After the intense response to my fairly recent blog post on female journalists and the misogyny that surrounds them in the industry, it was hard not to write something on our ex- female PM and the barbaric, misogynist and down-right disgusting comments that she received in her time in Parliament.
The UK Telegraph’s journalist John McTernan wrote a phenomenal piece on this exact issue. Whilst I whole-heartedly believed that misogyny in the 21st Century was a rare thing in well-established, professional industries, I was astounded when reading headlines and listening to political news. However, the true shock came when uncovering the comments that are made by people from our Federal Parliament. These people are elected to be our voices and they are betraying this trust.
McTernan highlights the main differences between the hate comments that male Prime Ministers receive and female Prime Ministers. McTernan believes that “Gillard faced misogyny from 1998, when she was first elected to federal parliament” and that in 2007 she was branded as “deliberately barren”. Why does her personal life matter in politics? Janet Albrechtsen wrote an acrimonious article in 2010 about the upcoming PM Ms Gillard and how she is “no role model for girls who want more than a career” because of the life decisions that Ms Gillard has made and that this is some crime because “she has never had to make room for the frustrating demands and magnificent responsibilities of caring for little babies, picking up sick children from school, raising teenagers. Not to mention the needs of a husband or partner”. Frankly…WHO CARES?! If she were a man, there would be no discussion about her personal life and whether or not it impinges on her policies or whether or not she is the ‘correct’ role model.
But it was my utter shock when the tape was ripped from the Australian public’s mouths, and they let rip. One woman called into the 2GB radio saying that “she’s a menopausal woman who needs to resign” and from the same radio program “in my opinion, Julia Gillard is a piece of crap”. Why Australia, why? The disgusting, piggish comments did not stop. Soon protest posters were emblazoned with “ditch the witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” with the leader of the Opposition – Tony Abbott – proudly standing in front of them. Such as this one…
But it was when journalists were exploiting their roles and turning into repugnant pigs. Alan Jones stated that Julia Gillard’s father passed away from “shame” because “his daughter told lies” every time she entered Parliament. Alan Jones awakened a dormant beast that is the Australian public. Since the 1970s, people were silenced if they even breathed a misogynistic phrase but Jones prodded the sleeping dog and it was like fighting an uphill battle. For example, The Sydney University’s Liberal students went to Twitter to announce their complete admiration for Jones’s comments regarding his comments on the death of Ms Gillard’s father.
But that was not all that the Australian public heard from Jones on the subject of Ms Gillard. He later said that “they” should put Julia Gillard into a “chaff bag and take [her] as far out to sea as they can”. As well as Ms Gillard needing “emotional and psychological help” as she is “a misanthrope”. A bit of a pot calling the kettle black there.
But most significantly would be the constant onslaught of comments regarding Ms Gillard’s dress sense. Acclaimed feminist Germaine Greer who did extraordinary work during the late 20th Century for women and women’s rights said that Ms Gillard should change what she wears because she has a “fat arse”. Rebecca Sparrow of Mamamia.com.au was stunned by the comment that Greer made as she said in her article that Greer has “spent decades pointing out that a woman’s physicality is irrelevant”. This fixation on how Ms Gillard dressed was futile, irrelevant and quite frankly boring. Why does it matter if that suit flares out in an “unflattering manner”? Or that the colour of her suit is unappealing? She was never going to step out in Versace with Christian Louboutin heels. She is not the editor of a fashion magazine, she is the bloomin’ Prime Minister – someone who was elected to represent our country. As Anne Summers writes an astounding piece and comments on this very issue, “Although male politicians might occasionally have some aspect of their clothes remarked upon…they never, repeat never, have to endure the banality of the endless sartorial commentary that all women in politics, but especially the leaders, have to deal with.”
No matter where you stand in politics, this period in Australian history was disgusting and shameful. Our first female Prime Minister and this is how we treat her. It either puts the fire in your belly to prove them all wrong or makes you want to forget all your aspirations to be an inspirational female in a male-dominated world. Ms Gillard’s time in Parliament showed that misogyny still exists in the 21st Century. However, she did show that you do not have to be lowered to your critics’ standards. And for that, I thank you Ms Gillard – you have ignited that fire in my belly.
Sources from quotes that are not linked: