the lip crew on julia gillard
As the Twitterarti would say: #CreditJulia
‘I was in a sociology class in my last year of high school when I heard that Julia Gillard had become our first female Prime Minister. My sassy but strict sociology teacher, who all the boys hated because she was a “ball-breaking-feminist-man-hater”, was beside herself with glee, telling us (the majority of the class, girls) that it was the start of a “new era”. An era that we would be the vanguard of.
I’ve never wanted to have kids. I don’t want to get married. And I don’t believe in a God. When the media went nuts over having an unmarried, female, atheist Prime Minister with no children, there was definitely a feeling of: “Wow, finally someone I can actually relate to is in charge”. The notorious “empty fruit bowl” photo was supposed to represent Gillard’s “deliberately barren” life in a negative way, but, for me, it was an inspiration.
There seemed to be a resounding lack of gender in Gillard’s Prime Ministership for a long time. I think, in my naivety and youthful optimism of three or so years ago, I expected something like The Misogyny Speech to come much sooner.
When she finally delivered that speech, arguably a definitive moment in her Prime Ministership, I was cheering along with everyone. She rocked. She helped give reason and purpose to my degree in gender studies, which previously seemed purposeless. Bad hair, bad accent, bad jackets, and bad knitting aside, it’s needless to say that as an Australian woman in her early twenties studying feminism at university, having a female Prime Minister is one thing that truly made me proud to be Australian for a little while there.’ – Ruby Grant, News Editor
‘It was fascinating and sometimes disheartening to experience Julia Gillard’s term from the outside. I’ve only lived through a handful of female leaders in so-called developed, First World countries. I wasn’t alive for Margaret Thatcher’s term in office and was too young to remember when Kim Campbell was Canada’s prime minister (for only a few months.) So Angela Merkel and Gillard are “it” for me. Because I’m not Australian, I don’t know if Gillard’s policies made life better for Aussies. I can’t speak to her political legacy, but I can say that I was unsurprised every time I heard about the sexism she faced as prime minister. I’m sad that Gillard had to defend herself against blatant misogyny and wasn’t given a chance to complete her term. The men who made her experience as difficult as possible have proven that in 2013, the political sphere around the world is very much a boys club. I hope they don’t have daughters who are at the receiving end of their sexism (though likely in much more covert ways). I would say that I hope they don’t have daughters or young women in their lives that will see how women in politics are treated. But at the same time, I hope they take notice. I hope that, despite what they see, young women aren’t turned away from public office based on how Gillard was treated. She was intelligent, gracious, strong and unapologetic even in her exit speech and I respect her for that. I think if anything, she is proof of just how capable women are and why we need more women in politics.’ – Shannon Clarke, Writer
‘When I think about Julia Gillard I cannot get past my initial reaction to when she was initially put into power as the Prime Minister back in 2010. For three years she was at the top of the news and held a position previously inhabited by men. No matter what people say about her, I still consider her an amazing woman who held her own for three years. This is similar to how I feel about Barack Obama – being originally from America and having voted for him, I was proud to call him my president when he was elected. And since then, no matter what things he does “right” or “wrong”, I still see him as a public figure that has broken down boundaries. I am shocked that in this day and age positions such as PM or President are still mainly white-male dominated – considering that the majority of the world is populated by females or people of a very diverse set of backgrounds. Julia Gillard will forever be known as Australia’s first female PM – and that makes her an icon for feminists.’ – Bridget Conway, Writer
‘When I think about the experience of the first Australian female Prime Minister, I reflect mostly on a period of disappointment. Regardless of party alignment or where you stood on the policy decisions of the government, one cannot ignore the overwhelming fact that what Ms Gillard’s Prime Ministership highlighted the very long way Australia has to go before women are truly considered equal. When the person who is meant to hold one the highest offices in our country is reduced to trite and often vitriolic discussion over her hair, body, dress sense, marital status and fertility, it does little to inspire other Australian women that they can be fully included and respected members of society.
The struggle of “being one of the guys” and therefore having to merely put up with what would in any other workplace be considered sexual harassment speaks volumes to other women, who are still combating harassment in their own workplace. Through Ms Gilard, the media and her opponents conveyed this message to women:
Dress powerfully (masculinely) but make sure it is still “feminine” and flattering. Be stoic, but not “wooden”. Don’t speak too shrilly but be open to the fact that people will still mock you for the way that you speak. Have policy to deal with difficult political situations, but also be prepared for that to be ignored in discussion of your marital status. Dedicate yourself to a long and challenging career, yet be prepared for people to assume the worst of you for being “deliberately barren”. Most of all, don’t ever complain or call out your opponents for this behaviour. Playing the gender card is the worst thing you could do.’ – Danielle Scoins, Writer
‘Funnily enough, it seems as though since she’s been ousted as Prime Minister, there has been more written about Julia Gillard recently than there was during her term as leader of our country. A lot of this writing has been speculative about her loss of power in the spill that saw Kevin Rudd become Prime Minister once again, in one of the most talked about political incidents this country has seen. The speculation has been centred on exactly what happened behind the scenes in the workings of the Labor Party, which has already been developed into a book (The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Kerry Anne Walsh) and will subsequently be developed into a television drama.
I don’t think that there’s any doubt that Gillard was betrayed by both members of her own party, as well as external pressures, with the media being the largest of these. She was often accused of manipulating issues, particularly so-called “women’s issues”, for the benefit of her own political campaign and public persona. But even if her motives were purely selfish, at least important issues such as abortion were talked about in the media and social circles – notice how these issues have strangely gone missing since Tony Abbott has become Prime Minister?
Gillard will always be remembered as Australia’s first female Prime Minister. I can only hope that she isn’t simultaneously remembered as Australia’s only female Prime Minister.’ – Ally Van Schilt, Writer
‘The significance of Julia Gillard’s tenure as the first female prime minister is incalculable, and goes beyond mere politics. She bore sustained and systemic attacks on her character, her appearance and her integrity with unfailing strength and dignity. Ordinary women responded with outrage and anger, as they saw their own experiences reflected in the way the first female prime minister was treated and the vitriol she was subjected to. Perhaps the greatest legacy Gillard will leave are the many public conversations about sexism and misogyny, which were provoked by the behaviour of the media and other politicians towards her. The resurgence in discussion and awareness of feminism in the past two years can be tracked to these attempts to shame a proud woman who would not be cowed.
When I saw Gillard speak in conversation with her staunch defender, Anne Summers, in October, I was impressed by her changed demeanour. Gone was the sharp, tough veneer of her prime ministership. In its place, Gillard was relaxed, demonstrative, charismatic and full of charm. These were the traits she withheld from her public persona as prime minister, and no wonder – such warmth would have rendered her an even more vulnerable target to personality and gender-based attacks. The depth of gratitude and respect I feel towards Gillard is not primarily due to her political impact. Though her government was in most regards progressive and sensible, she instigated (or failed to instigate) many deeply disappointing policies: her refusal to legalise gay marriage; her changes to the sole parent pension; and most crucially, her failure to formulate a compassionate asylum seeker policy.
We can be pragmatic and honest about Gillard’s political failings, however, she is deserving of our admiration for the fact that she occupied the highest position in Australian government, and withstood hateful attacks with grace and courage. – Veronica Sullivan, Writer
It is rare to see an individual faced with such hateful adversity comport themselves with the aplomb you maintained in your term as Prime Minister. I yelled “yes!” when I listened to your now infamous misogyny speech, as my heart leapt in my chest. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In parliament. Finally – some truth amidst the bullshit. I wish you had spoken up so much more during your term, as I feel you never really let that conviction shine through until the end – perhaps you finally let your guard down as the possibility of your re-election grew less and less likely. You fought the best you could, and I think every woman might guess at why you played your hand so quietly – sometimes your only defence against ingrained, spiteful misogyny is acting like hell that it doesn’t hurt you at all. Perhaps there is a lesson for us all there. Once you let yourself be vulnerable and honest about the humiliation you were enduring, we could rally behind you in support. That speech sparked a conversation that is reverberating around not only this country, but the world. I bet you’re sitting back smugly and enjoying the absolute roasting that Abbott is now copping for his completely inept handling of pretty much every issue important to the Nation. I hope you have champagne in hand and the knowledge that you stuck it out and have upheld dignity and integrity in the eyes of so many of the people – how many Prime Ministers can say that? – Audrey K Hulm, Writer