Let’s Not Toss the Baby with the Bath Water

Published October 10, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

There has been a lot of talk today about how it’s all well and good for Prime Minister Gillard to stand up in parliament and call out the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, for his hypocrisy about misogyny*, but many claim her own conduct/policies on other matters render her speech redundant.

While I agree, that Prime Minister Gillard (who I am no great fan of generally speaking) has a lot of work to do on issues like equal marriage rights, refugees, indigenous affairs, social support for single parents, and other issues, I think dismissing her speech yesterday undermines just how important the topic of misogyny from our political leaders is to the women of Australia.  Indeed, the women of the world.

We as a nation have watched our first woman Prime Minister treated in a manner that no male politician would ever be be subjected to, both in parliament and in the media.  We as a nation have heard the man who wants to lead our country, suggest that half of the population, women, are less adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.  We have heard this man suggest time and time again that women are somehow inferior to men.  Again, he is referring to half of the population of the country, whom he expects to vote for him to lead them.  On a regular basis, this man and the politicians he leads have referred to any woman in the Labor party as “the handbag hit squad”.  This is the man that said in an interview (therefore on the public record) “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…”

Misogyny and sexism are rife in daily life in Australia, and when the man holding the highest position in the political opposition in this country AND who expects the Australian people to vote for him to lead the country, makes statements like those Prime Minister Gillard quoted, and I have shared here, is it any wonder?

Prime Minister Gillard has a responsibility in her role, not only as the Prime Minister but as a woman in such a position of high rank, to represent the women of Australia.  Yes, she represents all Australians, but being a woman herself, and being the example of a woman in public life and power, how she allows herself to be treated, reflects on how she allows all Australian women to be treated.

Yesterday, she stood up and said “Enough.”  She stood up and spoke out against an issue that affects half of the population of her country directly, and the rest indirectly, whether they wish to admit it or not.  This is not some trifling matter to be thrown away because other policies and positions she holds do not come up to standard.  If you are a woman in this country, and you expect to be treated with basic respect as a human being, then the speech Prime Minister Gillard made yesterday should matter to you.  It should be significant to you and to this country, regardless of whether or not you align yourself with the Labor party or Prime Minister Gillard herself.

Yes, we need to keep pressuring Prime Minister Gillard on other issues.  We need to make it clear that there is still much work for her and the Labor party and indeed parliament to do to earn our votes and to successfully lead this country.

But we also must remember that in one regard at least, she has taken a significant stand for the women of Australia.  In her words:

the Leader of the Opposition should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.

We are entitled to a better standard than this.  All women, everywhere are entitled to a better standard than they are currently receiving, all over the world.  And to that, I say thank you Prime Minister Gillard, for finally standing up on one of the most important issues facing Australian women, all women of the world, today.

* a transcript of the entire speech can be found here.

10 comments on “Let’s Not Toss the Baby with the Bath Water

  • I applaud this woman, being a woman is never easy but a woman who leads has it much harder. I inwardly cringe for the woman who one day decides to run for president in our country and the way she will be treated by her peers, media, and the people. The way that the current president is treated is appalling (yes it is election time but still), mostly due to the color of his skin and lack of ability to magically fix the economy in four years by himself. Yes I’m ranting now so I’ll stop.

    • Indeed, PM Gillard is far from perfect, and she has got a lot of things wrong and has to do a lot of work to be up to standard for my vote.

      But her speech was important. Her calling out of Tony Abbott was both important and overdue. And it’s a giant step for women everywhere.

      It would be good to see your President stand up in the same way about his race that PM Gillard has about womanhood.

  • I normally don’t comment on blogs, but this post really resonates with me. Like the poster above, I am an American and appalled by the recent election cycle. Not only am I appalled by how poorly our President is treated because of the color of his skin, but I am genuinely concerned for women in my country. In this election cycle, women have been center stage and not by request. One potential nominee asserted that women are not capable to being in the military. A radio host called a Georgetown law student a “slut” because she spoke to Congress about why birth control needs to be covered by insurance (hint: birth control does more than prevent pregnancy, despite what he seemed to believe). A state representative basically claimed that “legitimate” rape would not produce pregnancy, thus implying that a substantial number of rape claims that are false. Mississippi incarcerated a woman for having a miscarriage and there is an active movement amongst politicians to limit access to contraception and abortions (some states require internal sonograms before a doctor can perform an abortion. Basically, the government is allowed to unnecessarily violate women in order for them to receive a constitutionally protected medical procedure).

    I am constantly told that my body is open to regulation. That I am incapable of making decisions about myself without the aid of legislation. The GOP (Republican Party) asserts that government regulates business too much, while not regulating women enough.

    I love my country and the idea of the “American Dream,” but I hate how this Dream that is supposed to be open to everyone is reserved to half the population. I am disheartened because when a woman calls out a politician on his anachronistic views, that woman is a “slut,” “whore,” “bitch,” or “angry feminist.” I am none of those. I am simply a well-educated woman who wants the same opportunities as my male counterparts, and I hate that despite my advanced education and accomplishments that many politicians feel I am incapable to performing to most basic of tasks or making decisions that a man cannot being to understand.

    Please excuse my long response, but your post really stuck with me. I applaud any politician who calls out others on their bullshit. A law-abiding citizen should never be made to feel inferior by the government or its agents. Any agent who allows others to do so has failed its constituents.

    • “The GOP (Republican Party) asserts that government regulates business too much, while not regulating women enough.”

      PREACH! If I hear ONE more time how the GOP is the party of small government, I’ll barf. In fact, business is practically the ONLY thing they don’t want the government to stick their noses into (oh wait, besides guns). Marriage equality? Abortion rights? Anything that doesn’t personally affect the white, straight, Christian men that make up the vast majority of the GOP and their voting demographic? Well THAT the government can police people in. We just can’t touch THEIR rights.

    • It is long overdue in our culture isn’t it Sah? It’s time that more and more people started standing up to the hateful bullying tactics being used by conservatives to shame huge swathes of the people they are supposed to be representing.

  • I agree 100% I am no Gillard or Abbott supporter. I am disillusioned with both political parties ATM. BUT I did applaud Gillard as I watched live Abbott’s speech, Julie Bishop and then Gillard speak. My mind does boogle as to how a strong woman like Bishop can be used as the puppet she is, as the token female for her party.

    I am someone who has been very actively pursuing equality for all with a feminist slant. How many times I come across people who argue that women have enough is astounding to me. How do women have enough when the female PM of our country is treated so disrespectfully based on her gender? When the opposition leader still touts offensive sexist garbage?

    What upsets me the most though is that women are often to afraid to identify as feminists. They see it as a negative that women are still pushing for equal rights because we have been taught that we have enough. We don’t. I think HAES and FA are closely linked to feminist issues because a lot of pressure on women to look and act a certain way feeds into the obsession with body size. So to me equality is fighting for everyone, not just women.

    • Lyfin I feel the same way. Right now, neither of the main political parties will get my vote (LNP will NEVER get my vote!). But that doesn’t detract from the significance from that speech, and that moment in our parliamentary history.

  • I actually didn’t hear about this whole thing until my partner told me about it (I don’t like a lot of what I see/hear in the media so I avoid watching public TV and rarely listen to the news) and what really hit me about it was that; My partner told me about it, and he agreed with her. Which was amazing for me because quite often I can tell he just doesn’t get what’s important about feminism or why I need it. But this time he’d heard about Julia Gillard telling off Mr. Abbot for blatant misogyny and he totally understood not only that I would LOVE that but that she was totally right in doing so.

    It’s taken me an incredibly long time to get him to understand why I get so touchy about certain things. Like the things people sometimes say in my hearing, or when someone in a car thinks it’s perfectly ok to lean out the window and call me a “fat slut” while I’m walking. But it seems like somewhere along the line he’s had a bit of a wake-up call, and from my perspective it looks like Ms. Gillard’s speech had something to do with that. I can only hope that other people experience something of the same too!

  • Well said, Kath. I don’t like Gillard especially but after her calling Abbott out the other day (he’s a nasty man if ever I’ve seen one) she has grown considerably in my estimation.

  • Abbot is just a vile, odeous, pernicious little vermin (to paraphrase Johnathon Swift) and if I were naieve enough to believe in some form of god I would pray that he never holds the office of Prime Minister, unfortunately it seems his greatest assistance in this endeavour is the presence of our current PM in the top job.
    I was optomistic before she came into office that she’d be the proverbial new broom, that her socially progressive attitudes would be a source of great reform in this country, unfortunately, she’s elected to tow the same tired old party line to both her detriment and that of the nation overall.
    Personally I could care less if the person who holds the country’s highest office has boy-bits or girl-bits, I don’t see it as an issue, what IS of great concern is the indesputable fact that the major parties (and their integral rusted on idealogues) are in absolute lockstep on an overwhelming majority of issues.
    I’d have to say there is not one single solitary pundit on the political landscape that represents my views as a voter, and while I’d never venture to speak for anyone else, I wouldn’t mind having a bet that I’m not exactly Robinson Carusoe there.
    I’m convinced that our democracy has deteriorated not merely to a state where it is simply a case of idiot A vs idiot B, but in fact the voting public is not even presented with a choice and consequently we have re-badged versions of the same idiot government leap-frogging from election to election.
    Surely central to the core of the notion of democracy is that the PEOPLE lead, instead we have this dysfunctional oligarchical system.
    It’s a bit like walking into a restaurant and every item on the menu is the same, just minute, barely percievable variants between “choices” and then the place big-noting itself about how it puts customer satisfaction first.
    A restaurant like that wouldn’t last a week and yet we’ve been stuck with this same joke of a system since federation as best I can tell.
    I find the notion that ANY politician has the temerity to consider themselves the country’s “leader” highly offensive, the voting public is THEIR leader and they to my way of thinking both a moral and a constitutional responsibility to represent that voting public domestically and internationally.
    I don’t believe our wretched politicians have EVER done that, they’ve always seen it as their god-given-right to dictate the terms to the public, offer them bugger all choice, outrightly lie to them and hand themselves fat pay rises quarterly to boot.
    I think the whole country would be a lot better off if every single one of them found themselves reporting down to centrelink first thing tommorrow morning.
    Off with their heads!!!

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