Feminism | Posted by Zoe G on 06/29/2010

Julia Gillard and Why We Still Need Feminism

Julia Gillard: Australias first female Prime Minister

Julia Gillard: Australia's first female Prime Minister

As of June 24th, Australia now has a female Prime Minister. I’m not sure how big the news is overseas, but here, there’s been a lot of commotion. Julia Gillard is the 27th Prime Minister of our country – and the first female one.

On the morning of June 24th, she and our former PM, Kevin Rudd, had a contest for leadership of the governing Labour Party. Rumours said that Julia had more votes, but before they could be counted, Kevin stood down, making Julia automatic ruler. While this was happening, I was at school, frantically clicking ‘refresh’ on Google News while I was meant to be doing my Humanities project (oops…). When articles saying she had won began to appear, my best friend and I had a celebration. As Australia’s first female Prime Minister was sworn in by Australia’s first female Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, feminists around Australia smiled.

Who knows what Julia Gillard will do for our country? She may change it for better or for worse. We’ll just have to see. Without any evidence, we can’t judge. And yet, the backlash has already started.
In this day and age, the public’s opinion can be discovered by looking at one’s Facebook newsfeed. When I checked mine, I was quite astonished. “We have a female prime minister… eww L ” someone said. “Wtf is Julia Gillard doing as pm?” said someone else. Someone even went so far as to comment that they thought having a female prime minister wasn’t right, because “it’s a man’s job and men have always done it”. When someone else pointed out that the latter commenter was being sexist, the response was, “no, I’m not being sexist, cos I’m a female, too”.

Then the groups and pages started appearing. “What do McDonalds and Australia have in common? They’re both run by red-headed clowns”. “Why is Julia Gillard Prime Minister? Shouldn’t she be in the kitchen?”. “Hey, Julia Gillard, if I vote for you, you’d better make me a sandwich”. “How is Julia Gillard going to run the country from the kitchen?”

How sad. How pathetic. It’s 2010, people. The middle ages were long ago. Having a female prime minister should be something to be celebrated, considering it’s the first time for our nation. Yet people are judging her already, without any evidence of what she’ll be like in the job. But they aren’t bagging her out for her policies. Some people focus on the fact that she has a defacto partner and no children. Others pick on the colour of her gorgeously red hair. If a man got the job, people wouldn’t look down on him for this sort of thing. Yet because she’s a woman, it seems ok to pass judgement on her personal life and appearance.

And the kitchen thing? I thought that sort of thing finished decades ago. That these sort of misogynistic attitudes are still around appals me. Women are not sandwich-producing robots who should be confined to the kitchen. Every time I see another page or group about women having to stay in the kitchen, I sigh and lose a bit of hope for humanity. “It’s just a joke”, people scoff, when confronted over these things. How is degrading someone because of their gender and lowering them to no more than a servant funny?

To those who say we don’t need feminism? We do. The proof is not just in those Facebook pages set up by a few sniggering sexists. It’s in the fact that hundreds, often thousands of people join. It’s in the fact that Australia has its first female Prime Minister and all people can do is ask why she isn’t in the kitchen, then say she’s incapable of ruling the country because she’s a woman. That these sort of attitudes still exist today is the very reason why feminism is still important and very much needed – not just in Australia, but in the world.

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  • Alex F @ at 11:36 am, June 29th, 2010

    You make such valid points on the whole “women should stay in the kitchen and make men sandwiches” thing! Soooo many boys at my middle school (well old middle school, I’m a freshman when school starts haha) would say whenever I called them out on it “it’s just a joke.” Yeah, right. If you keep making that “joke” then people will like you less and less because they will see just the sexist pig you make yourself out to be! I hope someday a woman bodybuilder will go up to those boys and beat them with a stale sandwich!!! Whew, that felt nice…

  • Charlotte @ at 6:41 pm, June 29th, 2010

    Man, so true. I live in Australia too and there was so so much sexist bullshit on my Facebook newsfeed too as soon as Gillard became PM. It makes me feel so angry and hopeless.

  • Danielle @ at 11:54 pm, June 29th, 2010

    Ugh, the kitchen bit is so old. I would say “get some new material!” but I’d rather people stop making sexist remarks in the first place ;)

    Isn’t it funny how people respond to women of power? It’s almost as if they can’t accept the sheer shock of it, and they’re reduced to making cracks about the woman’s appearance and personal life (like you said). For example, current U.S. surgeon general Regina Benjamin has been heckled mercilessly for being overweight (she looks fine to me). But I’m almost certain that if a man were elected for the position nobody would pay attention to his weight.

    It just . . . sucks!

    “I can’t accept you as an authority figure, so I’m going to say crap about you to make myself feel better!” It’s childish!

  • Mollie @ at 5:35 am, June 30th, 2010

    I completely understand what you mean, the whole “gb2kitchen” joke thing that appears to be so popular with kids on Facebook nowadays is sad, it says a lot about our generation’s values and level of respect, but of course they cover their asses with “omg get ova urself it just a joke u feminazi”… Yeah, it’s sexism, but don’t worry, it’s FUNNY! Pffft.

    I personally was thrilled to see Julia Gillard take office that day, I was doing the very same thing as you and clicking refresh every few seconds also. People criticize the way she stormed in, grabbed the Labor party by the balls and took over but I’d rather have a Labor leader that is willing to fight and actually do something for our country than sit idly by and let the opposition grab a hold of us all. The fact that she’s a woman is a bonus.

    She poses quite a challenge to Tony Abbott and I wish her the best of luck in dealing with the incoming backlash and scrutiny on her personal life and not to mention clothes. She conducts herself beautifully and speaks clearly, let’s hope she changes Australia for the better if she is given the opportunity to, with the impending election and all.

  • Jordan @ at 8:43 pm, July 2nd, 2010

    Althought there were a few sexist jokes on my newsfeed a lot of my friends were excited at the prospect of having a female prime minister. Even my friend who I consider very sexist was actually happy at the idea.
    I’m a little concerned though about the way women have responded to Julia. The sexist jokes that I heard about how she should be in the kitchen came from girls and there were many women ringing up on talk shows on the radio complaining that Julia doesn’t represent women of Australia because she’s not married and doesn’t have children. That seems absolutely absurd to me….

  • chauvanist pig @ at 4:06 am, August 22nd, 2010

    what a bunch of hypocrites you feminists really are! So my comment, which in no way whatsoever was abusive or contained any swear words or vile language etc. has now been removed simply because i dared to question Julia’s rise to PM. Please correct me if i’m wrong but wasn’t one of things you feminists whinged about for so long was giving women the freedom of speech??? Sigh…. you really can’t help but show your true colours can you??

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