A couple of weeks ago, an interesting video caused a stir on the internet. For once it wasn’t about kittens, or a corgi setting the kitchen on fire, but a 15 minute speech given by Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, ripping the Opposition a new one over sexist and misogynistic remarks and actions made by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper.
Here’s some context about the incidents that Gillard is talking about — Peter Slipper, who has been mired in allegations of sexual harassment by (male) staffers, which may even have been covered up by the former government leaders, sent texts to those he worked with where he described female genitalia as resembling a particular kind of shellfish, and then called another female staffer an “ignorant botch.” Now, Slipper had defected from Abbott’s party to Gillard’s, giving her a slim majority. For those of you who aren’t familiar with parliamentary politics, this means that it’s very difficult for the Opposition to push their agendas in Parliament, because most of the votes are from members of the other team. Abbott of course wanted Slipper out, and denounced these comments as being “vile and derogatory”, but I think it’s pretty safe to say he only did so because it was advantageous to him, as when Slipper was on his side, they were close personal friends.
The stench of hypocrisy didn’t get any lighter when Abbott’s own track record with his statements on women in politics haven’t been any better. Gillard mentions several of them in her speech, because, surprise, surprise, many of them have been about Gillard personally. He once said that Prime Minister Gillard should “make an honest woman of herself” because she is unmarried and doesn’t have any children, and is unapologetic about this fact. He has also supported others who have publicly called Gillard “a witch” and “a man’s bitch.”
He has also said, in a magazine, “What if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” when asked about the lack of women in Australian politics. He has referred to abortion as, “the easy way out.” When arguing against imposing a carbon tax, he suggested that they should appeal to the “housewives of Australia, since they’re the ones doing the ironing.” Of course, the Prime Minister is looking out for her own interests here, since she wants to retain her hold on her majority, but that Abbott should be casting shame on someone for making misogynistic comments is laughable at best, though I do not condone what Slipper said either.
The damage control from Abbott’s camp is pretty amusing — his wife makes the classic move of reinforcing that he is the father to three daughters, and that he likes Downton Abbey (really?) as proof that he is not a misogynist and loves women.
However, while Gillard cut through the bullshit and addressed a very real problem in, let’s face it, politics pretty much everywhere, it looks like this speech might not wind up being to her benefit politically. The Labour party leader is uing this division to his advantage, claiming that he will be able unite Parliament to a common purpose again by keeping personal squabbles out of Parliament. This article in particular pissed me off, because the author (a man, of course), claims that her speech made her look weak by getting “too personal.” He even claims that she made most of it up to take offense! UGH. IF SHE WERE MALE PRIME MINISTER, YOU CAN BET YOUR BOOTS THAT HE WOULD NOT BE SAYING THIS.
But for one shining moment, it was awesome.