Were you listening to Julia thinking “I wish I’d said that”?

It seems everyone’s still talking about Julia Gillard’s speech .

I’ve never seen such different responses from the mainstream media and sites on the internet where women like to chat, the so called ‘mummy blogs’.

In the mainstream media, the Prime Minister spoke in defence of the Speaker, Peter Slipper, who has since resigned. According to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher, We expected more of Gillard.  His general argument was that, as a woman, she had a choice between power and principle and she opted for power.  My view is that expecting women to behave ‘better’ or ‘more nicely’ as politicians is in itself a form of sexism, in presuming that women should be better behaved than men, when really all they want is an equal chance to have their say.

Most of the other newspapers yesterday reported on the political tactics of what was going on with the Speaker and didn’t focus on the main topic covered in the Prime Minister’s speech – the sexism of the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott.

Notwithstanding the fact that what goes on with the Speaker is important, the response on many of my favourite websites couldn’t be more different.  Many women expressed an outpouring of relief that the PM had finally called sexism where she saw it.

Eden Riley is the Australian Blogger of the Year.  Her site Edenland is full of comments about how women across Australia were barracking for her right the way through.  You can check out the discussion here .

Mamamia saw something similar, in response to this piece about, ‘Why Julia Gillard’s Smackdown Speech Was Brilliant .  There were some critics, but overwhelmingly the comments are supportive of the PM’s speech.  Not bad for a Prime Minister who, according to the polls, only has the support of about one in three of us.

Why the difference? My theory is that most of us have a Tony Abbott in their lives, somewhere in our work history.

Someone who’s treated us poorly, unfairly, because we are women.  Most of us don’t call sexism every time we see it, but we really love it when someone else is brave enough to do so, and clever enough to do it well.

When it happens to us, we usually don’t want to make a fuss or have a fight about being a crazy feminist, so we just put up with being called a bitch or having the men in our workplace be more highly valued than those of us who came up with the idea in the first place, or did the hard work behind the scenes to make something happen.

It’s not always as clear cut as some of those quotes Julia Gillard used about Tony Abbott.  Sometimes sexism is harder to pinpoint, and we’re not even sure ourselves that it’s sexism, discrimination, or misogyny or whatever.

But we know it’s wrong, and we wish it hadn’t happened, and many of us see it happening to Julia Gillard too.

Regardless of what you think about politics, I suspect many women loved seeing  our Prime Minister say out loud that she was offended by behaviour and language she thought wasn’t acceptable, and she eloquently put the argument, better than many of us could ourselves.

I heard a story from a one friend about a woman who wanted to thank the PM  because she felt there was growing acceptance in the community of more aggressive and rude interactions. She said a man once called her a stupid bitch because she delivers newspapers to supplement her low income and he hadn’t liked where she’d thrown it that morning.

She said the PM was standing up not just for herself, but for women across the country who have been copping things like that because lately, no-one has been saying that kind of thing is wrong.

Do you think some of us were listening to the PM thinking, “I wish I’d said that”?

What do you think?  Have you experienced sexism at work?  Do you wish you’d given a speech like Julia Gillard?

Interesting sidenote: once the international reaction started to become clear today, our local media started reporting the substance of the speech, for example here and here.  Curious.

You can read the full text of the PM’s speech here but the video is better, here.

6 responses to “Were you listening to Julia thinking “I wish I’d said that”?

  1. I can’t fathom how the mainstream media in this country have so missed the point of the speech, focussed on what the PM didn’t say, rather than what she did, called her unprincipled while adhering to a fairly important principle, and not appreciate the speech for what it actually was.

    As a man, it’s fairly safe to say that I have not had to cop sexism or misogyny throughout my career, but I have had to put up with an awful amount of bullying, boorishness and machismo. I’ve also had to remain quite silent and rise above the same, for wanting not to appear too weak or a troublemaker.

    This speech should resonate with everyone who is reasonably minded. Everyone who has said enough’s enough. Everyone who has been sick of the empty rhetoric, biased opinion and stupid games our politicians have been playing for the last couple of years.

    Absolutely the speech should be embraced by women fighting their own battle for equality and sexism, but not solely owned by them. It should be embraced by people lamenting the two facedness of Australian politics, the barely translucent political point scoring that all politicians are guilty of, and anyone who has copped more than their fair share of crap and have finally said enough’s enough.

    I watched the speech, I read the transcripts, I’ve seen the more obscene of the Slipper texts, and importantly, I’ve lived in Australia and have watched the decline of politics over the past few years get to a point where I’m more than happy to completely tune out. I never once saw the PM defend Mr Slipper. I never once saw her turn her back on the principles she’s being accused of, I saw her call hypocrisy, I saw her stand up for herself and I saw her leave the judgement of Mr Slipper up to the courts, where it should be left.

    From what I can see, Mr Slipper is a very troubled individual with some quite conflicted and confused views, or a bizarrely ironic sense of humour. I don’t know him, I can’t judge. But he is not the only man to have made some fairly disgusting archaic comments or views that have subsequently been made public. As pointed out by the PM, there are a few others who are still in Parliament.

    The lack of principle argument just doesn’t hold water. The principle I saw being put forward was one of the motion being put forward by the leader of the opposition is flawed, based on a standard he can’t live up to himself, let alone set for others, and far be it for this parliament to begin the rot by supporting it on this one instance.

    People like Peter Hartcher are biased, short sighted and out of touch with the rest of the country. Maybe because they saw this as the thin edge of the wedge for their own views on women in the workplace, I don’t know, but more surprising to me was the response from some of the female MSM as well.

    Sure, the biggest winners in this speech were women all around the world who have been victims of sexist behaviour, but claiming them as the only winners is very short sighted, and a tad unfair. I’m a white middle aged Australian man, and I’ve never been prouder of my Prime Minister too.

  2. Great blog post and it was great to see the PM finally fire back about the level of sexism that she has attracted from Abbott and by the media as well. Also about the power of the cyber sphere to be able to get other views out there that may no align with what the mainstream media might be wanting to portray about an issue.
    However I have to be honest I am a bit sick of the reporting about the circus surrounding politics at the moment and not focus on policies that are being implemented or the policy positions of the opposition.
    Policy has now been implemented that will impact on single parents who are mainly women that will see them be put on Newstart and lower their already low income stream when their lowest child hits a certain age without it looking at the implications on the mother or the children. I would like to see the media start a campaign about this and looking at the impacts this policy will have and the potential risks this may have on kids. These women are normally unskilled have less of a voice and don’t have the negotiating power that other people have in the community. Most single mums I know have the responsibility of picking up their kids from school and from after school care, nor if you are working casual work, or part time or shift work is it possible to get adhoc childcare. Just on Sunday I had a frantic phone call from a friend who needed to drop kids to go to a work training session. Where was the father, well he was at his work and really was not being flexible with his work hours. And yes he works for himself and he could not be bothered driving across a few suburbs to pick them up to take them to his workplace. Earlier that week another friend picked up the slack for her to work in school holidays, kids were sick so could not send to childcare. Where was the father or the in-laws no where to be seen. Yes she would love to work as she is living was week to week but he likes being a dad but does not want to parent.
    By the way many examples when the female community is picking up the slack to enable women to work because the father are not prepared to make compromises to pick up kids. Many are just not consistent or reliable.

    By the way I could not help that day and god knows where the kids went or whether she had to cancel the training session. Oh and the jobs she can get are barely above minimum wage.

  3. Lovely comment Craig. As a woman I burn every time I see blatant sexism, such as on Q and A this week when Tanner and Pine had a loud discussion in the middle of Kate Ellis’ response to an audience question. And they don’t even know they are doing it! It’s just part of how men behave towards women every single day.
    I too listened with great pride to our PM for standing up against such blatant sexism as she and so many other women have suffered.

    • Thanks for your comment Heather, and Craig and Emma for your thoughtful comments also. I love the phrase a ‘dad who doens’t want to parent’ – will be stealing that one! Heather I agree many men dont know they’re doing it- which is why so many of them seem flabbergasted at the social media response. Craig – nice to hearfrom men on this site, and such powerful words too. Appreciate it

  4. Hmmm…. examples of sexism and mysogeny in the workplace that aren’t recognised, except by us “crazy feminists”.

    I work for a large international engineering company. Female board members = 0. Female corporate level managers = 0.

    For international women’s day the company handed out corporate branded, bright pink nail files. NAIL FILES! To female engineers, computer technicians, environmental scientists, business managers – NAIL FILES!!!

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