The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘julia gillard’

Would this fly if we had a male PM?

Posted by Mel Campbell on December 21, 2010

This cartoon by Bill Leak, published in today’s Australian, isn’t garden-variety media sexism. It’s an appallingly ill-judged combination of callousness and racism surrounding the Christmas Island asylum seeker shipwreck disaster, and to make matters worse, there’s a jocular rapeyness directed at the prime minister of this country.

Readers, I’m talking about this:

“A hell of a hammering”? It really does beggar belief that Leak could think of no better way to dramatise the political trials Gillard faces over Australia’s asylum seeker policies than to show the prime minister as a distressed, brutalised object.

Depressingly, though, I almost suspect that Leak’s editor at The Australian knew exactly how tasteless and dull-witted the cartoon was, and approved its publication anyway in order to court controversy, and hence, boost circulation and pageviews.

I really struggle to think of any other political cartoon that degrades the holder of the highest executive office in this country in such an ill-conceived, unfunny way. Imagery of shipwrecks and stormy seas has been used extensively in political cartoons in the past – especially in relation to asylum seeker issues – but even a besieged prime minister is usually depicted as a captain going down with his ship, flailing in the sea or clinging to a life raft. Not battered and bruised, on all fours. Not with a police officer standing there, coolly refusing to help.

This is the second time in two days the Australian media have disrespected the Prime Minister. Yesterday, actual airtime and column inches were devoted to gossipy speculation over whether the very publicly unmarried Gillard had finally got engaged, since she was spotted at a press conference wearing a large sparkly ring on her engagement finger.

When asked about the ring, Gillard made light of it. “We have got to that stage in a press conference where it’s got a bit silly,” she retorted.

“I have had that ring for a long period of time and I miscellaneously wear it on my left hand or my right hand, depending on how much handwriting I’m doing. … If it will make you feel better, I’ll slip it back on to the right hand.”

If a male prime minister were spotted without his wedding ring, would the Australian media interrupt a press conference about the National Broadband Network to ask him if he’d left his wife? Let journalists criticise Gillard’s policies all they like, but to discredit them, and her, on the basis of her gender is appalling.

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Twenty-Eighth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on September 4, 2010

Oh my gawd, hi everyone. So this is the first time I’ve done a blog carnival and I put my hand up for it 6 months ago not realising that this was going to be like the busiest two or three weeks I would be having all year. So! There is no theme and things might be organised a little incoherently but I hope I’ve done a good job and you like…

WELCOME to the 28th Down Under Feminists Carnival!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Announcements, Blog Watch, body image, domestic violence, Family, glbt, Interviews, law, Media Watch, music, Politics, porn, Relationships, reproductive rights, sex, Trans, violence against women, women we love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Women in politics: Australia and the world

Posted by Nic Heath on June 29, 2010

Julia Gillard’s ascension to the position of Australian Prime Minister last week has generated news stories and comment around the world.

She made it to the top job via an unorthodox route, deposing Kevin Rudd in his first term. Whatever you think of this controversial manoeuvre, Gillard certainly showed her political skill and determination, and importantly, that she is supported and respected among her colleagues.

As Gillard joins the growing number of female world leaders*, many observers have examined again the place of women in politics in contemporary society.

Various commentators have noted that Prime Minister Gillard’s gender does not necessarily mean she will immediately set about redressing pay inequality between sexes and legislating a flexible workplace suited to working parents. An article by Nick O’Malley published in SMH quizzed UNSW academic Sarah Maddison on what it means to have a woman leading the country. She said:

while it never crossed anyone’s mind to ask if Rudd would act in mens’ interest, there is the expectation that Gillard should advocate for women. She argues that if people want to see politicians pursue women’s interests, they should elect feminists. ”I don’t think she will practise politics any differently to her male colleagues and I don’t think that women generally tend to. I think women and men in Australian parliaments are governed far more by their party discipline, their faction, their political ideology, than they are by their gender.”  

Irrespective of Gillard’s agenda there are other positive effects from having a female national leader. In the same article, Laura Liswood from the Washington-based Council of Women World Leaders highlights ‘a major benefit to all citizens of countries with women leaders’, what she calls the mirror effect:

Only when women take those roles are all members of society encouraged to engage in civic life. She notes that even though the US is yet to elect a female president, the work of secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton have changed notions of what women can do in that country.

In the Guardian Emine Saner also acknowledges the importance of the values of the individual when assessing the influence a leader’s sex may have on government policy. Saner cites the appointment of Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir as an example of a leader with a feminist agenda focusing on women’s issues, such as the sex industry.

In the UK, only four women have been included in the new Liberal-Conservative government ministry. Twenty years after the reign of Margaret Thatcher it is clear that in the UK women are being sidelined in top level politics. On the other side of the chamber, the race for the new Labour leader came close to being all-white and all-male until Diane Abbot, the first black MP when she joined the Commons in 1987, confirmed enough numbers to secure her candidacy for the role. Harriet Harman, currently standing in as leader, is not in the running for Labour leadership, despite having regularly stood in for Gordon Brown during his prime ministership. Harman is a well-known advocate of women’s issues – such as opposing the proposed move to allow rape defendants anonymity during rape trials, and backing a plan that would see half of the places in the next shadow cabinet being reserved for women.

Implementing quotas to guarantee places for women in politics, such as the plan proposed by Harman, is a contentious issue despite the ongoing worldwide trend that sees women consistently occupying dramatically less positions in parliament than men. According to this graphic women constitute 27 per cent of the national parliament in Australia. New Zealand fares better with 33 per cent, while the US comes in with just 16 per cent. One country that defies the trend of male political domination is Rwanda, which with 56 per cent of its parliament made up by women is the global leader in female representation in national politics.

Writing for the Guardian, Mary Fitzgerald overcomes her misgivings about ‘positive discrimination’, such as all-female shortlists and quotas, when considering the situation in Rwanda. In Rwanda, the post-genocide constitution ensures a 30 per cent quota for female MPs, and according to Fitzgerald this

has encouraged many talented women to come forward – people for whom working in government, less than a generation ago, would have unthinkable. Female MPs now make up a record 56% of the Rwandan parliament – a higher proportion than anywhere else in the world – and there are eight female cabinet members. Having met many of these female parliamentarians, “window dressing” is the last description that springs to mind.’

Positive discrimination – suggesting that quotas for women in power will mean that unsuitable or unqualified female candidates will be installed in positions of power – ignores the fact that women are often overlooked for top level positions for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the workplace will have to become more flexible to accommodate working parents – no bad thing. Australian Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s resignation this week to spend more time with his family illustrates the difficulty politicians have in balancing a parliamentary career with family life. Perhaps more opportunities will have to be provided to women at grassroots level to allow them to rise on their merits – a positive outcome as well. As the situation in Britain shows, doing nothing means nothing gets done.

*From SMH: “26 female leaders in 23 countries, including three queens, four governors-general, 10 presidents and, as of Thursday, nine prime ministers, according to a researcher referenced by the parliamentary library.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Best of the rest on PM Gillard

Posted by Nic Heath on June 25, 2010

Australia might be ‘tickled pink at having its first female prime minister’, but what else is being said about the dramatic leadership change that saw Kevin Rudd suddenly ousted by Julia Gillard this week? 

Eva Cox at Crikey sees Julia Gillard’s achievement as the first step, rather than the end point, for those desiring gender balance in positions of power: 

‘We will know we really have made progress when women in top positions become normal and not worthy of comment. It will also mean we get better leaders, not just because many are women, but because we no longer exclude good people because of their gender.’ (register to read) 

Also at Crikey Shakira Hussein warns us that Gillard’s ascension to the top job means that some will think that feminism is finished: 

‘The danger now (well, one of the dangers) is that feminists will be told that the battle is won, that anyone who is still on the battlefield is just a whinger, that if a woman can become prime minister, then we have no further reason to complain.’ 

Annabel Crabbe acknowledges the sense of hope that has accompanied Gillard’s promotion:  

‘The approbation of her colleagues, seasoned with a groundswell of genuine delight at the elevation of Australia’s first female prime minister, give her an opportunity to make the sort of progress that eluded her predecessor.’ 

Catriona Menzies-Pike at New Matilda considers Gillard’s momentous caucus win and is left seeking answers: 

‘Once the fuss dies down, some of these questions will be answered and a bigger one will emerge: are Australians really ready to elect a female prime minister? 

‘There’s no doubt that Gillard’s promotion is an important symbolic victory for Australian women. But is this the exemplary trajectory for female success? To act as deputy until those whom you have vehemently opposed act to support you?’ 

 The Australian’s Caroline Overington sees evidence of change stamped all over our new PM: 

Julia Gillard is a woman, but that’s not the only extraordinary thing about her rise. 

She’s got a de facto. 

Imagine that, 30 years ago: an unmarried woman, living in sin with a man. Who is a hairdresser. And aspiring to high office. 

Leo Shanahan at The Punch believes Gillard could be the person to get the government back on track: 

Call me a honeymooner if you want, but in both policy and rhetoric Prime Minister Gillard made a lot of sense today, and that’s something that’s been missing from the Federal Government as of late. 

In Josephine Tovey’s piece at SMH, Gillard’s fruit bowl runneth over, Tovey wants women to stay on their toes: 

Just being a woman in power is not enough. There will be questions, rightly so, from women across the feminist spectrum. 

Will she, as Prime Minister improve the lot of other women, and make their paths to equality easier? 

But these are all questions for tomorrow. For now at least, we should all celebrate this landmark moment. 

 More excitement over at Femisting, with another reminder that all is not yet equal:

Julia Gillard, our new WOMAN PM – sorry, I can’t stop writing that in delighted caps – is a very impressive woman, and I have high hopes that this ouster will get voters’ approval in the upcoming Federal election. But one woman leader does not an egalitarian society make. 

At The Drum Helen Razer, enjoying ‘a little gynaecological bloat as Her Majesty’s female representative swore in the female representative of the people’, writes: 

‘A colony founded in masculinity, Australia can still feel like the land that feminism forgot. On this “historic” day, perhaps Overington, Wilkinson and co can be excused their greeting card gush.’ 

Mia Freedman briefed her readers about their new PM, adding: 

Julia Gillard is a remarkable woman. A fighter who has fought and won against many odds. A self confessed feminist and socialist, Gillard has survived the many attacks from the media and conservatives in Australia to become the Prime Minister of Australia, put in the position by the right wing factions that have previously tried to tear her down. 

Catherine Deveny sees Julia Gillard’s win as ‘a victory for all who do not fit into the category of white, middle aged, middle class, straight (or acting), god fearing (or pretending) university educated males granted a priority pass access to power (and therefore money, control, leisure and choice) at birth.’ Deveny affirms her faith in Gillard, writing: 

I believe in Julia Gillard. Not because she is a woman. But because she’s Julia Gillard. Smart, brave, strong, experienced and independent. I believe in equality and diversity. Which means knowing she can be a maggot and a mongrel when necessary. Delight and disappoint. Her promise not mine.  

  

If you have read any great comment or analysis that I have missed feel free to post it in the comments.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Julia Gillard Is Australia’s New Prime Minister

Posted by Clem Bastow on June 24, 2010

We’ll write more once the fallout from the spill has settled and we’ve had time to gather our thoughts, but – regardless of how it happened – Australia now has its first female Prime Minister. From The Age:

Julia Gillard has become Australia’s first female prime minister after Kevin Rudd stood aside at the last minute before this morning’s historic leadership ballot.

Ms Gillard was unelected unopposed, making her the nation’s 27th prime minister and its first female leader. She has chosen Treasurer Wayne Swan to be her Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms Gillard had the numbers – reportedly 74 of the 112 caucus votes – and the majority support of the party.

Yes, it would be nice – in an ideal world – for our first female Prime Minister to have been voted in by the public rather than a secretive party ballot, but Kevin Rudd has ended up a disappointment (not to mention certain election promises, like same-sex marriage, that evaporated completely) while Gillard has worked hard behind the scenes and will no doubt reinvigorate the party and government.

But quietly, we’re thrilled and moved that our first female PM will be sworn in by our first female Governor General, no matter how it happened.

Posted in Announcements, Media Watch, Politics, women we love | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

 
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