Arndt in 2018
|Born||1 August 1949|
|Occupation||Writer, editor, author|
|Alma mater||Australian National University|
University of New South Wales
|Home town||Woollahra (Sydney)|
New South Wales
|Genre||Sex and gender issues|
|Subject||Men's rights activism|
|Notable awards||Centenary Medal (2003)|
Order of Australia (AM) (2020)
(m. 1977; died 1981)
(m. 1986; div. 2007)
|Relatives||Heinz Arndt (father)|
Ruth Arndt (née Strohsahl) (mother)
Bettina Mary Arndt(born 1 August 1949) is an Australian writer and commentator who specialises in sex and gender issues. Starting as a sex therapist and feminist, she came to public prominence in the 1970s, establishing a career in publishing and broadcasting as well as writing several books. In the last two decades she has opposed feminism and attracted controversy with her social commentary and her views on sexual abuse, domestic violence and men's rights advocacy.
Arndt was born in Penrith, England, to the economist Heinz Arndt (1915 – 6 May 2002) and Ruth (née Strohsahl) (20 March 1915 – 20 March 2001), the youngest of three children. Her father was a German Jewish exile. Her parents emigrated to Australia in 1945 and she grew up in Canberra.
In 1971, after completing a Bachelor of Science degree at the Australian National University, Arndt moved to Sydney and studied at the University of New South Wales where she completed a Master of Psychology degree in 1973; her thesis was on orgasm dysfunction.
Arndt came to prominence in the 1970s by editing Forum, an Australian adult sex education magazine, which led to frequent radio and television appearances. She was appointed editor in 1974 and remained in the position until July 1982. The publication proved controversial in conservative circles, and in Queensland Parliament in 1977 MP Des Frawley said: "It is a dirty, filthy magazine". Queensland police also raided a newsagent, seizing copies of the magazine, requesting the proprietor show cause.
Between 1973 and 1976 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had ruled, without explanation, that all TV and radio programs in which Arndt takes part in be pre-recorded so that they may be approved by station management before being transmitted.
In 1978 Arndt said that "The sexual revolution has been a damp squib" expressing some doubts about what level people were really more sophisticated in their attitudes toward sex. She did acknowledge that the The Women's Movement had made physiological discoveries about the sexuality of women, that there was more tolerance to one's sexual preference, and there had been a recognition of the importance of sex for senior citizens and those with disabilities. Arndt also praised the introduction of South Australian laws criminalising rape within marriage.
Her work in sex education also involved postgraduate courses, seminars and lectures for groups including doctors and other professionals. Following the death of her husband and business partner, Dennis Minogue, in 1981, Forum magazine closed. In the mid 1980s, Arndt wrote for Australian Playboy and also wrote about broader social issues for newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. During this period Arndt also had her own radio program on 2GB and regular radio segments in major cities all over Australia. In 1982 she appeared on the TV panel-show series Beauty and the Beast and, from 1981 to 1986, was a weekly guest on television program The Today Show.
In 1984, Arndt ran a mail-order lingerie and sex toy business and authored a number of books on sex advice, including The Bettina Arndt Guide to Lovemaking for Women, in which she wrote that "Looking at what's happening to men and women in bed today, it wouldn't surprise me at all if more and more males chose to stick to their beer. Sex is fast becoming a battlefield, with women calling more of the shots."
In 1986, Arndt married the American lawyer Warren Scott and moved to New York City. She lived in Manhattan for five years and, while living in the United States, wrote a weekly newspaper column syndicated through The Age in Melbourne (and published in Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane). She had two books published featuring collections of her writings, Private Lives (1985) and All About Us (1989). In 1991, Arndt returned with her family to live in Australia.
From the 1990s onward Arndt wrote a personal advice column for Cleo magazine, wrote for The Bulletin, The Australian and The Australian Women's Weekly. She was a guest reporter on Four Corners on ABC TV and a regular guest on ABC radio in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide. She was on the board of the Australian National University and was the president of the board of the Royal Women's Hospital Foundation in 1999. She also served as an online dating coach from 2001 to 2017, and more recently has assisted men in writing their dating profiles and referring them on to good photographers for their dating profile photos.
During the first half of her career Arndt was considered a feminist. Kate Gleeson, a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie Law School who has studied her, says that since the mid 1990s Arndt has rejected feminism, instead promoting "men's rights, as well as her critique of feminist analyses of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex within marriage". Her later work encapsulated rigid ideas about relationships and family structures, with Arndt reinventing herself as socially conservative. In 2010, Arndt said, "I spent my early career lobbying for women but turned to men when I realised how lousy they are about advocating for issues that affect their private lives." Gleeson has said that "To Arndt's frustration, the male revolution she advocated of political reaction against feminism had failed to emerge", adding that Arndt "laments the passing of the golden age of authors such as Norman Mailer and Henry Miller who celebrated the 'aggressive virility' of men".
According to Gleeson, it was during the conservative Howard government (1996-2007) that Arndt was brought into the fold as an advisor. She served on a number of committees advising the Australian government on policy matters, including the National Advisory Committee on Ageing (2003), the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Review Team (2005) and the Child Support Review Reference Group (2004). In 2003 the government awarded her the Centenary Medal. During this time Arndt was persistently critical of family law matters. A government committee she was part of from 2000 to 2001, the Family Law Pathways Advisory Group, was instrumental in later redrafting Australian family law.
In 2007, the Australian television program Media Watch demonstrated that a newspaper article written by Arndt for the Brisbane Courier Mail plagiarised large tracts of a Guardian article by Dick Taverne published three years prior. The program also accused Arndt of journalistic non-disclosure in a column she wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald when she identified Kerryn Phelps' same-sex marriage to Ascham Girls' School teacher Jackie Stricker. Arndt failed to disclose that her daughter attended the school and Phelps holds Arndt partly responsible for ending her wife's career there. In her defence Arndt said that "I've never been anti-gay", saying she was merely reporting the anxieties of some Ascham parents.
Arndt wrote The Sex Diaries, based on the diaries of 98 couples talking about how they negotiate sex and deal with mismatched desire. It was published in 2009, followed by What Men Want, another diary project published in September 2010.
In 2010, Good Weekend said she had repositioned herself as "a champion of the downtrodden male of the species", adding that "In her writing, the former libertine started to sound like a self-appointed guardian of public morals." Her friend Merri Southwood said of Arndt's newspaper columns at the time, "I'm not sure how much of it is the author seeking an audience and how much is the genuine Bettina ... Because, in fact, the way she writes is sometimes a little at odds with her own personal life."
Men's rights activism
Arndt is now considered by some parties to be a men's rights activist. Arndt believes there is a pervasive "anti-male bias" in society, media and the law - also extending into in areas such as divorce, cancer research and domestic violence - saying that women are prioritised, thus denying men their rights. In 2012, Albrechtsen wrote that Arndt "now argues that with women dominating public discussion of gender and sexual issues, men's views are being silenced". Arndt argues that "radical feminism, where men are presented as violent and sexist, is guilty of manshaming and destroying what should be a bond of mutual acceptance and respect between the sexes". Arndt has been accused of being hostile towards women. Author Susan Maushart says that Arndt "seems, for whatever reason, to not like women very much".
On partnerships and parenting
When Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard (Labor), was elected in 2010, Arndt criticised the new prime minister for setting a bad example by living in a de facto relationship, or as Arndt described it "marriage lite".
Arndt has been criticised for dismissing genuine academic research when writing about the children of LGBTIQ parents. Ex Federal Senator Brian Greig denounced Arndt for using "the work of 'researchers' with strong links to the American religious right" when discussing same-sex parenting, saying she should have been "able to distinguish such research from sham, politically motivated studies."
Comments about sexual abuse
Arndt has drawn controversy over several incidents in which she has been accused of downplaying the sexual abuse of children by adults.
She has suggested that rape is not always violent and has said that most children do not incur long-term damage from sexual assault.
In 1997, Arndt defended a doctor who had molested a 12-year-old child and other patients including herself, arguing that he should not be charged because in another context masturbation would have been "a loving and pleasurable act".
In 2005, in an article in The Courier-Mail, Arndt discussed convicted paedophile Robert Potter, a scoutmaster who had molested four boys, one of whom subsequently attempted suicide. She described Potter as "a good bloke" and argued that "such minor abuse rarely has lasting consequences".
In a 2012 article she wrote that "Demonising sexuality inevitably distorts a proper perspective on sexual crimes, leading to politically inspired calls for absurdly longer sentences, misinformation about the likelihood of offenders to reoffend and exaggeration of the emotional damage to the victims of minor abuse" and that "Our prurient interest in sex crimes often robs the perpetrator of any chance of redemption - as the sad death of cricket commentator Peter Roebuck bears witness."
In 2017, Arndt conducted a 17-minute interview for her YouTube channel with Nicolaas Bester, a high school teacher in Tasmania who in 2011 was sentenced to two years and 10 months jail for sexual assault, maintaining a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student and possessing child pornography. He was subsequently jailed again for producing child exploitation material and bragging that the sexual abuse had been "awesome". In the video, Arndt referred to "sexually provocative behaviour from female students" and said young women should "behave sensibly and not exploit their seductive power to ruin the lives of men". Bester's victim subsequently criticised Arndt for supporting Bester and accusing her of trivialising his crime, saying there "was no evidence of my provocative behaviour". "Not only is the interview disturbing because it gives a platform to a paedophile. It's not a truthful interview." Arndt was criticised for not seeking out the victim for her side of the story. Following widespread public outrage, Arndt apologised for her tone and said her interview was in poor taste, but in a later interview said of Bester that "He is not a pederast. He is not preying on kids."
Arndt is a champion of male victims of domestic violence who have been abused by women and has said that the "real picture" of domestic violence is "where our official evidence shows at least a third of the victims are male". She bases this campaign on a statistic that "one in three" male victims have been abused by women. Jacinta Masters, from Gender Equity Victoria, says the statistics Arndt uses have "been roundly dismissed by experts as inaccurate and a misrepresentation". Arndt is a critic of domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, saying that her campaigning "denies women's role in family violence" and that Batty has been "playing the feminist puppet".
Arndt supports the supposition where a man who murders his wife and children by immolation may have been a "husband being driven too far by issues". Doctors Against Violence Towards Women (DAVTW) states that Arndt "has, for many years, been downplaying domestic violence - even in her language, she uses terms like the 'myth of domestic violence' and 'feminist narrative', so while we're trying to highlight it as a problem, she's casting doubt and doing the opposite of that."
2018 "fake rape crisis" campus tour
Arndt says that there is a "manufactured rape crisis" on Australian university campuses fuelled by the Australian Human Rights Commission, where the institutions convene a "kangaroo court" once an allegation has been made where the male alleged to have raped the female has no chance of defence. In 2018-2019 she conducted her "fake rape crisis" university campus tour where she campaigned against changes to consent laws with her main argument being that rates of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses were being artificially inflated to stoke anti-male sentiment. University women's groups and anti-violence representatives said Arndt's events were "a misinformed and harmful attempt to undo the work of generations of student activists and advocates in combating the issues of sexual violence on campus" and that she was "mocking sexual assault survivors at [universities] around the country".
Arndt's "Fake Rape Crisis" university speaking tour was cited in the granting of her 2020 Order of Australia award. When referring to former the federal Minister for Women, Kate Ellis', advocacy for victims on campus, Arndt stated that "My campus work poses a direct threat to Ellis' longtime advocacy for victims of sexual assault."
2020 Order of Australia award
Arndt was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Honours "for significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men". Among other significant services to the community, the citation for Arndt's honour from the Council for the Order of Australia highlights her "Campus Tour, since 2018" (known as the "Fake Rape Crisis" Campus Tour), and for being a contributor to "Jordan Peterson's Thinkspot, since 2019" (an anti-censorship website).
Arndt's appointment sparked a petition on Change.org calling for the honour to be revoked and had reached 33,000 signatures within the first week. The award also drew a reaction from prominent Australian women and abuse survivors, with 2015 Australian of the Year and domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty saying she felt "sickened" and "utterly dismayed" by it. Writer and activist Van Badham called the granting of the award "vile". Bester's sexual assault victim, Grace Tame, said that "I believe that honouring someone who actively defended a paedophile on a public platform is a blatant example of the protracted, systemic moral corruption that still hampers our society." Sharna Bremner, from End Rape on Campus Australia, said she also felt sick after hearing of the award to Arndt and to "see someone like her be rewarded for mocking those people that have been sexually assaulted sends a message that sexual assault doesn't matter in this country, survivors don't matter, it's a huge slap in the face." Arndt responded by saying the criticism shows the "the poisonous side of modern feminism and their determination to shut down anyone who challenges the orthodoxy".
Victorian attorney-general Jill Hennessy wrote to the governor-general, David Hurley, urging that Arndt be stripped of the award, saying that "Ms Arndt's views and activities diminish the devastating experiences of victim-survivors of family and sexual violence, promote division and encourage victim-survivors from taking steps to ensure their survival and safety." Doctors Against Violence Towards Women (DAVTW) also called for Arndt's award to be withdrawn. Karen Williams, a psychiatrist from the group, said that "Being awarded this honour gives her credibility that she doesn't deserve on this subject - she's had some psychological training but never been registered as a health practitioner; she doesn't work or do research in this field." Also calling for the award to be revoked, Sue Williamson from the University of New South Wales in Canberra noted that the relevant government "Ordinance enables the governor-general to revoke an award if the awardee has 'has behaved or acted in a manner that has brought disrepute on the order'".
In February 2020, following further controversy surrounding Arndt's comments on a domestic violence quadruple murder-suicide in Queensland, Victorian Liberal shadow minister Tim Smith wrote to the chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, Shane Stone, calling for her award to be revoked, the first bipartisan support for the move. He stated that Arndt's comments brought the Order into disrepute, were inconsistent with the role of the awards in acknowledging the bravery of military personnel, and suggested that "the Council of the Order of Australia has an important role protecting the Vice-Regal office and the Crown in Australia from associating itself with views that seek to make excuses for extreme violence". Arndt had said that "including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been 'driven too far'. But note the misplaced outrage ... How dare police deviate from the feminist script of seeking excuses ..." Within days many politicians from Liberal, Labor and The Greens were also calling for her award to be revoked, including the Federal Minister for Women Marise Payne.
On 25 February 2020, the Australian Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion calling for the revocation of Arndt's Order of Australia award, with Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts being the only two senators to vote against the motion. The motion is not binding on the Order of Australia Council. In response to the Senate vote Arndt said conservative MPs had "caved in" to "feminist power" and urged her supporters to "maintain the rage" and mobilise against the "feral mobs trying to take [her] out".
Controversy about credentials
In 2020, an article published by the New Matilda website pointed out that the media and publishers have frequently misrepresented Arndt as a psychologist, clinical psychologist or doctor. The back cover of the 2009 edition of her book The Sex Diaries states that "Bettina Arndt is a clinical psychologist" and "she draws on her thirty-five years of experience as a sex therapist and psychologist". Arndt, however, is not a registered psychologist, clinical psychologist, medical doctor or has a PhD degree. The article criticised Arndt for distributing material containing these misrepresentations without correcting them. In response, Arndt stated that she never described herself in this way, saying that "I've had a 45-year career. I say I trained as a clinical psychologist, I explain my career, whenever I'm asked to do a CV or put it out publicly. But people still introduce me in the wrong way." When she began her career, she did not need to register as a psychologist as the registration of psychologists only began with the Psychologists Act 1989 (NSW). The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency has said it was "looking closely" at the allegations detailed in the New Matilda article.
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