I’ll admit it, at the risk of supporting her cause: Daisy Cousens gets under my skin.
It’s not, as she’d probably claim, because she’s a conservative and an anti-feminist. There are plenty of women who hold those beliefs who I consider friends, even if I don’t agree with them.
And it’s not because I’m a snowflake or I’m “triggered”, in her gross misunderstanding of that term. There are plenty of others who write about similar things that don’t fill me with rage the way she does.
No, it isn’t her views that bother me about Daisy Cousens. It’s her lack of seriousness. It’s the fact she’s so open about courting controversy and attention. She shamelessly celebrates the worst of modern conservatism’s impulses while undermining the work of both people she agrees with and those she doesn’t.
So when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Jane Cadzow about Cousens and two other conservative women today, my first reaction was to be dismissive. I didn’t need to read about her, think about her any more than I already have (even now, I’m unconvinced that I should be spending precious writing time sharing my thoughts on the piece). My automatic and poorly-considered response was that any attention paid to Cousens was inherently wasted.
But as Amber Robinson pointed out on Twitter that she thought the piece was very good because, and I quote, “Cousens in particular comes off as a complete imbecile”, I had to rethink my response. She was right, of course. The piece draws stark contrast between the three conservative women. The difference between Cousens and Helen Andrews was clear. I may disagree with almost everything Andrews says, but the fact she thoughtfully considers her views is clear.
Cadzow deftly gives Cousens just enough rope. If there’s one takeaway from the piece, it’s that she’s just not a thinker. She plays the provocateur — a time honoured tradition — without the requisite thought to make her positions in any way insightful. It’s not that she’s my political opponent, it’s that she’s a bad one.
And that’s probably why it enraged me so.
She’s often lumped in with Caleb Bond in the conservative wunderkind category – either ironically or seriously – but I think that’s unfair to Bond. I think News Ltd do Bond a great disservice by publishing him and that most of what he writes is flimsy, poorly thought-out and easily contradicted, but I don’t doubt his seriousness. He believes what he says. I can imagine him having a serious change of heart when he’s older, in part because I thought similarly to him at his age, with similar levels of conviction, and now I disagree fiercely.
I should take a brief minute here to note the fact I know this whole complaint comes from a position of MASSIVE privilege. I am white, upper-middle class, cis-gendered, I am in a straight relationship, I have a child who I stay at home with most of the week in our house with a backyard in the suburbs, while my partner gets the train to work at his job.
I get to quibble with the things about Cousens that I find irritating because who I am is not fundamentally threatened by her and people like her. In fact, my life is probably closer to the conservative script of how you’re “supposed” to live than many actual conservatives.
Actually, you know what? I should just shut up now. There’s no point explaining the rest of my feelings about Cousens because, again, my life is not fundamentally attacked by her and people like her.
She can fully inhabit the role of the Manic Pixie Dream Fascist. She can treat all that as a joke and play the ingénue and think being young and pretty means getting a pass on doing the hard work of thinking critically about what you believe, but that’s far less of a problem than what she actually says. What she says offends me, but it doesn’t affect me* like it affects other people.
The real affects of what she and others with similar beliefs have on other peoples’ lives is by far worse than her posturing.
And now I’ll be quiet.
*”There’s a difference between what offends people and what affects people” is a Kellyanne Conway quote. I have been thinking about it a lot lately because I think it’s really important.