Over the long weekend, controversial figure Bettina Arndt was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men.” That is straight off the Australia Day 2020 Honours List.
If you’re unfamiliar with Arndt, she is a journalist, author, sex therapist, and social commentator. She is the very same woman who conducted an interview with convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester for her YouTube channel in 2018, and titled the segment “Feminists persecute disgraced teacher”. Bester, a former teacher, was jailed in 2011 for grooming and repeatedly raping his then 15-year-old student Grace Tame when he was 58 years old, and for possessing child exploitation images and videos.
After he was released from prison, Bester boasted on social media about his crimes. He was later sentenced to an additional four months in jail for producing child exploitation material, with the magistrate describing his social media comments as “undermining” the regret he earlier expressed for his crimes.
When interviewing Bester for her YouTube channel, Arndt claimed she had spoken to many male teachers about “sexually provocative behaviour from female students.” She said male teachers are “vulnerable” because they can “easily be subject to false accusations if they reject or offend the young woman in question.” She wondered if there was a discussion to be had with young girls, “about behaving sensibly and not exploiting their seductive power to ruin the lives of men.”
After a part of the interview was aired on 60 Minutes, and completely shat on, Arndt apologised to those she offended for the “relaxed tone of the interview”. She accused 60 Minutes of carefully selecting segments to damage her reputation.
Arndt is also responsible for the “Fake Rape Campus Tour”, listed among her services to the community, which she took to universities across Australia.
The decision to award Arndt was first met with shock then criticism. Former Australian of the Year and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty told The Guardian she was “completely shocked” and “quite dismayed” when she heard the news.
“I couldn’t help but wonder how it could be that somebody has been awarded for work… that actually pits men against women,” Batty said.
Sharna Bremner, the founder and director of End Rape on Campus Australia, tweeted her response to Arndt’s appointment.
“Bettina has spent the last few years cashing in on mocking sexual assault survivors at unis around the country. She laughed and joked with a convicted paedophile about his crimes. The threats from her supporters have been so bad we’ve had to file a police report. I feel sick,” Bremner said.
In separate tweets, Bremner continued, “She works with groups who openly advocate for the violence against women. She spends her days spreading hate. And she was just rewarded for it.”
Bettina has spent the last few years cashing in on mocking sexual assault survivors at unis around the country. She laughed & joked with a convicted paedophile about his crimes. The threats from her supporters have been so bad we've had to file a police report. I feel sick.
— Sharna Bremner (@sharnatweets) January 25, 2020
The backlash has also extended to a Change.org petition, which asks the Australian Government to revoke Arndt’s Australia Day Honour. The petition has attracted over 8,500 signatures in two days. Its current goal is 10,000.
Arndt responded to the backlash on Twitter, particularly the references to her interview with Bester. She pointed to an interview she did on Studio 10 on Monday morning, in which she asked her followers and critics to watch her “explain this malicious campaign.”
Image: Facebook / Bettina Arndt
The feminist backlash against my Honours award alleges I am a pederast apologist for my interview with Nicolaas Bester. Watch the very lively studio 10 this morning where I explain this malicious campaign. #AustraliaDay #BettinaArndt #MenToo https://t.co/v9uOWzwXvJ
— Bettina Arndt (@thebettinaarndt) January 27, 2020