After the former deputy prime minister revealed there was doubt as to whether he was the biological father of Vikki Campion’s baby, some of our most well-known female commentators stormed onto centre stage.
They urged Campion to get out, leave him. Barnaby Joyce has thrown her under the bus, was the chorus.
Julia Baird said that on hearing Joyce’s revelation “the entire continent of Australia moved a degree westward with the sheer force of eye muscles rolling”. She claimed he had opened Campion up to “global slut-shaming” and suggested some of her friends stage an intervention to rescue her.
Clementine Ford tweeted “Imagine the father of your baby inviting the entire country to slut shame you because he can’t deal with his demotion. Barnaby Joyce is a grubby, disgusting scumbag. Vicki, get out now.”
Jenna Price announced she was would offer Campion refuge: she had a spare bedroom, with enough space for a bassinet and a feeding chair.
The most hand-wringing came from Jane Caro who was furious with how badly Barnaby was treating Campion and the unborn child.
“Poor little sausage, not even born and his parentage, his parent’s sex lives and the circumstances of his conception public knowledge,” she wrote.
Ms Caro admits that if Campion were her daughter, she would have to resist the temptation to tell her to leave him. And she would be mentally preparing herself for Campion and her child to live with them. She says her daughter is also heavily pregnant and expecting her baby in April.
“Fortunately, she has a loving, loyal and supportive partner. It makes me think how I would feel if someone was publicly treating my pregnant daughter the way Mr Joyce is treating Ms Campion and a red mist descended in front of my eyes.”
My daughter is also pregnant and expecting her second baby in mid-April, but no red mist descended in front of my eyes. My eye muscles did not roll.
When I challenged Caro on Twitter she retorted “it is called empathy”. I replied “No, it is called meddling.”
Why assume Vikki Campion needs sympathy or rescuing?
These commentators have not spoken to her. It is not their job to tell her what to do. They have no knowledge of her mental or emotional state. They have no insight into their relationship, their love. And what they failed to mention was that Campion was present for some of the interview and agreed to the information being made public.
Did these journalists give a moment’s thought to how Campion’s mother might feel reading these stories about her daughter? Did they stop to think how Campion would feel? The things being written about the man she loves.
Sharri Markson – who originally broke the story of Campion’s pregnancy – tweeted that she had asked Joyce if the baby was his and only proceeded with the story when “satisfied he was treating the unborn child as his own”. But isn’t that what Joyce has been saying all along. He will treat the unborn child as his own.
I agree with Australian feminist Eva Cox who thinks that it is commendable that Joyce is prepared to raise the child as his own regardless of the uncertainty over the identity of the father.
“He obviously feels responsibility and is prepared to act in a way that shows a certain level of character and good will,” Ms Cox wrote.
For all we know, Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion may have had a conversation with the other person who may be the genetic father. Perhaps he does not want a paternity test either, as it does not matter. He may not want a child, and is happy, even relieved, for Joyce to have that role. Regardless, it is none of our business. And it is not in the public interest.
The real shame is that Joyce and Campion’s son will grow up to read the trivialised nasty stories – not to mention the tweets – of commentators who should know better.
Mary Garden is a freelance writer and author. In 2014, she was awarded a PhD in journalism from USC. Her thesis was on Australian journalist-blogs and public deliberation.