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Why are young men throwing sandwiches at Australia’s female prime minister?

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) looks towards Treasurer Wayne Swan during a meeting at Parliament House in Canberra May 13, 2013.
DAVID GRAY | REUTERS
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) looks towards Treasurer Wayne Swan during a meeting at Parliament House in Canberra May 13, 2013. Buy Photo
Posted May 31, 2013, at 4:47 p.m.

It’s raining sandwiches in Australia, if you’re Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Gillard ducked a flying sandwich on May 8 when she visited Queensland High School. On Thursday, she dodged another sandwich (the same kind? We don’t know) at Lyneham High School in Canberra. This week’s alleged hoagie pitcher, 16-year-old Kyle Thomsen, has been suspended for two weeks for the stunt. (In case you’re wondering, he pleaded innocence. Gillard said she sympathized with his “little act of high jinks” but that an official government pardon was not forthcoming.)

So what does the downpour of sandwiches mean? Maybe the kids just thought Gillard looked hungry. Or maybe this is the culinary equivalent to a heckling incident in which a man told Hillary Clinton to “iron my shirts.”

According to the website Know Your Meme, the phrase “make me a sandwich” currently allows male Internet users to “mock, discredit or annoy female Internet users, playing off of the sexist trope which states that women belong in the kitchen.” Pelting Gillard, whose “misogyny speech” went viral late last year, with that particular comestible could have been a way to remind her to stay in the domestic sphere. Of course, if the kids meant the missiles to scream “make me a sandwich,” their efforts backfired. All Thomsen really ended up proving is that the male sex is perfectly capable of constructing the sandwiches they wish to throw (or consume).

What should the kids have hurled at Gillard to put her in her place? The sandwich meme draws some of its power from the fact that sandwiches are pretty easy to make. Short of slinging sandwich ingredients at her, perhaps Windex would have gotten the point across nicely?

For those looking to lob sexist statements at male politicians, I suggest throwing a paper towel while shouting, “Go kill that bug near the drain!” or “Go eat barbecue with your hands!” Of course, you could stick to the gender-neutral and throw water balloons. I’m not sure that they’re a symbol for anything, but at least they’re not a waste of perfectly good bologna.

 Katy Waldman is a writer for Slate.

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