? Just because you’re a woman does not mean that I have to agree with you, or support you. That’s not what the sisterhood is about. But to give someone the space to share those feelings, whether it’s me with my daughter, or someone talking about their disability, or the fact that their heart has been broken and have people go, ‘Yeah, me too’, or, ‘Thank you, I never thought about that’
The site seems to be about naming things women experience, including ambivalence and grief, regret, courage and bravery.
And hypocrisy. That’s the thing that I’ve always had to resist—it doesn’t happen so much anymore but a year or two ago people were always trying to find faults and, ‘You said this and now you’re saying this’. I am a hypocrite, I do kind of want botox but I know it’s really wrong, I’m not crystal clear. I’m not a robot—yeah I’m a hypocrite and I’m inconsistent sometimes. I’m imperfect and I think that this is the most important thing for me to be if I can serve any kind of role as a high-profile woman.