Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

Anna Goldsworthy and our Unfinished Business

Anna Goldsworthy, Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny (Quarterly Essay N° 50)

qe50 Evidently some people with tin ears believe that the USA entered a post-racial era with the election of Barack Obama. I don’t think anyone except some commentators at The Australian believes that Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership marks a definitive victory in the struggle against sexism in Australia. But if they were, this Quarterly Essay would give them pause.

Anna Goldsworthy takes as her starting point Julia Gillard’s now famous misogyny speech (the link is in case you’ve been on another planet since last October), and broadens out to a catalogue of sexist horrors. Evidently the essay went to press before the most recent Bad Week for Women – with news from the defence forces, Liberal Party fundraising dinners, elite football players and so on. She wasn’t able to include Lieutenant General David Morrison’s stunning speech or what’s just a light-hearted joke for some Brisbane Liberals. But she has plenty of examples to back her argument that there is abroad in our culture a general permission to treat a woman in public life (and by implication elsewhere) as if she has no right to speak simply because of her gender: argument is not met with argument but with gender-based insult and possibly threats of violence. According to Goldsworthy, misogyny comes with a ‘remarkably consistent platform’ repeatedly expressed in online comments sections in its bluntest form: Shut up, you fat c*** (SUYFC)! That is to say: you have a female body and that’s enough reason for me to demand that you have no voice. Sometimes there is the added explicit threat, or I’ll hurt you.

Julia Gillard is not the only one: the fat-shaming of Gina Rinehardt on Q&A in May last year, the British tabloid press’s recent mauling of Hilary Mantel, A. A. Gill’s SUYFC to classicist Mary Beard all get an airing. So do gonzo porn, Fifty Shades of Gray, Lena Dunham’s Girls, Slutwalks, Lady Gaga, the way facebook has turned young women into their own paparazze, the ‘I’m not a feminist but …’ and ‘You’re not a proper feminist because …’ phenomena. All of these relate to the central notion that there is a pressure abroad in the culture to reduce women to their bodies, to make them ashamed of their bodies, to silence them.

The essay is very timely. It covers appalling terrain, and singles out some glimmers of hope. It’s beautifully written, judicious, nuanced and passionate. I look forward to the correspondence in N° 51, which I hope will include some expansion of her theme to Indigenous and other non-white women, and to examples of sexism that result in so many women living in poverty.

And then up the back there’s correspondence about the previous Quarterly Essay, Mark Latham’s Not Dead Yet. I didn’t read the essay itself, but Latham’s response to his respondents here is a pleasure to read.

Jennifer and Julia and Nye in the Age

Having complained in this blog almost exactly two years ago that Jennifer Maiden had not turned her pen to (on?) Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, I ought to acknowledge when she does so.

This Saturday’s Age published ‘Poor Petal’, which also appeared in the online Sydney Morning Herald, at the end of the Bookmarks column. Like ‘A Great Education’, which was published in the Age in January 2011, it has a prefatory note: ‘When asked if there was an example who had inspired her as Dietrich Bonhoeffer had inspired Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard replied “Nye Bevan”.’ It’s one of Jennifer Maiden’s ‘Someone Woke Up Somewhere’ poems; this time it’s Aneurin Bevan in Canberra opposite Julia Gillard in an armchair.

I recommend it to anyone who is made uneasy by Julia Gillard’s inscrutable public presence.

Election clerihews

First, as a reminder of past glories, here’s a version of a clerihew I wrote in November 2007:

Kevin Michael Rudd
may turn out to be a dud
but at least we’ll no longer be showered
with the duplicitous spittle of Howard.

The present Labor Prime Minister (long may she reign) presents a considerably greater challenge to the aspiring clerihewer, I don’t want to wait until election night, so here you are, the best I’ve been able to manage:

Julia Eileen Gillard
could star in a remake of Willard,
not as a rat or their misfit trainer
but the love-interest trying for something saner

And this:

Anthony John Abbott
has a habit
when playing for high stakes
of saying whatever it takes.

Go on, do better.

Open letter to Jennifer Maiden

I think this is a poem, but the chances of anyone else publishing it are very slim, so here it is, blogged.

Open letter to Jennifer Maiden
Dear Jennifer, please write about Kevin
and Julia. The best I could manage
was a clerihew when they won the election:
oooKevin Rudd
ooomay be a bit of a fuddy-dud
ooobut at least we’ll no longer be showered
ooowith the duplicitous spittle of Howard.
But now that he’s backed off
from tackling climate change
and Julia’s refusing
to talk to the teachers’ unions
we need something stronger
and wiser
than my easy rhymes  –
a muddy rabbit, mesmerised by moonlight,
a studied habit, of playing to the polls,
or bloody sabot-age.
Couldn’t you write us something
about the way his top lip tightens
or hers curls,
her pontifical drawl, his parsonical clip?
Something like your George’s
lethal little injections and your Condi’s
costume jewellery, to help us see them
as human?

Jennifer Maiden’s poems that this refers to explicitly are ‘Together We Will a Cheese Achieve‘ and ‘Costume Jewellery‘ both in Friendly Fire.