Issue sevenIssue Seven Poetry

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By Melinda Smith

‘Women only want to be shearers for the sex’

— Ernie Ecob, former Secretary, Australian Workers’ Union


She takes me by my hind legs, which are

my only legs    Women want for shearers


to be the only sex    Looks through me,

intent, a pack face seeing a herd face


Sex be for shearers. To the women,

only want    Slides me into position,


grasping her machinery    To be women,

only sex the shearers for want    the teeth


glint, the dark comb    dangling    Shearers

want sex only to be for the women    I kick


and stumble    Sex be for women.

To the shearers, only want    — bleating —


glory if she gets me    Shearers only want

to be women for the sex    If I hold still


she might not draw blood    this time

Women want the shearers to only be


for sex    I freeze and brace, my sheep eyes

blanking    blow by blow    she peels me


After, nearly fleeceless, spent, I feel her

bend, take me in gentle headlock, lips


in my white ear    Her low growl: ‘Women,

Ernie, women — women only want    to be.



Ernie Ecob is the man for whom the ‘Ernie Awards’ for Sexist Behaviour ( are named. He ‘won’ the first ever award in 1993 for making the statement ‘Women only want to be shearers for the sex‘, in the context of complaining about the difficulty of the Australian Workers’ Union representing female as well as male shearers. See Burgmann & Andrews, 2007.