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opinion

Madonna King: Elon Musk v Mark Zuckerberg is a global, public display of sexism

Both Twitter and Facebook have introduced paid verification in the past year.

Both Twitter and Facebook have introduced paid verification in the past year. Photo: Getty

Just imagine this: A prime-time jelly fight featuring billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart and tech guru, philanthropist and writer Sheryl Sandberg.

Or stretch the imagination and consider how a physical tussle between TV star Oprah Winfrey and former foreign minister Julie Bishop would be billed.

Or Michelle Obama wrestling businesswoman and author Arianna Huffington to settle an argument that neither can really remember.

It’s beyond ridiculous: An incredible piece of fiction that no one could possibly believe.

But why? Why is the thought of two strong, successful women attacking each other physically seen as preposterous, and yet two high-profile tech billionaires can promise a cage fight? And we just nod and carry on.

Or we take sides, and place our bets, reading about their age differences and fitness levels. We google their expertise in jiu-jitsu, and listen for the latest news on the BBC or published in the Washington Post.

It’s hard to imagine a more global public display of sexism than this promised bout between Elon Musk, 52, and Mark Zuckerberg, 39, and our response to it.

Indeed, the fact that this is not being dismissed as a dim-witted display of machoism shows how far we still have to travel before we can see any sense of equality between the sexes.

Touted cage fight

It doesn’t matter what the touted cage fight is about, apart from the ‘business rivalry’ that has enveloped their relationship.

It doesn’t even matter if they are genuinely serious, although the widespread reporting of the event, particularly in the United States, is encouraging people to believe it is real.

Both Musk, who owns Twitter, and Zuckerberg, the jiu-jitsu-trained boss of Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, are also fuelling suggestions that their differences could be sorted out with fisticuffs.

Memes have been created, posters printed, and the Octagon, used for the UFC or Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts in Las Vegas, is being flagged as the venue for the billionaire bout.

But whatever the truth, it’s hard to see it as anything more than sad, chauvinistic, and brainless that two of the world’s biggest businessmen would even joke about settling their differences with a public show of violence.

And the fact that it’s not being called out as such is something that should disappoint us all.

What they could do …

Imagine if Musk and Zuckerberg joined forces to shine a light on the talent of women in their ranks, or the disproportionate lack of power of women in business across the world.

What a difference they could make.

Imagine if they used their social media might to call for an end to schoolgirls being poisoned in Iran, simply because they wanted an education.

Or for equal billing, representation and pay for women across sport, the labour market and in government.

Imagine if they ranked countries, in terms of gender equality, daily, across Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, ensuring more and more people were educated about the plight of women and the big chasm that still exists between the sexes.

Imagine if, instead of a cage fight, they duelled over how much each of them would donate to a cause that would make a measurable difference to others.

Sounds like fiction, right?

And perhaps even as unbelievable as a physical bout between two wealthy, global and powerful businesswomen.

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