Yesterday the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, gave a stirring, passionate and inspiring speech about misogyny and sexism in the Australian parliament and in particular the misogyny and sexism of the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott:
It is the best speech I have ever seen her give. I was moved and thrilled and proud that she is my prime minister.
Meanwhile in Australia the coverage was oh-so-very different. Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, for example, labelled it a disappointment. The wonderful Failed Estate blog sums up the local mainstream media coverage:
In this case, a passionate and thrilling speech by a prime minister about sexism and the low-level tactics of a political opposition leader beyond cynicism attracted world attention. But our gallery are too clever to see that.
They instead took the bait fed to them by the spin doctors on the other side of politics, that there was some moral equivalence between the private text messages sent by the speaker (when he was still a member of the opposition BTW) and the overwhelming climate of personal denigration and misogyny created by the Opposition leader and the tabloid flying monkeys that cheer him on.
The public can see this, obviously the global media can see it. But a press gallery that spends more time getting “briefed” by spinners and reading each other’s copy completely misses the story. Again.
This is a perfect description of Michelle Grattan’s discussion of the speech on Radio National this morning. Almost none of the mainstream pundits seem to have noticed how historic and important this speech is. Well done.
A few have also dismissed this incredibly important speech because on the same day Gillard’s government introduced a bill that will lower payments to single parents. And because Gillard does not support marriage equality.
Seriously? Because you don’t like some of Gillard’s government’s policies nothing she says is of value? Wow.
For the record I’m 100% in favour of marriage equality and I think it’s outrageous that the Labor party is moving to lower the single parent benefit rather than raising it.1
But neither those issues, nor the disgusting behaviour of Peter Slipper, nor any other local political issues can tarnish Gillard’s speech. It is historic and has gone global because Julia Gillard shone a light on just how disgusting the treatment of women in public life is. Just how gross the double standard. People who have barely heard of Australia, let alone our prime minister, have stood up and cheered.
Why? Because what she’s addressing is universal. Women in public life all over the world have suffered exactly the same misogynistic, sexist crap that she has. You don’t have to know any of the particular details that led to this speech to recognise exactly what she’s talking about.
It is a speech that could have been given by any woman in public life. No matter what her politics. Amanda Vanstone could have given that speech. Margaret Thatcher could have given it. Gina Rinehart. Hillary Clinton. They are all women who’ve been pilloried, insulted, and subject to absolutely vile slurs solely because they are women.
But are they allowed to discuss the sexism and misogyny levelled at them throughout their careers? Not unless they want to cop even more of it. Today Gillard is being called “shrill” and “hysterical” for that speech.2 Despite the fact that she was neither. Despite the fact that what she said is absolutely true.
Note: Yes, I’ve been blogging a bit less. Sorry. Acquired a new injury. Joy. And rewrite of book not finished yet. And like that.
- I’m also pissed with Labor about the carbon tax: it does not go far enough and probably won’t lower our carbon emissions; not spending enough money on green technologies; continuing to subsidise the coal industry; the intervention in the Northern Territory; their disgusting asylum seeker policies etc. etc. [↩]
- And of playing the “gender card”. Whatever that is. [↩]