Both sexes are to blame for misogynist vitriol against Gillard
'There is failure to focus on achievements and instead exaggerate mistakes.' Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
RUBY Hamad is right when she claimed on this page that hatred of women exists in the West. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the Australian witch hunt for Julia Gillard, the first woman who has dared to become Australia's prime minister.
Hamad is also right when she writes that patriarchy (usually defined as a system of society in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it) isn't just men oppressing women, but requires the participation of women. This explains why some of the Prime Minister's severest critics are women.
Women will recognise the symptoms of patriarchal hatred.
First, there are the double standards in which women are expected to perform better and more ethically than men. Second, there are those workforce cultures in which women's achievements are taken for granted but their mistakes and transgressions are highlighted. Third, there are forms of intimidation designed to keep women in their proper ''traditional'' place - barefoot, pregnant and dependent on men.
In regard to double standards, the issues of hair, body shape and dress seem to have been added to the prime ministerial key performance indicators for the first time. Then, deposing of a previous leader seems to be unforgivable but only when practised by a woman. There is also an unprecedented level of outrage over Ms Gillard's broken promises. John Howard broke promises to keep interest payments low and never introduce a GST. Bob Hawke's broken promise that ''no child will live in poverty'' was forgotten quickly.
There is also the failure to focus on Gillard's achievements and tendency to instead exaggerate her mistakes.
She has shown excellent skills in negotiating and achieving solutions with a minority party and independent members whom the Australian people chose to elect. Furthermore, in the post-industrial technical revolution engulfing us, she is investing in infrastructure and education and training for our children. She has negotiated a tax deal with the mining industry. Although controversial, her carbon tax may encourage investment in renewable energy sources, investment most Australians see as worthwhile. The disability insurance scheme is much needed and probably a world first.
Among her great achievements is her appointment of a record number of highly capable women such as Nicola Roxon, Jenny Macklin, Kate Ellis, Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong to ministerial positions, meaning there is, for the first time, a critical mass of women adding their voices as workforce women, mothers and daughters, reflecting their priorities and experiences in the major decisions affecting our national future.
No wonder the patriarchal women-haters are outraged. No wonder they focus on marginal considerations that serve as distractions from Gillard and her government's ability to get things done.
And there is the intimidation illustrated by the vitriol and filth spat out by would-be patriarchs and their female accomplices.
Examples have been collected by Wendy Harmer on the Hoopla website - thehoopla.com.au/top-10-insults-aimed-julia-gillard/
Consider the following: ''she bungled it with a less than flattering haircut and a frumpy '80s tapestry print jacket … Get yourself a stylist your own age.'' Anita Quigley, Daily Telegraph, December 2006. ''She looks like a real weakling.'' Mark Latham, Sky News, August 2010. ''Juliar Bob Brown's Bitch", ''Burn the Witch''. Placards at anti-carbon tax rally, March 2011 ''You've got a big arse, Julia, just get on with it.'' Germaine Greer, Q&A, ABC, March 2012. "(Australians) … ought to be out there kicking her to death." Grahame Morris (former John Howard staffer turned lobbyist) Sky News, April 2012. "She has showcased a bare home and an empty kitchen as badges of honour and commitment to her career. She has never had to make room for the frustrating demands and magnificent responsibilities of caring for little babies, picking up sick children from school, raising teenagers.'' Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian, July 2010.
It is high time that decent Australian men and women spoke out against the misogyny being demonstrated so viciously against our first woman prime minister.
Eve Mahlab is the co-founder and chairwoman of the Australian Women Donors Network.
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