GENDER WARFARE IN THE HOUSE
UPDATE, Wednesday, 10 October: Julia Gillard was in fine, fiery form in Parliament House yesterday as she excoriated Tony Abbott for being a sexist and misogynist.
Do watch the footage of it HERE – whether you’re a Gillard supporter or not, she gave a brilliant performance.
It was an extraordinary day in politics, capped off last night by the resignation of disgraced Speaker Peter Slipper, who quit just after surviving a motion from the Opposition to dump him.
Earlier in the afternoon, the heat was turned up on the sexism in politics debate many notches when Gillard attacked Abbott, who had referred to Speaker Peter Slipper’s sexism and “truly gross references to female genitalia” in controversial text messages.
“I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not…not now, not ever.
“The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and are misogynist are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and is writing out his resignation because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”
Gillard listed a litany of sexist offences by Abbott as she saw them, saying: “I was offended by those things – misogyny, sexism, every day from this leader of the opposition.”
It’s was a big day for gender and politics.
Here’s what Lucy Clark wrote earlier…
Julia Gillard told a lovely –and telling – little anecdote during a speech at a “powerful women’s” breakfast in Canberra today.
She was talking about how delightful it was to meet people around the country, women and men, who may be having conversations with their daughters about their lifetime aspirations, and that there are “no closed doors” any longer.Leading a generation of change. PM Julia Gillard at this morning’s breakfast in Canberra. Image via theage.com.au.
“Indeed,” she said, “A friend of mine who has a very young son told me about a conversation she had with her son where she said to him – talking about what you might want to do when he was a much bigger person, he was only four or five when this conversation happened – you could be prime minister.
“To which he said: “No I couldn’t Mummy because you’ve got to be a girl to do that job.”
Ah, generational change. You’ve gotta love it.
It was an amusement, a bon mot, but Gillard was quick to add “that’s not exactly the impression we’re seeking to leave, but the impression we do want to leave for the girls and the boys of Australia is that there are no closed doors. That this occupation, all occupations are open to women and to men.”
Gillard also wistfully (and wishfully) projected to a future where it will be “routine” for there to be equal numbers of men and women in parliament.
“Women aren’t unusual in politics any longer, but we’re not half-half either…And I believe that the ultimate end point to this generation of change – and I absolutely believe I’ll live to see it – is an Australia in which we don’t bother to reflect on how many men and how many women are in politics any longer because it is so routine for it to be half-half.”
It was intriguing that this came after yesterday’s story in which Queensland LNP Senator Sue Boyce attacked her own party for not attracting enough women into politics. They were “damning comments”, as the Courier Mail’s Steven Scott said, while Tony Abbott is trying to lift his appeal to women.
Boyce also said the LNP was in danger of being taken over by social conservatives, but that’s another story.
As tiresome accusations fly about Labor’s “handbag hitsquad” and Tony Abbott’s image problem with 51 percent of the population, it seems Gillard’s utopian future can’t come quickly enough.
Julia Gillard in parliament this afternoon.
Back in her earlier speech this morning she said: “…yes, being the first female Prime Minister also attracts some commentary of the negative kind – and you know what I’m talking about when I refer to that. But I think it is a by-product of this generation of change.”
This is grace and generosity in the face of yet more disgraceful misogynist slurs heaped upon the woman holding the highest officer in the land who, as she conducted a live Q&A session on her Facebook page about education yesterday, was called a “slut”, she was asked, “Are your pubes as radiant, shiny and glorious as mine?” she was told “McPiss off you red-headed bloody McClown” and “Get my dinner ready.”
She was also asked, “how’s your dad?” All this was so disgusting it made news in the USA at Salon.com under the headline “Australian’s Prime Minister bullied online.”
But for Gillard “the negative commentary has never detracted from the real delight of having the opportunity – not only to change perceptions – but to change the nation.”
Good for her. But it makes you wonder, would you want your children – daughters in particular – to go into politics?
Will we see equal numbers of men and women in Parliament in our lifetime?
And are the ongoing attacks on our Prime Minister just a by-product of generational change?
*Lucy Clark (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on twitter: @lucykateclark.