Tom Jacobs

Julia Gillard: For goodness’ sake, give her a break!

Image: AAP

Over the constant irrelevant comments aimed at Julia Gillard, Tom Jacobs asks that we (finally) start judging the ex-PM on her achievements, not her appearance.

 

The appearance of ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard on The Project last week caused a stir on social media due to a comment made by Rove McManus during the interview as well as the aggressive line of questioning from Steve Price.

Gillard was on the show to promote her book “My Story” as well as partake in mindless banter with the show’s hosts. When asked about her upcoming birthday, Gillard mentioned that she’ll be celebrating with her partner Tim, to which Rove replied “Is that a euphemism?”

It was a throwaway line from that same vintage as other moth-eaten gems like “that’s what she said,” and “that’s not what your mom told me last night,” (note the American spelling of mum). I’m sure Rove would have used the same one-liner on any guest who fortuitously happened to set it up for him.

However, this was both awkward and ironic due to the fact that sexism and misogyny are a part of Gillard’s book.

On the other hand, Steve Price, who was found guilty of vilifying homosexuals on air in 2004, had obviously planned in advance and demanded that Gillard provide examples of Tony Abbott’s misogyny towards her, which he really could have gotten just by reading the book. The segment ended with Steve Price taking one last swipe saying, “Interestingly, that book is already half price at Big W.”

What’s his point?

If you go to the Big W website you’ll see that it says “The latest books and entertainment at unbelievably low prices.”

So, you could pick up a copy of Julia Gillard’s memoir for $24 and get yourself a 16GB iPod mini with WiFi and a free $10 Wish Card for $298 while you’re at it.

I’ve never seen so many personal attacks being carried out on one public figure. Remember when that “Living Tribunal” Alan Jones made those remarks about her father “dying of shame”?

Or when he said Gillard should be tied in a “chaff bag” and dumped at sea?

Those “Ditch the Witch” status updates that sporadically turned up on my Facebook feed a while ago got old very quickly, but, I notice these comments were often made by the same people who are now posting utterances like “all Muslims are terrorists”, and photoshopped mock scoreboards that show a tally of boat people arrivals under the current government compared to when Labor was in power. This is despite the fact that under Abbott’s “culture of secrecy”, he made the call to have a media blackout regarding boat arrivals.

So, when people employ these statistics as fact, it’s a) idiotic and b) expected of them.

It is true that Julia Gillard couldn’t stop the boats, but this won’t be her legacy and I strongly believe history will be kind to her, not only because of what she accomplished during her time in office, but because she achieved it all despite what was going on around her. If it comes to judging our leaders on their best and worst, then so far she’s looking pretty good, and it’s not just in comparison.

The right-wing does hold on to very old-fashioned values, so misogyny really isn’t all that surprising, in fact it was kind of expected. A politician, and Prime Minister no less, who:

  1. Isn’t married but has a live-in boyfriend
  2. Is childless
  3. Doesn’t believe in God
  4. Is female

must have scared the hell out of them.

The attack on female leaders obviously isn’t just restricted to Australia.

Back in 2008 when Hillary Rodham Clinton was campaigning for the top job, the media tended to focus more on her hair and what she was wearing than her policies and she wasn’t referred to as a ‘Presidential Candidate’ but rather as a ‘female Presidential Candidate’.

Or there’s Margaret Thatcher, who not only made her way into that Conservative boys’ club in the UK Houses of Parliament, but also became their leader. Even the late journalist Christopher Hitchens took a break from writing about weighty politics subjects and instead wrote about Maggie’s hips.

If you’re going to dislike Julia Gillard, do it based on her political successes and failures, and quit the character assassination, particularly when it comes to her red hair and voice.

Gillard’s book isn’t about misogyny in politics… the same way “The Diaries of Gareth Evans” isn’t about Bob Hawke conducting meetings in the nude… but Steve Price will keep tugging on it.

That’s not a euphemism by the way.

Tom Jacobs

Tom is a writer and budding comedian who, when not writing and 'comedying', enjoys collecting old blues records and doing terrible things to his cat with a fork.

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3 Comments

  1. CKB said:

    Great article Tom! I am reading Julia Gillard’s book now and it’s very, very interesting. In fact I think it’s worth the $50 price tag. If you are a woman and a leader (like I am) then you will have experienced sexism in Australia and know it’s alive and kicking.

  2. Fran said:

    Fantastic article Tom! I think Australia could look to Germany’s (female) long-term chancellor Angela Merkel (often called Angie by the Volk) for a childless woman in power dealing with hard issues in politics.

  3. Phantom said:

    In summary:
    1) McManus made a comment he would have made to anyone.
    2) Price asked for a specific example, Gillard couldn’t provide one and apparently neither could the author of this piece.
    3) Criticism of Gillard MUST be because she is a woman, not because she was a crap PM.

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